By Kristen Marsh, Clonlara School Parent
In October, my children and I took a fantastic 10-day tour of Northern India. I had visited India almost 20 years ago for work and had been teaching them about the country for years, telling them, “Someday I will take you to see the Taj Mahal.” Along with 10 other travelers, we visited Delhi, Udaipur, Ajmer, Jaipur, Ranthambhore, and finally Agra. We traveled by plane, bus, train, jeep, rickshaw, tuk-tuk, and elephant and saw magnificent palaces, buildings, Mosques, Hindu Temples, and tombs. My favorite part about the trip was watching my kids grow right in front of my eyes.
Marcella is 11 years old and Lucca is 16. They are well-seasoned travelers who have been to several developing countries before. Below are some of our impressions from the trip.
Preparing for the Journey
As a long-term homeschooling family—now enrolled in Clonlara’s Off-Campus Program—we have often done educationally intense unit studies that culminate with relevant travel. In this case, we spent over 180 study hours learning through books, Wikipedia, historical movies, and investigation of over 20 topics. We read The Mountain of Light, a historical fiction book that brought to life what it would have been like in the time of the Maharajas or Indian Princes. We also completed two online Great Courses on Indian history. I felt confident the kids were well rounded in their in-depth knowledge of India.
What did you expect and how was being there different than what you had learned about India?
- Marcella: It was good to know so much beforehand because I could understand what the tour guide was saying and talking about as we went along. I expected it to be a lot dirtier than it was.
- Lucca: India was as I had imagined. I found that my lengthy studies had prepared me well and given me a true vision of what India was like.
What topics did you learn before you went to India and how did that help you appreciate the trip more?
- Marcella: We spent two months, almost every day, learning all kinds of things about India. For example, we learned about the Taj Mahal, who built it, and what he had as inspiration. We also learned about each place that we would visit, the Mughal Empire, and the different religions of India. It was a lot of schooling to go on this trip.
- Lucca: I studied extensively subjects such as Hinduism and other religions in India, and I learned a great deal of history, architecture, geography, and Indian culture and art. I also read two of their most famous holy texts, the Ramayana (the oldest spiritual epic in the world) as well as the Mahabharata (the longest spiritual epic in the world—10 times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined and 3 times the length of the Bible). Overall, it was a very intense two months of learning, and I felt that I had successfully pursued my scholarly interests.
How did it help to learn so much about India before you went?
- Marcella: I didn’t feel like an ignorant kid, and it was helpful to appreciate and understand what we were seeing.
- Lucca: As I had studied India extensively, I felt I was able to appreciate my surroundings perhaps more than my fellow travelers.
Learning Comes to Life
The highlight of our trip was the visit to the Taj Mahal. My dear family auntie and travel mentor had inspired a trip to see it so many years ago. I was overwhelmed at the thought of having a second visit to the Taj Mahal in one lifetime. I had dreamed of taking my children to see it, but didn’t think it would be in their childhood. What an incredible opportunity. I wiped my tears as we all stood in awe of this magnificent site.
What did you think about seeing the Taj Mahal?
- Marcella: I loved the way it seemed to look larger as we got closer to it, and I really liked the inlay work on the white marble.
- Lucca: It was a dream come true. I had been studying and hearing stories told by my mother about this place for years. It was amazing to see it with my own eyes.
What were your favorite two sites other than the Taj Mahal?
- Marcella: Humayun’s tomb and Ranthambhore, the tiger reserve. Humayun’s tomb was beautiful and very large. I had read about it in the story of Chloe in India and so I was glad to actually see it. I loved riding through the tiger reserve on the big oversized jeep, especially when they thought they heard a tiger and we all took off like maniacs through the dusty roads. It was really fun.
- Lucca: The Jagdish Hindu Temple in Udaipur, a beautiful three-story, hand-carved stone temple. The magnitude of the Red Fort in Agra was also very impressive.
This was indeed, a trip of a lifetime. I was grateful for the fantastic job the tour organizers did, as the trip went so smoothly despite its complicated logistics. The tour guide was very good and we enjoyed it so much despite the heat. The tour guide loved to tell us the “official” side of things in India as much as the “unofficial” side. We learned so much and were so happy we had the opportunity to go.
What did you enjoy most about your trip to India?
- Marcella: I loved the food, the monkeys who attacked my mom and took her welcome marigold garland, and the wildlife. I also liked the colors of the saris the women and girls wore. I really liked hearing the tour guide say “anything is possible in India”!
- Lucca: Being able to see the places, people, culture, and history that I had been studying for so many years.
What was your first impression of India?
- Marcella: My first impression was that it was very colorful and full of different smells.
- Lucca: It was lively and interesting in its vibrancy with a chaotic charm.
What was your impression of the people of India?
- Marcella: I found the Indian people we met to be very friendly. They were always smiling, even the kids in the streets would wave and say good-bye. Many times during the trip I had girls and families ask to take a selfie with me. That was funny. I didn’t like it when the boys or guys wanted selfies with me, though. Overall, I felt people in India were very friendly to me.
- Lucca: I thought they were the friendliest people that I have encountered so far in my travels. Culturally, it was a pleasant surprise to find such joy for life. I especially recall the conversations I had with several students we met in a very crowded train. They were genuinely interested in my opinions about India, and they happily offered their seats to all of us.
What is your favorite memory of your trip in India?
- Marcella: Swimming in the hotel pool with two of our trip friends.
- Lucca: The rickshaw ride through Old Delhi was my favorite. It afforded me a small glimpse into the lives of average low-income Indians. It was hectic and chaotic, but nonetheless I saw beauty in its chaos.
Do you have a story about an interesting family trip? In what ways did you incorporate learning into your travels? Please share with us in the comments below.
About the Author: Kristen Marsh is originally from Guatemala. She has been homeschooling her children for over a decade and recently moved from Virginia to Belgium with her family. Exploring more of Europe will be an exciting new chapter for them.