Travel | Adventures in India

In 2011 I travelled solo to India.

It was a year where I made some pretty huge life decisions. I did a complete u-turn from what I thought I wanted to do with my life, and instead put it on hold for a year, with the ambition to earn some money, and take a trip of a lifetime somewhere amazing. Somewhere I’d always dreamed of visiting, so now with the time and my first ever proper office job to pay for it, I had booked my flights and would soon be jetting off to Bangalore.

Yes, this was very much a gap yah.

18 year old me wasn’t ready for completely doing the backpacking thing alone, so I signed up for an expedition with Raleigh.

This was all pre-blog, and pre-DSLR, so the photos were taken on my wonderful shock and waterproof Pentax WG-1 camera, and I’ve never actually shared any of my adventures on here. So let me take you back what feels like a lifetime ago, and share some of the absolutely wonderful moments I had in India…


Landing in Bangalore was one of the most surreal and terrifying experiences. I was 18, away from home properly for the first time without knowing anyone, and without a clue about what India would really be like. It was hot and dusty, but there was a delicious scent in the air and the sounds of tooting tuk tuks and market holders shouting about their wares wasn’t as intimidating as I expected. In Bangalore every Indian we spoke to was kind and helpful. The excitement of being in the furthest country I had ever visited was building, and i knew I was going to love India.


Ponanni, Tamil Nadu

Yes, an unforgettably hilarious village name, but somewhere that was home for nearly 5 weeks. We slept, ate, showered and worked side by side for that whole time, building toilets for a village that didn’t have any. The local ladies came up every day and cooked us amazing meals from ingredients they had grown. The curry initially was SO spicy, but it’s amazing how hunger changes your taste buds a few days in!

As a group we bonded quickly, thrown in together and spent the days digging (which really reminded me of the book Holes that you would definitely have studied in school!), mixing cement to lay bricks and slowly building each toilet block. Though we had very little ability to communicate, everyone we met in Ponanni showered us with love and gratitude and fascination, pulling at the skin on our cheeks and arms and astounded by any technology. To be the first white person those school children had ever encountered was a rare and bizarre experience, and we had the most incredible time.

Ponanni is located in the centre of a tea plantation, on a beautiful hillside bustling with life and colour (though thankfully, I only encountered a couple of snakes and tarantulas!). This was the rural India I’d been hoping for, to see how real people live their everyday lives, come sun or rain (there was certainly plenty of that!). Those five weeks nestled in rows of green and eating off banana leaves seemed the most remote a person could be, especially as we’d had all forms of communication taken off us. A complete western detox, and though being young and away from home was daunting and I was homesick, the time I spent in this beautiful part of India will always be vividly etched in my memory.



During our last week, post toilet-building, we had the opportunity for adventure. Every day in Kerala we would wake up somewhere different, not knowing what we’d spend the next 12 hours doing. The expeditions included cycling through enormous tea plantations, visiting elephant and tiger sanctuaries (luckily not the kind where they drug and chain the animals so tourists can have photos with them, thank God!), building our own rafts to paddle miles down the river to an island, and one night where we had 5 minutes to gather whatever we could carry, and then were left in a forest to build a fire, construct canopy beds and kill our own chickens. The unknown of that week nearly pushed me over the edge but looking back it was exhilarating doing each challenge, and I’m so proud  did.

The scenery in that week was the most breathtaking I have ever seen, and with trips to tea factories, local hospitals built by volunteers and bustling markets in the centre of nearby cities provided such a contrast.

Everything about India was indulgence of the senses – the sights, sounds and smells are still some I get an occasional flash back from. From opening a lid on a kilner jar of turmeric, grated ginger, or digging your hands into fresh soft mud. Even years later, I still dream of the sound of the fat raindrops hitting banana leaves, the feeling of being soaked to the skin yet still warm in the heat of the day. I can picture rolling hills beautifully lined with rows of tea as far as the eye can see, and the honking of horns, bustle of people and the rich smell of spice.

India let me escape, and experience a different world for my privileged eyes. It was manic and loud at times, whilst calm and so quiet in others. It was the country at the very top of my bucket list, and very much still is.

***This post was in collaboration with a brand but all words, photos and memories are my own***