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Have teen, will travel:
India through Ivor's eyes

With his older siblings away at Uni, 14-year-old Ivor got to choose where to go on holiday during his October half-term break. The only criteria? His mum had to come too.

 

Ivor, 14

"I’m not sure I quite appreciated it at the time, but when I look back at my photos and seemyself outside the Taj Mahal, I think ‘wow, not everyone gets to say they saw the Taj for real. It’s crazy really!

So, Mum said I could choose where to go for half-term, with both brothers away at Uni. I chose India straightaway. I’m a big cricket fan and I wanted to try something different. I’d never been to Asia, although we’ve been lucky enough to have done a bit of travelling growing up. I liked the idea of doing some big cities and a bit of safari. I went online and decided the Golden Triangle Adventure had a bit of everything, so chose that one.

We actually went out a day earlier because India was playing Pakistan and we thought it would be cool to watch it from a bar in Delhi. Explore sorted it out – they can organise the nights before and after most of their trips, which was great timing for us. It was a real nail biter – India ended up winning on the last ball. It was a brilliant atmosphere and one of the most memorable bits of the holiday for me.
The trip was quite full on. We did a lot, but it suited us. We were with one other family and ended up eating with them and sticking together. I was fine with that as it worked with the kind of holiday we were on. Maybe not if it was an all-inclusive round a pool type holiday.

Some of the stuff I was less interested in, like the monuments and temples but our local guide Bhanu made it easy – he’d give us a brief back story and then let us explore at our own pace, which suited me fine. It was a good balance and made sure the kids weren’t bored. It also meant I got some chill time.

One thing that surprised me about India was the crowds – the cities were really busy – so many people! You get lots of people staring at you or wanting to take a picture with you. I didn’t feel unsafe or threatened, they were just curious. I mean, it was a new place with lots of people and it felt unfamiliar but that was ok. At train stations you were mindful not to flaunt your money or your phone, but that’s not much different to being in London, is it? Also, we had an awesome tour guide – he knew how to beat the crowds!

 
The food was good. I’m a spice fan so I wasn’t worried, the curries are definitely a different experience from the local Indian takeaway! They weren’t exactly mild, but they didn’t burn your tongue off. My favourites? The lamb curry was excellent. And I was a big fan of the mango lassis that Bhanu introduced us to.

October was a good time to travel and not as hot as I had expected – t-shirt weather in the day, sometimes I wore a hoodie in the evenings. Three of the hotels had outside pools in the shade so we didn’t burn. I shared a room with my mum and dad. They were actually great to travel with, but next time I’d like a brother there too, just to have someone nearer my age.

My best day? Apart from the cricket match, it was definitely the safari. We had to get up super early, but I didn’t mind as I’m used to waking up early for school. We saw loads of animals – like a sloth bear and monkeys. No tigers sadly, but it made me want to do more of that type of thing.

The trip gave me a great experience and more confidence to travel. I think it will help me wherever I want to go in the world. India is full on – the people, the busy cities, the smells! I feel like I can go anywhere now. Next trip? New York. I’ve always wanted to see the New York skyline. So that’s next please Mum!"

 

Jae, 50

"I’ve worked in travel most of my life, so my boys have been lucky to go to different places, but they are still typical teenage lads – they love their Xbox, watching YouTube, the occasional bit of basketball at the local park. None of them are super sporty or particularly into culture or adventure. But our family is quite scattered, so they’ve been used to long car and train journeys!

Ivor’s choice of India didn’t surprise me – he is a big cricket fan. What did surprise me was my husband deciding to come too – he’s not necessarily one for adventure travel, but I think the chance to watch India play from a bar in Delhi was too good to miss.

One of my top tips from years of travelling with a family is to book a lounge pre-flight. It starts the trip off on a high. We only ever fly economy, so to have a few hours enjoying the WIFI, free food and drink, and for the boys to charge their devices, is priceless. I also look for a deal and I can usually find them for £15–£20 a head.
I let Ivor do the research for this holiday. I must confess I barely looked at the itinerary. I’m at an advantage in that I know and trust the company, but also, I have three boys, a dog, a husband, a mortgage, and a job. This trip was about not having to make decisions about anything! I knew nothing was going to keep me up all night, on my phone checking the best places to eat, what train to catch, what to visit and how to avoid the crowds because we had the most incredible tour leader who made it all happen.

Every evening, our guide Bhanu would sit us down and tell us if the boys needed long trousers for the next day, or if the girls needed to cover their arms. He’d let us know if we needed to pack our daysacks light due to baggage restrictions or take a bag with sun cream. He would suggest restaurants and book us in for dinner. He would make sure the restaurant split the bills for each family so there was no awkwardness. He knew when to leave to catch the sunrise and how to avoid the tourists. In essence he took my holiday-parenting job away and let me immerse myself in the culture and be present in the moment. And at 14, Ivor was old enough to take on the responsibility of looking after himself too. It was liberating.

 
My favourite moments of our trip? A trip to a bird sanctuary where I saw a tree laden with painted storks, pink birds with yellow beaks, it was mesmerising and magical and will be a sight that stays with me, quite extraordinary. Our Taj Mahal visit was special thanks to Bhanu, who knew how to get us there to catch the sun rising without the crowds. A brilliant and quite unexpected evening at a Bollywood cinema. And an exhilarating rickshaw tour of a market town during Diwali, through crowded alleyways, breath-taking, chaotic, bizarre and a real eye opener.

I’m certain that Ivor’s highlight was the cricket match we watched in Delhi. That was definitely a case of making memories! But the whole trip gave him confidence. India is so different from anywhere else – now anything is possible!

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