Traveling with your parents is different from traveling on your own. Didn’t you know?

They arrived in Delhi at three in the morning. I was still drunk when I awoke to them banging on the window next to my bed. Good thing our room was on the ground floor, otherwise they would have had trouble rousing me from my sedative induced slumber. The reunion was sweet, if blurry. I hadn’t seen them in almost seven months. Not a massively long time but my parents and I are quite close and we get along well. I’d missed them.

It’s great to spend time with them again, but it isn’t without sacrifice. Inevitably my travel style has been forced to change. They only have a month and obviously operate on a different budget from mine. Our hotel in Delhi cost ten times what I consider my maximum expenditure for a room. It was nice and, miraculously for the city, quiet. We ate at fancy rooftop restaurants with suited wait staff. Yum.

It hasn’t all been upscale tourism, however. We took the sparkling new metro around the capital, ate in some local restaurants, and booked our train tickets by going to the railway station ourselves, rather than through a travel agency. I’m fairly certain my parents wouldn’t have attempted some of these things if I wasn’t here to hold their hands. When a sleazy tout outside the station told us that the booking office was closed for Commonwealth Games renovations (office is closing for the painting), I sneered at him and went into the station anyway. My mom, having read the “scams” section in the Lonely Planet, knew he was bullshitting, but I could see the doubt in her eyes as he confidently asked us to accompany him to the ‘temporary booking office’. We’ve since heard from other tourists that, at these offices, the staff will apologetically explain that the three hundred rupee train you want has been canceled, but for only ten thousand rupees a taxi might be possible…

Now, though, they are doing fine without me. My dad went and had street-side chai with some neighbourhood men this morning before mom and I were even up. A few days ago my mom spent some time with local women looking through the photos in the guidebook. Upon finding a spread of women draped in a rainbow of saris, they discussed for some time the various fashion decisions – bangle arrangements; colour schemes; nose, ear, and toe rings. They had no English, my mom no Hindi, yet an amicable exchange was made. India is like that – the locals generally love everyone, making it easy to explore. I write this as my parents wander the fort and city of Jodhpur on their own. I decided a chill morning in the hotel was in order.

And that, perhaps, is the largest difference between travel now and travel pre-parents. We are always doing or seeing. Admittedly, Rajasthan (the state we’re moving through) is full of interesting cultural, geographical, and historical sights – forts, palaces, desert sand dunes, intricately painted village homes – but I still enjoy taking the time to relax. Indian streets are not relaxing.

I’m not accusing mom and dad of being ‘listers’, those with a set itinerary of must-sees and can’t-be-misseds. We plan each few days at a time, enjoying where we are and worrying about the next bridge when we get there. But still my mom does her homework on the internet, checking out hotel reviews and reading the LP thoroughly for advice, which is fine. But sometimes you need to get your nose out of the guidebook, not worry about what there is to see or do, and just enjoy the atmosphere, smell, and sound. Well, the smell and sound are often not so enjoyable, but they should still be absorbed.

We’ve been successful, nevertheless, with local buses and such. I say successful, which in India means only that we’ve arrived at the destination we intended within a general time frame we expected. Our bus here from Jaisalmer had perhaps twenty-five seats and fifteen sleeper berths, but approximately eighty people on board. When we arrived in town it took five minutes for our massive clown car to empty out. During the trip I had five teenage boys reading my (English) book over my shoulder, watching every selection I made on my iPod. They hadn’t heard of The Tragically Hip (which is, by the way, amazing desert road music).

And so things are fine. I couldn’t travel like this all the time, but for a month I should be okay. It’ll probably be difficult to get back into moldy, ghetto hotels once they leave, but I’ll be happy to be eating with locals most of the time (the food is generally amazing and ridiculously cheap). What I miss most is the complete freedom that solo travel on a motorcycle brings. I leave towns when I want, without having to arrange a driver or book a train. I stop where and when I want, rather than at restaurants the bus driver chooses, based on which ones pay him enough commission. I do things at my pace.

And, best of all, I get to ride my Tara. I miss her so.