“India for Idiots” Contest Giveaway!

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

India Culture

One of our favorite travel writers on GirlsGetaway.com, Dianne Sharma-Winter, a New Zealand ex-pat, has recently published the ‘India for Idiots’ a funny, informative guide on the culture and etiquette of India. Dianne developed a mad love for India through her travels and has been writing about India as a travel destination for the past 15 years.

Want to read this wonderful book? Want to win a gorgeous golden silk wrap from India, perfect for that sexy LBD?! Check out our India Contest Giveaway at the bottom of this post!

The contest is now closed, thank you for entering!

India for Idiots by Dianne Sharma-Winter

silk scarf from india

We recently caught up with Dianne to talk to her about the book, her insights on India and experiences as a woman traveler in Asia.

Please tell us about yourself and your background. Where do you consider home at this point?

I am moving into my fifty-third earth year and my seventeenth year of living on the road. Aotearoa, New Zealand is where I come from and where I have family, but my true home is The Road. I have two kids and four beautiful grandchildren. I own a couple of boxes of books and a collection of travel bag. I live with the motto that Less is More.

How did you discover your passion for traveling?

I read a lot as a kid, the usual kids adventure stuff. There has always been a fine line for me between a story and reality and so when I was seven, I decided to hit the road. Everyone was doing it then, at least according to my information. It was the sixties, everyone was on the move and I had just heard the story of Huckleberry Finn. My partner in crime backed out at the last minute and told on us. It was only when I realized what big trouble we were in that I realized there was a line between the book reality and the reality. It still blurs for me, especially in India.

How did you get interested in Indian culture?

I met a guy at a party who had just come back from India. His face was the most alive face I had seen, his eyes shone with something that looked like a mad kind of love to me. He described India as the craziest place in the world and talked to me for hours about India. I went home that night and woke my kids up, told them I was going to India when they were eighteen and that time was counting down. My daughter was only ten months old then and my son almost four. It was a reasonable amount of notice I thought. I did it too, a couple of years ahead of schedule.

Why did you decide to write “India for Idiots”?

India is the first country where I threw away a guidebook and began to travel by my wits. As a Maori woman, my own culture is that when we are the visitor we give respect to the cultural practices of our host and follow along. India for Idiots is a humorous bamboo bridge between East and West, an attempt to de mystify the East.

The Idiot’s Guide to India was written as an attempt to demystify India for beginners. What is it about India that captivates, seduces and beguiles visitors?

For me it is always the people. You can make amazing heart connections there. The other thing is that it’s a culture rooted in the storyteller’s tradition, so for a writer its one big story box.

What was your most unforgettable experience in Asia and India?

Most unforgettable was marching to the Shipra River during the 2004 Khumba Mela with three thousand naked sadhus. But there are so many moments that have melted my heart over the years, it all reflects back on the people you meet. I measure journeys in smiles not miles so there are a lot of memories of that.

As a traveler, what is your biggest challenge on the road?

Language. If I could have one wish it would be that I could understand every language in the world so that there would always be that point of connection between us.

What advice do you have for women who are considering travel to India for the first time?

India Culture and Travel First I would say that the days of India as a budget backpack destination for women are thankfully over. It’s important to dress beautifully, preferably in Indian clothes as the people see this as a sign of respect and love you for it. The other thing is to not get involved in inane conversations with men. The best thing to do if you arrive fresh in any culture and plan to stick around for a while is to watch the local women and do as they do.

What places have you visited in South Asia? Where do you usually stay? What about your experience adjusting to the local cultures and way of life? And what makes South Asia special to you?

There are lots of places still to explore in SE Asia. While I have traveled around a little bit, I have to say that I am always in a rush to get back to India. What I appreciate about the cultures in India and Asia is that element of respect is still there, and people have very good manners.

Please give us your insight into traveling in India as a woman. What about safety on the road?

If you are traveling India as a solo woman there are a few things to take into consideration. Firstly, to be alone in India is to be vulnerable. So as a woman you are doubly so. Indian women who need to travel alone usually take the following precautions. First class by train or bus, travel alone at night is not recommended. The biggest hassle is always going to be the men, unfortunately. In all the years of travel in India, I have never been robbed so there is no fear of that. The people are just lovely though, so friendly and curious. Expect a lot of attention if you are blonde!

What places would you recommend for women interested in visiting India?

India has so much variety that it’s impossible to recommend a place. India is an experience and as such, I always ask women what their passion is, what experience of India are they looking for? There is a saying in Hindi, Sub Kutch Milega. This means everything is possible. And its true!

What learning experiences have you gained from your travels?

I used to have this quote from Keroauc on my notice board during the Nappy Years…it was there to inspire me to believe in my dream and its what has been proved true to me over time, that the whole world is a holy place.

“I promise I shall never give up, and that I’ll die yelling and laughing, and that until then I’ll rush around this world I insist is holy and pull at everyone’s lapel and make them confess to me and to all.”

What are your plans in the next while, travel and otherwise?

Shortly I will be relocating to India where I have taken up a position with Far Horizons India where I will be devising new itineraries and taking charge of the PR and Communications.

Congratulations to Candi Blumenthal, winner of Dianne Sharma-Winter’s ebook “India for Idiots” and the silk wrap!!!

GirlsGetaway.com is thrilled to announce that we’ve teamed up Dianne to help share our India love. Yes, one lucky reader will get their very own ecopy of Dianne Sharma-Winter’s book “India for Idiots” as well as a beautiful golden silk scarf made in India, perfect for that sexy LBD!

So, how do you win this fabulous Giveaway? It’s pretty simple – just complete the steps below:

1. Like GirlsGetaway on Facebook, and tell us on our Facebook Fan page where in the world you would run away to for an adventure. If you’re already fan, thank you, you’re awesome! All you need to do is leave the comment.

2. Leave a comment on this post, and tell us about a learning experience you gained from travel.

Rules, Rules (Darn those rules!)

This contest begins April 1, 2011 and ends at noon Eastern Standard time on April 10, 2011. Participants are limited to one (1) entry per person. One entry consists of (1) a GirlsGetaway facebook like and (2) a comment on this post. Duplicate entries by participant will be voided. Each participant must have a valid email address.

Open to residents of the continental United States and Canada (void in Quebec and where prohibited by law). Participants must be 18 years of age and over.

The Prize: There will be one (1) winner for this contest. The prize for the random drawing is one (1) ebook edition of “India for Idiots”, written by Dianne Sharma-Winter and one (1) Indian silk wrap to the winner. There will be no substitution of prizes.

The winner will be selected in a random drawing (via Random.org) on or about April 10, 2011. Drawings will be done by GirlsGetaway, Inc. and judges’ decisions are final on all matters relating to this contest. If GirlsGetaway is unable to locate a given winner, an alternate winner will be selected by a second random drawing. The winner will be notified by email.

Comment on this story:

What all the girls are saying:

  1. Kerrie Donlan says:

    Love this article! Dianne Sharma-Winter always entertains with her witty, funny and sometimes shocking observations on life and travel. One good tip for an Australian traveller would be to remember to take the vegemite.

  2. Nancy says:

    Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned from travel is that people are people wherever you go. Even if a destination is half-way around the world and everything about it is completely foreign, for the most part the people are wonderful and happy to meet you and , really, not that different from us in the ways that matter.

  3. Maddy says:

    Great story

  4. deanna says:

    I have learned to relax and not overplan. To eat in local tiny cafes as that is where the best food is to be found.

  5. Dana says:

    Although I haven’t travelled much in my life, I love it! I love learning about people in other cultures and to find out that despite cultural differences, we all want the same things deep down: to have a healthy, happy family, to be safe, to be content with what we have.

  6. Jen T. says:

    I’ve learned to not stress so much when travelling. Things may not work out as planned but often that’s when the best memories come from.

  7. Patti Hannila says:

    India is my current (current, being for the past 10 years–sigh!) travel dream. I know I must do it before I am 65, so it’s going to happen soon….would love to have this book in my collection so I am ready when I get there!

  8. 409cope says:

    I like you on facebook. Shari DThis is such a pretty scarf!

  9. Charlene Vidal says:

    The learning experience I have gained from travel is learning about other cultures. Food, Traditions, Language, Music.

  10. Reena S. says:

    When you’re planning to travel somewhere, google the country/city and look for interesting, offbeat things to do. It’ll make your travel experience more unique!

  11. Dayle B. says:

    I like your site on facebook.
    Having traveled to Asia, and finding
    such warm and friendly people.
    We were welcomed into their homes
    and found that thro sign languages
    and a little bit of understanding each
    others language. That family meaning
    alot to both our cultures.

  12. Sammi says:

    Traveling to Fiji really opened my eyes to the other side of the world – I’d never been on an island before, or seen tropical trees or wildlife – or scuba dived! I’ll never forget it.

  13. Stacy S says:

    I’ve learned to always try and really experience the place you are visiting. Touristy attractions are fun sometimes and you learn a lot if you have never been there before ( or at least some funny facts! ) but I always learn the most from taking the side streets and exploring

  14. One thing I learned from traveling is to never be afraid to ask someone for reccomendations – that has enabled me to find some of the coolest places to see!

    madamerkf at aol dot com

  15. susy says:

    i’ve learned to always have a back up plan