Experiencing India Syndrome While On Family Vacation

23 months.

We left first thing this morning to fly back home to Nashville, after 8 days of visiting my wife’s family in California.

That means that now my family will be undergoing a reverse culture shock.

For the past week, my wife and I haven’t worked and our son hasn’t gone to daycare.

While we made it out of the house most days for some kind of adventure, like seeing the California State Railroad Museum, for the most part, there was definitely a major lack of structure.

And that’s basically the whole point of taking a week-long family vacation: to chill out and enjoy spending time together as a family.

However, when you do that as a family, it sort of messes with your head.

The thing I’m tempted to compare it to is an article I read this week in Details magazine called “Death on the Path to Enlightenment: Inside the Rise of India Syndrome,” by Scott Carney.

It explains how when Westerners, especially Americans, visit the mysterious and ancient country of India, they are prone to… classicly freaking out:

“This quest to become superhuman—along with culture shock, emotional isolation, illicit drugs, and the physical toll of hard-core meditation—can cause Western seekers to lose their bearings. Seemingly sane people get out of bed one day claiming they’ve discovered the lost continent of Lemuria, or that the end of the world is nigh, or that they’ve awakened their third eye.”

In essence, short-term delirium can set in when we find ourselves in unfamiliar environments, especially when the new locale is perceived as exotic or at least completely the opposite of the culture we live in every day.

So let me just say that after a week of not working, staying with family with free room and board and no real schedule, it took me about 4 days to overcome my India syndrome.

Therefore, it should be no surprise that my son absolutely had to battle through his own version of of short-term delirium.

That’s something my son and I definitely have in common: We don’t do well when there is no plan or boundaries.

So it did take the two of us about half the week to get into the new groove.

I made it part of our morning routine to push him around the neighborhood in his stroller while we looked for dogs and owls, while my son clenched tightly his toy rubber eyeball and Jeep.

He also learned better the concept of watching TV, which is something we pretty much deprive him of back home.

Of all things, he particularly liked an old black-and-white western show called Lawman. He even learned to sing the theme song, which basically consists of saying, “Law-man…”

As for my wife, well, we were staying with her family who she only gets to see about once a year, so she was fine in what, to her, was a familiar environment.

We had a wonderful time in California, no doubt about it. But I think my son and I learned a valuable lesson for next summer when we go back:

The two of us will need to mentally prepare for the cultural shock by mapping out a schedule and creating a routine for a vacation where the lack of boundaries and routine is basically the reason you go in the first place.

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