The thought of India conjures up images of squalor and splendor — starving children picking through putrid heaps of garbage and beautiful women with almond eyes wearing colorful sarees; desolate slums smelling of raw sewage and immaculate jewel-studded palaces and golden temples. Mother Theresa, the Taj Majal, Kama Sutra and chilled monkey brains for dessert (thank you Harrison Ford in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” for that last image) all come to mind as well.

For many westerners who have never been (like myself), India is a mysterious land with endless opportunities for adventure. So, to me, a self-proclaimed adventure junkie, a solo trip to India seemed quite logical a few months ago when I bought my ticket. I’m not really sure what to expect because nearly everyone who has been says nothing can prepare you for it, but it is definitely an experience you will never forget.

I plan to set out for six weeks through various parts of the country while backpacking, studying and volunteering. While being alone in a foreign land isn’t new to me, India is not the first place one travels to for a reason. Despite the frustrations and headaches that are inevitable when budget traveling, I am optimistic I’ll have an amazing adventure.