I've wanted to visit India for as long as I can remember.
My best friend mesmerized me with stories of trips with her family, and I spent a summer in an intensive program learning about India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
But I knew I couldn't begin to understand India without actually going there. This is a country filled with culture, history and architectural wonders -- not to mention over a billion people, all with their own stories.
This month I was able to live that dream. I spent a week in India with my family, touring the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
With only a week spent visiting tourist sites, I don't pretend to be anywhere near an expert. But I'm extremely appreciative to have seen a piece of the country, and I feel super lucky to have had the privilege to do so.
This was an amazing experience, and if you have the opportunity to go to India -- even just for a short time -- you should absolutely take it. Here are a few reasons why.
It will give you some perspective.
Your normal is not the world's normal.
When you travel anywhere, things will be different. But in my experience, India is a radically different place. As a Greek-Italian-American, I have a Western, Christian-based perspective of neat cities and quiet villages. India is basically the opposite of that.
Every time I found myself thinking about how some part of life in the cities we saw was totally outlandish, I reminded myself:
Your normal is not the world's normal.
Travel is an ideal way to open your perspective beyond what you're used to and learn how lives across the world are so vastly different.
India has massive economic inequality, and it's difficult to see the ways people live in poverty on the streets. Witnessing India's everyday corruption, especially as a political writer, was more than enough to make Hillary's email "controversy" absurdly laughable.
India can make you feel privileged or want to live your life differently. But above all, you'll remember you're not the center or the average of the universe, and there are so many experiences beyond your own.
You can see some of the dazzling wonders of the world.
Let's just get this out of the way: Yes, the Taj Mahal lives up to the hype.
My family woke up extremely early and literally ran to the gates to be the first inside the Taj Mahal grounds at sunrise, and, oh my God, there is very little in this world that compares.
Beyond the Taj, there is so much more to see. The forts and palaces of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are absolutely stunning and some of the most amazing architectural sites I've ever been to.
India's history has several interweaving cultures, and its architecture puts them on wonderful display by blending religious symbols and cultural indicators into beautiful structures.
You'll learn history.
The majority Hindu country was ruled for centuries by the Muslim Mughal Empire. In the mid-19th century, the United Kingdom took over for about a hundred years, leaving the country in disarray with a horrific partition between India and Pakistan in 1947.
Wherever you travel, you should make a point to learn about the place. India has a fascinating history with pertinent lessons on intercultural cooperation and discord. We could all learn a lot from its history.
You've gotta try this food.
But that shouldn't stop you from trying new foods. Pop a Pepto and get out of your cuisine comfort zone. It will be so worth it, trust me.
Especially if, like me, you live and breathe for spicy food. You know how in America you'll order something and be warned that it's spicy and then when you eat, it doesn't come close to spicy enough? That is definitely not the case in India.
Embrace it, enjoy it and if you don't have a high spice tolerance, get some yogurt to go with it.
If you love the culture, see where it came from.
The least you can do is actually learn about where these things came from. If you have the chance to see the source, you can better understand, appreciate and respect the culture.
The Indian people we spoke with were happy to explain various parts of their culture, like how yoga is taught in schools and what breathing exercises they do.
There are tons more reasons you should visit India.
This is a small sample of why you should explore another part of the world. India has an astounding history and incredible sights. The people are open and welcoming, and you will learn a lot.
Traveling anywhere will open your eyes, but India is an especially amazing place with a far-reaching culture. If you have the opportunity and can make it happen, you should definitely go see India for yourself.