Laura Di Stefano is a medieval historian, content creator and photographer hailing from Italy. An avid traveller, Laura has ventured through many parts of the world capturing and immortalizing her adventures through breathtaking and beautiful pictures that can be seen on her Instagram handle @thehistoriantraveller which has over 11,5K followers. In this issue, Laura takes us on an adventure through the vibrant colors of India.
Born and raised in Italy, Laura has been living in the UK for the past five years and is currently completing her PhD in History, in which her project is about the organization of travels from Venice during the 15th century. During her free time, Laura loves to travel, photographing her adventures along the way. Through her many travels, she feels as if her hand luggage is a fixed part of her furniture and she is always up for visiting and experiencing new places. Ever since she could remember, she always wanted to travel. She always felt like she was never at home and wanted to search for something different. Traveling makes her feel alive. Laura is a curious person by nature and travelling gives her the opportunity to feed into her curiosity and her need to learn something new about other cultures and histories all the time.
Laura says that she still has a long way to go to call her travels a career. For now, she sees her involvement in travel, social media and photography as a way to turn some of her greatest passions into unique opportunities. She does see her travels from an academic point of view, which can somehow be considered as a career in her field. During the last couple of years, it gave her the opportunity to do a lot of traveling and do the things she loves the most: explore new places and do academic research.
Laura hopes that her academic background and her passion for social media and photography will bring her towards a career path involving traveling in a more stable basis. Laura, however, does not wish to travel just to try new hotels or services, unlike the many “influencers” of today. Her desire is to be involved in projects pursuing the promotion of culture and heritage of known and underrated destinations. Laura’s goal is to make people see places from a new perspective. Laura’s latest travels brought her to India. She was enticed to go to India because of the intricate and diverse culture India offers. The desktop wallpaper of her first computer was of the Taj Mahal and she remembered telling her mother that one day she would be able to stand and take a picture in front of it. Then one day, her sister came home with a big photography books from National Geographic which had amazing pictures of India. Laura was so fascinated by the architecture and colors of India that she promised herself she would go to India as soon as the opportunity arises.
At the time, she was a mere teenager without any money and could only dream of going. Laura admitted that life went on and without any purpose and occasion to go to India was slowly fading. It wasn’t until last year that the idea of going to India was back on the table, when her friend announced that he was going to get married in India. In Laura’s opinion, India is a very different country, one can love it or hate it. She had some low moments during her travels in India due to some health problems, but despite it all, Laura loved every second of her trip. Laura loved everything about India: the food, the architecture, the art and culture but most of all, she loved the people of India. Coming from a western country, Laura has heard many prejudices against India and its people that are strongly rooted in certain closeminded Europeans. She personally doesn’t pay attention to those kinds of things, but a lot of people do, and it creates problems and distortions of reality in their travels. It is true that India is a country that has suffered so much and still has visible problems. It is also true that certain people will try to scam you, but this happens almost anywhere in the world. She even feels safer walking in the streets of New Delhi rather than certain areas of London.
The people that Laura has met in India were extraordinary, hardworking, generous and welcoming people. She has never met anyone who thanked her for visiting their country until she went to India, which would never happen in Italy. Yes, the architecture and culture in India is magnificent, but it’s because of the people that makes it so fascinating and worth to visit. Laura’s itinerary in India was not particularly complicated. As a first timer going to India, she preferred to follow the classic itinerary instead of going on a spontaneous adventure. She absolutely loved the Mughal architecture she witnessed in New Delhi and Agra. The Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi was one of the most beautiful buildings she’s ever seen. Her favorite city, though, was Jaipur. Laura thinks that Rajasthan has something truly magical, the timeless beauty that’s only seen in movies or books narrating distant exotic countries.
In her opinion, Jaipur, in particular, looks like an enchanted city with pink walls, hidden alleys and the colorful markets on the streets. Laura almost immediately fell in love with the vibrant colors and the incredible architecture. Some of her favorite places to go were the Patrika Gate, the Hawa Mahal, and the City Palace. The beauty of the forts overlooking Jaipur, Amer, Jaigarh and Nahargarh was incredible. If one closes their eyes, it would feel as if they’re being transported to the time of the great maharajas. Traveling to India has taught Laura a multitude of new things. Before going to India, Laura did a lot of research about India’s history, the regional differences in their traditions, language, and food. She tried to learn more about the architecture and the way it has changed through the centuries. Laura admitted that all the preconceived notions and knowledge she had of India was immediately scrapped from her mind the moment she stepped foot out of the New Delhi airport. This was replaced by thousands of sounds, smells, colors and people hitting her senses as if being drenched in a bucket of iced water.
However, during the time she spent in India, she had the opportunity to learn so much about the Indian customs and culture in person which was better than reading it through books. Moreover, Indian people are very enthusiastic to share their history. While she visited historical places such as Qtub Minar or the Red Fort, it was very common to be approached by strangers who just wanted to have a chat about the architecture or simply share information and anecdotes about the local history. Laura believes that anyone should visit India once at one point in their lives. It might seem like a cliché́, but she thinks that it will forever change not only what you think you know about the world, but also what you know about yourselves, your limits and the way you perceive and think about other people’s different cultures and beliefs. She believes it will make you look at the world, your routine, your silly problems, in a different way.
In her opinion, India is overwhelming in all the good and bad senses. You will be surrounded by exotic smells, vibrant colours, incredible architecture and fascinating rituals. However, you will feel powerless and useless in the face of poverty, injustice, and discrimination affecting most Indian people. Laura said it is very easy for tourists to turn a blind eye from the heart-breaking scenes at every corner of the street, to never step out of the comforts of their fancy hotels while there’s an entirely ignored world outside the walls of the Taj Mahal. On one of the days during her stay in New Delhi, Laura and her husband needed to take some cash from the ATM. According to Google Maps, there was an ATM not far from the hotel. Laura wasn’t concerned about going around for a walk in New Delhi, but then a small voice in her head started whispering all the bad things other people she knew have experienced before. The voice in her head was telling her not to venture out of hotel without a taxi and it became louder when she noticed a stranger following them after they went to the ATM.
Laura admitted that she was worried for a second, but it turned out that the stranger, whose name was Girish, heard Laura and her husband speak Italian and only wanted to ask some information about Italy and places to visit. It was his dream to go to Italy because he was very passionate about the classic black and white Italian movies made by great artists Fellini, Antonioni and De Sica. They ended up chatting for a good half hour about classic movies, Italian dishes and activities to do in Italy. He also gave them good advice about how to manoeuvre in India, what to see and where to eat before they parted ways and said their goodbyes as if they’re old friends. Of all the things that have happened to Laura in India, it was probably the least expected and funniest experience she encountered. After that experience, Laura became more convinced that prejudice is the barrier that people build in their minds. She believes that the things we have in common outranks the things diving us, such as Laura’s and the stranger’s love for the film, La Dolce Vita.