I can still remember the first time I learned about Kerala in India, the subcontinent's southernmost state. It was also the exact moment I knew I had to plan a way to get there: the year was 2013, it was late at night, sitting in a taxi outside my apartment, with my driver proudly showing me photos of his home country on his iPad.
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I'd mentioned during the ride how much I wanted to get to India and he told me that when I did, it was non-negotiable that I see Kerala. "It's God's own country", he said while flicking through photographs of a place I'd until that point known virtually nothing about. He sold me.
One year later, in 2014, I was there, and three years after that, in 2017, I was back again. By the time of that second trip to Kerala I was engaged to be married, but being there solo, it hit me not only how much I loved it, but how much it was a place I'd have to show Aimee, my future wife.
It's cliche to say India is beguiling, just as it's cliche to describe it as an assault on the senses. Both are true, but in Kerala you have the perfect Indian introduction. This is a state that prides itself on its standard of living, its religious diversity, the fact it has both the highest life expectancy and the highest literacy rate in India, its treatment of women, its incredible cuisine, and the not-insignificant reality it's widely hailed as being several notches less manic than the rest of the country.
But beyond that, Kerala is a lush slice of greenery with scenery as beautiful as anywhere in India. Whether it's centuries-old churches in Fort Kochi or world-class tiger reserves like Periyar National Park; whether it's languid days cruising glorious backwaters in an old rice boat or indulging in eco-resort luxury in one of the 10 most biodiverse regions in the world, the Western Ghats, Kerala will get a hold on you.
Three years since my last visit, I'm now married to Aimee and we have a daughter, Riley. I can't wait to take them both there so I can show them the place I'm dreaming of.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at roxboroghreport.com