I recently returned from my second trip to India. Traveling can be a powerful, introspective journey and in a way it can also be very addictive. I often wonder what kind of person I’d be if I hadn’t left. Would I be as adventurous or as socially active? It’s all speculation, with no way to go back and do my life over. However, I did realize some things about myself along the way. Here are six of my most-realized life lessons.
I’ve seen homeless people in America, but some of the people I’ve met during my travels have much less. With almost 30% of Indians living below the poverty line, and 75% of all Indians earn less than 5000 rupees or $78 a month.
As a white American woman, I represented wealth and they knew my money was good. Admittedly, I loved shopping in India because I knew my dollar would go far. I did make sure to also make some donations because my guilt still tugged at my heart the same way a beggar child tugs at your pant leg.
…but I Don’t “Need” Much
Upon my return, I felt suffocated by things. I still feel sticker shock when I see shirts that cost more than $10. I buy generic food, cheap beer, bulk toiletries just to save an extra dollar. Instead, I spend my money on experiences because the act of doing instead of the owning really changed my life. I may still be privileged here, but I’ve redirected myself to only need necessities — still often bought at great discounts — and to know that the things I want aren’t things at all.
America’s a very rushed culture. Everything has its time, and we’re expected to multitask all day long. But India doesn’t work that way. I was once warned, “Don’t expect timeliness in a culture whose words for ‘tomorrow’ and ‘yesterday’ are the same.”
Things happen, oftentimes outside of our control. I think this goes back to “need” versus “want.” I don’t always “need” to be somewhere at a specific time. Though I’ve fallen back into the fast-paced American schedule, I tend to let late meetings or spontaneous events happen as they will. In doing so, I don’t get as stressed out about the little things. Living loosely from day to day has really helped me feel happier and calmer.
…but I Can Be Assertive
When I first started traveling, I was still learning about who I was and what I believed in. The boundaries I set for myself were really just wobbly chain-link fences instead of concrete barriers. What I really learned about myself is how I’m seen in the global realm as a woman.
I was treated very differently as a woman in India as I am here in America. Most people were very sweet, though I will always remember the one stranger who thought it was okay to touch me inappropriately. My screaming rage came from a place deep inside, and I didn’t realize I had that kind firm power inside of me. My assaulter cowered behind a friend, and my peers cheered their support for me.
I wouldn’t have had the clarity to so staunchly defend my situation and personal boundaries if I wasn’t far from home with few relatable friends around. I had to harden myself, to make gray areas become black and white very quickly.
I Can Be Lonely…
My first flight to India was horrifying. I kept asking myself, “What the hell am I doing?” I had never traveled that far alone before. I often felt lonely as a kid so I relied heavily on the comfort of a core group of peers. But there I was, leaving that all behind and there was no turning the plane back.
And yet I survived. It was an easy fix for a frightening situation. Putting myself in that position where I had no choice once I got on the plane helped me to realize early on that I was going to be lonely at times, but that I would still be okay.
…but Making Friends Is Easy
A smile is universal and powerful. People often surround themselves with those with similarities, but since I’ve been a stranger in a strange land I’ve learned to find friends in unlikely places. I befriended children, taxi drivers, hotel staff and even fundamentalist Muslims — who, according to the US media, should hate me. Sometimes a smile was the only word we knew.
Without traveling, I may not have been as open to these new connections at all. My standards for potential friends haven’t lowered, they’ve expanded. I’ve embraced the fact that everyone in the world has differences, great and small, and in doing so I’ve become eager to connect with those around me.
Just as my journeys will certainly continue, I’m sure the lessons I learn along the way will as well. I’m now more open to these changes in my life, and I look forward to progressing myself. While traveling to a far off land such as India may not be right for everybody, the act of exploring a space very different from home can also bring positive change to one’s life. So don’t wait — get out there and find yourself!
Author: Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for “The Drifter Collective.” Throughout her life, she has found excitement in the world around her. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations, cultures, and styles, while communicating these endeavors through her passion for writing and expression. Her love for the world around her is portrayed through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts.