Why I Love Backpacking India
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Why I Love India

By on March 19, 2017

India dissolves my fears, leaves me dumbfounded and inexplicably joyful on the banks of the Ganges, a crowded train in Mumbai, a gathering of Tibetan monks in the quiet Himalayas.

The physical aspects of the place itself – nature, temples, ancient ruins, wildlife, sprawling cities – present a sensory overload. Combined with a deep-seated culture and ritual, India embodies an enchanting and addictive atmosphere if one is willing to look below the oftentimes rugged appearance.

India stares boldly into my eyes, revealing secrets I didn’t know I kept. It’s a sacred place that in order to enter, I feel compelled to disrobe from my strong beliefs about the world and my place in it, surrendering with an open heart and the mind of a seeker. It’s not that I seize to be a teacher, a writer, an economist, a “digital nomad,” a wanderluster, and all of the other labels I have picked up and held onto over the years, but that I understand experientially that I am so much more than that. This remembering allows me to dive fearlessly into life, less reluctant to change and tied any given personality.

I don’t worry about how I’m acting much, including the debilitating inquiry of how others perceive me. Not only because there’s a relative lack of Western night life and foreigners, but because I feel so grounded in who I am, the perceiver of all passing things – through the beauty, heart ache, effort, confusion and perseverance.

The experience isn’t the same for all travelers of course, and many times I see the other extreme. India asks who we are without all of the things and relationships we identify with. I feel that for some, feared by the lack of a quick response or disinterest in answering, India pushes them to latch onto their ideas, enforcing their persona in stark contrast to the perceived reality of this place. The fear of something so different works to highlight the traffic and pollution and can make people physically ill. In rejecting the “foreignness,” the person becomes a bystander of the madness instead of a participant in the subtle magic of every moment.

When I take the time to consciously listen, India points me to the tools laying around in the yard of my busy mind and stowed away in my heart. I’m directed back to my breath, reminded to stay quiet and observe, trust my intuition, and not only reflect on gratitude but practice service and express compassion.

My home away from home exercises tough love. India knows when to bring me back down to earth with a pile of cow dung, knows when to test my calm with a chaotic tuk-tuk ride, or a dozen angry-looking men staring at the only Western girl at the train station. Likewise, India picks my spirits up with so many auspicious synchronicities. While India feeds my soul with ancient traditions—devotional kirtan, yoga, meditation and spirituality—I’m enthralled by its world of extremes and tumultuous evolution in the 21st century, evident in the Bollywood hype and the changing social landscape of the world’s largest democracy.

I feel intuitively that in returning I become more grounded in love, peace and happiness and am better able to contribute positively to the world uninhibited by borders.

Overall, I love India because she takes me back to my roots, washing away everything that isn’t timelessly me so that I can stand more comfortably and confidently in my truth.

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2 Comments
  1. Reply

    Lindsay @ Frugal Frolicker

    March 19, 2017

    I love following your journey, and I love that you keep coming back to India! Personally, I didn’t care for India at all when I visited 4 years ago – but I wonder if I placed the blame on the people and the environment when perhaps it was something within me that blocked me from having an amazing experience there.

    Maybe there was a better way I could have dealt with the highly-uncomfortable times where men stared at me, followed me, pursued me… and not acted out of fear and annoyance. I really grappled with how to relate to men there: I’d either act like the ice queen and avoid all interaction entirely (i.e. not at all the right way to travel!), or open up just a little and then they’d do things like stick their tongue down my throat.

    Part of me wants to go back to India and have another go. I’ve grown so much since that last trip and I’d like to think that this time I’d just smile and laugh at the so-called annoyances rather than get upset over them. Your posts have super-inspired me!

    • Reply

      Shoshanna

      March 20, 2017

      Lindsay thank you so much you brought a huge smile to my face this morning. I would love to hear about your second trip to India, I’m sure you’d find it incredibly interesting after both the country and yourself have transformed over the past years. Perhaps the availability of guest houses and hostels have made the stay easier to adjust to. When I walk around especially in crowded places I am almost always with friends and owners/workers from where I am staying. Like any big city where I don’t speak the language and I stick out, I can feel uncomfortable but I need to catch it before it hinders my experience. Laughing and admiring the chaos and the boldness of life and color and music and all the emotions it makes you feel at once is what wins when we let go of discomfort. Your experience was real and I’ve heard similar, but it’s also possible that most have their biased and fears washed away. And I’m sure it happened for a reason, you’ve learned and have reflected now and maybe it’s the reason you’ll go back. Who knows! Lots of love and I hope to see (in person!) you soon 🙂

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Shoshanna Delventhal
Digital-Nomading, Somewhere

I'm Shoshanna, great to virtually meet! I'm a freelance writer, yoga teacher and advocate of a mindful, loopy lifestyle. In 2015, I left my corporate job to travel India and spread the idea that we should and can do what we love, every day.