Today as I sit outside at a cafe near my apartment in Johannesburg, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. The sun is shining, there’s a cool breeze, and I’m finally getting a chance to just…breathe. I feel like I’ve been on auto-pilot since my last day at work, and for the first time in 2 weeks I have some alone time to process everything.
At our closing dinner in Jaipur this weekend, Nomadness Travel Tribe founder Evita Robinson said that she keeps returning to India because it gives her perspective. Truer words have never been spoken. Before this trip I knew that I would see some dire conditions, which didn’t bother me at all because I have seen different degrees of poverty all over the world. But this was different.
The streets are full of random dirty animals which apparently are people’s pets. But instead of dogs and cats, they are cows, and pigs, and camels. And they are all feasting on garbage and feces in the middle of the street. I literally saw a cow drop a load, at which point 2 pigs ran over and went to town like it was Thanksgiving. Yards away are little kids running around barefoot through what is surely days worth of feces and dirt that has yet to be washed away by the rain that is so scarce in the region.
In Pushkar, our camel (which had it’s own set of 99 problems) stopped for a drink of water in a dirty concrete receptacle on the side of the road. A few minutes later we passed by a man washing his clothes in the same type of receptacle. The memory that will forever be etched in my mind was a mother changing her daughter’s diaper in the middle of a dirty street. The little girl was standing and her mother was wiping her innocent little bottom with her bare hands and some water that came from God knows where. I locked eyes with her and will never forget her expression. It wasn’t sad or desperate or begging for help. It was just another day, and she was doing the best she could to take care of her little one.
Witnessing scenes like this makes me look back at the state of mind I was in a few weeks ago. For lack of a better comparison, I feel like that Claritin commercial where the first half is all blurry, and then the film is removed to show the metaphor of clarity. That’s what India has been for me. It has peeled back so much crap that seems so trivial now. If I had to pick a soundtrack for this feeling, it would be the words of Miss Hill:
Now the skies could fall/ Not even if my boss should call / The world it seems so very small / But nothing even matters. At all.
~ Lauryn Hill
Her lyrics speak to that head-in-the-clouds bliss you feel in the butterfly zone of newness. As long as you and him are good, life is okay, and nothing else seems to matter that much. But in my case, there is no him right now. Just Him, and whatever He has for me to do next. And right now, it feels like nothing else really matters.
Does that mean I’m never going back to work, and you’ll now find me on the Q train trying to deliver folks to the world of travel? Absolutely not. A girl gotta eat, and I’m way too greedy for that life. However, like Evita said, India has given me a fresh perspective on what is important in life, and a brand new approach to what I hope will be a more purpose-driven life moving forward.
So today, I give thanks. Thank you to the travel community that created this unexpected trip to a country that now has a special place in my heart. Thank you to the Universe for the little push (ahem, dropkick) I needed to break away from the rat race and take this experience to the next level. Thank you to my best friend and sister for bailing me out of a Priceline nightmare that nearly left me stranded alone in New Delhi yesterday (more on that later), and thank you India for removing a veil of myopia that I didn’t even realize I was wearing.
Lastly, thank you to anyone reading and encouraging me on this journey. You motivate me to share and explore more than I would ever do on my own, and are a integral part of this Great Escape that is only just beginning.