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As with all my travels, I’ve never traveled for the purpose of relaxation with the exception of home to Hawaii for the holidays. For some people, when you’re raised in a kind of heavenly tropical climate and gentle culture of relaxation, beach resorts and tropical getaways tend to be the last places that enter your mind as ultimate destinations. Snow and ice, monsoons and challenging locales, etc… are often more intriguing.
You’d wonder how I would want to return to India after some of the things i’ve written about the culture shocks i’ve experienced. Part of me wonders the same and yet, there’s something in it that attracts me there just as New York does (undoubtedly, its the Degree of Difficulty!) Maybe Sandeep is right when he said that India has a bit of “mystery” to it. The life there isn’t easy and experiencing this as a first time solo traveler hasn’t made my “seeing” India through clear glasses much rosier or romantic. My goal was to understand India a bit more and to step inside its skin to experience it more than through the surface of my eyes. While much of it I still find elusive, due to my solo travel, I do feel i’ve gotten to experience it on a stronger and more personal level where it’s affected the way I reflect upon things.
I’ve been revolted with the culture, values and mentality of the United States for a while but somehow you tolerate it. You excuse people their excesses b/c you think “oh,, how unfortunate you are that way,…poor thing- must come from poor upbringings”.
UNTIL you see a world where people can live so raw and basic, doing massively hard work for meager wages… This is a humanity struggling the best it can within an environment which offers limited choices. There’s mountains of noise, pollution, corruption, haggling, real dirt, real fear, stream-fulls of piss & cow manure and amidst this, you find a small handful of flowers w/ a bit of fresh scent or a momentary oasis to revive you. You can’t shield yourself from the ugly visions of poverty which surrounds you 24/7 & you can’t help feeling a sincere compassion for it, while also staying on your toes to protect your wallet from a haggle that equates “stolen”! The faces I find “ugly” there, I ALSO find strangely “beautiful and warm” b/c they have no choice but to live a lifestyle of maintaining one’s survival in the face of a struggling economy …and I respect that.
After experiencing India and Nepal, I see our personality excesses as just waste-full and vulgur expenditures… frivolous cow manure, really. We are a spoiled culture where we’ve gotten to pissing into an empty condition of ‘wants’ while tolerating our own & other’s excesses, not livelihoods and certainly NOT survival.
Experiencing other countries and cultures which aren’t as consumer-driven or economically fortunate as your own, shifts your thinking about your own country & culture. You realize that the mountains of noise, pollution, corruption, haggling, manure and overall stains of a developing country exists similarly in your own but under different white-washed guises. It makes you think about your part in your own noisy consumer-driven society and what you can possibly do to make a difference in the world…and even your own life. Its definitely a story that needs to be continued…