On my first morning, I woke to the sound of morning prayers coming from the speakers of the mosque that was up the street from the Christian homestay I was in. A picture of Jesus hung on the wall in front of my bed and I lay there in silence just listening. The blending of religions in this moment was something new to me. Every sense within me felt heightened. I wondered if it was the jetlag.
My first instinct on most mornings when I wake up is to pick up my cellphone and scroll through Instagram and my emails. It’s one of the unhealthiest habits I’ve struggled to kick. Today I didn’t feel the impulse to do this.
I decided it was time to embrace my alone time here in India. In a way, I was yearning for the separation from everything back home. I spent the next four days in isolation. Reading, resting, eating, thinking, sitting, and practicing yoga. I didn’t see a single tourist during this time and I hardly engaged with the locals. It’s rare to have the opportunity of free time in our busy Western lives. We usually never feel we have enough hours in the day. There were moments during this time where I would start to feel a surge of anxiety and guilt because I felt like I needed to plan or do something. The reality of the matter was I didn’t have to do anything at all other than just be. Naturally like a wave I let these feelings come and then pass on their own. Trying my best to not hold on to anything that I felt – bad or good. Knowing full well that it was all temporary.
Alone time on this journey is something that I’ve craved. But I also knew I couldn’t spend my entire time in India in isolation. Genuine connections with people I cross paths with will play a big role in my experience here. Finding the balance of being social and having time for yourself is going to be a challenge for me.
It was a Monday morning and I was sitting in a little art café in Fort Cochin when a woman walked in wearing a colourful shawl. I complimented her on it and we began talking. Her name was Dallas and she was from Melbourne and had been traveling alone for the past few weeks. You could tell that she had experienced the real India already and had a love hate relationship with the country. That’s the general impression that is usually made with this place. I haven’t met anyone who has walked away saying: “Oh! That was a magical blissful country.” It’s more like: “Holy shit! India is INTENSE.” It’s everything all in one. It’s so unbelievably crazy, bizarre, beautiful, calm and serene – all at the same time. It’s a wave of ebb and flow and you never know which way it’s going to go. Every emotion you can possibly feel will be expressed in some form during your time here.
Dallas was a former model turned travel photographer for Lonely Planet and Getty. When she told me this, the traveler in me became a fan-girl because ever since I started backpacking, the Lonely Planet books have been an aid to me and I admired the individuals who were apart of bringing these books alive.
We sat together in this café talking for what felt like hours. The conversation was natural and flowed without work or pressure. We spoke about relationships, family, work, religion, living in two different but similar countries, “finding yourself in India”, and everything in-between. After days of isolation this conversation was fulfilling and fed my mind.
The connections you make traveling I find are quickly authentic more genuine. There is a sense of vulnerability when travelers meet each other. An openness and unguardedness that I find makes people so real and human.
I have a good friend back home that wrote me as I started this journey and she said: “The people you meet traveling will either be a teacher or a student”. There’s a lot of truth to this and I knew this was just the beginning of the connections I’d form and the conversations I’d have.
The days to come are completely unknown to me. I have no plan, no deadline, what will happen tomorrow is unknown and it was up to me to decide what was next.