Now that I work in the travel industry, I talk about being abroad all day long. I get to share my stories and talk about what I learned abroad. And I have to toe this fine line between selling a student on the program and managing their expectations of the country and experience. I normally find this to be no problem, as I have nearly all positive reflections on the various countries that I have visited. But India continues to pose a problem for me.
India is one of those places in the world that can leave you speechless. You may see one of the most colorful, beautiful things ever only to walk two steps further and see the most extreme and heart-wrenching poverty. And India is not for everybody. It’s just not. India is intense and assaults your senses. In both good and bad ways of course. But it is in your face. It hits you hard, and not everyone can handle it or is prepared for it.
The first time I went to India, I had been prepared by the folks on Semester at Sea. We did cultural awareness training and talked through some of the things we would feel. So when I got off the ship, I felt prepared. But I so was not. I only spent a week there, but it took me months to unpack the experiences I had and the feelings I felt. India is very complex and I still struggle to encapsulate my experience in to words. I stumble around trying to find the right words when people ask me about my experience in India.
And then I read this article. As I read through, I couldn’t help but feel that Barry was describing my thoughts exactly as I hoped to express them, but couldn’t. Take this passage for instance:
“India is a country full of verve, energy and contradictions. It is a challenge to visit, but it leaves an indelible mark on your soul”
This is absolutely true. It’s not an easy country to travel in. The weather is hot, the people usually aren’t friendly, the culture is complicated and women are often mistreated. But at the same time, it sticks with you. You can’t forget it. You can’t shed the feeling. And for me, I just want more. I just want to learn more, and understand better. This article (and incredibly beautiful video!) helped me do so. For anyone out there who is hoping to travel to India and visit this amazing place, definitely take a look at the articles and reflections that the Worldly Nomads wrote up.