It’s still strange to think that in just a few days, I will be back in the States.
I’ll be leaving behind my current situation Bangalore, India that has grown so familiar. I’ll be leaving my colorful little neighborhood of Jayanagar, where kolam art graces the ground at my feet, the children are always excited to say “Hi! How are you?” and the women are always in bright, traditional clothing. The best chai at every turn. Vegetable carts, goats, horses, chickens, kittens and other madness on the pavements; auto rickshaws, small cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians weave in chaotic harmony in the streets.
It’s hard to believe that five months ago, I was leaving everything I knew in LA to take this leap.
I was recently asked if I’m ready to go home.
I couldn’t answer right away.
There have certainly been times where I have missed things about home. There have certainly been times where I miss my family, my love, my friends. And I seriously miss my dog. A LOT. But I can honestly say that I never let any of these feelings overwhelm the current moment.
I can absolutely stand by the fact that I have allowed the current moment to stay present before my eyes, before my senses.
I have breathed it in with the fresh floral aromas at the flower market in Mumbai. I have allowed the touch of it to be refreshing on my toes like the waves of the ocean in Canggu, Bali after my first meditation. I have allowed it to be warm on my skin like the Bangalore sun on the back of a motorcycle to Mysore. I have allowed it to send a burn to my taste buds in the spices of each bite of my dal bahts from Nepal to thali meals in India. I have allowed it to take my breath away like the Taj Mahal at first glance. I have let the biggest of moments to the smallest of moments sent my spirits soaring – from the sight of the Himalayas at sunset, to the simple “Thank you” of a child who was in my first children’s yoga class I taught. I have surrendered to the scary moments, be it the thrill of the ride on top of the bus in the foothills of the Himalayas, or the heartbreak of the tough decisions which led to life changes and goodbyes.
I have learned to just be. I acknowledge the fact that it’s easy to do so when things are so beautiful and so pleasant. But you know what? Traveling isn’t all rainbows and puppies and smiles. Not at all. As a broke traveler, as a foreigner in each new environment who very blatantly stands out, there are certainly moments of discomfort, of frustration. And then there are the situations that we all face, despite where we are in the world: learning to work and compromise with others. Learning to love and stay positive when you feel the urge to judge and get upset.
I have learned to rise up, I have learned to cope, when things aren’t so pleasant. And be aware of those moments, and use them as a learning experience.
I have learned that sometimes it is up to me to stay positive and rise up against negativity. And it’s not always easy. Sometimes it means combating those energies with even more love. And sometimes it means getting up, and walking away from it. It means becoming aware of when I need to do so, and knowing that I’m strong enough to make the discernment. It means being aware of me. Understanding what makes me happy, what serves me. And ditch the rest – with a smile and an open heart.
I met Ashley, a very experienced and well-studied American yoga teacher/traveler who was currently in Bangalore teaching classes. What started off as an interview for our project turned into further discussion over dinner, a night out, and spontaneous sleep over. Then a few days later, she was off to Mysore for her Ashtanga Yoga program. But this short period of time I was blessed to spend with her shed light on so much.
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Not only did she give me great tips as a yoga teacher, but in life in general. Really profound, relatable advice that resonates deeply. As a traveler, as a dreamer, as a romantic, as a free spirit, as an independent woman. It offered me the chance to reflect on what I’ve been through. It almost served as a moment of self-analysis for me.
One of the more memorable things that she told me – something that I hold on to in this very moment, and will for a long time: Check in with yourself. Follow your bliss.
Ashley and I are both Aquarii. She told me a bit about her astrological reading, and it inspired me to seek out my own.
You are always willing to sublimate and take the back seat.
I was upset when I first read that line. But then I continued, and reading it in context, I realized that I have no shame in that.
I was telling someone the other day that I would rather be the person who holds their tongue than waste energy on negative expenditure (for the sake of both parties). I would rather just allow the other person to divulge in their ego while I conserve the energy by remaining quiet, or letting them think/have their way. Not always easy to do.
If people thing I’m too nice, I don’t really care. I would rather be too nice. I am fine with being the peace keeper. I am fine with allowing karma to take care of the rest.
But then there are other scenarios when I am definitely not afraid to speak my mind:
Feelings are something you express with ease, and you appreciate others doing the same. Emotional drama is valued rather than avoided.
Magnificent willpower. Comes on strong and tends to intimidate. Presence and concentration are very forceful. Likes to get down to bare essentials right off. Not afraid of a good confrontation. This intensity puts self and others through a lot of changes.
Ashley reminded me that I have to differentiate. Pick my battles. Find the balance between acting with an open, peaceful heart, while maintaining a sense of strength and self-worth.
Check in with yourself, she would say. What do you want? She would tell me this often. She would tell me examples when she has had to ask herself the question. In the midst of chaos, when people were trying to pull her one way or the other, she had to stop everything: “I’m checking in with me. What do I want?”
There are things that I put up with in my life, that I’ve put up with my entire life. I have given people pieces of me when they didn’t deserve it. I have allowed chances that I should have denied. I need to learn how to let go of that which does not serve me, and keep moving forward. I’ve had to learn to stop being such a people pleaser all the time and realize that making myself happy is important, too.
I’ve learned to put a heavy emphasis on self-analysis. Sometimes I allow the opinions of others to wedge their way into my mind, and stay there. Sometimes they are projections, sometimes they are complete misinterpretations. But I take them quickly to heart. And in efforts to be open-minded, I give the judgment of others too much power.
There were two different groups of people who doubted me when I announced I was taking this trip. The first group consisted of the ones who thought I was crazy for steering off the conventional path that I was already so obediently headed down. But the second group was almost more frustrating, because they were the ones who didn’t think I was brave enough to do it; to leave everything behind and leave so adventurously.
You have stable emotions and tend to form strong attachments to the past.
I have admitted several times in the past: I am an incredibly nostalgic being. One of the greatest challenges I have had to overcome is staying present. It’s hard for everyone, not just me. Some of us just might be able to admit it a bit more freely.
But somehow, I have allowed people to make me feel bad for this. And I think to take it a step further, there is the assumption that stability or anything long term: a job, a relationship, a situation… immediately equates to an unhealthy attachment to the past.
Which I could see that being true, but why do people feel so obliged to judge someone else on those premises before they take a step back and look at themselves, their own lives? There is room for every single person to challenge themselves in some way, even if its in a different way from the next. There is no one in the world exempt from this. We should focus on that.
Anyway, that’s why many didn’t think I would leave. But I did. I didn’t do it to prove anything to them, but because I wanted a change. I needed to do it. I wasn’t happy in my old life. Something wasn’t right.
It wasn’t one thing. It wasn’t blatantly anything at all. Nothing tangible to point the blame at. The best way for me to really pinpoint what I needed and what I didn’t need was to leave it all. Start at a blank slate. And then slowly add color back to my canvas.
And I did. I left. I grew so much on a personal scale, because I was my only focus. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t settling, in any area of my life. This life is too short, this world is too big. I knew that there was more to see in the world. In myself, as cheesy as that sounds.
Now that I’m a few days from touching back down in LA, I’m realizing the things I miss, the things I
will return to. Those feelings are mixing with the reality that my travels are done, and a part of me is scared to “return” back to the same anything. And now I can just hear those same naysayers who didn’t think I would leave in the first place whispering about the fact that I’m back, the fact that it was a phase and I’ll be returning to the same old, stagnant place…
Torn between different directions in life with feelings going one way and willpower going another. A sense of being caught in the middle – forced to choose between surroundings that are emotionally supportive (but not progressive) and new directions that bring advancement but may be tat the expense of comfort. Getting these opposing energies to work together requires real compromising skill. It is helpful to see life not as “black-white” or “all-or-nothing,” but as a complex sliding-scale of varying shades and subtleties.
But you know what I realized? I shouldn’t have to feel guilty about missing home and returning to it.
We as humans live for personal connections with other humans. While it’s lovely to connect with new humans all over the world – as I’ve done and as has been a complete and utter personal/perspective/LIFE “game-changer,” as Keegan so eloquently put – the humans I love most in this world are at home. And I don’t necessarily think it’s a “badass” thing to travel the world solo forever and claim to never miss anyone or anything. That sounds like a pretty lonely life to me.
Having the courage to leave is huge, and I’m so glad I did. And don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should do it at some point in their lives. I’m talking one-way ticket, no plans. At least a month or two. Absolutely. Without a doubt. (Do it.)
But it doesn’t mean you can’t go home. And doing so doesn’t mean you’re going backwards – it just means you’re reconnecting down the road. Because personally, I know that can’t go backwards, I don’t see how I could. I am not the same person I was when I left, so far from it.
As far as returning to a job and making money, I will figure it all out with this new sense of irreversible mindfulness I’ve attained (another line I stole from my friend Keegan). It’s something no one can take away from me.
I am proud of myself. For leaving, for giving myself the chance to grow. For have the courage to reevaluate my life in order to better it. For challenging myself to view things from a different perspective.
I am proud that I continue to keep others in mind. That not only do I long to pursue my passions, but for a greater good and with altruistic purposes. And I am not done traveling, by any means.
“You know what you want. And as long as you follow your own bliss, nobody can tell you otherwise,” Ashley told me.
To live a full and satisfying life, you must be vividly yourself.
And for now, that means I am going home to my dog.