I write this several months after leaving India. With time I thought there would be clarity. I may be the “Happy Nomad” but I can also be a naive nomad as well. There is no clarity in my mind when it comes to India.
I left India with my tail between my legs, trying to conserve every last drop of water my body was trying to expel from my behind. It seemed like a fitting end to a place where I had perpetual diarrhea. I’ve only been horribly sick three times in my adult life. I caught something nasty when leaving Egypt in 2004 and lost 12lbs/5.5kg in two days, roughly 9% of my body weight at the time. Then came India, where I felt like dying in a train’s bathroom and then in my friend’s apartment just before leaving.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In many ways I feel like this is a great way to say goodbye to India. And I don’t mean to suggest that conquering the microbes India threw at me has made me a stronger person. No. That was just part of it.
India is like Pandora’s Box. Pandora’s Box, if you aren’t familiar, comes from Greek Mythology and refers to performing a small, inconsequential action that ends up having far-reaching consequences. India was the 65th country I’ve visited in my life. By no means is a visit to India small and inconsequential, but how much of an impact could it have on me considering all the rich experiences I’ve already been blessed with?
Well, silly me. It turns out India can leave a lasting, life-long impression.
The more I thought about leaving India the happier I became, yet the sadder I became. It was a strange feeling. I knew I wouldn’t be able to process my feelings about India for a long time, but as someone who looks for deeper meaning in his travels, I realized India had the chance to grab hold of me and never let me go. It’s the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. Now, when people ask me about India I usually freeze, unable to say anything.
When you talk to people who have been to India they always say the same thing, “you’ll either love it or hate it.” For those who hate it, some would rather die than return. But for the vast majority of people there is something about India that never escapes them. And it’s that bewilderment, that thing you can’t put your finger on that brings people back time and time again. Few places on earth are as complex, as raw, as human. There’s too much to experience and understand and it’s like a book that increases by three pages for each page you read.
I guess what I’m saying is that despite traveling so much in India, my journey there is not over. It’s just the start and it’s just on pause. I’ll be back. And even if I change between now and when I return, the beauty of India is its ability to challenge you exactly the way you need to be challenged to take you to your next stage of personal development.
As much as I feel comfortable being in places that sanitize the human condition, there is something about the rawness of India that you can’t help but miss. Once you’ve been to India you can’t help but feel like the rest of the world is one big lie. In the end, you can only be honest with yourself and India helped teach me how to do exactly that.