A voice comes over the loudspeaker.
“You have arrived in New Delhi. Thank you for flying United Airlines.”
The voice simultaneously floods my thoughts with reassurance and dread. No matter how many hours I have created and prepared myself for experience in India, reality washes it all away. I watch hesitantly from my seat as other passengers grab their belongings in a manner that tells me their experience is nothing new. Does anyone else share the fear that consumes me?
One foot remains on the plane and one foot proceeds into India, the land of diversity. The land I will call home for the next 84 days. The plane represents home. It means safety and certainty. India represents foreign land. It means change and the unknown. A nervous breath of air fills my lungs. The voices of my friends and family enters into my mind.
“Doesn’t India smell really bad?”
“Why India? People are so different there.”
“Indians are so poor, you’re going to get mugged.”
I smile. My foot leaves the plane and my home along with it. Yes, parts of India may smell bad to the tourist, but the sweet scents are reserved for the bold traveler. Have you never met someone different from yourself? If so, I feel pity for you for how have you ever grown? And poverty can be found in every country and among all people, but lack of monetary value is not the poverty that I fear. What I fear is the lack of a moral driven people.
There are reasons that fear surrounds me when I think of traveling to India, and they are rational fears, for I have experienced nothing similar. I have nothing to compare it to. But the reasons why I’m excited for this chapter of my life overwhelmingly exceed the fears that accompany. I am excited to meet people different from myself and the people that I’m used to. I am excited to have my beliefs challenged and my values shifted. I am excited to have another culture shape the person that I am and will become.
To the people at home, I will come back in 3 months and I will still be me, but know that I cannot come back unchanged. And if I do, shame on me. To the friends and family of my group members, know that they too will return the same, but different in many ways. To India, the vast country that looms over me as I write these words, know that I will seek the beauty of your land that your people so effortlessly see. Know that I will give you my all, but you may very well end up giving me much more than I could ever offer in return. And to myself, from the people that love and support me the most, be present, don’t take the experience for granted. Learn from everyone you speak to, and everything you see. Don’t hesitate to do the things that will result in the best version of yourself. And love the time that you have in India, but never forget where you come from and the people who await you there.