People want inspiration. The human mind is most productive when it’s captivated by what it’s doing. To be enraptured, forgetting one’s own mortality, troubles, and responsibilities, this is the gift of true dedication. This is how I felt boarding a plane for India, preparing to embark on a journey that most would shy away from. “I could never go to a poor country like that” seemed to ring in my ear through the voices of friends and family. Essentially, they admitted that they’d shy away from the challenge. The journey I’d undertaken had earned a certain type of acknowledgement simply for the level of difficulty that presented itself at the prospect of 5 months in a third world country.
What I didn’t understand was why it couldn’t be seen that this challenge was precisely the reason to leave. Does one gain strength by lifting light weights? Does one gain knowledge from applying themselves to topics already mastered? The gift of India, of all developing countries, is the opportunity to cultivate the self. One’s presumptions about the world are shattered. Ideas retained from a first world lifestyle are dashed to the curb as an endless river of intensity washes over the traveler. What one sees on the other side isn’t a worse way of life, only a harder one.
The people born in less fortunate parts of the Earth, struggling against starvation, corruption, disease, poverty, and so much more, live with the constant pressure of life’s finite nature. They are witness to untold suffering, suffering which reminds them what failure means in this world. The fragility of life is placed before their eyes on a daily basis. It is terrifying and humbling to feel such vulnerability, to know that a single mosquito bite could be the end to one’s entire existence. These people, beaten and worn as they are by their troubles, do adapt, and do live happy lives when and where possible. It is this, the discovery of happiness in a place that seems so much less advanced than our own, that bewilders and draws the outsider. To see a naked child laughing as he sits waist deep in garbage, tossing plastic bags over his head, forces us to question our own pursuits. It is a reminder that happiness is neither a place nor a thing, but a state of mind.
“I could never go to a poor country like that.”
Should you choose to travel the areas of our species which are stricken with strife, you will see how the majority of mankind lives. As a whole, we stand on the edge of existence. Constantly straddling the thin line between life and death keeps the ego in check. It grants a perspective that simply isn’t realizable behind a computer screen or cozily wrapped up in a novel describing problems far away. The reward for such an endeavor is a transformation of mentality. The lesson learned at the sight of life’s horrors is this: There is no substitute for experience.
So when you’re buying your plane ticket to some far off land, ask yourself one question. Who will you be at the end of your journey?