Wow, this week’s theme speaks to my soul. I am less than a week away from embarking on a journey to India. I plan on being there anywhere from 6 months to a year (or more). I have bought my one-way ticket, lots of malaria pills, and begun to dream.
As I shift towards a traveler’s mindset, I can feel my body and mind begin to expand. I am more articulate and my words seem to unfold quickly and with greater ease. I have begun to say “yes” to everything and allow the world to envelop me however it wishes.
While the excitement and nerves are almost unbearable, so are the ethical concerns I have with taking on the identity of “cultural tourist“. My goals of travel are not just to see the many sights of India, but to experience them, and in many ways, to consume Indian culture. I want to become a part of India, although I’ll always understand that I never can fully. This distance keeps each experience exotic, fascinating, and romantic. But what right do I have? I could go into the whole “global citizen” argument, but really I am taking from India and I am afraid I will have nothing to give back. To be honest, it often makes me feel like a big white leech.
Despite feeling very cool about my adventures, I also know that I am playing out the same story/scenario than many wanderers have done before. And even though I might say I am researching, volunteering, studying, etc., in the end, I am just a tourist. And maybe that’s why I carry so many trepidations about it. In the end, will my identity just be “that westerner”?
So, I will cut to the chase. Travel can help us evolve and free ourselves, but there is more to it than what the tourist gains. The identity of traveler is not incidental or on the fringe, but a major player in history, time, and our little scary friend, globalization. When we travel, we learn a new performance, one that is so different from our own. It’s exhilarating and life altering. In fact, our change in performance marks our ability to survive.
I guess a good question to keep asking myself, as I take in the majestic landscape and eat the amazing cuisine, is: what am I doing here?
What am I doing here?
image credit: state.gov