When I first received the opportunity to go to India I was a little apprehensive in making my decision because. .
1.) I would be a solo female traveler in India.
2.) I knew I would have limited to no internet connection.
3.) I would be utterly and completely alone.
But looking back on my decision, I am so glad I had the courage to come.
A few years ago I made it a point that I was going to experience every emotion life had to offer, good, bad, ugly, you name it – I want to feel it. I made this decision so that later on in life (my wrinkly 85 year old self) can fully appreciate my journey. I hope I can say I truly lived every day and every emotion life has to offer.
The first week I arrived in India I got 2 hours of internet access, virtually I was shut off from the rest of the world. Naturally, this scared me (like it would any millennial). Physically I’m half way around the world (12 hours to be exact) and mentally I’ve had to accustom to a 180 from my normal lifestyle. This is truly a different world in rural India. It’s been a challenge living out my motto “living slow – roaming wide.” Out the window is 24/7 internet, friends blowing up my phone, weekend events, parties to attend, sporting practice, and my beloved workout routine.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you it has been a walk in the park, because it hasn’t but I will tell you. It. Is. Worth. It. Every emotion, every desire, and every second of the day. I’m basking in all the wonders God has set forth here. Let me tell you it has been unbelievable.
I’ve experienced what the average traveler doesn’t see by living slow in India. I know the baggage people carry, my co-workers family struggles, sacrifices and issues with the council. I’ve noticed how our drivers are up at dawn waxing and vacuuming their vehicles before a days long journey with lodge guest. I carry out delicious dishes made by our chef, who pays special attention to intricate detail (you wouldn’t believe how simple the kitchen is set up). And not once have I spent more than a few minutes in a villagers home, and not been offered chai tea and a cool place to sit.
The world is unstable, exaggerated, misspoken and unfair. But here, Jamtara is a safe haven tucked away in the most remarkable setting of them all, pure nature. A perfect utopia that balances work, family, and play; none of which is corrupted by todays society. Often times I wonder, geez these guys are missing out, but then I remember oh wait they are extremely happy with their life. The people of, Jamtara, only long to love and to be loved, to make their family proud and to have a good nights sleep. Isn’t that all we long for anyway?
Traveling has taught me we are all very much the same.
This trip has taught me the simple life is worth slowing down for.
The Indian people have taught me, it is a privilege to be alive.
Every week I make it a point to bike or walk into the village of Jamtara just to slip away from the lux life, and simply to buy gum at the village shop. Might I add there is only one shop. I pick from two different types of gum, Center Fruit individual packaged- coca- cola flavor or mixed fruit. The cashier’s grandma is usually stooped up by the entrance underneath the awning. She’s 102 years old. One day I asked the boy to ask his grandma what her secret to longevity was. He replied, “Ghee.” Or clarified butter, it’s used in most indian dishes.. I guess it’s one of the many secrets to a long lived life.
Bring on the ghee, please.
My coworkers Ram, or Rafeeq tag along with me as my bodyguards on these one mile village visits, cause it would look odd if I was roaming the streets of my community alone in rural India. I don’t like the fact I need a chaperone (or that I have to wear long pants) for such a short outing but it is what it is. India. Roadside views are always a bizarre scene. Dogs scratching themselves, 18 cages of chickens strapped onto a motorbike, the occasional langur doing yoga poses in the trees and cows abusing their privilege, lying right in the middle of a roadway just to drive home the point. . they are holy.
I pass by women working in the fields and on construction sites, swinging sledgehammers, busting up rocks, while barefoot in the heat of the day. I can’t even begin to understand how my floppy wave receives the most dazzling smile, and genuine wave in return. On the way back from my gum outings, I take to notice how strangely striking the women look, like a group of colorful chatty birds, decked out in jeweled -saris, armored with bangles, anklets and necklaces. Gazing out into the sunset I wonder how they can be so happy under the most terrible circumstances. I ask Ram, he politely says “Kara these are my people of Jamtara, we are born to do this type of hard labor and this work is all we are used to.” **followed by the most genuine smile you could imagine**
This place is beyond me.
Jamtara is a poor village like many other small villages scattered around rural India, but not desperate by any means. The lodge is making a significant difference in the life of this village, and I’m so happy to plant the seed in helping make that difference.
The pure human spirit of this place is unbelievable, I am cherishing it all, capturing it in a jar and taking it wherever my footsteps go.
Mornings come early. Safari go-ers leave at the ungodly hour of 5:45, which means cur needs to get up at 5 for wake up calls, to ready the lodge, help set up coffee, and send the guest off. Part of my morning duty is being an extra flashlight, too, when walking the guest to the Gypsy’s. I usually only get up two or three times a week depending on my mood (I know boo hoo me), but one morning I decided to get up for the third day in a row, and my first conversation of the day hit me with a double meaning that blew me away.
I came rushing up to the lobby with my flashlight in hand, out of breath, because I was late when Neel (General Manager) asked … “Kara why are you here?”
After I caught my breath I attentively and excitedly replied “Oh! I came to be a light.”
After departure, I walk a few circles around property to the nearest road, it’s approximately .6 miles for one go-around. It has to be one of my favorite times of the day (side note: I’ll refrain from saying this again but, I have many ‘favorite times of the day’). The sunrise over camp, sets the mood for the beginning of beautiful day, and I have the freedom to fill my day with whatever my heart desires (well to a certain extent). On the first go around I wave good morning to our Jamtara gate keeper. He is usually looking lively at 6 am, maybe he already got his own walk in. He does this one solid motion in his wave, and a big grin. This is usually the first smile I see in the morning; many others will be exchanged throughout the day but this is one of my favorites.
If you smile, the world smiles back.
There are more faces on my walk, like women who go to the well together at sunrise to fetch water for the day. Also, one morning there were three young girls dressed in traditional Indian clothes picking up mohah fruits on the ground and using a plastic bag to collect the flowers. This is a tree that gives off a yellow fruit, the locals use the flower to make a local liquor. I’ve tasted it. You’re not missin’ out on too much. The scent it captivating, liquor.. not so much.
I usually listen to music using my Dr. Dre Beats, although I should be watching the road for fast motorbikes, cars, and the infamous, cattle. Truth is I feel sinful listening to my EDM running playlist, which blares profanities between lyrics about sex, drugs, and money. Often times I’m like “Kara, what is thisss?” and tear my earbuds out. Instantly my music is replaced with bird calls, and monkey howls – ah the sounds of nature, pure bliss.
Morning time is go-go time. My title here, Guest Host, requires me to be present during all hours guest are at the lodge but I wear many hats that allow me to learn everything this area of the world can teach me (More on that later). Guest check outs happen, contact info is given and received, and previous days reservations are filled out on the web. This last one is a 2 hour process… wireless connection is next to the Pench National Park gate, just below the mohah tree on the left hand side. Just about 1.3 miles from camp. Seriously. Your nearest internet café with a cup of joe is three hours away in Nagpur. Also serious. Mohah tree is your bet. I’m also working on a project implementing sustainable practices into the lodge, for positive long term effects on the community.
Greeting the guest back from safari and helping out with lunch is a three-hour extravaganza in itself. I love it all. I’m probs way too talkative, and should be helping out more but I’ve learned so much by talking to the guest! Our guest are world travelers, extremely lively and entertaining!
Usually my afternoons are filled with something creative that will better the right side of my brain, like writing, drawing, or painting.. isn’t that horrible? I often think is it such a bad thing to live like this for just a little while? Just for a few hours of the day, just for 2 months of ones life, with no greater ambition than to find a shady spot beneath a teak? Or fall asleep beside an infinity pool while monkeys spring from branch to branch just feet above me?
Just to think – hey maybe I can do this again tomorrow?
Of course, one can’t live this life forever. Real life will interfere eventually, and these connections I’ve made here must bloom into something. But dang has this internship been incredible. There is no other word to describe is. Madhya Pradesh has been unworldly and fascinating. Most days I think I’m day-dreaming (it could be that I’m about to pass out because it freakin’ HOT or just because it is simply magical). I’m so excited to see where these connections will go, and where I will go.
Aside from all the jungle vibes, laughs, and learning, there has been low points on my journey in India. Maybe the lowest points of my entire life. Which I’ll recognize now.
I’ve had ‘stomach problems’ three times (that’s the more appropriate term widely used to mean you can’t control frequent bathroom visits, Delhi Belly, term used among tourist in the capital). I’ve had horrible headaches that were so bad I couldn’t participate in afternoon activities. There has been times of complete loneliness, nights I felt so disconnected from the world and mornings being extremely frustrated about things out of my hands. But while in India I have learned to feel an emotion for all it is, let it totally consume me and let it go. Hey that is how you learn to truly live isn’t it?
This may sound weird but I’ve always wanted to feel that feeling.. the feeling of complete loneliness.
India has allowed for me to feel this emotion, to dare my own dream, and to truly like the company of myself in what I believe are the most quiet moments of my entire life. I have touched the center of my sorrow. I have learned to sustain myself the next morning, after a night that seemed so shattered and lonely (wait what cur, YOU?). There has been nights of uncertainty and fear, but then I remember I should not have fear in my heart, for He is always with me, and after some time I realize I need to detach myself from that emotion. Cry if I want, shout in a field, feel, but then eventually let it go. Everything falls away in the end anyway.
But hey! Lucky for me I am a determined person who has perseverance and drive like no other – always looking forward to fulfilling my life long dream, which I hope to create while basking in all the joys this world offers.
From an outside – in perspective I will leave you with this advice. In the end we are the choices we make, everyone should build a life they love. Whatever that looks like. I chose to create a website and use it to display what I’m all about (responsible tourism) in order to travel the globe while figuring out each part of the tourism industry and where I fit best.
So that’s me. You’re you.
Living slow in this ever changing world is tough but I guarantee you will be rewarded in so many unique and incredible ways. I will look back on these months of growth and be so so thankful. I’m sure of it.
One last thing I’d like to share. Our Food and Beverage Manager, Rafeeq Mohammad, always sings while working, it’s wonderful and raises my spirit, Hindi is a beautiful language, one day I finally got around to asking Rafeeq the words to the song me was singing, it goes something like this.
This world is my bride, this world is my bendi.
This world is my bride.
India is my country.
I love my India.
I love my India.
I do love India (ya crazy). Till then, I’ll be lovin’ my own version of India by Living slow and Roaming wide,
Currently @ Jamtara Wilderness Camp – Next up Agra and Rajasthan.
Signing off – KLC