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An Inner Earthquake: My First Three Months Living as a Nomad

This past week marks three months since I left the place I called home for the first twenty-eight years of my life. I spent the past three months in India, a world away from my familiar home in the Northeast United States and I'm currently staying in Vietnam for two weeks before going to Nepal for two months.

Part of the reason for leaving home, changing my lifestyle, becoming a nomad was to rediscover myself; to strip my life of everything that might distract me from the process of inner discovery.

I was beginning to feel as though my life had gone down the wrong road; as if I had accidentally walked down the wrong path and I was watching the correct path disappear through a thick forest. I had to cut across. Whatever it took, I had to get to the other side. I felt an uncontrollable urge to follow my inner compass.

So I quit my job, sold all my stuff, and planned to live abroad for six months on a tiny budget of $3,000. What happened after that wasn't important to me. With the entire world knocking at my door and absolutely no experience traveling abroad, my new lifestyle started in India. I had no idea what to expect of the following six months -- I only knew that my life would never be the same again.

The first 90 days of my new life

I spent the first week in Bangalore, staying with a close friend of the family. He's a social entrepreneur who runs a solar energy business that helps provide remote villages in India with power. Their work enables kids to study at night by providing safe lighting and even powers water pumps so that water doesn't need to be carried long distances by foot.

Mingling with the employees at Selco and talking to the interns, I began to feel how their work had a sense of purpose; their work was changing lives. What do I do? How does my time help people? I felt selfish.

Just one week after arriving in India, I found myself living in a remote farmhouse in a tiny town where few people spoke English and even fewer people had probably seen or met a white person. I walked more than six miles a day, rode precariously packed jeeps with the locals, and learned many other interesting things that an isolated life in the States would never experience.

The days of solitude and many hours of walking by myself to and from the farmhouse gave me plenty of time to contemplate and analyze my life up until that point. I found myself in very reflective state of mind, easily learning lessons from the nature around me.

After a month in Ujire, I went the small beach town of Gokarna where I stayed for two weeks and discovered the link between frugality and gratefulness. All the poverty I had seen up until that point was beginning to have an affect on me -- I was beginning to feel frustrated.

It bugged me that I wasn't doing more to help. How could I spend time relaxing on the beach when mothers were begging for money to feed their undernourished children?

For a long time I have had a vision for a better world trapped in my head -- a vision for what I believe the world should look like. The frustration drove me to write down this vision and begin brainstorming for ways that I could make a difference; ways that I could leave behind a world better than I found it.

Leaving Gokarna, I took the train north along the western coast of India to Bombay where I stayed for a few days. More beggars, more poverty, more frustration. I felt guilty for sitting inside an air-conditioned cafe drinking iced coffee and working on my laptop. People were suffering. People were fighting to survive just a few feet from where I was comfortably lounging. What makes me so special?

On my way to Udaipur, I stopped in Surat where I had the toughest experience of the past three months. Toughest experience? In retrospect, just saying that seems absurdly ignorant and selfish. The poverty level around the bus and train station seemed even worse than in Bombay. Who am I to complain about being a little uncomfortable? Big deal. At least I'm wearing clothes.

Udaipur was incredible. Upon arriving, I immediately felt a strange energy to the place -- an energy that others confirmed they also felt. Perhaps those good vibes are what allowed me to be a little more spontaneous than usual. I roamed around the old city walking for hours through tiny unmarked ally's trying to avoid the patches of tourists; trying to get myself lost in search of a life-changing experience.

A random shopkeeper started a conversation with me and before I knew it I was inside having lunch and watching TV with him and his friends. When I was younger, I had trouble talking to strangers on the phone. Now here I was in a foreign country, in foreign city, eating lunch and laughing with strangers. Isn't this how friendly and welcoming every city should be? Isn't this how friendly and welcoming every person should be?

I arrived in Delhi a few days later to meet my adopted grandfather who I hadn't seen in several years. He had invited me to Delhi to attend the wedding of his granddaughter. My adopted aunt and uncle let me stay in their home until I left for Vietnam.

Their family follows the same traditions and values as my family and living with them for two weeks brought back so many memories. The love, kindness, warmth, and generosity they expressed not only towards me, but towards each other, really had a huge impact on me.

Saying good morning, good night, and taking a moment to be thankful for each meal were the norm. They seemed to treat each day as though it was their last, making each greeting as loving and warm as the previous. Taking a few extra moments out of the day to really express genuine gratitude and compassion to each person you meet has an enormous impact on the atmosphere around you.

Discovering a new meaning for existence

The past three months have not only been an incredible inner journey, but also an incredible outer journey through India. I've seen the progress happening in Bangalore, the slow life in Ujire, the increasing trash problems in Gokarna, the poverty in Bombay and Suart, the energy and friendliness of Udaipur, and the love, kindness, and warmth of family in Delhi.

The biggest thing I learned over the past three months, however, was that we really need to work towards a world of sustainable abundance; a world were people genuinely care about each other and the world around them.

Three months in a third world country has had a huge impact on my thoughts about life, work, and family. My inner foundation and core -- my inner sense of purpose and direction in life -- have been shaken. But the tremors haven't subsided and I sense the inner changes have only just begun.

If more people spent time traveling to third world countries to witness firsthand the changes that are needed in the world, I think we would have more people talking about ways to help the homeless mothers and their starving children instead of arguing over who might be the next American Idol or spending hours of their day talking about the World Cup.

Three months ago I left home to fulfill a lifelong dream of nomadic world travel with a goal of rediscovering myself and finding my purpose. Instead, I discovered the family of four that lives on a sidewalk underneath a piece of plastic; I discovered the children walking up and down the train cars begging for food; I discovered a world in dire need of people who give a damn.

Ten percent of the richest people in the world own eighty-five percent of all the wealth; half of the world's population owns less than one percent of all the wealth. Does that sound sustainable? Does that even sound ethical? I may not have discovered myself, but I definitely discovered a new meaning for my life -- a new purpose for existing.

I now feel more concerned with how I can use my life to help others instead of looking for what interesting things the world has to give me. I now see my lifestyle of travel as a visual guide to help me assess where my energy is needed. Life is short. Others will follow. What better way to live than to work towards ensuring a better future for those who will be here after we're gone?

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46 Comments

  1. I have to let my inner critic out on this one, or I’d be a hypcorite. So does this mean you’re leaving India and the third world for the forseeable future? I think your impact can only truly be felt if you leverage your advantage to create value in the first world, turn it into wealth, scale it, and return the wealth back to India and the third-world when you can make a difference.

    On foot, you are only powered by the effect of one person, so the longer you stay there, the more likely your claim to “want to do all you can” becomes a lie – because you undoubtedly have greater power to scale contributions by returning to a 1st world country.

    • Hi Ross,

      I can see how this post could be misunderstood as me leaving the third world, but that’s absolutely not the case. I plan to continue traveling indefinitely, living simply and frugally as a nomad and using the power of the Internet to connect and communicate.

      Traveling around the world enables me to see firsthand the changes that are needed and I think it’s the best way for me to determine where I should put my energy. I’ve added a sentence to the last paragraph of the post to hopefully clear up any misunderstanding.

      I absolutely agree with your point about creating value in the first world and returning it to the third world — and that’s exactly the strategy I intend to follow (now I just need to figure out how exactly that’s going to work and start recruiting people who want to help).

      About your comment on being on foot: I don’t think I am only powered by one person — the Internet changes all of that. One person, living in a poor remote country can change world if they simply have access to the Internet.

  2. Is this your first journey to a foreign country? I cant help thinking that you need to travel more. India is a very extreme example of a part of life. First world people are also coddled and are easily shocked by how people live in countries other than first world. Theyre not used to a life where you arent given everything.

    Its a good idea to find out the back story of each country and poverty level. Why is it like that? How did it start? What caused it? Why in some countries and not others?

    There are different levels of poverty and having grown up in a third world country and then moved to two first world countries, I understand the huge rift between these two worlds.

    Im trying to get at something here that is evading me.

    I guess, controversially, I think that some levels of poverty are a result of choice and not circumstance. By that I mean, we often find ourselves in less than desirable states because we dont know how to live better.

    It boils down to education. I dont think drop shipping boxes of food to undernourished nations is the answer. Teaching people how to take care of themselves is.

    “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for the rest of his life”.

    Id like to learn the skills of survival so I can teach them to people who are struggling to survive. If you grow your own food, you dont need to beg for money to buy food.

    • Hi Lisa,

      Yes, this is my first journey to a foreign country (I went to India when I was 3 years old and I’ve been to Canada, but I don’t count those). I totally agree that I need to travel more — my observation that I was so inexperienced on a global level was a big part of why I started traveling. And that’s also why I will continue traveling for the foreseeable future, both to third, second, and first world countries.

      Regardless of the back story for each country, suffering is suffering. Children don’t deserve to go hungry and mothers don’t deserve to beg. It doesn’t matter if they’re in New York City or New Delhi. I’ve seen poverty in the United States, but seeing it on the scale of India took it to a whole new level. A few poor people here and there is one thing, but billions of people? We’re better than that. This Earth already has the abundance to avoid that.

      I also agree 100% that education is key, and that’s why I’ve mentioned it several times in my previous posts/comments on sustainable abundance. Drop shipping food or supplies isn’t going to solve the problem. We need to be treating people as equals, not poor people as poor people and rich people as rich people. Most policies that are designed to assist poor people indirectly insure that there are poor people to be assisted.

      Like yourself, I want to work on obtaining the skills necessary to help others (which I’m doing in part by traveling), but I also want to use a strategy that will have the greatest effect. I think that the Internet is key to making that happen. If we bring like-minded people together and combine our energies, ideas, and resources, we can make a real impact.

      As clichΓ© as it may sound, the only way we’re going to change the world is if we’re doing it together. There are a lot more good people in the world than there are bad people. I think we just need them to connect. With the Internet, the potential for such a global movement is greater now than at any point in history.

  3. Hey Raam,

    Thank you for doing a wrap up of the last 3 months, I only just started reading the blog and been going through older posts when I have some free time.

    The part I like most is how you’re able to open conversation (despite having previously been reluctant over here) with the locals and really enjoy life.

    That’s one thing I really don’t like over here in the western world – everyone is so stuck up sometime, you can strike up conversations.

    Raam, as you continue with your journey I’d love to see more about these projects people have about helping others (such as the solar panels). Even if you work a day helping out, it’s an extra day of work that has been added – in the larger scale, this could save a life.

    I appreciate you bringing awareness to these regions.

    Keep safe and have fun – experience life!

    • Hi Murlu, thank you for the comment!

      I agree that people seem a LOT more approachable here in India and Vietnam than they did back in the States. I’m not entirely sure if that has to do with the language barrier or if it’s all an attitude thing.

      I will definitely continue writing about projects I come across where people are helping others. I haven’t been actively looking for them, but I think that would be a great way to gain experience and shed light on the good work already taking place in the world.

      Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

  4. Raam,

    Thanks for your post. One question that comes to my mind when considering your situation is what you could do that would have the most leverage. Reporting on poverty conditions and people’s life circumstances as you travel is powerful. And I wonder what more is possible.

    I don’t think you need to “return to the first world,” build your empire, then return the wealth to the third world. That’s like saying if you want to play baseball, stop playing for 10 years and go lift weights and practice your swing, then come back. You gotta be in it to get a sense of where the leverage points are, and how you can be instrumental in uplifting people’s lives, one life at a time if need be.

    One thing that does come to mind that could help clarify the situation is the work of various philosophers and researchers whose work focuses on the ways that individuals and cultures develop. People like Ken Wilber and Don Beck have influenced my thinking enormously around questions of poverty and cultural development. I’d recommend checking them out.

    Anyways, I’m totally with you, I think your journey is awesome, and thanks for sharing it.

    Steve

    • Hi Steve, thanks for stopping by and for the comment!

      Reporting on the poverty conditions and people’s life circumstances is important, but it doesn’t seem like enough to me. Maybe that’s my ambitiousness and big-idea thinking talking, but I feel like bringing people together to make change happen is an even more powerful idea. It’s more work, more time consuming, and requires a LOT more personal development on my part, but it seems like that’s what the world really needs.

      I never thought I would just return to the first world, build an empire, and then share the wealth with the third world. I plan to stay in the thick of things indefinitely and continue putting myself in positions and situations that are uncomfortable. My ability to travel frugally and live uncomfortably gives me an edge over others who need a working toilet and shower when they travel. Visiting various countries continuously opens my mind to new ideas and provides me with a global perspective.

      Thank you for suggesting Ken Wilber and Don Beck. I admit I’m lacking when it comes to reading the work of others and I know there’s a ton I can learn from others who have already spent a lot of time thinking about these things.

  5. You weren’t kidding about the inner earthquake, Raam.
    I can only imagine what this type of travel can bring to anyone leaving the US. I have lived in the Middle East before as you know and Tehran and Turkey have many (many!) issues but not as much poverty – at least not the extent to which India and other places do!
    There is a lot of reflection here and I think you will continue to experience even more as you move on from Vietnam to Nepal. I am curious to see how you decide to live your life when and IF you come back to the US. Very happy to have read all of these…..and thanks for being you, Raam!!!!

    • I’m positive my life in the States will be different when I go back to visit for a few weeks this September. I’m thinking of roaming the States for a few months towards the end of this year — it should be an incredible lesson in contrast!

      Thank you for reading, Farnoosh!

      • Alright Raam, if you are roaming around NC, you’d better call me or else I shall never speak to you again :)! (Of course I could very well be roaming elsewhere but you should call regardless :))!

        • I promise I will! There’s a good chance I’ll be going through NC later this year if I do a road trip around the States. πŸ™‚

  6. Raam,
    Your self expression makes a difference; who you’re being in any given moment has an impact – and that can take place anywhere and everywhere.

    Lovin’ your journey,
    Sandi

    • Thank you, Sandi! Being ourselves is important to maximizing our potential, but determining what’s really important — as you wrote about in your latest post — is even more vital to ensuring that our time is spent doing things that matter.

  7. Hi Raam, I appreciate you being so frank about both your inner and outer journey. I think that frustration is a necessary although painful step on the way to greater understanding. I have hope that the interaction of nomads through the internet will lead to some innovative thinking about poverty and development, because the current system isn’t working.

    • Hi Jennifer! Thank you for the comment and for mentioning this post in your latest roundup!

      I think frustration is definitely part of the journey — it’s a good indication that we’re pushing up against something challenging enough to provide us with growth!

  8. Nice, nice, very inspiring. You are really courageous I must say. I would like to repeat your experience.
    May I ask how you lived on $3000 three months if the ticket from US to India should only be around $1000?

    India is really the destination for the seeking man.
    I would also stay in Tibet, this is an old dream of mine.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Vladimir! Thank you for the comment! I’m so happy to hear you’re inspired to repeat the experience — I promise it’s worth it!

      I have been writing monthly travel expense reports on this blog detailing how I spend my budget. You can see the first report here: Frugal Travel Report for March 2010

      I totally agree that India is the place to start — I’m a bit biased, but I think it has such incredible diversity, history, and culture that it makes for an incredible first experience. Tibet is also high on my list and if it weren’t so difficult to get into, I would’ve added it to the end of my upcoming Nepal trip!

  9. Hi. Am an Indian and your perspective was very touching. It is a gift and your inner and Greater guidance that is letting you be sensitive to the poor. Many of us, see this everyday and still do very little. I wonder why? I feel ultimately everyone needs to have compassion in their hearts, to see life from beyond themselves to be able to help others and you can. God bless u. Happy, insightful and impactful travels to u

    • Hi Uzma,

      I think we do very little because we’re so overwhelmed by the scale of the problem that we end up doing nothing. That’s something I want to change and I’m going to be working towards figuring out solutions to those kinds of problems. If you have any ideas, let’s brainstorm together!

      Thank you so much for the comment and for reading!

  10. Raam, This was an incredibly eloquent round-up of your experience – inner and outer – over the past three months. You are clearly on a journey of discovery and by following your inner compass appropriate outer action will become clear. I truly suspect that it will happen naturally given your motivation and intention.

    Gandhi didn’t have to build an empire to have the enormous impact he had on the world. Neither do you. He lived simply and was true to his soul.

    While India may be a striking example, poverty and inequity exist everywhere because we haven’t made sustainable abundance a priority. We are all interdependent and thus all complicit in both suffering and needing to find the solution.

    So glad you are blogging.

    • Sandra, thank you so much for the comment.

      I’m constantly reminded of Gandhi and how much he impacted the world. He lived his wisdom and set an example for others to follow. I think that’s the best way to induce change in the world: to start with ourselves and set an example for others to follow (if they so wish to).

      As you said, we’re all interdependent on this planet. Everything I do affects others in the world in some way. If what I’m doing is conducive to sustainable abundance, then one way or another I will be having a positive affect on the world.

      I think India is indeed a striking example of the contrast between poverty and wealth. But like you said, it’s not the only place. I plan to continue traveling to various parts of the world to observe how abundance is being used or misused.

      I think I can really do good in the world by gaining a firsthand experience, bringing what I see to the forefront, and doing what I can to work towards improving the situation.
      Thank you so much for reading!

  11. I loved reading the summary of your first three months — it made me want to do the same and travel in some third world countries. I don’t think it’ll happen any day soon, but for now, I’ll just keep following your journey and cheering for you!

    A world where we’d be talking about ways to help homeless families instead of sharing the latest American Idol gossip would be a place where I’d love to live as well. Let’ make it happen!

    Some people commented that you have to build an empire in the 1st world and then use it to help the poor. I’m not sure about that. Your social entrepreneur friend could be a different example: he’s not building something in the first world, but right there where the poor are. It’s so much easier to see what is needed in the world when you experience it firsthand.

    Thanks for sharing what you experience out there!

    • Hi Jarkko!

      My social entrepreneur friend got a lot of his education from the first world (the States) and then went back to India to start the business. But the more I think about it, the more I dislike the idea of separating worlds and talking about them as “first world” or “third world”. We need to start thinking in terms of humanity — as one world instead of separate ones.

      I think the right strategy is to simply use whatever resources are available to us, regardless of what “world” they come from, and use those resources to help those in need (again, regardless of what “world” those people reside in). I love traveling and seeing new places. Instead of seeing that interest as merely a recreational activity, why not combine it with my desire to help others and my skills for connecting with and reaching people through the Internet?

      By simply reducing the purpose of all my actions down to answering the question, “How can I use this to help others?”, I’m immediately seeing how much potential I already have.

      Thank you so much for reading here and for the awesome work you’re doing on your own blog!

      • Hey Raam, that’s a great point about losing the labels “third world” and “first world!” As handy as they can be, they can be rather dangerous: when this many really different countries (not to mention people) are grouped together, it’s so easy to lose sight of the individual differences, possibilities and difficulties…

        Also, although this is a bit exaggerated, it can be seen as a sort of globally approved apartheid. We keep the poor out of our safe and clean world by labeling them “third world.” A different world means that it’s “us” and “them”, and we don’t have to worry about “them.” What we really need is to start seeing every one as “us.” I think that’s the only way real justice can happen…

        • I absolutely agree, Jarkko. While the separation and distinction may be useful when discussing economics or talking technical, I think that using those terms as freely as they are used is a form of subtle racism. Like you said, we need to be thinking “us”, not “them”.

          We’re all in this together and if we want to help others we need to see our involvement in their life. We can choose to think only about ourselves and what we want, or we can choose to take actions that are beneficial to the lives of others. The latter is the only way the world as a whole will find peace and happiness.

  12. great post my friend…I enjoyed reading it…contributing and being in the service to the whole really is the most fulfilling thing we can do…this world really needs to be one of contribution and cooperation…

  13. Raam, I had a similar feeling when I spent some time doing relief work in New Orleans. When you see people who live a life of constant struggle, it can be very shocking and make you feel like all of your worries and stress are unfounded and ludicrous.

    The feeling can also easily disappear when you return to the normality of life back at home. At least that’s what happened with me. Reading this made me revisit those feelings I had over four years ago now, and I think you’ve really touched on an awesome subject and it’s very true that in the developed Western world we have so much more than most of the global population and we take it all for granted.

    Even helping out just one person makes a difference. If every long-term traveler visiting the third world did one small thing every week to ease someone’s suffering, it could have a positive effect on millions.

    • I think we can do a lot just by making small adjustments to our lifestyle and taking a few extra moments to think about how our decisions will indirectly affect those less fortunate people.

      Our individual lifestyles and the choices we make have a huge impact on the long-term. In fact, as tough as it may be to digest and accept, the state of the world is a direct result of our lifestyles and choices. Individually, no one is to blame. A whole, we’re all to blame.

      The more I contemplate what level the changes need to take place, the more I realize that the changes need to take place right here. With me. With you. Not with the United States, or all of Europe. Not with the First World or the Second World. The changes start right here. Right now. Today.

      Thank you so much for the comment, Eli!

  14. Hey Raam,

    I love reading your blog and think you’re doing a very important thing. It has really opened my eyes to the excess I have in my own life and hopefully gives me the inspiration I need to be less selfish and realize my own behavior and attraction to materialism.

    You’re doing a great service for mankind by sharing the observations that the rest of us aren’t lucky enough to see. It may not occur to readers that sharing a hotel with cockroaches is “lucky”, but I for one envy your adventure and appreciate seeing the world from a new perspective.

    If you end up traveling in the states and need a place to stay in Connecticut, let me know. Sorry, no cockroaches;)

    • Hey Michael, thank you so much for the comment, the kind words, and the offer to stay at your place!

      I think there’s a lot we can all do on an individual basis to improve the world as a whole — small changes that we can all apply to our lives that will have a positive impact on the world in the long run. But most of all, I think we need the motivation to make those changes. We need to know “why” those changes are important.

      I can understand how not everyone will get to visit the places I visit and I hope that by sharing what I’m seeing — by sharing the raw details of how people are living instead of just talking about the clean and well-kept touristy places — that I can encourage and motivate people to start taking action.

  15. Hi Raam,

    I just came across your blog from Everett’s Twitter link. I liked your blog, especially the post on ‘Attitude is Everything’.

    I am an Indian living in Chennai, southern India. Every day I see the poverty and the filth around me on the streets and I wish to do something to turn things around.

    Poverty in India is only compounded by ignorance and attitude.

    Ignorance – Our government (local, regional or national) does very little to do their job and inform the citizens. What I mean to say is, does being poor mean one has to be in filthy conditions?

    Attitude – we have a very strong ‘NIMBY’ approach which is adversely impacting our environment, people and the way business is done. We are considered smart if we know how to bend the laws. And the rich can do anything.

    Idea – would it not be wonderful if a Rs.1 contribution each from 1 billion citizens and expatriates was collected to form a prize that will go to the best kept city in India, to improve it further for the urban dwellers?

    As of now and on my part, I contribute to NGOs.

    • Hi Shyam,

      Thank you for the insight. It’s hard for me to speak for India, as I am not very familiar with the country as a whole, but I think ignorance and attitude both play a huge part in all the problems this world is facing.

      Your idea sounds fantastic and I think we really need something like that to encourage collaboration on a mass scale. If everyone was competing for the cleanest and friendliest city — if everyone was competing for the city that does the most to help those in need — that would be an incredible way of improving things on a mass scale.

      I’m going to keep this idea in mind and think about it some more. I wonder if there are any similar programs like that already in use somewhere.
      Thank you for the comment!

  16. Your compassion is inspirational Raam. Thanks for reminding all of us about the imbalance in the world. There are a lot of people out there that is not aware of the situation. Even I’ve seen a lot of poverty already, but what you shared here is much deeper. Thanks for opening our eyes.

    • Dina, thank you for the kind words.

      I think frequent reminders of what’s happening in the world — given with a firsthand, on-the-ground perspective — are absolutely necessary to keep it fresh in our mind. It’s so easy to forget everything else in the world when we’re surrounded by abundance and everything is made relatively easy for us.

    • Hey Sam,

      Thanks for the link… that post seems to complement this one and goes to show how badly we need to open our eyes and take into account the rest of the planet.

  17. I was hoping this might be an account of surviving without hospitality and how to use your time and not feel low when you have no shelter or companionship., a place to prepare food, have a wash or clean your clothes.

    • Hi Ben,

      I’m sorry this essay wasn’t what you hoped for. I personally have no issue with feeling low when I have no shelter or companionship, or a place to prepare food or bathe or clean my clothes. I actually enjoy the hardship that comes with those things as it reminds me of what’s truly important in life; it reminds me of how happiness is not something that comes from external factors but rather something that comes from within.

  18. Where are you right now?

    I stay in Bangalore – yes, there’s poverty, but there’s another lifestyle you may have missed. And that crazy lifestyle is for the upper and rich class. So it’s not all poor and poverty-driven city.

    Just saying!

    Love your site and of course, this amazing free theme. πŸ™‚

    • I’m currently in the United States, but yes, I realize there is both poverty and riches in Bangalore. What I found amazing was how easily the two coexist side-by-side in India, the rich going about their business as if the poor don’t exist and the poor going about their life as if the rich don’t exist.

      I’m not saying this is limited to India–it happens everywhere. It was just clearly visible in India because of the sheer number of people.

      The lesson here, I believe, is that we must all open our eyes a little more and recognize what we should be grateful for and find ways to share whatever wealth we have (even if that’s just a smile to a stranger).

  19. Hi Raam,

    You’re right that access to education is a big problem in poorer countries, but equally important is the issue of access to land. Urban overcrowding, rural depopulation and high fertility rates reduce the amount of productive growing land allocated to each hungry belly.

    We know that education of females is the key to lowering fertility to manageable levels – one thing missing from your account is the typical family living situation for women there (my wife is Indian, so from the horses’ mouth “it totally sucks”). I understand why you haven’t seen this from visiting India myself – only rich girls, ‘bad girls’ and grandmothers can freely talk to white guys.

    But what about access to the land? Here is the real question. But in a society which clusters all opportunity in urban areas, inevitably there are land shortages and an intractable problem with no solution.

    Most people in poor countries already know how to grow some food. Having a place to grow it is key.

    I like your writing anyhow. Good to see a bit of earnestness still in the world. Take care of yourself and best of luck on your travels.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, JDC. I appreciate the perspective your wife has given you and that you have shared a little of with me.

      There was much that I did not see in India, as my travels there in 2010 were very much as someone ‘looking in from the outside’. I did not spend time talking to people or trying to understand their lives or their hardships. I started my journey in 2010 mostly for selfish reasons, wanting to discover who I was and what I wanted to do with me life.

      My experiences in India shifted quite dramatically the reasons for my traveling, which also helped reinforce my own sense of direction.

      There is much to be done. I’m still figuring out how I can best give back and apply myself in a way that contributes to the betterment of all.

  20. Raam, Your posts are timeless. I remember reading this years ago when you wrote it but I must have gotten distracted and never wrote a response. I had to wipe a few tears from my eyes this time(and probably the first time I read it as well). It brought back vivid memories of being in third world countries and asking myself the same questions that you asked. Why am I here having a coffee in an air conditioned place when there’s beggars outside with no food or water? It caused me to question what am I living for back then and it still does. These memories never leave me they just get put back on the shelf. But I don’t want to just put them back on the shelf anymore, I want to treasure them and I want to have an unending gratitude for the life I’ve been given and to let that gratitude spread to others so as to make their life better. I’m very grateful for our friendship and how you’ve affected my life for the better. I wish that at some point our paths could cross…….but until then thank you my friend.

    • Hi John,

      There is something timeless about compassion and morality, which I feel I was channeling when I wrote this. I remember reading this many years ago, after having written it, and even today it still feels applicable and pertinent to my daily life.

      I look forward to our paths crossing someday. πŸ™‚

Webmentions

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