Can you really ‘Find Yourself’ in India?

Can you really ‘Find Yourself’ in India?

Confession: I’m such a cliché! I have to admit that I was one of the many who could not find meaning or happiness in the corporate world and life in the UK. So, influenced by exotic transformational tales of India and books like ‘Eat Pray Love’, I quit my job, sold everything and arrived in India in a rather clichéd attempt to ‘find myself’ and find some meaning and purpose in my life. Alot of people visit India for this reason, but can you really ‘find yourself’ in India?

Nowadays, when people don’t know what to do with their lives or feel stuck or depressed a common ‘solution’ seems to be to travel. I said ‘solution’ for a reason, because at first I naively thought that by leaving my depressing life in the UK and swapping my location for sunnier climes would solve all my problems – it doesn’t – because you can’t runaway from yourself because wherever you go – there you are!

Some people also accuse long term travellers of running away from ‘real life.’ I don’t mean that you should stay stuck in the same old routine all your life or that you shouldn’t ‘runaway’ from a place or situation that no longer serves you, I see it more as running to and embracing all that life has to offer rather than wasting my life working a job I’m not passionate about just to pay the bills to sustain a lifestyle that I don’t want to conform too – that’s not what I consider ‘real living!’ Life is way too short for that! This is a great post by Nomadic Matt on running away that I totally relate too.

But travel isn’t a magic fix, some people return with nothing more than a bunch of selfies (and there’s also such a thing as post travel depression too) but I still believe that traveling, especially long term, independent, solo travel, can help you to learn more about yourself, the world we live in and has the potential to help you ‘find yourself.’

Lighting a diya (candle) on the ghats of the holy River Ganges in Varanasi

Why do people travel to India to find themselves?

People travel for many different reasons, some just to relax at a luxury pool, some to tick off the tourist sites and get a good selfie, but many are looking for more than that and India is the classic destination for spiritual seekers and soul searchers.

There are so many opportunities for the spiritual seeker in India and many consider it the epitome of transformational travel. It’s the birth place of yoga, Ayurveda, many different religions and gurus.  India is perhaps the most culturally and historically rich, geographically and spiritually diverse country in the world where anything is possible. India is one of the oldest cultures and certain places definitely have a special energy, this article explains it a bit more.

Since the 1960s, young people from Europe and the United States made their way to India and Nepal on the Hippie Trail. Nowadays, politics make traveling overland difficult so people come by plane, but most are still searching for the same thing.

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It’s easy to see why India attracts soul searchers, but isn’t it kinda crazy to think that people come to one of the most hectic, dirty, densely populated and crazy places on the planet to find inner peace and to find themselves!?

Or maybe it makes sense. The culture shock in India can initially be quite overwhelming for first time visitors but when you step out of your comfort zone – that’s where the magic happens. The culture shock can make you revaluate your life and when you leave behind all you know you have a chance to see things from a different perspective and can escape the conditioning and societal expectations that you get at home.

Traveling India can be challenging and that’s where the transformation starts – you’re not likely to have such a transformative experience if you just laze by the pool in a 5 star hotel! India is certainly a country that can teach you a lot. Certainly for me, witnessing a very different culture and way of life in India was a real eye opener for me, witnessing such poverty definitely made me realise how privileged I am and learning to live with the chaos taught me to let go, go with the flow, accept more, be more adaptable, worry less and have more faith in the universe. See more on the life lessons I learned on my first trip to India.

Coming to India changed my life in so many ways that I could never have imagined on that first overwhelming day in Bombay 6 years ago. Now I feel more at home in India and feel culture shock when I visit London! 

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At the Golden Temple in Amritsar, One of my favourite places in India.

One of things that drew me to India the most were the spiritual destinations. During my time in India I’ve visited many spiritual places and temples, felt the energy of the mighty Himalayas, the chaos of the cities, seen poverty and paradise, practiced yoga and meditation and dabbled in Ayurveda, acupuncture, massage, reiki, sound healing, shamanic workshops and too many alternative therapies to count. I’ve met so many interesting people, got proposed to at Amritsar’s Golden Temple, stayed with head hunter tribes, in yoga ashrams, Osho communes and Buddhist monasteries. Even some of the psy trance parties in Goa can turn into spiritual experiences but I feel like I’ve learned the most from my experiences with yoga and mediation.   

But can you really ‘find yourself’ in India?

I think to answer this question you have to think about what does finding yourself really mean …..Who are you and what is your purpose in life? Only you can answer that.

I don’t want to go too much into my personal story or opinions or spiritual views as everyone is on their own path, everyone is different (but also the same)> Self discovery and development is always an ongoing thing and I guess ‘finding yourself’ means different things for different people.

For some, the challenges of being alone in a strange country on the other side of the world and the pressure to be having the time of your life can actually make you feel worse (here’s some tips for traveling with depression) Sometimes, I felt even more lost than when I started! (I can relate to this article) But maybe that’s not such a bad thing…

I feel like some of my favourite quotes about travel and life sum it up better than I can:

 “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” Pico Iyer

“Travel not to find yourself but to remember who you’ve been all along”

“Ït is not until we are lost that we can find ourselves” Henry David Thoreau

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”

I also love this one but I don’t remember who said it – “Why do people come to India to find themselves, people come to India to lose themselves” I mean, you wouldn’t need to ‘find’ something if it wasn’t lost right?…..

Maybe it’s not even about finding yourself! Maybe it’s actually about losing yourself! Once we strip away our conditioning and question everything we know then we can get back to our true selves. 

Do you need to go to India to find/lose yourself?

India has been transformational for me in so many ways. It’s the classic destination for spiritual seekers so I believe it is the best place to go. But travel is just a facilitator. Just spending enough time alone, being aware, being an observer and going out of your comfort zone can give you many new ideas and practices and can change your perspective.

Taking a break from everything and everyone you know and immersing yourself into something like yoga teacher training, Vipassana or a meditation retreat are one of the best ways to disconnect from the world and connect with your real self in my opinion. Combining this with solo travel to a spiritual destination out of your comfort zone helps.

You don’t need to travel or go to India to ‘find yourself’ – but it certainly helps. 

So yes, India is probably the best place to find/lose yourself but you don’t need to travel for that because it’s inside you already.  It’s not an outward journey, it’s an inward journey, and that’s the kind of journey you can take wherever you are, right now. No plane ticket or visa required!

 “Get out of your head and get into your heart. Think less, feel more.” Osho

A word of warning: If you are on the spiritual path just be careful, not all ‘gurus,’ yoga teachers or spiritual people can be trusted and it’s become big business now, some will try to take advantage of sometimes vulnerable spiritual seekers looking for answers, usually for money, sex and/or power.

Women should be especially careful with things like yoga, tantra, energy healing, massage therapies etc, especially in India and especially after the allegations of sexual abuse at Agama and how #MeToo shook the yoga world) Trust in your intuition, honor your boundaries and try to get recommendations before parting with money or putting yourself in a vulnerable position.

A site that I really find useful is www.bookyogaretreats.com and www.bookmeditationretreats.com because you can search all retreats in your dream destination and read real reviews.  I’ve also got lots of recommendations on my site for India, Thailand and Bali in the Yoga Section.

 

Have you been to India to ‘find yourself?’ I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below! 😊

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Cover Photo Credit: Pikoso kz. and Shutterstock 

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