It’s been two months since I blogged here, but they’ve been good months. And so, for readers of my blog (if any still linger!), here’s my WordPress Daily Post on Voyage:
I was in Morocco in the months of May-June as part of a Study Abroad course. Travelling through a new country can be quite an experience. Morocco was not a place I had ever imagined myself going to but when I saw the opportunity, I thought- well, this isn’t a place I would have thought of visiting otherwise but here’s an opportunity to do so that I did not foresee! So I took it.
And I was rewarded. I went in with very little expectations because I hadn’t spent all that much time preparing myself mentally. Of course, some things only hit you in hindsight- for example, the fact that travelling to multiple countries in a short span of time can be daunting and disorienting, reverse culture shock is a thing, in a short amount of time traveling can fill your cup to the brim with a sense of fulfillment that little else does and leave a void which you will struggle with once you resume normal day-to-day activities, talking to people who did not share your travel stories can feel uncomfortable and not as pleasant as you would expect before you took off, and once you start embracing all of it- your soul will absorb these experiences until they are a part of who you are.
And that is why an extended stay in another country is a voyage- a voyage in which you discover another culture and learn to accept it, but more importantly, a voyage in which you discover yourself- a task that is much harder than you would anticipate!
Morocco taught me a number of things about itself. And I have shared a lot of them through posts on Instagram and through blogs I wrote elsewhere that you can read here. But Morocco also taught me a lot of things about myself.
- It taught me to not take culture for granted: As an Indian, there are many things I have always resented about India. Part of the reason for this is because I have had a hard time fitting in, although that in itself is a discussion for another day.
From as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to go and experience other places of the world. When I was younger, the reasons for doing so were personal. But with time and the direction my education has taken, the reasons have become more evolved and nuanced- for me, the feeling of being a global citizen is important.
For good or for bad, I never felt like I had a local identity as an Indian. And in a country that is so diverse, that is one of the things that has always stayed with me. I have moved so much within India and made friends from all four corners of it and that did for me on a mini scale, what Morocco did on a much more macro one. Having seen a thin slice of the world, I have enlarged my national identity to fit that of the world.
And don’t get me wrong- in no way can you take a global identity for granted. It isn’t something you feel inside you all the time. Sometimes, you have to belong to places, to moments, to people, to cultures. In a world where the concept of identity is so layered for most people but still centers around specific points in time and space, I have no option but to be the same in some ways. So, as an Indian, I will always return to India, whether or not I choose to do so.
But as I find myself wanting to know more than just one culture and more than just one national identity not by embracing them as fully as I ever could embrace being an Indian, but by understanding, listening, accepting and empathizing with them
As a result, I have also started realizing that there is so much that I have taken for granted about being in India. Coming back to India after a year abroad has made me see the country in a different lens and rediscover its stories from a new perspective. It kind of feels like spending your entire life looking at a zoomed in version of the world, then suddenly zooming out into the world and then zooming back in to India.
- It taught me to embrace differences: While I have been taught over the years to be respectful and tolerant towards others by family and school, I would give a large part of the credit for teaching me tolerance to all the reading and writing I have done. But it was truly travelling, and especially travelling to Morocco that reminded me that I really must respect and embrace people who are different from me.
It isn’t easy of course, no matter what we say, to continually interact with those who see the world differently. But at the end of the day, it helps to remember that each individual human being is shaped the way they are because of a combination of their genes and their environment, and that their unique stories make them who they are. And remembering this helps in embracing the differences.
- It taught me how much I care: Over the past year, as I have begun to redefine the purposes of my life, I have started to come to terms with the fact that I have a worldview that is just one way of looking at the world. This is true of everyone- there are no rights and wrongs, only what we think is in our head.
And I’ve realized that I care about suffering in the world. And I have accepted that while this may be a very patronizing way to think about those who suffer, I want to try to do something to reduce the suffering. I can contribute best by doing the things that I am best in, of course, and that is what I intend to do.
Morocco taught me this because I met people in Morocco who had very little but with the smiles on their faces, the hugs they exchanged and the love they had to give, they touched my heart. This experience cannot be shared, it can only be had. But the lessons from such experiences CAN be shared, and that is what I hope to do.
- It taught me that I need to write: I have never given up writing, even though I have been doing lesser and lesser of it on this blog. I learnt years ago that writing is something that will always stay with me in some way, shape or form, and it has but the ways in which I write keep shifting.
Before leaving for Morocco, I tried to read up about some things and found that there was absolutely no information available about it in the context of the country, at least in English. I decided then that I will come back and fill the gaps that I can and I intend to do so.
The reason I can’t seem to stop gushing about Morocco is not because I want to be that annoying friend who keeps popping up on your social media with multiple posts about the same thing, but because I want to add to that wealth of information that is online.
I was in a nearly-deserted ghost town in Morocco when it struck me- if we had done this trip thirty or even twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have generated the massive amount of information we did today. In the age of information, we are adding a host of stories about Morocco to the treasure trove of knowledge online- and that is okay because perhaps our stories will provide information to those who need it in the future.
- It taught me what fun is and how to make friends again: This is an area I constantly need help in because I am generally so absorbed in my own world of books and Netflix, that I forget to do both these things. But spending 24 days with a group of 15 (I think!) people and very little internet accessibility can change that- and I am glad it did, because the group I travelled with had an amazing treasure trove of stories to share! And we made new ones along the way as well.
- It showed me how to integrate what I learn academically with what i see and experience of the world around me: The purpose of a Study Abroad is to learn while experiencing at the same time. And until now, my sustainability experiences had been largely contained to reading the written word. Hence, this was the first time I learnt what it is like to do actual “research” in the real world. It is often messy and confusing to be on the field and follow your theory at the same time but most importantly, I had fun! And that is the biggest take-away for me from the this voyage.
Finally, I will leave you with a few more photographs from Morocco:
Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakech in the morning- a square that lights up with life and colors and snake charmers and monkey tamers and a very busy market at night.