• MW elephant blessing
  • MW at Tiger Fort, Jaipur
  • MW at Taj Mahal with friends
  • Mariellen Ward, Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, aarti, India

Why I’m speaking at Meet, Plan, Go

Photo of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

The power to make dreams come true

When I was 44 years old, I finally started pursuing my dreams. I had recently lost both my parents (mother to heart disease, father to cancer) and was floundering in a colourless depression. I threw myself into yoga as a way to recover, and the first dream I pursued was to become a yoga teacher — though I was the oldest and least flexible person in the training group. My second dream was to travel to India — to go on a real voyage of discovery, lasting six months, and with no real itinerary or expectations.

I had never really pursued my dreams before. I honestly didn’t know you could. It took years of therapy and yoga training and then a series of devastating losses (including the deaths of my parents) for me to finally wake up and realize: This is not a dress rehearsal. This is life. And life is meant to be lived, not feared.

So, deciding to go to India, and then going, completely changed my life. It started before I even left. The big change happened when I realized that anything in life is possible, including living your dreams; and that achieving them is based on making a decision and setting an intention. The power is not OUT THERE; it is within each of us.

Photograph of Mysore Palace

Mysore Palace

Rediscovering a technicolour world

When I was a child, I use to practise sliding my neck from side-to-side, with my arms above my head, palms together, like an Indian dancer. I used to paint huge murals of maharajah palaces on my walls. I devoured books about mythology, especially the Arabian nights and anything from the East. I went out on Hallowe’en dressed as an Oriental princess, in flowing harem pants and a sequined top. I became a vegetarian in my teens, long before it was trendy. When I look back, I was drawn to the “mysterious East” basically from birth, and always wanted to go to India.

Photograph of Indian dancer

Dancer in Delhi

Somehow, though, I never thought it was possible. I never thought I could actually get on a plane and GO TO INDIA.

But then I did. And my life changed. And that’s why I’m speaking at Meet, Plan, Go. I want to tell people that you CAN live your dreams. It is possible to unearth them, dust them off, and manifest them.

The other reason I’m speaking at Meet, Plan, Go is because I think travel is a particularly good way to get to know yourself and the world better. On my first trip to India in 2005/6, I very quickly developed an uncanny affinity for the country, the people and the culture and was very lucky to have the opportunity to stay with an Indian family in Delhi. I made their home my base for the six months I was traveling from one end of the country to the other.

I loved being a solo traveler, and I immersed myself in the culture. I experienced the difference between being a tourist and a traveler, and being alone helped: I had to engage with my surroundings for all social contact. I spent far more time with locals than with other foreign tourists; bought an entire Indian wardrobe; and really tried to understand the culture. I practised what I call “respectful travel” — in other words, when in Rajasthan, do as the Rajasthanis do.

I studied yoga for a month in Chennai; I volunteered to work with Tibetan refugee children in Dharamsala; I spent two weeks undergoing treatment at a beach side Ayurvedic resort in Kerala; I celebrated holidays and pujas with the family in Delhi; and found my spiritual home, right at the end of the trip, at an ashram in north India, near Rishikesh.

Photograph of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Finding inspiration and perspective

I had gone to India at the tail end of a lengthy depression and my engagement with the culture, and the way it stimulated my imagination, especially my writing, completely revived me. I was never lonely, I never felt unsafe. I grew as a person, as a world citizen, as a yoga student and as a writer.

I started blogging, and the confidence I got from it gave me the boost I needed to seriously pursue a travel writing career, to launch Breathedreamgo and to publish my first book, Song of India: Tales of Travel and Transformation.

Photograph of Thar Desert

Thar Desert

The challenges of travel in India — which are considerable — taught me to let go, to surrender the illusion of control. I learned to have trust, and my faith in both myself and the universe sky-rocketed. One day, after being in India for about five months, I was walking in Connaught Place, the commercial centre of Delhi, and realized I felt completely comfortable. I noticed the touts who prey on tourists were ignoring me. They took me for a local. I had attained my “India legs,” and felt it was one of the great accomplishments of my life.

I have learned so much from my travels. I have learned to see better — to see myself, the world, and my place in it, a lot more clearly — and I gained a perspective that I would never have developed if I’d stayed in my middle-class Canadian “bubble.” I have leanred to be grateful, less judgmental, and more humble. Perhaps most of all, I’ve learned that we each have a lot of power: we have the power to choose our response to life, and our experience of life. In other words, it’s up to each of us to decide if the glass is half full or half empty.

Since that first trip, I’ve been back to India four times, and I’ve spent now more than 14 months altogether traveling across the country and living in Delhi.  To hear the rest of the story, and how I achieved my travel dreams — and crossed the cultural divide — come to the Meet, Plan, Go event in Toronto on October 18, 2011!

Meet, Plan, Go

Meet, Plan, Go is the leading career break movement in North America; encouraging and teaching others how to travel the world and have it be beneficial to your career. Each year, they hold events on the same day in numerous cities across North America; this year it is October 18, 2011. I will be speaking at the Toronto, Canada event. For more information and tickets, please visit the Meet, Plan, Go website.

Photograph of Mariellen Ward in Karnal, Haryana, India

Mariellen Ward in Karnal, Haryana, India in 2006

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10 Responses to Why I’m speaking at Meet, Plan, Go

  1. Sherry Ott October 11, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Mariellen – what a lovely story and I can’t agree more regarding how travel can empower you and open you up to possibilities that you had no idea existed. Until we get out of our safe life-as-usual bubbles, will we really be able to be push our minds, imaginations, and lives to the limit. Thanks so much for participating in Toronto!

  2. Mariellen October 11, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    Thanks Sherry! Getting out of your “comfort zone” is the inspiring and exciting thing you can do. It changes your life, and opens you up in ways you never thought possible.

  3. Aditya Singh October 11, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    Mariellen,
    “The power is not OUT THERE; it is within each of us.” great stuff.. It`s really inspiring to see you set out on a journey like that.

    Aditya(Addie)

  4. Mariellen October 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    Thanks for the comment, Aditya. It is life-changing when we realize that we are masters of our destiny to a large degree — certainly in the way we respond to life.

  5. Doreen Pendgracs October 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    It’s terrific to know that you are willing to share your experience and enthusiasm, Mariellen. Wish I was there to hear you make your presentation. Good luck with it!

  6. Mariellen October 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    Thanks so much Doreen. I may try channeling you when I’m up there — you have such a warm, exuberant personality. My strategy is to not prepare too much, just be natural, sincere and open. I just want to make sure I express the same two points I wrote about, above.

  7. Dialoha October 17, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    Mariellen – Enjoyed reading your story and would love to hear more about it but I’ll be flying to India that day! It’s so inspiring to hear that you’re living your dreams!…..I hope to reach that goal one day soon. Namaste!

  8. Mariellen October 17, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    Thanks for the comment Dialoha. What a coincidence! I would love to hear more about your trip – where are you going? How long will you be there?

  9. Dialoha October 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    I’ll be going to Anand Prakash Ashram (which I discovered you also went to!) for 8 days. Back to Delhi for a 15 day tour to Jaipur, Agra, Orccha, Varanasi, Lumbini, Royal Chitwan & Pokhara. Tour ends in Kathmandu, Nepal which we will extend for 5 days. Looking forward to the journey!

  10. Mariellen October 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

    Hi Dialoha, The founders of Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram, Yogi Vishvketu and Chetana Panwar, are very good friends of mine. I visit them every year at the ashram — and also see them here in Toronto! Vishva is the best asana teacher I have ever experienced.

    Sounds like you will have an amazing trip.

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