There’s no place like home

ruby slippers a travel blogger wants to go home

Just click your heels together three times ….

Feeling homesick and ready for change

I feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Although I am having wonderful travel adventures and making friends in India, all I keep thinking these days is, “I want to go home.” For the first time in all these years of travelling to India for months at a time, I feel homesick and ready for change. And it happened suddenly

On my first night in Goa, when I couldn’t sleep because of fear and hunger, I suddenly realized: I’m done. I’m homesick, I’m tired of trying to make a living as a travel writer and blogger, I’m tired of travelling with limited funds, I’m tired of the struggle, of TRYING so hard for so little in return, and I want to go back to Canada. Just like that. I don’t know if it was the house I was staying in, or the planetary alignment, or maybe just the timing. But that night in Goa everything changed.

Goa India sunrise

Sunrise in Goa.

It happened one night

I arrived in Goa on December 14, alone, to stay at a friend’s house, expecting a carefree beach vacation. But the house was situated in a lonely, messy construction site; and I didn’t have mobile phone service there. (Heard later that Airtel service in Goa is not good.) As the sun went down, I felt more and more stranded and alone. Construction workers were camped outside the door, around a fire, and I was too afraid to go out for dinner, and walk up the dark lane littered with garbage and scavenged by wild pigs and stray dogs. So I went hungry.

As the night wore on, my fears and hunger increased, and my imagination got the best of me. I think most travellers will admit to having bad days / nights on the road … and this night was one of my worst. But I “breathed into it,” and allowed my feelings to surface. I allowed myself to feel lonely and homeless and despondent over trying to make a living as a travel writer and blogger.

Luckily my internet connection worked, and I spent half the night chatting with a friend on Facebook who had followed her dream and moved to Africa. And while chatting with her, something happened. I became clear.

Suddenly. After four or five years of doggedly and determinedly pursuing this career, and working single-mindedly to build up my portfolio, my blog and my name (see my blog The Seven Year Itch) … I realized I was finished. Maybe not finished entirely … but definitely at the end of this particular road. Finished with trying so hard for so little return. Breaking up with struggle, as one of my Facebook friends said recently.

Salaam Bombay, Namaste Delhi, Goodbye India

Mariellen Ward in Mumbai, India by Andrew Adams

Me at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in December 2012. Photo by Andrew Adams.

I don’t feel bitter, I have no regrets. I have pursued my dreams unfettered and without reservation. How many people can say that? How many people can lay claim to completely and absolutely “going for it.”

I travelled from one end of India to the other, had countless adventures and magic moments; met countless people and made many friends. I threw myself into honing my skills as a writer and blogger, and I made a name for myself as one of the leading independent India travel bloggers. I have won awards and received virtually thousands of positive comments from readers.

And most of all, I kept at it until I felt satisfied. And I do. I feel satisfied with the level of skill I have achieved, and the experiences I have had, and the name I have made for myself.

To quote my friend Vinayakan, I am really happy to have not followed a “script” in life and love the way the story has unfolded. I do think the secret to happiness is to love your destiny; to be grateful for what you have, and not bitter about what you don’t have. I have a home waiting for me in Canada … and on this trip I realized, there’s no place like home.

So, with that awareness, I am ready to go home, and start a new chapter. As I said at the end of my last blog, I am interested in bringing more balance into my life. Spending more time with friends and family. Exercising more. Reinvigorating my yoga practise and strengthening my root chakra (the one associated with home, money and survival). Making more money. Finding a satisfying job that I can sink my teeth into. Enjoying life without the pressures of personal achievement and the discontent and restlessness of a long-term travel lifestyle.

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I shouldn’t look any farther than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, then I never really lost it to begin with.” Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz

Of course I will continue to write and blog, and pursue any opportunities that come along. I love writing and I will never give it up; and I am still enthusiastic about the idea of transformative travel. But change is good. And if there is one thing I have learned from 20 years of yoga and seven years of travel in India: it’s always best to go with the flow.

So, salaam Bombay, namaste Delhi, goodbye India. I have lots of material from this three-month trip and I will be blogging about it for many months. But from the comfort of my cosy apartment in Toronto.

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39 Responses to There’s no place like home

  1. Laura Saunders January 3, 2013 at 9:48 pm #


    I meet you just when you began this dream and you lived it for several years so the dream became your reality. Now it is time to dream some more because without dreams we have nothing….. Go Girl

  2. Gillian @OneGiantStep January 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    This thing. This travel thing. This blogging thing. It’s an evolution, a learning, a figuring-it-out. It’s not static, not delineated by being ‘there’, not predictable. It’s like any other job where you find your way, try things out, be successful, and look for new challenges. This is NOT failure. This is evolution. Good luck in your new challenges and I hope you continue to share them with us. Cheers.
    Gillian @OneGiantStep recently posted..Should We Have Skipped The JR Rail Pass?My Profile

  3. Lisa January 3, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    Mariellen, i am happy that I found you and your blog before I went to India. And upon returning after only 2 weeks, I also felt like “there is no place like home!” It seemed I was gone an eternity. I think there is some sort of time warp in India….. that’s the power it has over people. I learned so much about myself there. I have been back in the US for about a month now and I can’t even begin to imagine what you have experienced. I will continue to read your blog wherever it may lead. I feel you have big things headed your way in teaching others how to find inner peace and substance within. Many blessings and love…. Namaste…..

  4. Mariellen Ward January 3, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Thanks so much Laura, Gillian and Lisa, I appreciate the understanding. It’s a gift to feel really HEARD. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    And I agree Gillian, it’s an evolution, not a failure.

    Lisa — India is like no other place on earth. There’s no doubt about it. This is where you come to discover yourself.

  5. Jodi January 3, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    I think you’re wise for leaning into this feeling and listening to it – you would be fighting against what you really want otherwise, and we don’t produce our best work when we’re fighting. I look forward to hearing what you get up to. What about doing a TTC and teaching yoga? Or leading classes on mindfulness? Whatever you choose, I will hear about it this summer in Toronto 🙂 Be well!
    Jodi recently posted..Happy Holidays from Vietnam!My Profile

  6. Helen January 3, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    I don’t think it’s the end for you I think it’s the beginning 🙂 You have truly mastered what you set out to do and now moving to the next stage and you don’t know how that’s going to look yet but I bet it will be fabulous and there will be many rewards. Look forward to following your journey…all the best!

  7. Kira January 3, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    Well, my dear Mariellen, you were my inspiration to even start this trip to India…and reading your breathedreamgo and blogs have all inspired me to see that there is another way to do work & life. This is just a fork in the road for you….I eagerly await the words that tell us what road you are now travelling on. Maybe it’s children? Maybe it’s writing a column in a newspaper? A book? Travel is hard. No two ways about it. After 6 weeks it seems like it’s time to either go home or settle in one place and then continue on the road for a year. I know when my plane takes off from san Francisco, i always look down with love and nostalgia for my home – there’s no place like the California hills! But the contrast is what i go for…and I’m sure India will be a mighty contrast!

  8. Nancy Sathre-Vogel January 3, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    That’s a HUGE realization! I think most of us long-term travelers eventually reach a place where we want to go home and have some stability. I struggled hugely with that desire as I defined myself as a traveler -that’s who I WAS. When I found I no longer wanted to travel, I became… I didn’t know.

    It took many months of turmoil, but I finally realized that it’s all about pursuing your passion and following your dream – and it’s OK if that dream takes us back home. What we have now – and I’m sure you have as well – is the knowledge that you can go anywhere and do anything. If you go back home to Canada and find it’s not meeting your needs, you’ll be able to go elsewhere.

    In the end, the best thing we can do is to follow our hearts – and I’m thrilled you were willing to listen to yours.
    Nancy Sathre-Vogel recently posted..Family on Bike’s best of 2012My Profile

  9. Sharell January 3, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    I agree with Helen about this not being the end but the beginning. All the time and effort that you’ve put into this blog, and the experience you’ve gained, will have prepared you for the opportunities that lay ahead. No doubt, when you look back, you’ll see how this was an important phase in your life and stepping stone to what ever fabulous role you settle into next. Devoting time to pursuing your passion never goes unrewarded or unrecognised by the universe! I’m positive that something fabulous is waiting in the wings for you, to take you up to the next level, and you’ll be happy and fulfilled. My only disappointment is that you’ll be leaving India without us having the chance to meet up!
    Sharell recently posted..The Costliest Food and Drinks at Luxury Hotels in IndiaMy Profile

  10. Jamey January 4, 2013 at 12:41 am #

    Mariellen, congratulations on your HUGE accomplishment of realizing your travel blogger dreams; and most importantly, in your having touched so many lives in the process. What a beautiful person you are reflected in your writing the sharing of your travel and life experiences in such an open and authentic way. I will look forward to hearing what will be in store for you in your next great chaper. I think you have a serious memoir in your girl and I’d be the first to buy it. But in the mean time, welcome back home!


    Jamey in Boston

  11. Sai from Hyderabad January 4, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    Though I am writing to you for the first time, I have been reading your interesting travel blogs for about a year. You are a gifted writer and I do hope you will keep writing. I must also say I admire your gutsiness as a lone warrior conquering distant lands. Leisure travel during a vacation with no agenda other than unwinding yourself can be fun, particularly when you have company; but going it alone in a chaotic country like India can drain you out pretty quickly. Another problem with India is that it is more like 100 different countries patched into one. Each region/state has its own culture/language/dialect/food etc to drive you intensely mad. You can only take so much “novelty”! I am from Hyderabad in the South and I’d feel more at home in Washington DC than New Delhi. I cannot even imagine hopping between places like you did over all these years. Kudos to you, Mariellen! I wish you the best as you embark the new year with dreams for financial security and contentment. I have absolutely no doubt that, with your perseverance, you will realize all your dreams. Happy New Year to you!

  12. Vinayakan Aiyer January 4, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like India”. In that contradiction you found reason for seven years. It just takes a very special person to find that reason.

    Can’t wait to hangout with a local in Toronto. All the best!

    Vinayakan Aiyer recently posted..Chronicles of Vinayakan – IIMy Profile

  13. Tushar January 4, 2013 at 4:51 am #

    Keep writing because life is a journey.

  14. Ceci January 4, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    A very courageous post about a courageous self admission. I think you are right – it is simply an evolution, the next step in your life. I wish you happiness and success wherever this road takes you.
    Ceci recently posted..Bye Bye 2012 – Hello bright and better New YearMy Profile

  15. Linda January 4, 2013 at 5:32 am #

    I’ve really enjoyed following your blog, and I have no doubt that I will continue to do so, because you don’t have to be writing about India for me to enjoy or learn from what you write, though I do appreciate what you’ve taught me about the country! Knowing where home is is a big thing. I don’t, so what you are about to do seems to me every bit as much of an adventure as your travels have been.

    I think listening to your inner voice is the most important thing. I believe that things follow on if you do that. My worst times have been when I ignored it, and best things happened when I listened, even though it sometimes seemed to be tempting me into a black hole!

    Of course, nothing is truer than “To everything there is a season……”

    Much luck and love in your new future.
    Linda recently posted..2012: Postcards to MyselfMy Profile

  16. Dana January 4, 2013 at 5:59 am #

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. As an expat living in Hyderabad, I have enjoyed your blog for the past year. India is a land of extremes and I think most come to the point that they are just “done” with, over it. Spending extended time here is a full contact sport and sometimes we just need to go back into the locker room and heal.

    I love the way that you are listening to your inner voice. You will find your new path and I look forward to seeing where this new life leads you.

  17. Anna Pollock January 4, 2013 at 7:09 am #

    Dear Mariellen
    I wish you all the very best for the next chapter in your life. You have exemplified for me the virtues of a conscious traveller and I have loved and been inspired by your honest and sensitive writing. It seems as if your soul is calling you home – a balancing act in itself. There’s a time to explore and soak up all the stimulations brought by movement and a time to sit still, reflect and digest. As Linda says “to everything there is a season.” I admire your level of awareness and willingness to act on that awareness. I had hoped to look you up in India but will stay in touch electronically I hope. I would welcome your input for Conscious Travel. Be well!

  18. Todd January 4, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    Ahh, Mariellen, I saw this subtly breaking through a few of your posts recently. This one reminds me much of my final blog post in June 2011. I have since taken the blog entirely off line. Despite helping many others on their journey I have found that home is where my heart not only finds tranquility, but does its best work. Happy rebooting. I am sure you will put those 10 000 hours of mastery to good use at home.

  19. Valerie January 4, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    Mariellen, as with all your posts, I felt I was there with you through your words and perfect descriptions of your surroundings. Traveling and seeing a place I have never been in the physical form. You have a wonderful gift of writing, and though you are done with the travel portion of your dream…the dream is not over. It morphs and changes and brings us to places that surprise us. I’m glad you’re following your heart and your intuitions. And so happy you are home, safe. I look forward to reading about your next direction…whatever it is I will be there reading your words and enjoying your descriptions. Much love and happiness to you this New Year xo

  20. Mariellen Ward January 4, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Thanks so much for all the comments. I am very moved. And really grateful, really appreciative.

    There’s a line in one of my favourite movies, Shadowlands, when Anthony Hopkins’ character quotes: “We read to know we are not alone.” I think some of us write to know we are not alone! The internet is fantastic for connecting writers and readers. It’s a blessing.
    Mariellen Ward recently posted..There’s no place like homeMy Profile

  21. Doreen Pendgracs January 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Hello Mariellen: I’m so glad I read this post. Often, we find ourselves so overwhelmed by the amount of content that flows out way that we miss the important stuff. I’m grateful that Marijke highlighted this post in the PWAC li-paper that Veronica publishes. PWAC brought us together, and perhaps with your return to TO, it will rejuvenate that bond.

    I know how difficult your journey has been. It is not an easy one to make a living as a freelance writer and blogger. But it is obvious that you have touched many souls with your writing, and hopefully the comment thread here will serve as fodder to get you a paying gig as a columnist or staff writer with a publication that is looking for a writer with insight and heart.

    I wish you the very best as you move forward in your evolutionary journey thru life, and hope that we will reconnect in June when I am in TO for TBEX and MagNet. Namaste!
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted..The Chocolate Festival at Jade Mountain: a chocolate lover’s dream come trueMy Profile

  22. Chetana Panwar January 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    Namaste! I just wanted to say that you have done an amazing job with this blog, and had set up so many unique travel experiences to write about in so many different regions of India.

    Also, I can relate to this post in many ways. Six years ago, I organized my life in Ottawa so that I could spend half the year in India. This was my dream and seemed so ideal, after having travelled back and forth for between 2 and 4 months a year for 6 years prior. But, it happened that my daughter came just before my first 6-month stint. After two years of living half in India and half in Canada with a toddler, I realized it wasn’t my dream anymore. I felt like I was torn between two communities, and my friends and colleagues in Canada felt like I was hardly ever there. And so, the timely pregnancy with my son happened to prevent me from going to India for almost 2 years due to my particular travel season there and his December birth. As you know, I’m now going for just 2 months, February and March, with both kids for the third time this winter. In my new life as a mom, it suits me much better.

    I’m glad I had the opportunity to spend two-six month experiences in Rishikesh, and I’m glad I was able to make the changes I needed to when my dream (or dream and life circumstances) changed.

    More power to you!! Best wishes for the continuing journey of your life!! And, I can’t wait to see you in Toronto (hopefully before I leave).

    Om and Love, Chetana

  23. Elaine J Masters January 4, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Dear Mariellen, Once again your searing honesty touches home. I traveled for 6 months once and remember about 4 months in that I needed more. I needed work, consistent connections with others and to stay still for awhile. Lillie Marshall reached that state once and I remember her saying that was when she decided to find work overseas and began teaching. Another option?
    You won’t stop being a great writer, travel or otherwise. Everything comes and goes in cycles and I too, look forward to seeing your next incarnation at TBE
    X in Toronto. Namaste.
    Elaine J Masters recently posted..Smart travels begin hereMy Profile

  24. may delory January 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm #


    …the main point to keep in mind is this: you had the opportunity to do what you did. Time is of no consequence as it keeps its own rhythm. We are all but a minuscule drop in time.

  25. Mariellen Ward January 5, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    I may not be the world’s most successful blogger, but I think I get the best comments. Thanks May, that was beautiful. And just what I needed to hear, too.

  26. Puru January 6, 2013 at 1:12 am #

    It is not a prophecy but a gut feeling – You will get bored of that settled life very soon and be back again 🙂

  27. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family January 6, 2013 at 2:40 am #

    There’s no shame in changing your mind and no point in struggling with something if it’s not what you feel like doing. If you feel like you need family and friends around you then being with them is a good thing. Be whatever kind of blogger you feel like. I’m sure your stories and information on India will be just as great whether written from Delhi or Toronto. 🙂
    Bethaney – Flashpacker Family recently posted..Our 2013 Travel Plans… Sort Of.My Profile

  28. Erin January 6, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Hi Mariellen

    Wow, what a powerful post. Your blog was the top blog I combed through when I went to India last March. In fact, I went to Aurovalley ashram based on your recommendation and experiences there. You were such a resource when I was embarking on this new chapter in my life going to India (and Thailand afterwards)–I had never done anything like that in my life-buy a one way ticket and just GO.
    So kudos to you for listening to your intuition; you’re ready for the next chapter in your life-Good luck in everything!

  29. Steph January 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Mariellen, how interesting that we should each be at diametrically opposite phases at the moment. You are coming home just as I am breakinf free and setting out. At the same time, we are both in the same place as we have listened to our hearts and realized the need for change.

    If you desire a full-time job as a travel blogger who doesn’t actually go anywhere, then don’t forget that there’s a travel company in Toronto who is now in need of just such a person 😉

    I must also confess to being a bit delighted that you’re returning to Toronto and, hopefully, Travel Massive, sooner than expected 🙂
    Steph recently posted..The Roommate AgreementMy Profile

  30. Louisa January 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Dear Mariellen,
    Such big life decisions are tough to make. But no matter what comes next for you, you have the joy and satisfaction of knowing you stepped off the cliff into the unknown, lived through amazing times, saw and wrote about beauty and adventure and meaningful experiences. Along the way you shared your insights with people who like me, were contemplating their own travel. I am willing to bet there are many – like me – whose journeys were easier or richer for having you as a guide. Bravo! I can’t wait to see what comes next for you.

  31. Bret @ Green Global Travel January 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Our reaction to the past year of too much work, too little money and too much time away from home wasn’t quite as big of a “Eureka!” moment as yours, but we definitely realized a STRONG need for more balance in our lives. For me, the problem is that I haven’t been able to find a way to do the kind of writing I want to do– deep, meaningful, spiritual and moving– for anywhere near the pay rate I get for writing about luxury hotels, spas, etc. So I can truly relate to what you’re feeling, and respect the decision to take a step back. I know you won’t give up on your dream, and I’m guessing taking a step away from it may provide a much better perspective on the best way to move forward. Best wishes!
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted..Cartagena Colombia Photo GalleryMy Profile

  32. Shalu Sharma January 9, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    Indeed there is no place like home. India is my home and I love it.
    Shalu Sharma recently posted..Seasons and climate of IndiaMy Profile

  33. Cristina January 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Mariellen, I’m glad to hear you’re in a happy place although I will miss seeing you often around the travel world. You’ve always given so much whole heartedly and I know you’ll make a positive meaningful contribution in any of your new projects you decide to take on. Lots of love xo
    Cristina recently posted..Off the Beaten Path in ParisMy Profile

  34. Red Hunt January 11, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Hey Mariellen! Congrats on making the self-discovery in terms of what is most important. We’ve had talks over the months about the challenges and expectations of the travel writing/blogging world and I’m glad you’ve now found a way to put the stress behind you!
    Red Hunt recently posted..Luxury Life in the Maldives – Sheraton Full Moon ResortMy Profile

  35. Hannah Parry January 16, 2013 at 5:57 am #

    Hi Mariellen

    I just wanted to say a really big thank you for your fantastic pictures. I am an author writing about Rajasthan, stuck in snowy England and desperate for inspiration, which I have now found.

    I am glad you have been able to recognise coming to the end of a particular road – there are
    many other things out there.

    Thanks again.
    Hannah Parry.

  36. Nora January 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    What a beautiful revelation, and graceful transition for you! I too have had similar revelations and shifts in the last year, and I echo some commenters above in suggesting that traveling and writing/blogging – and on a grander scale, lifestyle design – is an evolution unto itself.

    There is no right or wrong.
    Life is for experiencing, in the ways and places that our passionate souls command at the time – and not in the ways society (or our own self-set expectations) demands of us.
    Nora recently posted..Roundup: Grenada’s Escalator, Flexibility vs Planning, and Financially Sustainable TravelMy Profile

  37. Mariellen Ward January 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    Thanks Bret, Nora, Cristina and the other travel friends who have commented on this post. I so appreciate your support and understanding. Taking the risk to be vulnerable has really helped me to experience the strength of the online travel community.

    Thanks so much for commenting!
    Mariellen Ward recently posted..Is India safe for women travellers?My Profile

  38. Juliet June 25, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your content seem to be running off the
    screen in Internet explorer. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know.
    The layout look great though! Hope you get the problem fixed soon.

    Juliet recently posted..JulietMy Profile

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