Reflections on 6 years of travel writing
On how I became a travel writer and blogger by throwing myself off the cliff of reason
It was six years ago today, December 6, 2005, that I landed in Delhi, India for the first time. It was Day One of my six-month odyssey; the start of my trip-of-a-lifetime; and the beginning of a new chapter in life, I hoped.
On my first morning in India, I stepped out into the warm December sunshine of my friends’ big, white, marble terrace in South Delhi and felt I had landed in heaven. It was warm, I was surrounded by a loving family and I was finally in India — a place I had dreamed of since childhood, but never thought I would ever see. I felt an immediate affinity with India; it was like going “home.” But I had absolutely no idea where the next six months would lead, what would happen, or what I would get out of the experience.
I wasn’t thinking ahead at all. (Read my first blog ever, dated Dec. 6, 2005, Delhi.) Nevertheless, I’ve gained so much from that one decision, the decision to go to India. Most importantly, I recovered from the entrenched grief depression that sent me to India in the first place. The trip also set me back on the path I believe I was meant to be on — before a life-long series of losses, traumas, distractions and emotional challenges got in my way.
A travel writing dream is born
It took a few years for that first trip to change my life and career; and for the first blog I wrote — on the Travelblog.org site — to evolve into Breathedreamgo. But when I did decide, about three years ago, to really “go for it,” I threw myself completely into pursuing my dreams of travel and writing, with no thought to whether it was practical or economically feasible. I just knew I had to do it. I had lost both my parents and felt: if not now, when?
I’ve never worked so hard in my life and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’ve connected with childhood dreams, and manifested them. I’ve learned how to write from the heart. I’ve allowed myself to open up to a completely new culture, and learn from it. I’ve grown, and changed, and expanded my horizons. I’ve built a blog and following; published feature articles and my book, Song of India; traveled for 14 months in India; made lots of friends and connections; co-founded Toronto Travel Massive; and raised awareness and funds for a number of worthwhile projects and organizations, such as UNICEF, World Literacy of Canada, Project Tiger and the Intrepid Foundation / Deepalaya.
The positive comments from readers are perhaps my proudest accomplishment. I don’t write for readers’ approval — I write from the heart — but I am very proud that my writing appeals to both foreigners and Indians; and that I have achieved enough understanding and insight about Indian culture as to write with sensitivity and (I hope) a lack of ethnocentric judgment. The last thing I would want is to engage in any kind of cultural imperialism, and I hope I always avoid this all-too-comon pitfall.
It’s been a great ride
I had no idea that all of this would happen when I got on that plane at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on December 5, 2005. I knew I had to change my life, and begin to live my dreams or I would regret it forever. But I did not know what I was unleashing. And this is why you have to take action. You have to GO even if you do not know where your dreams are leading you.
Like now. I’m not sure where to go from here. Recently I was interviewed by Desi News, a Toronto-based South Asian publication, about my India journeys over the past six years. The editor asked me “What was the lowest point?” I answered, “Now, today.”
After six years of traveling to India; and about two-three years of working hard to try and change my career from corporate writer / editor to travel writer, blogger and journalist, I feel I am at a crossroads. I’ve accomplished a lot, but have not found this career to be financially sustainable. Freelance writing rates are dropping, blogs are not yet fully recognized — or rewarded — for the value they provide and I haven’t been able to land a book contract or a regular writing job with a media outlet.
The road less traveled
I often encourage people to go after their dreams, and I’m glad I have. I have no regrets. But I’ve discovered that pursuing your dreams is not easy. There’s a reason it’s the road less traveled. I am regularly assailed by self-doubt, and worried about where the next cheque is coming from. Some days, it feels like I’m moving further away from my goals, rather than toward; and I wonder whether I am just repeating some deep-seated negative patterns in my life, rather than actually moving forward.
When I was getting ready to go to India the first time, six years ago, one of my yoga teachers remarked that the journey begins when you come home. I had no idea what she meant back then, but I sure do now.
My dreams have exceeded my grasp. And I’m not sure what to do. This is what I want to do, I want the opportunity to write features like this: Breaking caste. Or books like this: Empire of the Soul. I want to travel in India. And bring my blog up this standard: Uncornered Market. But I feel I have hit a wall. I don’t see any real opportunities, and I’m completely out of resources.
They say it’s darkest before the dawn. I hope that’s what I’m experiencing. I hope I will be able to break out of my negative patterns and fulfill my potential. I guess we all do. But does it require luck or skill? Is it destiny or free will? Why do some people succeed and not others?
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