India, the country that shaped the rest of my life.
I was 21 when I graduated college and received my Bachelor Degree in Photography. I was not at all ready to start my job search at that time. I wanted to enjoy life and be adventurous maybe. So I searched online to find any kind of volunteering opportunity that wouldn't cost a fortune. I stumbled upon an organization that needed volunteers to teach photography in India. I sent them an email and a few weeks later, I bought a ticket to Varanasi.
I said goodbye to my boyfriend and parents at Schiphol airport and boarded the plane to India. Scared shitless but also kind of excited.
The first week was difficult. I was homesick, cried a lot and was actually researching plane tickets so I could just go home. Everything was different, there was no hot water to wash (it can get quite cold in Varanasi in January), I had a squatting toilet and a bed that was just a plank and I felt so out of my comfort zone. But I couldn't abandon the kids I was teaching, so I stayed.
the second week was a total different story. I quickly got used to the sounds of barking dogs, people yelling outside my window and always having to ask for bottled water. I was actually starting to like it here. I went grocery shopping (visiting a small vegetable stand on the corner of the street) all by myself and I even took a day trip by tuk tuk to Sarnath.
Fast forward to my last days in Varanasi and you could say I felt totally at ease here. I had created my own morning ritual of getting up really early and going for a sunrise walk along the ghats. Taking pictures of the boats or people bathing in the Ganges. I did not want to leave at all. But as I had already booked my return ticket, there was nothing to do but fly back home.
After 1 month in India, I was a different person. I was independent, my confidence had grown and I felt like being on top of the world. When I look back at that trip, I'm in awe of myself. It changed my view of the world and I became a better person because of it. It also most definitely ignited my passion for travel which I had not yet discovered. My life would have looked very different (not for the better) if I hadn’t gone to India.