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.

cows on the countryside in India
ghats in Varanasi taken from a boat on the Ganges

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.

My bedroom in Varanasi
the kitchen in our apartment in Varanasi

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.

me at the vegetable stand
woman doing laundry on the ghats

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.

on the Ganges during sunrise
a boat with tourists on the Ganges
a fishing boat on the Ganges in the morning

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.

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