It's been almost two months and over 12,000 miles traveled since I left Toronto in search for something greater. I've had numerous friends both congratulate my decision and share their envy with me. A few more provided their well wishes for me to find what I'm looking for on this year long (and possibly longer) journey. Yet the honest truth is that I don't even quite know what I'm looking for by leaving home.
I've tried to make sense of it many times over by pondering upon what I hope to gain from living overseas but always feel like I'm coming up short when trying to piece together the mixed feelings that are running through my mind. So in order capture and share these moments of deep thought while on the road I've decided to create a new blog for 2015 that provides an outlet for dialogue on my travels as a hard knock leader.
This is me defining the journey.
Have you ever felt like there was something more to life than the way you've been living?
When I decided to leave Toronto, I left knowing that there is more for me to do in this world. I had accomplished many things through my work as a community leader and knew it was my time to dig deeper by chasing those dreams built of possibility and potential. I've always longed to make the world my home and I knew that in order for me to accomplish more, I would need to fulfill the life goal of exploring the world first.
During my past travels I've always aimed to learn about the realities that exist in the world by being a part of the solution rather than the problem. Finding solutions requires one to be fully aware about the issues that differ from region to region. This is the type of work that requires one to be closer to the ground by experiencing the realities instead of just reading about them. If I really wanted to make an impact on the places I touch down in, I would require to be there for a longer time.
This journey is about realizing change.
Change should always starts with yourself, it starts at home. There is a lot of people who want to change the world but perhaps not enough who start in their own backyard. For me returning to India to learn about this land was a must. It is a land that is my heritage and one that I've been disconnected from for far too long.
The beat of India is like magic and chaos; a forceful undercurrent to its incredible history, humbling poverty and the new age developments around every corner. It's a land where countless religions, languages, cultures and identities all come together. My journey start here, in my ancestral land, where I focus on the stories and issues of people that exemplify and define the unique power of what it means to be a part of the world’s largest democracy.
Starting my journey with India as a destination was necessary for me to understand part of my own cultural heritage. Families migrate to Canada to provide a better future for their children but how often do young people create the opportunity to return to their families home and learn about the future of their parent's past.
Here is an excerpt from one of my first instagram posts documenting my journey to India
I'm living a couple of blocks from St Charles, a school my father attended in his childhood. As kids they nicknamed this area Harlem, it was an uncharted territory of turfs reserved for a simple life.
The only way to enter is by passing through the underpass of a flyover that seems to marginalize these neighbourhoods even more. Underneath you will see another world come alive with vendors, auto drivers, bikers & dwellers moving around in the shadows. The loafers I walk around in may only last another month or two on the broken down dirt roads.
The air is thick with enough dust to power a sand storm in the desert. The odour of burning ashes is waste management. Garbage is a problem here & every abandoned space is a dumping ground, there is not much care to pick up the litter and trash bins are a rare sight. It took me three weeks before I saw a lorry come by collect & shift through the ashes and trash.
Water does not run freely in most homes throughout the day and often must be rationed. Pollution and population are understated words. Solitude is a luxury and privilege not often found in this concrete jungle.
Welcome to the new world. Hopes & Dreams Still Live Here
I never expected the road to be smooth, luxurious or comfortable. This environment can be harsh and the realities even harder. Yet people still survive here and make do with what they have. Here you find the stories of survival at its most realest. Here you find the story of humanity.
This journey is about understanding identity.
In the last two months I've covered a lot of grounds but not without its challenges. The hardest adjustment for me on the road is finding a flow allows me to be as productive as I was on home turf. For me staying busy is what keeps me sane even if the pace of the country is different. I needed strong reasons to make this journey worthwhile, so I gave myself work that is worth committing to while on the road.
Part of this work is community building, part of it is selflessness. I'm learning about the movements that are redrawing India and the many change makers behind them. I'm looking at the different problems, searching for the answers and probing the possibility of collective solutions. As always I ask how my work will engage audiences that have been deemed disengaged, those who are seen as marginalized and underprivileged in a place where survival becomes a daily task.
Part of this work is artistic, part of it is self engagement. I've immersed myself in the arts & culture scene here in by spending time learning about traditional art styles and paying homage to creative works in both local museums & international arts festival from Kerala to Mumbai. I'm looking to create bodies of photographic work that are influenced by my ancestral lands and one that can find a home here, I'm looking to create art for social change.
My freelance work as a photographer & community organizer is what I'm hoping will help fund my time on the road but more importantly its what I hope will make this journey more meaningful.
This journey is about finding purpose
While the truth is that I may not entirely know what I'm searching for on this year long journey, what I do know is that I will find a richer life at the end of it. Not the type of riches that accumulates in your bank account until you retire but instead the profits that are gained from the life experiences of living differently and learning all over again.
So for my family, friends, colleagues, readers and fellow journeyers; I ask you how will you let your journey define your life?
The journey is a new blog of the Hard Knock Leadership initiative: sharing stories from taking the road less traveled
Comment with thoughts & share with others if you've enjoyed this read.
If you are interested in learning about ways to define your own journey as a Global advocate