Three Things I Learned Travelling In India

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Source: Auguste Chocianaite

Unhappy with her life, Augustė headed to India, where she learned a lot about herself. Here are the three things that stayed with her.

I decided to stop what I was doing and go to India.

I recently returned from a month in North India. Some would say that 30 days is a lot. I think it’s not enough. My travels completely changed the way I see the world.

Before I went, I was a scatter-minded, oblivious mess constantly afraid of what the future holds. Imagine a girl who watched ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ almost on a weekly basis. The same girl had extreme fear of death for no particular reason. No. Really. Not to mention an endless craving for new kitten-printed leggings, shoes and jewellery after spending my two-week wage on ‘Innocent’ smoothies and Starbucks coffee. I’d also quit most of my old hobbies: painting, photography, playing guitar and reading.

At some point I became a caricature of myself. I decided to stop what I was doing and go to India. ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ style, here are the three big epiphanies I had along the way.

1. Materialism

Source: Auguste Chocianaite

Source: Auguste Chocianaite

My point is that most of us have enough.

Living in a consumer-driven society leads some of us to making natural assumptions that having more equals being happy. For some it is obvious that people reach their peak of happiness when they are loaded with money, have stunning looks, an impeccable Instagram account and have a private jet for their weekly holidays in Miami. Is it actually what having a good life is about? I don’t think so, and here’s why.

Think about it. Average students in the UK have everything they need. We have a place to call our home, we have enough food, we have people we love around us and we have clothes to keep us warm. I, being student myself, am happy to say I can get a perfect cup of Starbucks coffee every Sunday and I’m sometimes able to afford an overpriced brunch meal somewhere in Stokes Croft twice a week.

My point is that most of us have enough.

It took me a while to understand that. A lot of people do not appreciate what they’ve got on a daily basis. After spending a couple of days in Paharganj, one of the districts of New Delhi, I encountered families who live in decaying huts made of rubbish. I remember following the sound of bells coming out of the tiny Hindu temple adjacent to a hostel we stayed at in Delhi one day. It was when I saw the same people – men, women and children, who stayed in cardboard houses with radiant smiles on their faces as they prayed to Ganesh.

So give yourself a minute and think whether you are grateful enough for what you have. Ask yourself, do you actually need more expensive knick-knacks in your life? Maybe instead of buying new clothes and lush notebooks with golden glitter on them we could save up for travelling around the world, our future education or simply giving a couple of pounds to charity?

2. Happiness

Source: Auguste Chocianaite

Source: Auguste Chocianaite

We can only be happy if we really want to. Smiling to the world, enjoying every single moment is what this life is all about. At least that’s what I’ve found.

We can only be happy if we really want to.

I was meditating on a rooftop of our guest house in Leh, an isolated town in the North of India, one morning. One of the monasteries was playing beautiful mantras out of speakers all day long. I was sitting on the roof covered in sunlight, surrounded by mountains, listening to the sounds in complete peace, when I started thinking about some dull things that had been bothering me for a while. You know; those nasty mundane intruders of our peaceful minds. It did not take me long to realise that all the problems I have are in my head. Worries I create are the most insignificant things in the universe, so why on earth do I waste my time thinking about them?

Enjoy the sun, enjoy the rain, notice the beauty that surrounds you and look at all the gorgeous people you spend your precious time with. You are given one chance to exist within this body. It’s totally up to you what you want to do with it: sit in front of the TV, travel, go trainspotting or skydive every day.

I felt happy sitting with random strangers in a Bob Dylan themed café in Manali and contemplating life. I felt happy when I got a cheap tattoo done on my ankle the next day. I felt happy when two friends of mine, a stray dog and I reached gorgeous waterfalls and drank tea on the edge of a cliff after a three hour-long hike in Dharamshala. I felt happy when we walked all the way up the Shankaracharya temple and saw the whole Srinagar echoing with breath-taking Muslim prayers coming out of numerous speakers scattered all over the city. I felt happy when I saw the Golden Temple and Taj Mahal, the famous sights I never even dared to think I would see with my own eyes one day. I felt happy every time I took a breath of the extraordinary Himalayan air.

We call today the ‘present’ for a reason. Today is a gift. Use it, because one day you will not wake up. One day life will stop giving you gifts.

3. Death

Source: Auguste Chocianaite

Source: Auguste Chocianaite

Death is inevitable.

Death is inevitable. I used to have a ridiculous fear of dying. Imagine that moment when you stop breathing. That’s it. Everything you’ve done in this life, all your hopes and dreams become non-existent. Your family mourns, the people you used to hang out with feel bad for both you and your relatives, and eventually everyone continues to live their lives without you taking any part in them. The more you think about it the more paranoid you become. At least I did.

However, we will die eventually and it’s one of the few things everyone has in common. You might die in two minutes time. You might as well live 100 years more. I found that out the hard way.

We were up in the Himalayas, on a breathtaking, yet extremely dangerous road from Leh to Manali. We were going down these tiny mountain roads, less than one metre away from an abyss. It was not too bad at first, until I woke up at 1 am, looked through the car window and realised that the whole mountain was covered by thick fog. We were still moving down the mountain with a large nothingness five centimetres from the car.

It was the moment I realised that we were all going to die. Inevitably. 100%. All we could do was trust our driver, who did not look too fussed about what was happening outside the car. I had tears in my eyes and I was holding the handle of our car door, just in case we needed to jump out, whilst the voice inside my head was gently whispering: ‘Hey, look on the bright side. If you die, you die in India’.

So find your deity within and be happy.

One month in India guided me towards another perspective on materialism, happiness and death. I’ve also learned that everyone can meditate on things, like happiness, peace, and… death. So instead of being constantly afraid of leaving my body for good, I started concentrating on the inevitability of passing away. And guess what? It helped. I’ve started seeing good in everything as well as appreciating every moment given to me and every cup of coffee I drink whilst watching ‘Adventure Time’ in my PJs every morning. I am proud to say that this journey has taught me a lot.

We were staying at a monastery one night and my friend and I were talking to a monk, Ven. Sangha Sena, about the concept of God. He smiled and said God is everywhere. It is within everything that surrounds us: flowers, rivers, starry skies and warm summer rain. ‘You,’ – he pointed to my friend. ‘Are God. And you,’ he smiled at me. ‘Are a Goddess.”

So find your deity within and be happy.

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