It all happened so suddenly really. One minute I was in India, living off Dahl and Roti, breathing in Chennai’s smoggy air and pondering in my empty hostel what my next decision would be? The next minute I was on a plane back to Sydney, 10 months of a rollercoaster journey behind me and home in front of me.
The day I arrived in Chennai I was so excited to be meeting other travellers. I was lonely already, after only 3 short days of solitude in Pondicherry. I missed having someone around, other travellers to talk to and companions to help tackle the streets of India without being the lone white female with a hundred eyes gazing at her. India was a much better place to travel with others. Thailand and Cambodia I could do on my own – no worries at all. Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia – all perfectly fine places to travel alone. There wasn’t a day that went by where you wouldn’t meet someone in these countries. Backpackers knew those routes like the back of their hands, but India was different. Unless you were in Goa, Mumbai or Delhi finding a fellow traveller in this country was much more difficult than I had imagined. It was slim pickings, and for me those few days in the hostel it was no pickings. A lonely 8-bed dorm and an even lonelier common area.
The last picture I took visiting a Fair Trade project in India –
Such a privilege to visit Teddy Exports and speak with their resident swimming instructor. In the past 3 months Mr Paramal has taught over 150 children how to swim, which is an education not provided by any other government school in India. Did I mention Mr Paramal has only one arm, has won various state championships in swimming and also teaches the kids Karate? He is truly an inspiration and it just goes to show you can do anything you put your mind to. Just one of the ways Teddy Exports stands out from the rest as a true fair and community trade organisation, providing opportunity to all ??❤️ #fairtrade #communitytrade #journalism #inspiration #teddyexports #inspirationalstories #india #socent #goodnews
A photo posted by The Altruistic Traveller (@thealtruistictraveller) on
Perhaps at any other time in the previous 10 months this wouldn’t have been such a problem for me, but at this time it was. Honestly, things never got back to normal after Sri Lanka. I thought my 1-month spontaneous, whirlwind holiday to London cured my travel fatigue, or whatever it was, but I don’t think it did. I found myself in the same state of mind I was in when I left Sri Lanka, only worse. Unenthused, lacking in passion and lacking in the drive that pushed me in the early stages of this great journey.
I started to assess, with my generally overactive mind, what factors could have contributed to this estranged feeling I was having while I was supposed to be living the dream life, fulfilling my own life long dream of travelling the world and helping to save it at the same time… and then it dawned on me, that feeling I was having for months on end, a flame trying to burn in a hurricane….
I can’t save the world.
If anything, this whole journey painted a pretty dim picture of what kind of world we live in. Corruption, pollution, poverty, if you name it I saw it – and it affected me. It affected me for two reasons – 1. Because it’s preventable, and 2. Because there are so many people who just don’t care that much.
I started writing as a way to share good news stories with the world. I left Australia to try and show others how they can make a difference while travelling, and I’m sure that over the 10 months where I wrote over 150 articles for various media, that somewhere, someone was influenced by what I wrote.
But the honest truth is that good news doesn’t stand out. Cats get more views than good news, Kim Kardashian’s ass gets more views than good news; 10 of the wackiest desserts in the world gets more views than 10 ways that you can support the community you travel to. That’s just the kind of world we live in. Why? I really don’t know, but as a writer who specialises in good news stories the fact that most people just don’t care can really get you down in the dumps sometimes, and that’s what happened to me. (Just to note there are many of us that do care and many that have supported me by reading my stories for which I am forever appreciative.)
So there I was in India, lonely, disheartened by my lack of readers and ultimately failed ability to save the world, and travel fatigued in a country that is far from easy to travel, even for an expert like me.
At this point, I felt I had 2 decisions – continue on for the next 8 weeks, brave the crowded buses, ogling stares, deadly curries and chaotic streets alone while I wait in hope that some other backpacker just like me will be going in the same direction. Or leave.
The hardest part about making that decision was that either option would leave me unfulfilled in some way. Staying on and being lonely and unhappy would make me feel as though I wasted a perfect opportunity, my work might have been affected; I wouldn’t appreciate the wonders around me, which are meant to be awed. Leaving would mean that I gave up and that I really didn’t save the world, or at least make some kind of dent in it.
Back in December when I visited the Tea Plantations in Malaysia –
In the end, I decided to pack up and leave. It had been 10 months, 10 amazing months, 10 months full of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I saw the best parts of travel and I saw the worst. I saw the best parts of the world and I saw the worst, and while there was still 8 weeks to go I just knew it was time for me to leave and here’s why…
Imagine the world was a painting. When I said that this whole journey painted a pretty dim picture of what kind of world we live in, that dim picture also came with a bunch of bright colours – colours that shone luminously over the dim parts of the painting. So what was a dark painting was now a colourfully dark painting, or a darkly colourful painting, depending on which way you choose to view it.
For every country I visited where there was corruption, there were voices for the voiceless. For every polluted area I visited, there were people helping to clean the pollution up. For every impoverished person I saw, there was someone there to feed them.
For every untold story, there was someone there to tell it, and while maybe not a million people read my stories, someone did, and that’s all that matters.
I had achieved more in the past 10 months than I ever thought I could achieve. Sure I could have still travelled India and Nepal but I was tired, mentally and physically. I missed home and all the things that were familiar to me. I missed vegemite toast, and long chats with my closest friends, and my own bed. Knowing that I tried hard, and that I made some kind of difference was enough for me. While I didn’t think it at the time, I think it now.
A long time ago I read a quote from the great Mother Teresa that said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” That quote never resonated with me more than today as I write this and reflect on the reasons why I decided to come home 8 weeks earlier than expected. It’s something that always stays in my mind, especially when my mind wanders into a negative space.
So what’s next for me…? I’m perching up for a while in Sydney close to the people I love most. I’ll still be writing, for both Backpacker Bible and other media platforms. I’ll still be promoting responsible tourism, which is why you should definitely check out the Backpacker Bible page and keep up to date with ways that you can make a positive impact to the places you travel to. I’ll still be volunteering with WFTO, promoting fair trade and maybe even start my own small fair trade market place, or perhaps journey off again in the near future, who knows. I do know one thing though – I’ll keep trying to be a bright colour on that dim painting. Perhaps you can join me?