I grew up in a ‘safe’ little neighborhood, in a ‘safe’ little suburb Southwest of Chicago where all my neighbors looked like me – middle class, white, and Catholic. For my birth family, exotic food consisted of chopsuey (considered Chinese food because it used rice). Exotic vacations were to the mystical Northwoods bordering the US and Canada to catch the ferocious Northern Pike which tended to maul fishing lures with the tenacity of a shark. Eventually, we would actually go to Canada in our quest for giant Pike, however, I don’t consider Canada to really be a foreign country, more a suburb of the US, a USA North seems to sum it up.
I took my first airplane ride in 1985 for a job interview at 24 years of age upon graduating from college. The job was in Northeast Indiana and was probably the best position from all my interviews but, I didn’t take it. I believe part of the rationale was because moving a couple miles from home would take me from the safety of my family, of my nest.
My first international trip was to Jamaica, also in 1985, where I stayed at a safe resort safely protected from the natives behind a tall fence surrounding the hotel complex. All forays away from the hotel were under the watchful eye of a guide to keep us ‘safe’. The trip included exploring the surrounding country albeit from the inside of a bus or with a tour guide and a gaggle of other tourists where we felt comfortable because there is ‘safety’ in numbers.
My first intercontinental trip was to England on business in 1998 then again in 1999 which required me to navigate a new language, British English (yes, American and British English are different languages) and, for the first time, I ate authentic Chinese food at an authentic Chinese restaurant. I must admit to entering the restaurant with more than a bit of apprehension as the food would not be the ‘safe’ food I grew up eating. However, when you are with a group of people on a business trip and one of them is your boss, you kind of have to go with the flow.
Subsequent business trips found me returning to England, then when I changed companies I was sent to Switzerland, India, Germany, and Italy.
By far, my first trip to India was the scariest undertaking of the lot. If you had asked me which countries I would least like to visit, India would have topped my list. The India trip was different than all my other trips where exposure to foreign lands consisted only in countries similar culturally to the US. One of my biggest fears was that I would be away from my favorite food, beef (taboo in India), and would need to subsist on a diet of Indian food which I had never eaten and, quite frankly, emitted an aroma that did not endear me to the cuisine. I took comfort knowing there was always McDonalds where I could eat ‘safe’ foods.
The first trip to India came about because my company decided to pilot offshore software development and identified my project as best suited for the experiment. I would like to think it was because I was such an awesome project manager however, if I was honest with myself, it was more likely because failure of my project could easily be written off by the company.
To be successful, I was told, would require me to go to India. I protested, dreamed up rationalizations why the trip would be unnecessary. In the end, I went. Not once, not twice, but three times in a single year. Of all those trips, my first India trip was a watershed experience. Surviving that first trip to India, no, thriving on that first trip to India, changed me forever. Any remaining fear I had for exotic locales melted away and my eyes opened to the glorious adventure associated with visiting foreign lands.
What I didn’t know at that time was that I fell in love with India. Fell in love with the peacock like colors of women draped in Sari’s, fell in love with the chaotic adventure they call driving, fell in love with the food that bursts with flavor at every mouth full, fell in love with the energy in cities that never sleep, fell in love with the people who are some of the friendliest on earth. I didn’t realize I had fallen in love until a couple of years later when, try as I could, I could not get a business trip to India. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I found absence revealed the love in my heart for this country half way around the world.
In Aug 2011, I was asked by my company if I would locate to India for a project. I looked closely at my personal life to see if it was feasible. I looked closely at my career goals to see if there was alignment. I looked closely at the longings of my soul which breathes deeply the oxygen of adventure. All three rivers of my life were in alignment, running in the same direction yet apart, three distinct rivers, three distinct lives. In my heart, I realized, saying yes to this adventure would allow three rivers of my life to merge, and the confluence would be at the point I put aside all things ‘safe’ and transplanted myself to India.
Those rivers merged on 29 March 2013 when I landed in Pune, India. This blog is the tales of my life surfing my personal river. I prayed the rapids were wild, the eddies were peaceful, the people were welcoming, and around every bend new beginnings to push me far, far away from a ‘safe’ life. I am happy to say my prayers all came true.
On 19th October 2014, I moved back home to the USA and am currently living in Chicago, IL….planning my next adventure. 🙂