By Jack Barker
My first year in India was a life-changing experience for the good. But I made many mistakes and many fast judgments of people and missed opportunities that I would now take back. In all honesty I was scared, which is hard for me to admit.
This year the tables have turned; I’ve been using my experience and errors from last year to help me navigate and stay clear from the same mistakes on this trip. This year I feel like my past mistakes are letting me help others avoid making errors like mine. When I saw people on this trip facing cultural shock like I had last year, I figured out what kind of role I was going have this year. As someone who is flawed and is constantly reminded of it, I am always trying to better myself.
Last year when we started heading up to the Himalayas, I left a lot of great opportunities for myself on the table–like not swimming in rivers because they were too cold, or whatever my freshman mind was telling me not to do. Now I’m trying to be the first person behind our guides on hikes. I’ve also tried to be the person in the group that the teachers can rely on to try anything, like checking to see if some things are safe or scouting out an unsure area. When there’s an opportunity to jump off a large rock into some freezing water from the mountains, or do something I wouldn’t do in other places, you can count me in and know I will have the confidence to do it, no questions asked. No more missing opportunities for me. I want in on everything I can get my hands on. And I want to bring everyone with me so that we can experience a trip with minimal mistakes and maximal greatness.
My new approach to travel has helped me expand my confidence, a no-fear type of attitude, and brought me closer to living the way I see people living here in India. I have jumped into making chapatti and roti around the fire. I have worked in the fields alongside the people of Agora. In Delhi, I moved through the streets like a local. I wasn’t afraid or shocked. I believe that I am ready to live a more culturally rounded life even when I return to the US. The understanding that I’ve gained of other cultures – religions, ways of life, etc. – by jumping into things will carry me forward.