I am often jokingly called India’s biggest advocate, specifically Rishikesh. In times like these, there are so many people who think I am mad for choosing to stay in a third world country during this time of crisis. I am being asked now more than ever what it is about India that I love so much. I honestly am unable to put my finger on it. It mostly is about my own personal growth journey and how India stole my heart and enabled me to become the person I am today. This is why I want to return here, time, and time again.

A big part of my love for India stems from how much I hated myself before I moved here. I was working an insane amount of hours just to prove to myself that I could be something. I had an alcohol problem. My body was in constant pain, my physical ability to simply move was rapidly deteriorating. I was suicidal. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get on top of either my physical or mental health. I was a substance abuser. There were people in my life that would make me feel worthless. There were also a lot of beautiful people motivating me to change something about my life. But you can read more about that in becoming a digital nomad.

One of the reasons I chose India was for my health, both physical and mental. The western system had failed me. I was unable to get a diagnosis for a neurological condition that was impacting my body after trying for years. I was told at 19 that I have a bone disease. From there it has evolved to two bone diseases, a muscle disease and a neurological disease. Still to this day I only know the names of the bone diseases. I have had both the muscle and neurological diseases explained to me and what they mean for my daily life. But no diagnosis or guidance on how to slow down the deterioration of my body.

I decided that although many health professionals told me not to do yoga and that it would speed up the decline in my mobility, I was unwilling to simply sit there and do nothing. There are so many things I want to do. I want to be active, I want to dance, I want to run, I want to climb Everest. Being told by healthcare specialists that these things are off the cards for me, was like telling a child they can’t have chocolate. I threw a tantrum, but mine was far more internal. Knowing that my body was rapidly deteriorating and I wouldn’t be able to do basic things in life shortly, like the ones that had already been taken away from me, was all too much.

This put more pressure on my mental health issues, which I have spoken about at length in other blog posts. I resorted to antidepressants and Valium to help me find the will to live, allow me to sleep, and forget about the impending health decline, amongst all the other mental health issues I was battling. I wouldn’t say the western system failed me here, the antidepressants did their job in keeping me alive until I no longer needed them. But it is not a solution. Without the plan of drastic change I implemented, they would have failed me.

I moved to India in an attempt to save my life. And I have seen so many positive changes since it happened. Many people who knew me in Australia have commented on my journey and have seen how much I have transformed. It’s really nice to hear this and know that I am on the right path. With the help of a beautiful country which has allowed me to make so many changes in my life.

On the physical health front, I did my 300-hour yoga teacher training course just a couple of weeks after arriving in India. I told them briefly about my health issues, but not in detail as I didn’t want them to prevent me from attending. I learnt so much about the body, both in general and my own during that course and I still practice yoga regularly.

I’m not sure if the medical professionals in Australia were wrong, or if I am actually doing more damage to my body in ways that I can’t see yet and that will impact me later. What I do know, is that it makes me feel a lot better. There has been less than a handful of days where I have been unable to walk since I moved to India, when this was a monthly occurrence when I was in Australia.

Rishikesh, the place I moved and where I did my yoga seems like it was made specifically for me. I turned vegan at the beginning of 2019 in an effort to help slow down the diseases affecting my body (yes, it is definitely helping) and I also had an addiction to alcohol. Rishikesh is a vegetarian and dry town. So I was easily able to find food and didn’t have the temptation of alcohol around me. The combination of these two things has seen me start to learn who I really am.

India is full of beautiful and kind people that teach you a new perspective on life. They encourage you to live in the present and not hold on to the memories of your past. My past was always something that I felt defined me. And was like a burden that I have carried with me for so long. I am not proud of who I was. Although I know on the scale of humans I was not a bad person, I was certainly not one that contributed anything positive to the world.

Although it is always an ongoing battle to free myself from my demons, I don’t think this would have been possible to get as far as I have anywhere other than India. I have shared so much with people and have had people share their secrets with me. These are things that you would have been heavily judged for where I grew up. Or would have been forced to keep to yourself so that you could never truly heal from your past and have the ability to move on.

I think this is seen in the content of my blogs, where I air a lot of dirty laundry. These are things I never would have spoken about with some of my closest friends. Let alone posting it publicly for the world to see! I guess that is where India has changed my mentality. I do not need to feel guilty for the person that I once was. And that the only way to become the person I want to be, is to let the old one go. In each of my blogs where I speak about my past, I am letting a piece of that person slip away.

It is not about the people reading them, who may or may not judge me. But it is about my own self-healing journey. I don’t write my blogs with the readers in mind, other than those dedicated to giving advice for travel. I do it for myself and find it very therapeutic to be able to release my past into those words and send them out. It makes me feel that I am not hiding a part of myself anymore.

The people I have met along my journey in India have been so kind and understanding. And I believe this has taught me a lot about humanity. Growing up in a country town like the one I did in Australia, you are conditioned with racism. I myself was racist before I decided to start thinking for myself. I post a lot about my life in this supposed “dirty third world country”. This is to break the stigma and to show that it is not just full of sleazy Indian men who want you to send pics of your ‘bobs and vagine’. India is full of people who want you to be yourself. And they will do whatever they can to contribute to your journey along the way.

I have found a much healthier way of life here that has done wonders for both my physical and mental health. After so long here, I have such a strong feeling of love and loyalty for my home of Rishikesh. So much that I am currently investigating options to start a business venture here. This will help to really make it my home. Of course, I look forward to my friends and family coming to visit. Then I can show you this town and the country, so you can see how India stole my heart.

Love always,

Lala

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