5 Life Lessons I Learned in India

5 Life Lessons I Learned in India

It doesn't matter where the destination is, if you're offered a travel opportunity, you take it.
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In less than two years, I have stepped foot in 11 different countries in three continents. Crazy considering that before summer 2015, the only place outside of the U.S. I went to was Canada. I boarded my first plane ever September 2015, headed to London, England. Since then, I've been on more flights than I can think of and even jumped out of one just for the thrill.

Recently, I took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to India for a wedding. India was to say the least, an eye-opener as you can imagine. Since I've been in other countries, specifically in Europe, I can honestly say India is almost an entirely different world. Not a bad thing, I just have never seen anything like it before, as I'm sure many others can agree if they've ever been there or even a country like India.

Traveling outside of your everyday life provides a fresh perspective and the chance to not only learn about the place but about yourself too. Each day of my trip I learned something new in all regards. Here's a few of the big ones:

1. Appreciation.

This is probably the most common lesson people will say they learned while experiencing something different from their norm. Of course, I've felt this way traveling in other places and even in America but it never sticks. I could give a million examples of what I became so appreciative of. It's not just that I in comparison (even though I'm a broke college kid) have at least some money and a good living with a family who loves me, a college (even an elementary and high school) education, and food in my belly. It's little things like traffic laws because when there's a 3 lane highway in America, cars actually stay in their own lanes rather than creating a makeshift 6 lane highway. It's being able to shop without having someone pulling everything off the shelf, trying to persuade you to buy something you don't want. It's personal space. All mixed in with the obvious details we often take for granted.

2. Patience.

Okay so I, like a good majority of Americans, am not a patient person. In India, you have no other option. Life takes a slower pace in India, especially in regards to meals. Or in traffic, where it's slower because it's so congested. But most important in situations where the average tourist has little to no control because things are just so different and you might not understand what was going on. You have to go with the flow in a place like India. This in comparison to my other lessons, definitely won't stick because get real, how can one even be patient in America.

3. English as a first language.

Americans in a way are lucky but also at a huge disadvantage because most of us speak English as our first language. Many schools in other countries begin to teach English at a very young age. I will say America is getting better with this but I still can count on one hand how many Americans (granted citizenship by birth) I know that are fluent in another language. We are at advantage because English is so widely used, but at a disadvantage because many of us (again, Americans granted citizenship by birth) aren't bilingual unless our families predominately speak another language.

4. Social norms.

Bite your tongue when you see something that is normal in a different culture and not to you. The best example I can think of for this is street dogs. There are stray dogs in America of course, although I can't remember the last time I saw one in Upstate New York. I couldn't even begin to guess how many street or wild dogs I saw in India. But what really upset me was when I witnessed people throwing rocks at a dog who was cowering, keeping to himself. Of course not all Indians think that's right, and they still do have pet dogs. But because there is so many dogs who were born in the street, they have to protect themselves, find food, and will get mean if the circumstances call for it and maybe even if they don't. I witnessed two dogs fighting once and a human bystander threw rocks at them. The dogs aren't harming any humans at this point. If I saw that in America, I would've said something but you can't in India because as sad as it is, that's normal. While no one took away my ability to actually speak up, if I did it would've A) done absolutely nothing to stop it and B) been breaking social norms, ultimately leaving me vulnerable to the man (even though I had plenty of protection with me). I never did get used to this and I wanted to take every single one of them home, especially the puppies that may have been a few weeks old. They can't be mean yet, right? If it's not a thing already, someone should make a business of taking street dogs out of India or building shelters for them.

5. American poverty is nothing compared to Indian poverty.

You've seen the photos. It's no secret that some people live without running water or a roof over their head in many places throughout the world. However, poverty in America is nothing compared to poverty in places like India. I've seen homeless in America and I've seen homeless in Europe. Think of the poorest places in the U.S. Detroit is on the top of the list and while I've never personally been there, I can pretty confidently say that by looks, there is no comparison to how bad it is in India. I've seen people begging on street corners and on sidewalks as I pass, but I have never had a woman with a naked child knock on the car window, in the middle of a busy busy street. Or those who are living in literal slums. There's just so much of it in India. The population is so high that even though there's plenty of open land outside the cities, the cities are so densely populated because of the resources available there. So not only is the poverty honestly unreal, the income inequality is more visible here than I've ever seen anywhere else. There are people who live lavishly in India in gated homes and penthouses but then you look out the terrace and there's someone sleeping under a tree by the sidewalk.

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India is the home of the world famous Taj Mahal. Not every city I visited looked like this but were similar with maybe vegetation and industrialized buildings.

People always say that certain events are life-changing but once it's over, that's it and the lessons are forgotten. While I've only been back for a week or so, this trip is different. I can honestly say that what I witnessed in India was truly an eye-opener.

My intent by no means is not to trash India or make it seem undesirable for travel because that is simply false. I genuinely enjoyed my experience and if I could back in time to be faced with the opportunity knowing what I know now, I would still go. It doesn't matter where the destination is, if you're offered a travel opportunity, you take it. Never say no to traveling.

Cover Image Credit: April Rink

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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11 K-Pop Songs For Any Mood, Big Or Small

It's becoming a popular genre, so here's some suggestions.

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Over the past two years, I have been diving into a genre that has become very popular called K-pop. K-pop is short for Korean pop which is what the name entitles. Koreans singing pop music. The reason that I have been getting more into this genre was because of a group called BTS (if you don't know who they are at this moment and why, they are seven guys that essentially broke through the music barrier in the US first. To all my fellow army reading this, they paved the way). It takes a lot to understand what a song meaning is, but here are some for any mood.

1. Lost or feeling like you're nothing

Some suggestions that I would give are "Butterfly" by Loona or "2! 3!" by BTS. Both songs talk about being strong and that there are days that are going to be better because you are awesome.

2. Just went through a breakup and you're pissed

This I have go to with "Gashina" by solo artist Sunmi. It's more of the badass song that gives off this "bitch, why did you mess with me" vibe and literally one of the lyrics is "why are you leaving such a beautiful woman like me behind?"

3. Just went through a breakup and you're sad.

I had to dig but I have to go with "Butterfly" by BTS. This has a different feel from Loona's "Butterfly" but it's good to listen to because it can lift up a spirit.

4. Need a pump up song before a house party

"Gogobebe" by Mamamoo. It's that song that can get someone pumped up for a night out while getting ready, in my opinion at least.

5. A good party song

"Cherry Bomb" by NCT 127. The beat is big and it's a song to get people dancing.

6. A song for Wine Wednesday

"Dionysus" by BTS. The song title is literally the Greek God of wine. I don't that's not the meaning behind the lyrics but like... wine.

7. A song for if you just want people to say your name

"Say My Name" by ATEEZ. A new hot rookie group that I've been obsessed with listening to like that deep voice when they sing "say my name, say my name, say my naaaame."

8. Just need some drama in your life

"Dramarama" by Monsta X. *deep breath* DRAMAMARAMAMARAMAMA HEY! And rest.

9. In a happy and peppy mood

"Very Very Very" by I.O.I. Can I first say I love this song and can I also say that I wish I.O.I didn't disband.

10. A good summer song

"Dance the Night Away" or "What is Love" both by Twice. They're great songs and the music videos for both are just amazing. I mean, "What is Love" makes many video references!

11. A song you need to stream

Just stream K-pop in general. It's hard to get into the mainstream of music here in the United States and now K-pop is in that. Yes, it's in a language most may not know, but it's not the language. Music is universal.

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