Have you found your soul culture?
When I was a child, I was obsessed with the 1,001 Tales of the Arabian Nights. When I travelled to India as an adult, I found my land of fantasy, my “soul culture.” Have you found your special corner of the globe?
Sometimes, people discover a corner of the world where they feel most at home. It is often in a country and culture far away ― and far different from their own. Often, it doesn’t make much rational sense. Nor does it have to.
The type of immersive travel I am writing about today cannot be engineered. You cannot make it happen. I call it soul culture, and finding it is a lot like falling in love: it just happens.
I know a German woman who cried the first time she went to Africa because she felt completely at home. She has since opened an orphanage in Kenya. I know a Canadian musician who believes she was Japanese in a past life: she is now a master of the shakuhachi (Japanese flute). I know an American travel blogger, Dave Lee, who feels at home in Colombia and founded the Medellin Living website.
People who found their soul culture always intrigued me. And, I admit, I was a bit jealous. Though I had travelled to many parts of the world, and lived in Tokyo, I had never felt that special affinity, and didn’t know if I ever would. Then, in late 2004, at about the same time the tsunami struck Southeast Asia, a personal tsunami of sorts hit me.
I was trying to recover from a series of devastating losses that had left me feeling flattened, and was enrolled in a yoga teacher training program. That’s when the idea of going to India for six months grabbed hold of me.
I didn’t decide to go to India; I felt compelled. And when I got there in late 2005, after almost a year of planning and saving, I felt uncannily at home. From the moment the airplane door opened and I smelled Delhi’s smoky, acrid, pungent air for the first time, I felt something new stirring inside. Every day in India was an adventure — both of the outer and inner kinds.
Over the course of my six months in India, I found new parts of myself I never knew existed. My depression ebbed away and my confidence soared. I felt more alive and became more creative than I had ever been. I started travel blogging and writing travel features. I had found my muse.
There were so many things about India that I fell in love with. The yellow sun. The warm people. The vibrant, noisy chaos of India’s streets and markets. Endless tea drinking. Open and overt displays of spirituality. Magnificent architecture, exquisite dancing, evocative music, gorgeous textiles and stunning sculpture. I had been to lots of beautiful places, but my eyes were opened to beauty in a new way in India.
And now, five trips to India later, I look back and realize the seeds for this blossoming love affair were planted a long time ago. As a child I mooned over photos of the Beatles in Rishikesh, seated beside the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and wearing marigolds; and I was obsessed with the 1,001 Tales of the Arabian Nights and painted maharajah palaces on my walls. As a teenager, I went to see Ravi Shankar in concert and practised meditation with my mom. And as an adult I started traveling.
But it wasn’t until the weight of life, and grief, almost pulled me under that I finally burst out … and went to India … and discovered my soul culture.
What about you? Have you had the strange and wonderful experience of finding the culture of your heart? Do you believe this phenomenon exists?