“She wasn’t in a strange place, just a new one. After all, she had always dreamt of new places.”
~ The Alchemist
I woke up, yet again, in the middle of the night on my rock hard bed, in a cold sweat, with hunger pains. It was four am, India time, and my third night alone on this trip of a lifetime.
I leaned over the bed to my monster 85 liter backpack, borrowed from a friend’s sister who was a much more accomplished traveler than I (in fact, I felt like a little bit of a fraud—there’s no way I had the street cred yet to carry something like this) and grabbed a mini banana I had picked up at a fruit stand the day before, anticipating this middle of the night hunger.
This same pain had been finding me every night since I had started my solo journey to Indi . My plans: to stay a week in Goa to “get my feet” and then proceed onto Mysore where I would practice yoga at the KPJAYI.
In my half asleep, starving state, I scarfed down my mini banana, found a bit of relief and tried to return to sleep.
It wasn’t that easy.
I was full of another kind of craving. Craving for a sense of home. Where that home was though, I wasn’t so sure. Prior to my trip, I had returned Home with a capital H, meaning with my parents. At 26, even three weeks of that was tiring. Prior to that I had been living across the country, in the Rocky Mountains of Banff working on contract, doing things I never thought I would do: hiking mountains, canoeing, escaping a three year relationship and a ten year rut, and enjoying a wonderfully casual (see: physical) relationship.
Now here I was across the world in the land of spicy food, frizzy hair, stray dogs and the “head wobble” missing a home I didn’t really have.
Further than my six week trip, I had no plans. Would I return to live with my parents? That thought terrified me. Would I keep traveling—unlikely since I was already on a tight budget. Or would I return to the mountains—a supposed to be temporary home the previous summer, but one I was beginning to miss more and more each day.
I was even beginning to miss not only the casual sex, but the man from the mountains who did these fabulous things to me.
After taking a moment to write down a few thoughts in my notebook (the only thing that got me through my trip without going crazy) I slowly drifted off to sleep.
Waking up to the familiar barking of dogs, chirping of birds and random geckos on my wall, I did what I had done everyday since I had been in Goa. I had breakfast—alone. Walked down to the beach—alone. Tried to avoid being sold things by the side of the road—alone. Read my book—alone. And desperately tried to seek out any other solo traveler around my age to befriend.
As it began to get dark, I headed back to my guest house to have dinner. Not wanting to wake up hungry, yet again, I had a massive dinner, complete with an amazing chocolate cake for dessert, and I even indulged in a beer. (One of only two I would have during my whole six weeks in India—I’m sure this is some kind of record). I sat at the table —alone yet again, no other solo travelers to be found—and read my book.
After about a half an hour, I started to get that uncomfortable, yet familiar feeling. The churning in my stomach, followed by the unmistakable feeling of hunger. Ready to go get one of my mini bananas again (which, by the way, are probably the best little pieces of heaven you’ll ever taste, no banana will ever taste the same after you enjoy one of these guys), when I stopped myself. I was beyond confused—there was no logical way I could still be hungry after the massive meal I had just ate. I knew this had to be something else—I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t think straight.
I was not hungry. I could not be. I was uncomfortable. Physically, mentally, emotionally.
Uncomfortable. The feeling filled my body and the word echoed in my head.
I craved to talk to someone familiar; my mom, my sister, and strangely enough my mountain man who had not only given me a taste of a fun, casual relationship, but had also given me all of his travel tips before we had one last amazing night together and I left the mountains for good.
I wanted to run. I was uncomfortable and I wanted the feeling to go away, the same way I feel while holding a long pigeon posture in yoga class.
Back during my stint in Banff, I was lucky enough to practice with an amazing teacher. While holding pigeon pose one day she asked us to recognize that the feeling we experienced deep in our hips was not good or bad. It was just a sensation. She asked us, “Will you run from it, or will you dive in?”
So, dive I did.
I got up and walked back to my room. Took a seat on my rock hard bed—on it, my own sheets that still smelled like home (thanks to another tip from my mountain man)—set my timer on my iPhone for ten minutes and tried to remember anything and everything I’d learned about meditation. I had no where else to turn. I sat. I breathed. I counted my breaths.
I felt my belly rise and fall like the waves that crashed into the nearby ocean. I let my thoughts go. And I felt my deep discomfort. My loneliness. My unfamiliarity with my surroundings.
How much I missed any sense of the familiar. How much I missed my shitty little hometown. Missed the familiar and encouraging words of my mother. I missed the clean air of the mountains and his lips on my skin. I missed knowing what comes next. I missed being in control. I missed the predictable life that I was escaping from.
I felt it all fully, instead of pushing it away and trying to be okay. This was a trip I had wanted to take for years, and I wasn’t completely enjoying myself. I was scared, alone, and uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable. This word kept repeating itself in my head.
All of a sudden, a tiny voice, perhaps from the me that was back at home in her comfort zone whispered “So what?”
And I was speechless in response. So what? I was struck with the overwhelming, liberating feeling that discomfort was just that: a feeling. a sensation. Just like in pigeon pose. And I realized that although my current situation lacked comfort, it held so many more things: I was safe. I was strong, and I was okay.
I am safe. I am strong. I am OK.
For the next six weeks, I would encounter this feeling of discomfort in so many ways. Meeting new people. Trying new foods. Entering a room of 75 sweaty yogis and feeling like I had no idea what I was doing. Marichyasana D. Bhujapidasana. The list goes on.
Although I found discomfort in India, I also found a lot more. I found new friends and new connections. I found a brilliantly colorful country in every sense of the word. I found a practice that will be with me for the rest of my life. I found a more profound connection with a man that was 13,000 kilometers away from me. I found a strength that I know I didn’t have before.
I found safety in the unfamiliar. I found my path through not knowing. I learned that sometimes not knowing what’s next is okay. I learned to trust in the words of a great teacher that “things always work out for me.”
My time in India, oddly enough, turned out to be critical in preparing me for many more moments outside my comfort zone I would face in the coming years: my leap of faith in moving back to Banff to start a relationship with my “summer fling;” hiking 14km out to a hut in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the winter and the blisters that followed; being a new teacher in a community full of talented and experienced yoga practitioners; being with my mother in the last week of her life and working up the courage to speak at her funeral; almost making it up a 2000m ascent to the peak of a mountain; my practice of handstand and making the leap from ustrasana to kapotasana—and so many more experiences that I know are headed my way.
I don’t want to avoid life; I want to experience it fully. The good and the bad.
We often label our discomfort as a negative thing. But I have learned much more from these tough situations than I have the easy ones. I have learned how to show up to these difficult situations, and I have learned that it is a constant effort not to run.
I have learned that life is lived outside your comfort zone. So in the words of a great teacher—dive in.
Trish Huston: Trish finds her yoga on a mat, on an invigorating hike, or in a good glass of wine with a friend. Her love of yoga began by watching her Mom practice to VHS tapes when she was just a little yogi practicing happy baby pose. She is passionate about community, health and wellness, spreading the love, homemade baked goods, and forward folds. She is convinced that the world would be a better place if everyone practiced yoga.
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Assistant Ed: Sara Crolick/Ed: Bryonie Wise