Have you ever had that moment when traveling to a new and unfamiliar place—maybe you’ve already journeyed all over the world, maybe it’s one of your first experiences—but suddenly, you are somewhere you know you were just meant to be. A place that resonates deep inside you; a place where you feel more like yourself than you’ve ever felt before.
A place that causes you to breathe a sigh of recognition, deep inside yourself, and say simply, “Yes.”
That place is called a “soul culture,” a phrase coined by my friend Mariellen Ward. For Mariellen, her soul culture is India—which happens to be mine, also. Mariellen has written about this on her own beautiful blog, Breathe Dream Go, and on Travel + Escape. It cannot be engineered, the moment you discover that corner of the world you feel most at home. As Mariellen says:
You cannot make it happen. I call it soul culture, and finding it is a lot like falling in love: it just happens.
I, like Mariellen, was drawn to India from the beginning; in a way I’ve never quite been drawn to another place. A place and culture that I was not born into, had no previous connections with whatsoever; I never even really had a burning desire to go to India for very long before I did for the first time, in 2005.
I could say that first journey to India changed me, but that wouldn’t be quite correct. I was transformed, yes, but it was more subtle than that; it was as if something inside me had shifted, and I had somehow discovered a truer part of myself, something that had been in me all along. I had become more fully myself. I felt, simply, home.
Perhaps it was fitting that Mariellen and I met, for the first time ever in person, in India. I live in Austin, Texas and she lives in Toronto. We have struck up a close virtual friendship over the past several years, and despite several missed opportunities had never managed to meet face to face. As fellow India soul culture sharers, it seemed entirely appropriate that the first time would be in Agra, India at the footsteps of the Taj Mahal.
After that first journey I made to India, in 2005, I have continued to go back almost every year. The draw is many things to me: first and foremost it is the people. Not just the people in general, who are warm and welcoming and amazing for the most part; but a particular group of people, in a state called Odisha, who have become my second family.
Besides the people, it is the way that everything is so raw and vibrant; the good and the bad, no pretense, everything right out there. The food, the colors, the smells, the architecture, the history, the culture…everything. It is simply the most alive place I have ever been.
I just returned from my seventh visit to India, and as soon as I was back in “my” home land, I began missing it immediately. It is my soul culture, my second home, and it calls my name softly, every day, deep inside my heart.