See You Soon, India.

Post-India, I visited my friend from school that lives in Italy. After visiting, I decided to do some traveling on my own. I ran into a lot of things that made me miss India.

VeniceShore

The shoreline in Venice… Reminded me a lot of the shoreline in Varanasi!

Found this graffiti in Italy! Made me miss India immediately.

Found this graffiti in Italy! Made me miss India immediately.

I also ran into some women when I was in Venice that stopped me in the middle of my meal to (1) ask about the meal I was eating (it was squid ink pasta, an odd but delicious meal that turns your pasta completely black) and to (2) ask if I was traveling alone.

Squid Ink Pasta... surprisingly delicious!

Squid Ink Pasta… surprisingly delicious!

Realizing I was, they immediately asked billions of questions about my travels–amazed that I had gone to India on my own and continued to travel on my own. One of the ladies happened to lead a group that sent youth to travel outside of Texas, be it a foreign country or the state next over, and told me how she was so impressed by me.

“The parents in my area won’t let their kids go to California, much less Kenya. I’m amazed that you’re not only doing it, but you’re doing it on your own,” she claimed in awe.

This conversation made me realize how truly honored I am to have been able to go on this trip. I e-mailed her later, thanking her again for paying for my meal and for her inspirational and thought-provoking discussion:

Hi, Daria!

This is Morgan Fitzgerald, that random girl you met in Venice that decided to eat gluten free, dairy free squid ink pasta while on her adventures. I am writing to say thank you. Thank you not only for paying for my meal (which I’m sure wasn’t cheap and I still plan on finding a way to somehow repay you), but also for renewing my confidence in my path so far. 
Traveling alone for extended periods of time means you get a lot of time to think… and, with where I am in my life, that means a lot of thinking about my future (AKA what major I should choose — yay college and confusion!). Our chat truly inspired me to look more into the food aspect of my interests (because I realized I’m really not big into politics), and now I’m actually thinking about going into Nutrition. I wanted to thank you again and again for taking the time out of your day to chat with me (and share your water and wine) — everyone in my family and all of my friends have heard the story and think you are an incredible person!! Which you are.
Also, our talk renewed a sense of purpose in my trip. I suppose I’ve always been a bit of a go-getter, so going to India and Italy and France by myself didn’t seem like much of a big deal to me; it was something I’ve always want to do, so I did it. Hearing a different perspective–one where people my age are barely able to leave the state–made me realize how truly lucky I was and made me appreciate my parents not only for letting me do it but also for raising me to have the “go-getter” mentality.
If you ever have students that are nervous about traveling, be it to a third-world country or to the state next door, I am more than happy to talk to them or to be quoted in whatever brochure you give them. Traveling is an amazing experience that gives you not only a more eye-opening view of the world but also of yourself, and I’d hate for anyone to miss out on that experience because of something as small as fear.
All in all, thank you very much!! Your kindness made a huge impact on my trip and I could not be more thankful.
I hope all is well,
Morgan Fitzgerald
What I said was true — traveling really does give you a more open view of the world. I was told over and over before going to India to watch out for this, watch out for that, don’t talk to strangers, the holy men might be political refugees, it’s a third world country so that means it’s extremely dangerous, it’s going to be dirty and you might come down with some mysterious, deadly disease, ect. And while some of the advice is valid — I should be careful which strangers I talk to, I should use common sense and take care of myself safety-wise and health-wise — a lot of it was spoken out of lack of knowledge and experience.
Yes, India is considered a third-world country, which has an extremely negative connotation. On the contrary, though, I experienced almost nothing but kindness from the workers on the farm and from the others I met in my travels. Especially being a woman traveling alone, you have to be wary in order to be safe. But I found that people were more likely to help me than to hurt me. There were people that noticed we had troubling finding a working ATM and spent the next two hours searching the city with us until we found one, only to walk away with a handshake and a “Have a good night!” and nothing more; there were people that bought us napkins when one of the girls in the group wasn’t prepared to use a squat toilet; when I got sick, many workers on the farm stopped by, offering foods and teas and other herbal remedies to help heal me. In a culture that calls each other by the names of brother and sister, aunt and uncle, I couldn’t help but feel like I had been welcomed with open arms into their giant family.
People make a lot of assumptions when they don’t have anything else on which to base their opinions. They’re based on the horror stories they read on the internet, the horrible news that gets international coverage, and other rumors they’ve heard through the grape vine. Most of which are negative, and based on fear. Like I said in my e-mail, I’d hate for anyone to miss out on these beautiful experiences simply due to something as insignificant as fear.
I’m hoping to spread the message of India’s kindness, of how they all welcomed me with open arms and open hearts and how they helped make this trip the greatest experience of my life. Hopefully, this can help some others release their fears and go out there and see the world. Especially India. Because I love it.
Now back in Chicago, I miss India and Navdanya more than ever. The rush of the cars and traffic have nothing on the streets of Delhi; the colors simply aren’t as bright and beautiful; and the songs and meditative chants that once filled the air are sadly missing. I was truly lucky to be able to spend time on the farm, surrounded by such amazing and inspiring people that wanted to make a difference in their communities, countries, and the world. Some of them are still in India, and seeing all of their pictures of their continued travels makes me wish I could just teleport back. Thankfully, I have been invited to dance in an Indian wedding of my friend’s dad’s, or else I would go crazy from lack of Indian culture and experiences.
Missing India as I do, I’m already looking into future programs at the University of Michigan to go back to India to study, research, and/or explore. I found a home in India, and it’ll be nice to return home sometime in the future.
Thank you to this program, thank you, Navdanya, and thank you, India, for being so incredibly wonderful. I’ll never forget the amazing experiences and memories that I made there.
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About Morgan Fitzgerald

Morgan Fitzgerald is a freshman planning to double major in International Studies and Environmental Science in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Morgan is passionate about exploring the tension between economic development and environmental sustainability, particularly in the realm of sustainable farming. Morgan will be spending five weeks volunteering with Navdanya located outside of Dehradun near Bharpur. Navdanya promotes biodiversity conservation, organic farming, the rights of farmers and the process of seed saving. Morgan will spend her days sowing seeds, cooking food and strengthening camaraderie with other local volunteers on the farm. She will also have the opportunity to explore the administrative side of Navdanya. Morgan’s research will focus on Nadanya as an organization and will consider how it goes about fulfilling its mission, the extent to which it is successful and other strategies it may employ.

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