When this world has so much diversity to offer to us, why not grab your backpack and take a journey to explore new cultures and places? The one who has experienced the world through their eyes, out in the open, will always be a step ahead in life. In this article, I’ve shared my experience of understanding our cultural diversity through travelling. Happy reading!
Travelling taught me that the world doesn’t live in maps and books. It’s always out in the open waiting to be explored. Life is a journey helping us discover and uncover the little joys of living. Even if I open the window of my room or stand on my balcony, I could see different people living their own stories. Even a small street in a neighborhood can teach us about how beautiful diversity can be.
Diverse experiences in life teach us the diverse meanings that life offers to us. Travelling for me has become an excellent medium to understand development issues, people and cultures by experiencing and having a taste of different places on this one beautiful planet.
Just like we feed on food to live, I often feel very strongly that along with food, I feed on travelling. When I travel, I feel energized, more relaxed, responsible, and free. However, I love mindful travelling and observing the local cultures and communities wherever I go. I often feel like can I sit under a tree and watch the people around me, observing and understanding their way of living life and their stories.
As a responsible and aware visitor – tourist, researcher, or explorer, I feel that the best way to understand a place, its people, and culture is to ‘be like a local’. If we form perceptions and perspectives based on our ‘outsider lens’, it will be very difficult for us to build some warm connections that could last a lifetime. When I undertake a journey to explore other cultures, I learn so much about myself that it feels like a beautiful cultural discovery.
India is home to rich cultural diversity, amazing places and warm-hearted people. Being a North Indian, I always get excited to visit other places in India, especially South India which infuses me with cultural diversity. My journey to the unexplored Araku Valley (in Visakhapatnam district) in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has been one of the most spectacular ones. Surrounded by magnificent hills and lush green valleys, dense forests and foggy clouds, the place is a perfect escape for people like me who reside in urban jungles. I must say that I have been awestruck by my experience of the places I visited. I witnessed a whole new culture in terms of local food, dresses, different house construction styles, songs, and languages.
One afternoon, I visited the Araku Tribal Museum and experienced a world that was so different from mine. The museum showcased the traditional art, handicrafts, ornaments, food and textiles used by the indigenous tribes. Luckily, there was a dance show in the museum that evening. Dhimsa – a dance form that originated in the Koraput district in Odisha, has become a popular folk dance in its neighboring state, Andhra Pradesh.
Performed by the Porja tribe of Andhra Pradesh, the folk dance is ritualistic in nature as it is done to honor the deities and pray for peace and welfare. When I reached the dance venue, I smiled at the women who were getting ready for their dance performance. A beautiful simple yellow saree, some traditional jewelry and happy faces.
“What else could be a better treat to my eyes and soul?”, I said to myself with a big smile on my face.
I walked up to them and asked if I could take a picture with them. They agreed and invited me to join their dance performance. The woman sitting next to me asked me to keep my hand on her shoulder (as seen in the picture above). I kept my hand over her shoulder and we all smiled together. My experiences of travelling and meeting different people, especially those who are culturally very different from mine, have taught me some important life lessons.
My journey working in the development sector, doing research and learning about people across continents has taught me to be more open, accepting, flexible and understanding towards others who live a very different life, one of which I’m not very aware. What I’m trying to say here is that travelling to different places has the potential to deconstruct our beliefs, thoughts, assumptions and shape new and completely raw perspectives and perceptions about people and their cultures.
In 2018, I went to England for my postgraduate studies, slightly overwhelmed, not knowing what I would experience in a new country that is more than 6500kms away from my home in India. My experiences in the UK have constantly pushed me to remember the famous Indian adage, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “The World Is One Family”.
I met people from all across the world, shared our stories, embraced diversity and celebrated our collective sense of humanity. I once joined the Brighton Pride Parade as a volunteer to understand what ‘pride’ really means for people who are culturally different from me. I learnt that we all fight for similar causes but in different costumes. If an individual has remained in their own cultural space for their entire life, it would make it hard for them to completely understand the struggles and celebrations of other regions and countries.
One culture can be vastly different from another. The dialects differ, and food, local music, and the terrain can all be different too. There are different languages and ways of communicating all over the world. Exposure to diverse cultures allows us to become open-minded and understand that though we are different, it is our similarities as humans that bring us together. Therefore, travelling becomes a way to learn, unlearn, and grow as individuals as well as with other people, communities, and cultures.
At times, not everything is jolly and nice. There were times during my time in the UK when I felt I was being judged or stereotyped because of my ethnicity and cultural background. I’m sure most of us must have faced something similar because of the diverse identities we hold. However, consciously travelling and sharing our stories with people has the potential to uncover any cultural biases and create more peaceful, inclusive and compassionate communities.
Thus, cultural discovery is not just about discovering the cultures of other people, but also understanding and discovering our own cultures. Strongly believing that life is a journey, I hope to discover what this journey has got to offer me. I want to make people believe that a lot of stories are built behind the daily news headlines of your favourite news channels or social media pages.
When life is so uncertain, can we at least be certain about the things we love doing? I want to travel more, cross bridges with brimming rivers, hike through dense forests, share stories with local communities, enjoy different cultures and share my experiences with the world around me.
Who knows, one day I might cross paths with you. Until then, keep being a life lover.
In my own rhythm, I write –
Go out in the open Go out in the breeze Climb the tallest mountains And experience the freeze The maps may draw the boundaries Of countries, states and towns No such lines exist in real We’re all one, somewhere deep down Deep down our hearts We are people made of love and dust No blurred boundaries stop us From understanding what we must
About Deeksha Sharma
Deeksha is a development sector professional with multicultural and global experience in advocacy, community engagement, and research in both India and the United Kingdom. In her award-winning blog YouInVerse, she creatively writes about stories of development, sustainable travel, culture, and well-being. Deeksha strongly believes that there are stories everywhere and we should keep discovering the ones that inspire us to be better humans. She’s a travel enthusiast, and also enjoys poetry, art and long walks. She’ll be happy to see you visit her blog and connect with you on Instagram [IG handle: @youinverse__.