They say that a trip to India can be life changing- Eat Pray Love style- and although I would say that’s a bit extreme I do feel that the setting, culture and people of India have a unique ability to bring out certain qualities in an individual and set them on a journey of self discovery…if they’re open to it.
India can be best described as a ‘beautiful chaos’ and it’s true what they say- as soon as your plane touches down your senses are assaulted by vibrant colour, a plethora of smells and a never-ending barrage of sounds. In a country with a growing population of 1.25 billion an unspoken system exists where every individual knows their role and how to execute it. Even an action as simple as driving is a mammoth task for foreigners on the streets of Delhi but somehow, just like a well constructed puzzle, the locals manage to navigate through the flood of auto-rickshaws, trucks, motorbikes, cars and crazy foot traffic with ease and a lot of horn blowing.
My trip began on the 5th of January with an AirAsia flight from Sydney to Goa via Kuala Lumpur. After a delayed flight I finally arrived at Goa International airport at 12:30AM to news that the airline had misplaced my bag…great. Despite this my week in Goa was an amazing one that included exploring the Portuguese history of the state, swimming in ancient waterfalls, learning about spice harvesting and relaxing on Colva Beach.
I then flew from Goa in the country’s south to Delhi in the north of India to meet with the group of young Australian leaders I would be spending the next two weeks with. I had recently been accepted on the 2016 Young Leaders Program organised by Generate Worldwide and Young Opportunities Australia after applying and interviewing for the position and was keen to get started! I’m the type of person who loves meeting new people and developing new relationships so when I was introduced to our team leaders Erin Lynn and Margaret Quixley and discovered how like minded they were to me I knew we were going to have an incredible trip.
Erin is a very intelligent and strong business woman and someone who isn’t afraid to pursue her dreams and goals. She seems to have a tangible, almost spiritual, connection to India and after living there for three months in 2012 while interning at the UN and after returning to Australia she wanted to share this experience of ‘true India’ with other young Australians who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance. She has exceptional networking skills and on the trip it seemed to me that she knew half the population of India as well as a majority of Australian ex-pats currently living there. We were given the opportunity to meet many young professionals living and working in jobs in India including at the United Nations, the International Labour Organisation, the Indian Supreme Court (our equivalent of the High Court), local entrepreneurs and many founders of Social Change enterprises.
Margaret brought her kind and caring nature to the table and through her guidance and willingness to listen we established a respectful and safe environment within the group of leaders where we were completely comfortable to share our ideas and feelings. She has had extensive experience travelling and volunteering around the world including studying at The Hague, interning in New York with Australian Mission and the UN and several volunteer trips through The Philippines. Margs is the founder of Young Opportunities Australia and genuinely believes in the power that travel has on shaping a young persons passions, ambitions and perspective on life. She facilitates workshops with young people around Australia in career strategy and development as well as the art of leadership and is currently also working in the environment and sustainability sector. Margs became a highly valued pillar of the tour and offered unique insight into our career paths and our values.
The rest of our amazing team consisted of 13 young people from all corners of Australia including areas of Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Each member of our team brought something different to the table with a wide array of careers, skills and personalities ranging from myself being a secondary teacher to Tanji being a doctor, Alex studying a Bachelor of Business and Arts majoring in HR and Psych, Sorch studying a Bachelor of Criminology in International Relations and Middle Eastern Politics, Matt studying a Bachelor of Science with a double major in Chemistry and Environmental Studies and Lizz recently completing her Law Degree. Despite these significant differences we all came to India with open minds and open hearts looking for adventure and to learn more about what it takes to be a brilliant leader.
Over the next few weeks I will be writing a series of blog posts sharing the valuable lessons I learnt whilst in India as part of the Young Leaders Tour 2016.