Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gap Month: Blogger Kisha's Gap Year in India

I was so excited when Kisha, a blogger and woman I've admired for years, agreed to do an interview for my Gap Month series. I loved watching Kisha's Gap Year in India unfold on her blog, Chronicled (formerly From India With Love). Kisha has a beautiful, frank, and open way of writing that so gracefully captured the challenges and triumphs of living abroad during her Gap Year. And her photography is stunning.

I think you'll learn a lot from Kisha's interview responses, and I can't thank her enough for taking the time to participate in this series. I especially love her last point ("but not too much homework") - it's something I'm going to try doing from now on when Mike and I travel.



Kisha: Thank you so much for asking me to participate in this feature. I love talking about my time in India and sharing my experiences with others - I can't believe I've already been home for over a year - time really does fly! If this inspires even one person who's been thinking about going abroad to go abroad...or just to get more information - then that will be so amazing. If anyone wants more information on anything I can help with they can always get in touch with me through my blog!

mehndi

Jess: Why did you decide to take a Gap Year?

Kisha: Volunteering and living abroad was something I had always kind of wanted to do but never really given any serious thought – especially because I had always been permanently employed and wasn’t sure if quitting my job to take a year off would be the right idea. When you have a full time job you become accustomed to things like you know, a regular pay cheque, benefits, and the security those things bring. The thought of giving them up for the “unknown” was, quite frankly, scary. That is until fate stepped in and I got laid off at the end of 2008. I worked freelance for the next year and a half and the entire time the thought of going abroad become more and more appealing. I was also having a change of heart about the field that I worked in and wanted to possibly get into international development – the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like this was the perfect opportunity to go abroad for a year.




J: What did you do during your Gap Year?

K: I was a (paid) volunteer at an organization that worked with young people with disabilities. (I use the term “paid” very loosely – it was more of a quarterly stipend to cover the basics and was paid in local currency.) My professional background is in Communications and PR so my official title was Communications Advisor at the organization. I took my Gap Year during my late 20s.

the taj mahal

J: Did a particular person or event influence your decision to take a Gap Year?

K: I guess getting laid off was a blessing in disguise, and was an event that influenced my decision to go abroad. It was really a now or never kind of thing. Also, at the time, I read the book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller and Who Will Cry When You Die by Robin Sharma. Both inspired me tremendously and the latter is one of my favourite books.

If I can share two quotes from “Who Will Cry…” because they are ones that inspired and encourage me tremendously then and still do to this day:
"When George Bernard Shaw was asked, on his deathbed, 'What would you do if you could live your life over again?' he reflected and replied, 'I’d like to be the person I could have been but never was.'"
“'.....at any moment I could start being more of the person I dream to be - but which moment should I choose?' No one is stopping you from opening your journal and, on a blank page, rewriting the story of your life. This very minute you can decide the way you would like it to unfold, change the central characters and create a new ending. The only question is will you choose to do so? Remember, it is never too late to become the person you have always wanted to be." 
I can’t recommend this book enough.

kisha and a local outside of the red fort in jaipur

J: What's the best thing that happened during that year?

K: I can’t name just one thing. I made some incredible friendships, saw incredible sights, and had amazing experiences.


J: What's the worst thing that happened during that year?

K: For about the first two months I lived in a less than desirable part of the city that was close to the organization I was volunteering with. The living situation (pre-determined before I arrived) made adjusting to everything very difficult and I questioned my decision to move abroad many times during those first two months. But I prevailed, and shortly after moved to another part of the city that was much more conducive to how I saw myself living. Immediately after moving things started to improve and the adjustment became much easier. So my early living situation was probably the worst thing that happened to me.

There were two difficult challenges for me during my year abroad. One: being a black female in a place where there aren’t very many other black people, let alone black females, was quite the experience. The staring I received practically everywhere I went (not threatening but at times very annoying) was very intense and at times uncomfortable. It took me a long time to learn that it wasn’t meant to be rude – it was curiosity…though that realization didn’t necessarily make it easier to deal with. Second: it is very much a male dominated society…and that was tough to get used to.


J: Did you make any valuable personal or professional connections during your Gap Year?

K: Yes, I made great friendships with people I still keep in touch with today! Things like Skype, Facebook, email…even texting has made it so much easier (and affordable!) to stay in touch with people far away. (Actually, coincidentally, one of the friends I made who was also in India volunteering lives about 20 minutes away from me in Toronto! He’s currently working in the Middle East but when he comes home to visit family we meet up. It’s such a small world!)

the camel festival in pushkar

J: What are three things you wish you had packed, and three things you wish you had left behind when you went to India?

K: I actually did pretty well with my packing…hmmm…I guess I wish I had packed more tampons (I almost had enough for the entire year though!) Oh! And solid deodorant - because it was super hard to find there (I actually didn’t find it at all! A blogger friend visiting kindly brought me some!) I guess I wish I had left behind my blow dryer. I didn’t use it once because I couldn’t find a power converter strong enough for it. 


J: What's the most valuable lesson you learned during your time in India?

K: I learned so many things that I can’t just pick one. I learned to always listen to my gut. I learned that I need much less than I actually think I do to be genuinely happy. I learned that, for the most part, people – no matter where they are from or their circumstances – want the same thing in life…to be heard. I learned that life is too short not to do something you’ve always wanted to do. I learned that it’s true – at any time we can choose to become the person we have always wanted to be…it’s never too late. 


kisha at qutb minar

J: Be honest - any regrets about taking a Gap Year?

K: None at all. Actually, I regret that I didn't do it sooner/earlier.


J: What did you do after your Gap Year?

K: I managed to land a job back at home in Toronto while I was still in Delhi, so I arrived home, had about a week to readjust, and went right back into working full-time.

at the taj mahal

J: What's your best advice to someone considering taking a Gap Year?

K: Just do it. Lol!

Okay, to expand a bit – what’s the worst that is likely to happen? That you hate it and decide to quit and go home early? That’s fine. At least you’ll never have to wonder “what if?” But promise to give yourself at least a solid three months. If after three months you’re not having a good time – go home…you gave it a fair shot and have nothing to be ashamed of! On the flip side, what if you love it? What if you have the time of your life? You’ll never know unless you go…

Do your homework but not too much homework – you don’t want to necessarily know every single detail* before you arrive…that’ll take away some of the fun and excitement of discovering things and seeing things for the first time.

I wish I had known that it didn’t have to be as hard or long and drawn out of a decision as I made it. I think about all the time (years!) I spent “thinking it over” and wow…but at the time that’s what made me comfortable so I have no regrets. I also wish I had known just how fast that year was going to go by…we always say “time flies” but it really truly does. Try and remember that and to live in the moment because before you know it you’ll be on the plane heading home.

*I mean details like every site to see, every shop to visit – some of those things you would naturally discover once you live in a place. For example, I didn’t look at too many photos of the Taj Mahal before visiting it because I wanted to have that experience of seeing it for the first time.

the inside of an auto rickshaw, delhi

J: If you could take another Gap Year, would you? What would you do?

K: Absolutely. But I’d want to be earning a proper salary! Maybe I should go the expat route and make it longer than a year?! There are really so many things I’d like to do….the list is a long one!

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Thank you so much to Kisha for sharing her insights about her Gap Year in India. I strongly encourage you to click over to her blog where she chronicles her life in Toronto, Canada.

Kisha: you are an inspiration. I'm sure whatever is on your (long) list will be accomplished (with grace, wit, and style to boot).

- Jess

follow Kisha on her blogtwitterinstagram or pinterest


all photos by kisha, used with permission

p.s. don't forget to enter Havana Club's Gap Year contest to win a once-in-a-lifetime 12 month Gap Year in 12 cities around the world. contest closes march 1st.

6 comments :

  1. I loved following From India With Love and Kisha's experiences abroad. Is it weird that I kind of wish she was still there? I loved all of her insights into life in India.

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    1. Haha I know, right?! I'm totally enjoying Chronicled too, and living vicariously through Kisha's awesome thrifting and shopping adventures (I miss that about Canada).

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