A Leap of Faith

How India Helped Me Find My Purpose in Life

I love reading stories about people who have left their high paying professional jobs to follow their passion and pursue an alternative career.

It reminds me of myself and the giant leap of faith I took. However, I had no idea of the direction I wanted my life to go in when I left my job. And I was hardly enthusiastic about creating my new reality.

I had to be pushed by a crisis of mass proportion.

2005 wasn’t a very good year for me. In fact, it was the toughest year of my life. I’d been working in the same government office for 10 years. I was unfulfilled and unmotivated by my choice of career as an accountant, but I tolerated it because it paid very well. The only thing I enjoyed about my job was writing reports. In order to break the monotony of my life, I spent too much time partying, shopping, and taking long lunches. Life had fallen into a very predictable and unproductive pattern.

Then, my long term relationship came to a traumatic end. Along with it went all my plans for the future.

I was completely lost. Nothing of what remained of my life inspired me. I had no choice but reinvent myself. How though? My situation was made even more difficult by the fact that I hated change.

I decided that the only solution was to completely throw myself out of my comfort zone, open myself up to new possibilities, and accept every opportunity that came my way — no matter how much it scared me. And the best way to do it would be to go to India. Having travelled there twice already as a tourist, I knew of no place that could challenge me more. To take my mind off my woes, I resolved to do community work for five weeks. I chose Kolkata simply because it was a place in India that I hadn’t been to.

I took six months long service leave from my job, left a friend in charge of my home, packed my bag, and boarded a flight.

Then, fate stepped in. Along with it started the long chain of events that led to me to be where I am today — living in Mumbai, married to an Indian guy, and writing about India travel for a living.

I met my husband-to-be within a week of arriving in Kolkata. I immediately felt comfortable with him. He had such a relaxed energy and lightness of being about him, and absolutely no pretenses. When he laughed and smiled, it was for real. And he did it often.

I deliberately spent very little time with him though, because I didn’t come to Kolkata to get involved with anyone. It was curious then that I left Kolkata, after my five weeks, with a heavy heart and the unmistakable feeling of unfinished business.

Back at home in Melbourne, I felt at even more of a loss. There was nothing to keep me there, so I threw caution and conservatism to the wind. Within a month, I was back in Kolkata to resume the adventure.

After staying there for three months, it was almost time for me to return to Melbourne again. I felt troubled. I dreaded having to resume my old life. But how could it ever be possible for me to remain in India? What would I do? I considered taking a call center job.

Then, one night as I was running late to meet my husband-to-be, I happened to cross paths with a friend from Melbourne. Incredibly, she asked me if I’d be willing to manage the guesthouse that she’d been leasing in Varkala, Kerala, for the tourist season.

I’d always dreamed of running a quaint little guest house somewhere. Here was my opportunity!

At last, having the incentive I needed, I quit my job in Melbourne. I boarded a train with my husband-to-be, and our lives in 11 huge bags, and headed for Varkala. Like me, he also needed change in his life. “Why not take a chance and go with her,” a wise friend advised him. We spent eight months in Varkala. He worked as a DJ in the beach shacks. We had a marvelous time. We even adopted a homeless dog. However, I discovered that running a guesthouse wasn’t really for me. Being an introvert, I felt uncomfortable having strangers around me all the time, and having to interact with them.

It was in Delhi, on the way to Manali, that I had some inkling of where my future career might lie. I saw an advertisement for a writing course in a newspaper. That was it! I wanted to write! I’d always had some natural ability. In fact, my old boss often told me that I was the only person who prepared understandable reports.

What would I write about though? I had no idea, so I pushed the thought to the back of my mind.

My husband-to-be and I spent four months in Manali. I earned some money by selling unique items from India on Ebay. We also had a small shop in Manali. An opportunity came up to work on the set of a Bollywood movie that was being filmed nearby. We took it. However, I couldn’t see myself making a career from any of these things.

I was browsing the Internet for jobs one day, daydreaming about what I could do in India, when I came across a position that caught my attention. Content writer wanted for travel website. Of course, I couldn’t apply because I didn’t have an Indian work visa.

However, it made my mind up. I would write about India! Always absorbing, often confounding, never boring, India.

I submitted some pieces to an article library website. They were accepted. I also signed up to the writing course that I saw advertised. Then, fate again stepped in — in a way that still amazes me.

Not long after I’d moved to Mumbai, I received an email from a complete stranger who wrote for the same article library website. Apparently, she’d read my India travel articles and really enjoyed them.

If I wasn’t working full time, she said, I should apply for a position that was going at About.com (previously owned by the New York Times and now media giant IAC). They were looking for someone to write all the content for their India travel website. In particular, they wanted someone who either lived in India, or visited there frequently.

Needless to say, I applied and after a tough selection process, got the job. It was obviously meant to be. The universe does conspire.

I still can’t believe my good fortune. Work doesn’t feel like work anymore. The days pass so quickly. Whenever someone asks me about my job, I’m happy to say I can always give a positive and excited reply.

It hasn’t been an easy journey though. At times, I’ve felt sick with fear and uncertainty. I’ve questioned giving up my comfortable, stable life in Australia. Initially, I earned a fraction of what I did previously, and lived in a flat a quarter of the size of my old house. The water supply was erratic and the challenges of living in India, as opposed to just traveling, were frequently overwhelming. I also missed being close to my family and friends. However, I can’t deny that I feel motivated and inspired like never before. A unique vibrancy, spiritual energy, and sense of possibility exists in India.

My life definitely hasn’t turned out like I planned — but in a way it’s so much better. It’s also given me the belief that we really can create our own reality, and that the universe will support us. Reassuringly, I feel like I’ve been rewarded for my courage in daring to do something different.

Some days living in India can be unbelievably difficult. Despite this, I know in my heart that this country is responsible for my life being so fulfilling now. It’s given me a home, a husband, and the opportunity to experiment and find my passion in life. India has also coloured my life with knowledge and learning, as it slowly reveals itself to me a little more every day and shapes who I am.

 

Find Out the Rest of It

Interested in My Story?

Read My Memoir

Wisdom from my Journey

10 Things I’ve Learned from 10 Years Living in India

Read Blog Post

17 comments

  • Chukwuma E Issifu Ibrahim August 16, 2015   Reply →

    Your story is awe inspiring and motivating. In this contemporary world, people hardly leave their comfort zone and uninspiring jobs in search of what makes them happy forgetting that their talents might be hidden.But your resilience and determination to move to your home country where the life of people were affected and also where you portrayed Indian culture and finally settled in India is a demonstration of a true patriotism. I must say that you are a genus, embodiment of knowledge and a rebirth of encouragement to the present youth and once yet unborn.

    • Sharell August 16, 2015   Reply →

      Thank you very much! This is an outstanding compliment.

      • Jimmy Rye January 5, 2017   Reply →

        Yes, I have to give you props as well. I used to skim read your famous blog of white indian housewife and really thought the premise was fascinating. A nice looking girl with a stable job and life just ups and leaves on a whim and falls in love in a foreign land. Sounds like a movie.

        I hope things work out for you and your husband in india. In this day and age, many Western women feel unfulfilled by life and I think Indian culture helps fill that void.

        Regards

  • Santosh Kumar September 12, 2015   Reply →

    Hi Sharell,

    As life was taking a turn for u from the comfort of Australia to the challenges & opportunities of India, I was about to embark a journey in the reverse trying to find cushion in a job; happiness abroad for the life of luxury u shunned to take on adventures so liberating.

    Your posts and articles have been inspiring to say the least at a juncture in life when I have been questioning myself – sandwiched between a cushion which is never secure and a love of a land which will always be alluring.

    Though I haven’t read ur book in full (someday, I sure will), ur life is an inspiration already and is challenging me to strive hard towards what I really want from life.

    Thanks
    Santosh

  • Hi Sharell,

    I’ve been following your writing for quite a while (since 2010) and I should say you’ve become a tremendous inspiration for me, in many ways. Through your I eyes I’ve seen India how I’ve never seen it before. Your beautiful style of writing, and yet realistic and critical view of the surroundings are a unique combination, and so many times you provoked thoughts in me, which led to interesting realizations and actions 🙂

    I just want to thank you for that. I hope to have a chance to read many more books of yours in future 🙂

    • Sharell December 15, 2015   Reply →

      Thanks so much, Anastasia. What a wonderful compliment to receive. You’ve made me so happy. Much love.

  • Dominic December 30, 2015   Reply →

    Hi Sharell,

    Compliments of the Season!

    I am presently reading your book, Henna for the Broken-Hearted, and find it very interesting (will update you once I finish it).

    How is life in Mumbai? Perhaps you could write a book on that? I would surely love to hear of your experiences, from your perspective.

    Love and God Bless.

    P.S.: HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016!!

  • Neha Kuriakose March 3, 2016   Reply →

    Wow! Your story is so inspiring, I feel like packing my bags to find my purpose in life. I think one day I shall gather the courage to do it. Keep writing and inspiring us. I have a huge smile on my face after reading your article, seen a little of me in it! Thank you.

    • Sharell March 7, 2016   Reply →

      Thank you so much. I’m glad my story brightened your day. 🙂 It’s definitely not an easy thing to do, especially if you’re quite comfortable. It does take a lot of courage but the leap of faith is worth it. Best wishes to you!

  • Jalaj Makkar August 2, 2016   Reply →

    Hi
    I’m new to your blog. And i must say you are a wonderful writer. i don’t read much because it feels tiring to read. But reading your blog feels like i’m not applying any energy it’s just happening.
    I’m a student and your choices in life have encouraged me to take the leap of faith i have yet feared to take.
    Thank you.

    • Sharell August 6, 2016   Reply →

      I’m so glad to hear that! 🙂 Congratulations for being bold and brave enough, especially at a young age. The earlier you do it the better rather than wasting valuable years. I wish you all the best! I’m sure an amazing future awaits you.

  • Lidia M. September 2, 2016   Reply →

    Hello Sharell,

    It’s been a while since I had read your posts ( 2012 …long time ago), and I know how your life has changed. There was a time when I was just so oblivious to listen – to my, at the time b/f from Mumbay- about India, and I did not care at all what he was telling me ( unfortunately his opinion was not too positive, even though he lived in India since he was born there…more than 30 years ago).
    But one day I got the job in a different town, he followed me, I still kept in touch with him…one lucky day we broke up and…fate? destiny? I ended up living next to Indian family, in their 70s, originally from Bihar . That was quite interesting- age difference, different religion, different mentality, but we are like a family, they were telling me a lot about India – life in 40s, 50s…
    ln 60s they came to Canada and here we are – happily ever after …till today . Meantime , they were going to India, as they did many years before, and they mentioned l can go with them. I was supposed to listen to the “Bihari neighbor” – he wanted to be my protector. OK. I was not supposed to look at Indian men, drink only bottled water, eat only he approved the food…and a few more requests, regarding my safety ( I am a girl, over 40 years old…:))
    I live in Canada for the last 27 years, l was in South America, Mexico, lived in Spain for 2 years, l was not a novice in traveling , but he told me ” India is a crazy place, you will get lost” .
    Well…l digested that idea for 2 months and then – ok, I go, whatever happens, happens. I did read a lot about India, and your posts were the most informative I found online – your personal point of view was so important to me. lt was my daily routine to read them…one day you posted about the Buddhist temple @ Bihar – Boghgaya. I was contemplating – should I go there ? Maybe. I watched whatever was available to see before I arrived in that incredible country. And one night in March 2014 I landed at Delhi airport. The adventure started right away…l am not going into details, but making the story short – I was in India in 2014 just 6 weeks, then in 2015 for 4 months, and I was there this spring – 3 months. Looking back – I decided to take that huge step into unknown and I am definitely “ADDICTED” to India. Lots of people say I was Indian in my previous life…:)
    l adjusted very well being there .
    But it is still not enough for me, still so much to see, to listen, to learn, to appreciate. I dream of living there and working with kids…hopefully one day. l have a group of sincere Indian friends. I am so happy I could go there – east ( Bihar, Varanasi, and yes – Boghgaya! – west ( Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Goa, Gujarat…)- north ( Ladakh, Kashmir, Punjab)- south (Kerala, Tamil Nadu).
    And a lot is thanks to you. Reading your posts gave me the courage to try and to live in different dimensions.
    Your descriptions of Indian life is so real, very much appreciated, you write as you feel, as you see, as you hear. Travel books may be useful, but your personal view was and is very valuable. …Nothing is perfect, but that country is full of wonderful people, food is so delicious, the hot weather is so good for my bones and joints…that’s India for me.
    I am planning to return to India …again.

    May good karma give you all you desire, dear Sharell
    I am glad you can contribute to goindia.about.com website, which is very helpful and informative. Great job!

    Regards,
    Lidia M.

  • Beth Bauer December 1, 2016   Reply →

    Sharell,

    Wow, just wow! I’m a travel blogger working as an expat in India and I was looking for possible guest blogs today when I came across your site. I just ordered your book, because it sounds a lot like my life right now and I can’t wait to read it! I hope it gives me some insight into some of the issues I’m currently facing with my Indian boyfriend.

    Here is another weird thing we have in common. I’m just finishing my novel, called Ganges Eyes, and it takes place in India and is about love, freedom and my personal journey (also after a divorce). I was wondering if you have an agent and if so if I could get in touch with him/her? I am just starting to send out query letters now.

    Lastly, I’ve been in India for 14 months and my job is over on December 14th. I’m heading to Rishikesh for a month to learn yoga in an ashram and clear my head. If at all possible, can you please do what you can to get me your book by December 14th? After that it will be quite hard for me to track it down.

    Thanks so much for being so authentic! Hugs from Delhi!

  • Sam January 16, 2017   Reply →

    My apologies, for I don’t intend to be rude.

    In the last line of your short intro:

    “I travel to learn — to uncover the deeper principals and philosophy of the places I visit — and awaken myself.”

    I believe the word “principals” should actually be “principles”

  • Sameer February 14, 2017   Reply →

    Hey Sharell,

    Namaskar :). I stumbled upon your blog while googling, I must say I am glued to it now and loving every aspect of it. Your’s is a story of resilience, audacity, strength and much more. Leaving a comfortable life down under and coming to stay in India and making it a home is no mean achievement, I must say. It can be extremely difficult to withstand the vagaries of Indian life, for a westerner, but I must say it is fulfilling as well. One should exhibit a lot of gumption to succeed in a foreign land which is way way different than yours. Hats off to you for creating such a wonderful piece with years of toil and hard work. I must say “Dhanyawad to you. Be assured I am a regular to your blog now and looking forward to interesting anecdotes of India.

    • Sharell February 15, 2017   Reply →

      Hey Sameer, thanks for your kind comment. It’s true, India has toughened me up in all the right ways. 🙂 I’m really glad I stayed through the difficult times, as it feels like home now.

  • AD April 19, 2017   Reply →

    Whatever your experience here, I hope you are being true to yourself (in not deluding yourself, and not compromising too much).

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