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I have always had a love for art and for the people that can create experiences, images, or ideas that evoke passion, inspiration, or just simple introspective thought. As a teenager I used to stare at Monet’s paintings in a book, wondering how one man can place simple dabs of color on a plain cotton canvas in a way that still speaks to so many people. Today I often put on a piece of handmade jewelry and feel lightened knowing that the person that made it saw something beautiful in the most basic of materials that existed before the piece was formed.

As I travel, I find that I seek out artists and artisans almost subconsciously. I am drawn to them in a way that even I cannot define. After traveling through almost 40 countries, I have come to see them a microcosm of the best parts of each society. So much hope can be wrapped up in one smiling face of a teenager who couldn’t finish school but learned to work with silver as a way to feed himself. So much culture and tradition can be carried in one carpet knot, one throw of a shuttle across a warp, or one stroke of paintbrush on fabric.

Artisans, to me, encompass all of the best things about work. They work because they need to support themselves but also because they love what they do; because they can simultaneously see their past and their future in what they create. Few other workers are as proud, as driven, or as dignified as an artisan. Few other people are as open and quick to share what they know with others.

With my year on the road coming to an end, one on the many lessons that I hope to carry with me is to live less like an employee and more like an artisan. I too want to be generous with my wisdom, innovative in my thinking, scrupulous with my time, and so dedicated to my craft that others will be inspired to take up their own. Whatever comes next, I too want to live like an artisan.

The one lesson India can teach us all again and again is about the limiting power of our own expectations. Will my chai be sweet? (yes) Will my chicken be spicy? (yes) Will my cheap hotel have hot water? (no) Will my expensive resort not have hot water? (no) Will the train be on time? (no) Will the person across from me ask me where I am from? (yes) Will the taxi driver rip us off? (not this time) Will I pay too much? (always) Will I be able to keep my temper? (yes) Will my Ashtanga yoga class be hard? (yes) Will my Hatha yoga class be easy? (yes)

The most beautiful thing about being in the country where everything is true, while simultaneously so is the opposite, is that at some point all of your expectations will be wrong. Each of the above questions, I have gotten wrong at some point in this journey, and every time, even after months in India, it was a surprise.

After my 3 months here, I have begun to genuinely enjoy the humor that comes from when something I am so sure of, happens so differently from how I expected. I am learning to let the world and the people around me, surprise me. From that is coming a new kind of joy. A joy that comes from seeing the world or a person for what it/he/she is instead of what I want it/him/she to be.

One of my favorite yoga instructors in NY used to always start class by challenging us to dig back up that joy we used to have while playing as children. I see now that his challenge was 2 fold – not just to play physically, but to also play mentally with power of dropping our expectations and taking the moment for what it was, limitations and all. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this is why children can be so innately happy, even in midst of hardship — because they have not yet had the chance to create the expectations that limit us as we get older.

How much more could we accomplish, how much happier could we be if we just went forward, dropped our expectations, and asked the world for nothing? Nothing, but to surprise us.

Well, here we go. 6 weeks into my India adventure, and that moment I knew would come, but that Goa had been coaxing me into believing might just yet be avoided, has finally happened. I’ve been the target of a walk by feel up.

I knew I was getting too comfortable. The ease of being in a beautiful, liberal, sea-side Indian town was just too good to be true.

If I had been in a crowded bus slammed between commuters, or even in a market in more northern conservative city, the incident might not have caught me so off guard. However, this happened mid-day, in plain sunlight, as I was venturing down an only somewhat busy market street making my way to the ice cream shop. I was in the heart of south Goa, on a touristy beach full of women in bikinis, men in Speedos, yoga studios, tattoo parlors, and discos. What then, you might ask, could I have possibly been doing to provoke this sudden male advance — Was it the way I had dressed? Did I make extended eye contact and imply that I was open to such an encounter? Hardly. Surrounded by strapless tops and thong bikini bottoms, I was clad in a tunic and long pants. And if you can imagine the focus I had on my sugary treat, you would know that there was no time for wandering eyes. Apparently, today my encounter was sheer luck.

Of course this experience did not go over so well. I proceeded to berate this man with questions of how he could act in such a way. What would he have done if another man had done that same thing to his wife, sister, or mother? Finally seeing that my words were falling on drunken and deaf ears, I relented and went my own way. An Indian friend told me later that evening that I would have been in the right to hit him with my dusty, cow-poop covered shoe.

Lesson learned – when in India, always keep your dirtiest shoe easily accessible (either on your foot or in a purse if dressed to head out on the town), just in case of a walk by feel up. You never know when one might happen.

Flip Flops - the perfect protection.