I recently returned from a trip across the world to a place that I have loved for over 10 years-India.
Last year I was able to go and play music with a group of young men and women my age at local schools around the small city of Dehradun (you can learn more in my blog from last year). This year I was able to go back to the same city for five weeks which created a special opportunity to be around long enough to grow relationships through personal connections, conversation, and music. From helping at a local coffee shop to create a new menu board design to traveling up through the Himalayan foothills, my favorite memories actually reside in the people I was able to spend time with.
Where did Garden Of Life come into play through all of this? Garden of Life products kept me sustained throughout my journey. India is a place full of options for vegetarians (and carnivores alike). Much of India's population is vegetarian for religious reasons. I am vegetarian by choice and I have always found it difficult to stay sustained with protein due to the lack of options available in India.
Many of my mornings were started with my favorite Perfect Food Greens bars (Chocolate Raspberry to be exact), along with a piping hot cup of Indian chai of course. RAW Meal (Marley Coffee flavor by choice) was also an added treat when I needed a little something extra between lunch and dinner since most Indian dinners don't happen until late in the evening, right before bed. The new Dr. Formulated Probiotics for Men helped tremendously in getting my body acquainted to the travel conditions, time and food changes easily. More than ever, Garden of Life products kept me healthy nutritionally and helped me ward off any potential bacterial infections that could have happened.
Early on in my trip, I met two young boys, who lived across the road from the hostel where I stayed. Abhishek and Aditya attended at a youth event I visited during my first week. I shared one of my own songs called "Save My World." As the evening drew to a close, young Aditya came up to me and said "I write songs, too!" He then sang an entire song to me, by heart, that he had written on his own. Across borders, languages, and cultures I bonded with these two boys in a way that I can only describe as brotherly love. All of it from a love of music! Something in me knew this was a moment that I wouldn't want to just pass by and I decided to make it a point to spend as much time with Aditya and Abhishek as possible before heading home.
One of my fondest memories with the boys was one evening after dinner at their home, sitting on their bed looking up and listening to songs that they loved. They even taught me how to play one of their favorites.
I also played my first full show as Bandit Heart in India at the Shri Ram Centennial School, located on the outskirts of Dehradun. The evening before the show, I was able to get together with musician friends I had met on my previous trip to teach them my songs as well as practice some other songs for the event. The next day, we were warmly welcomed by the staff and over 300 school children. Performing for these children was an incredible and unique experience. I taught them lines to the chorus of "Save My World." To hear them being sung back with all of their voices was something I could never capture in picture or sound. It was electrifying! Not because I was hearing my own song being sung, but because I was hearing the enjoyment and bond that only music could create.
Closer to the end of the trip, I was able to spend a few more days with Aditya and Abhishek. On one of our final evenings, I surprised them with their own keyboard! I wanted them to have an instrument to accompany the beautiful songs they were writing. We played on that keyboard all afternoon.
Since returning home to Nashville many people have asked what I have learned the most from my trip. It wasn’t as much of a learning experience then a revelation that occurred. The songs I’ve written over the last year came from a lot of pain. I remember writing "Save My World" in January-locked in my house by a snow storm-and it was all about me in that moment: a selfish, medicating way of music being a salve to break away from the pain. Yet, nine months later out in a school courtyard and inside a room with my two new little brothers singing that song, I realize they all saved me. They saved my world, and not in a selfish, self-serving way but through other people sharing their hearts and the giving of your own. Through caring and loving and living together, growth and beauty come. It's in relationships. It's in that bond. It's family.
I know at some point I will be over there and won't need a return ticket home. It's too much in my blood now. Until then, that will be my message—and I can't wait to record that song next week here in Nashville.
Thank you so much Garden of Life for sending me on my way, sustaining and supporting me, so I could be a part of that world for those five weeks.