They say the world is a book and those who do not travel only read a page. I had a very un-travel-ish childhood. Like every other middle-class Indian family, my parents did not believe in travelling or even holidaying for that matter. The only vacation we used to take as an annual trip was to visit my maternal grandparents who thankfully lived in Dehradun – away from bad and polluted Delhi (my hometown).
I remember once complaining to my mother that I was sick and tired of going to Dehradun and Mussoorie year after year, at which my mother pointed out that my cousins didn’t even get to do that since their grandparents lived in Delhi itself. I was suddenly made aware of the immense luxury I had because of my mother’s hometown and the vast open lush green spaces it offered.
I know there are a lot of clichés about how travelling ‘changes’ your life and how everyone should travel. I understand travel is a privilege and not many can undertake it. This privilege might not always be monetary but also in terms of one’s mental and physical health, supportive family and friends (my parents have made peace with the fact that I travel solo) and ability to access places, among others.
After my foreign escapades, I decided to give my country a shot and embarked on my first solo trip in India to Goa. The pristine beaches at Palolem couldn’t have been a better place for starting on a journey which would change my perspective towards travelling and life in general.
I don’t know if travelling has changed my life, but I can definitely say that it has altered my thought process for the better. Especially, solo travelling has given me a lot of courage and determination to do things I had thought I’d be unable to do. In 2015, I went on quite a few solo trips starting with Srinagar, Goa, Kuala Lumpur, Stockholm, and ending the year in Hampi. Early this year, I embarked on a three-week solo trip in the south of India and visited eight cities backpacking my way from one to the other. My experience till now has been more or less positive; people have welcomed me into their homes, fed me, clothed me and treated me as one of their own. I have travelled with locals in local transport while exploring the hill stations outside of Srinagar. I have taken lifts from unknown men and felt completely safe. I have been offered help without asking for it. I have made friends with the old and young and met fellow travellers and many other interesting people on my journey.