Given the ambitious nature of and the well-provided for life, we- Gen Y- has been brought up in, it is not a far fetched claim that most of us will have the opportunity to see the world at some point or the other. Be it for higher studies, a family holiday, a business meeting, a sabbatical to find yourself or to cross something of your bucket list or simply a wondrous vacation with a loved one- we will travel to big and small, beautiful cities. I personally suffer from a very bad case of wanderlust, always itching to get out and see new places, eat new food and simply be present in someone else’s everyday reality.
In a situation where surreal experiences like seeing the Northern Lights from a tent in Norway to snorkeling with elephants in Havelock Islands are no longer dreams with a very small chance of being fulfilled, the reason why one travels and utilizes the time, energy and money into seeing these places becomes very important.
Whenever I feel restless to travel to a new, strange place, I often ask myself why I travel. The answers which come to mind are those which have been done to death by positive living blogs, self-help books and tourism websites. And as clichéd as travelling to “discover the real me” and “gain new perspectives” and “experience moments to grow as a person” sounds, it is all true. There is no replacement from the lessons I have learnt from travelling and meeting strangers who turn out to be not quite strange after all. I have met people who are older, of a different gender, different sexual preference, speaking a different language who face the same problems, want to solve the same world issues and will laugh at the same things. It has taught me that even at my loneliest; I am not quite alone at all in this huge world left unexplored. First hand experiences of new situations gives a sense of perspective, and once strongly understood, allows humans to relate and understand each other better and communicate more efficiently keeping in mind the alternate realty the other operates in. Any racism which we may have imbibed unconsciously disappears as we experience the beauty of multiculturalism and the kindness of strangers.
To travel to NYE to simply shop is frankly, in my opinion, a waste of resources. There are only a few things which you can’t buy in a South Delhi mall nowadays. One should travel to see and taste history, breathe in nature in its several different forms, and appreciate the glory of old architecture when resources and money were few and far. Travel to villages, and volunteer; knowing that one week of your presence won’t change their reality in any way, but that week will change you. It will make you modest and grateful for everything you have simply because you were born well.
Travelling makes you more social. It’s perhaps only in Northern India where if a stranger approaches you and strikes a conversation, or simply compliments you while waiting in the same queue, do you double take and pull out your pepper spray. When you go to new places and meet amazing people, when you’re lost in a strange city with a stranger language and you see someone who might know what is going on, you’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone to go and strike a friendly conversation. Travelling makes you smarter; not book-smart but actual life-altering road smart. You’ll learn about history, culture, people, issues, nature and trivial but mind-blowing facts which you simply won’t find in a book. Travelling helps you loosen up and shake off all the rigidness which a comfortable life might have lent to you. Whether it is eating something you can’t pronounce or make sense of, or simply closing your eyes and bungee jumping, travelling lets you try new things on a whole new level and makes you more easy-going, adventurous and flexible.
Travelling teaches you how to relax. There’s no point ruining a vacation stressing over all the “must see places” you have to go to in that overpriced guidebook you bought. The best way to explore a new place is by looking around, talking to locals and street vendors who tell you about the most beautiful off-beat monuments and quaint restaurants. You’ll become more confident. You’ve explored small cities, overcome your fear of the ocean, left a compliment for that cute waiter in that café in Paris, have biked to Ladakh, stood on a surfboard for two whole minutes on a respectable wave in Goa and had a snow ball fight with a stranger in Kashmir. You’ve done awesome things all by yourself. You will be more confident about yourself and your ability to achieve whatever you want. Lastly, travelling makes you value home more. When you come back after a long trip to a new place, the comfort of your bed seems even more inviting and your green tea in your favorite cup seems even more relaxing. It simply makes you a happier person.
The reason why one travels may vary from person to person. But that one should most definitely travel is non-negotiable. This is not to say that if you haven’t been to Paris, or seen the Louvre, or taken a gondola ride in Venice, or discovered an ancient lost temple in Bagan, you are not a traveler. Remember, this is your journey. You can do whatever you want wherever you want. If you don’t have the resources to travel abroad, then start with your neighboring state or make sure you’ve simply seen everything that intrigues you about your state. Travel within your country on a budget. But, just get up and go.
To paraphrase a line which I may have read on some winter night long ago, it is futile to own the world and the see little of it; I would rather own little and see the world. To quote Henry Collins, and really drive my point home:
“I beg young people to travel. If you don’t have a passport, get one. Take a summer, get a backpack and go to Delhi, go to Saigon, go to Bangkok, go to Kenya. Have your mind blown. Eat interesting food. Dig some interesting people. Have an adventure. Be careful. Come back and you’re going to see your country differently, you’re going to see your president differently, no matter who it is. Music, culture, food, water. Your showers will become shorter. You’re going to get a sense of what globalization looks like. It’s not what Tom Friedman writes about; I’m sorry. You’re going to see that global climate change is very real; and that for some people, their day consists of walking 12 miles for four buckets of water. And so there are lessons that you can’t get out of a book that are waiting for you at the other end of that flight. A lot of people—Americans and Europeans—come back and go, ohhhhh. And the light bulb goes on.”
By Pallavi Prasad