Travel helps us experience other people, cuisines, cultures and of course, see amazing architecture. But has travel made you a better, more confident person? It has been life changing in many ways for me. After I got married in 2000, I went to live with my new husband in Bay Area, California, in the United States. This was my first visit out of the country and clearly I had my apprehensions. I wasn’t just traveling to a new place. I was going to live there. It was frightening. The man by my side was still a stranger to me in many ways.
It is not that I wasn’t independent or hadn’t traveled domestically. My job in Brand Management ensured that I traveled solo every month for almost 7-10 days and all those days were spent walking in the bye lanes meeting traders and shopkeepers. But those did not allow me an opportunity for an enriching experience or to enjoy the place I was visiting. It was always meetings and field visits.
Come to think of it, till my mid 20s, traveling for leisure was never on my radar. My work trips apart, I had barely vacationed during my childhood. Being from a middle class family, most vacations had been spent running to my maternal grandparents’ home catching up with relatives. Clearly, mum and dad did not think much of exploring the world. So when I started my new life with a sleeping bag and two suitcases, I was looking forward to the unexpected.
The initial years were fun exploring the places we lived in while building a life together. My husband is an avid traveler. Every weekend he was ready with a tank full of gasoline goading the lazy me to some spot near or far. It is not as if we had a lot of money but travel was high on our agenda and we saved for it. We planned trips to Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, New York, Los Angeles and San Diego.
We also often took the unbeaten path lingering in areas no one had gone to. There is a certain thrill in doing that.
In suddenly finding a pathway in a cave or a route branching out to find an unexpected friend or discovering a stunning sunset when least expected.
Hiking on every trip became a favourite for my husband and I. I started making up for lost time vacationing like there was no tomorrow. Living in a new country with so many gorgeous places to experience felt like a delightful buffet, each dish more exciting than the other. It was also an eye opener. Here was a place where I found myself coming into my own. My confidence was high. I was loved, cherished and appreciated. I was smart, articulate and found that I made friends easily. I also discovered that behind the carefully cultivated intellectual and somber persona, I could be a lot of fun.
Yes, traveling to various places made me a better person. I also for the first time felt truly beautiful. I had left the tag of ‘she is beautiful but dark skinned’ far behind me. People complimented me generously, and instead of doubting them, I accepted those compliments graciously. Perhaps because they belonged to a culture where my being a few shades darker than my husband did not overtake all initial conversations, there was a certain ease I felt. It was like breaking free and getting to love myself all over again.
We did later move back to India but the travel bug had bitten us well and good. Over the years, we have travelled to Europe multiple times. When I went to Amsterdam for the first time, my toddler son had fever and I traveled alone with him. A very concerned flight attendant checked on us often. When I was traveling to Scotland, again with my toddler son, I had a very helpful English gentleman who kept the little boy engaged on the flight while I napped or caught a movie. The kindness of strangers moved me.
A couple of years back, we did an extensive European tour living in places like Rome, Venice, Florence and the city of dreams Paris. This post of mine that I wrote about planning my European trip went viral. This was one of the most memorable trips with the family. This time my second son was with us as well. I realised that my kids have picked up our passion to travel. Yes, they like their gadgets but there is a different high in living and partaking of a beautiful place, cooking with local produce and mingling with the people exchanging tales. There is a certain element of delight in experiencing the unexpected. In a way this supplements their education. We can never teach them about diversity and tolerance, about open mindedness, about embracing the unknown and the unexplored the way a travel trip does.
We have traveled no less within India. We did an extensive trip to Rajasthan, another one to Punjab, Agra and Dalhousie. Living in Bangalore, we have explored potentially all the hotspots in neighbouring Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Maharashtra and Gujarat are gorgeous too. And I’ve been to Goa five times so far. It is a standing joke among our friends that every time we have a holiday, we pack our bags and leave before zeroing in on the destination. Having a newborn baby, being pregnant, traveling with young kids — nothing has slowed us down.
Wanderlust is a lust that is of the addictive kind. Today, I love homestays as much as fancy hotels, a rural setting as much as a fancy European town. Traveling the world has made me a better person. I am more open to people and their diversity. And today I know for a fact that I want to earn enough to continue to travel the world.
From a person who planned every minute detail of my travel, I am now open to walking confidently into the unknown. I look forward to drinking from the cup of outstanding wonder that the world offers us. A blind date with the world is the best date to have. And I look forward to traveling to new and exciting destinations.
Now the journey matters much more than the destination. Each memory and experience is super special because of who you spend it with and not for ticking off a list of must-see spots. Where there is charm in watching dew drops on leaves and in talking to people especially when you don’t know their language, in learning from grandmothers authentic recipes and when all else fails in smiling with pure joy because life is beautiful.
I never understood how my Bucket List slowly transformed into #TheBlindList.
If you want to bring up children who are better aware of the world take them traveling with you. If you want to live on a perpetual high #SayYesToTheWorld
If like me you are a traveler for life, then this video will definitely speak to you:
Do you love to travel? Are you adventurous enough to replace your Bucket list with a blind list?