I was going to turn 24 last May. Just like I turned 25 this May. “23” was one hell of a year. It’s perhaps like that for a lot of people. There’s so much to do, so many expectations and somehow you always fall shot. It can get depressing, and everyone around you seems to be doing much better than you. Then “24” sets some imaginary benchmarks. Especially the society around you, who wishes you should have been married and pregnant with your first child until then. But luckily not my folks, they were instead worried that if I do not pursue post-graduation now, when will I do it? (about which I still haven’t decided anything) But somehow I heard it made me think that the clock was ticking, for all the important things that I’ve always wanted to do.
Like most of us, I had dreams of travelling (although I never put travelling as a hobby in my CV, for that matter, I never had a CV) and I thought I too will travel one day, when there’s stability and I have the time and the money. And then I thought what if I die before that time or money comes into my life? There are/were some really inspiring friends (on Facebook) who were travelling for their job, some travel as a part of their job and some just travel. I respect them so much. I did not have that luxury. I had my company, which is almost like having a baby. It is your first love and your responsibility. So I decided to find a midway out. Most of the times we wait for new year to set a resolution but I made one on my birthday, that 24 is going to be the year when I travel once a month, mostly weekends but at least once a month. I made the resolution first and then figured out the ‘how’, ‘when’, ‘where’ and with ‘whom’.
It’s been a full circle, one full year today and I’ve fulfilled my resolution. It’s not been easy.
Most of the trips happened directly leaving from office on Friday and reaching back one hour before office on Monday. Most have been bus journeys. Travel high is when your body is sore and you’re sleep deprived— but you have a silly, childlike smile on your face. At first, it is difficult for your parents to understand what is happening to you suddenly. Why do you want to travel so much, and why not with them and why alone or only with a certain set of friends? Trust me, you can’t travel with just anyone. There are specific kind of people that you can bear, and only a certain kind of people can bear you. And there’s certain kind of delicate frequency match that needs to happen, can’t explain. I’ve been lucky to have some of the best trippers. It started with some awkward moments at home initially, where my parents weren’t sure whether I was seeking permission or was I telling them about the trip. I wasn’t sure either. But gradually it came around to understanding. I always kept them in the loop, got my tripper friends at home to acquaint with them, sent pictures from everywhere I travelled and told them how much I miss them (also I really missed them much more when I was away, and it helped made our relationship stronger). I used to write postcards from wherever I used to go because the feeling would be strongest right then (those post cards by the way always reach home a month later. India Post clearly doesn’t see postcards in their priority list. The one I wrote from Jaipur reached Ahmedabad 2 months later). I had casually discussed this with my business partners too and they’ve always been super cool. And they noticed I was rejuvenated, almost double energetic every time I was back from a trip. So that’s that.
All of the journeys have been on our own money and at least 70% of them have been super low, tight budgets but high on experience and enjoyment. Money is not the most important thing for travel, and you don’t have to be having shitloads of money to travel. Travelling on low budget gave us a certain kind of high and sense of accomplishment. Also travel involves immense level of research or you’re almost going to end up like most other people looking at all the stereotypical places, eating the typical food and coming back.
Also, none of the trips were about getting into a hotel room or enjoying a resort (no offense to that type of travel). It was about seeing the place, city, town, village, hill-station inside out; meeting the locals, eating with them, trying to understand the culture and at times just being with the nature under the stars. If travel were about leisure, I’d rather stay home. Travel is what pushes you out of your comfort zone, even when it’s a 12 hour bus-train journey in summers, to get closer to nature; or even when it’s an adventurous night trek or exploring a popular local ice-cream.
In our society, travelling can be a comment on a girl’s character. It extends to our homes too. What you say no to, says a lot. You either think that your daughter is not mature enough to handle herself or you don’t trust her enough. And it adds up to your daughter’s low self-esteem. Wanting your daughter’s safety is not your fault but if you think your daughter is not fit enough to make these decisions, it is not really her fault either. It is perhaps you who failed to make her strong, smart or confident enough.
Some of us love to have birds at our homes. They are colorful, look beautiful in the cage and keep your house lively. You feed them on time and give them love. It is said that birds once caged for a long time, can’t survive outside the cage for too long. That’s true too. And then we like to believe that we are keeping the bird safe by not setting them free. Most of it is same for the daughters too. They should be freed before it is too late.
I am no great traveller, or a photographer or even a travel writer and I could have done better and much more. But my point is that I’ve perhaps done the best I could, in my context. And if you’re passionate, you need not/should not wait for that one day.
Places covered in 12 months: Dhanori (Navsari, Gujarat), Dang (Saputara, Gujarat), Kaas Plateau (Satara, Maharashtra), Diu (Gujarat), Somnath (Gujarat), Sula Vineyard (Nashik, Maharashtra), Mumbai (Maharashtra) Jodhpur (Rajasthan), Udaipur (Rajasthan), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Ranthambore (Rajasthan), Mussourie (Uttarakhand)
Tripper Credits: Malav Naik, Kinjal Zanzarakiya, Hemil Shah, Shachi Shah, Manthan Shah, Mom, Papa and Maa.
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