Every time I introduce myself as an Indian to fellow backpackers, they treat me to a pleasantly-surprised look. Not once but I have often heard them remark, “We have never seen Indian women travel alone. Aren’t Indians overly domestic and only travel with family or large groups?”
I have always been lost for words on such occasions. I simply choose to nod. It’s been a while I’ve disliked the traditional Indian style of booking a large tour to a country where the rupee is a fraction of a fraction to the local currency and then making a brouhaha everywhere they go. To make things worse, they spare no chance to show-off…wonder why?
- Meet people who are unlike you:
How about meeting a 28-year-old woman who has other aspirations in life than pondering over marriage or a man in his late sixties with an electrical spirit of wanderlust? While you’re ‘on the road’, you’ll meet millions of hearts out there beating for the same purpose but who have chosen a different route. Believe me when I say this, the most rewarding part of travel isn’t the pictures or the world heritage sites, but the people you meet. Surprisingly, you can mirror your life in theirs.
- Go wherever, go whenever:
We, Indians, have this uncanny knack of following the calendar on holidays even though our personal and professional life are a perpetual maze. Wouldn’t it be simply fantastic to let your heart decide the location instead of a calendar? Okay! Let me put this in the simplest way possible. Aren’t impromptu road trips to Lonavala, Nandi hills and Pondicherry your most remembered trips?
- Find your own adventure:
Backpacking is just like a long bungee jump. You don’t know where you’re headed but your gut promises it is gonna be one hell of a ride. Diving into the unknown is one of the best parts about backpacking.
- It’s high time to grow out of your comfort zone:
There are many things that my travels have taught me but the best one is, ‘very little is needed in life to be happy.’ Chauffeured cars with flutes of champagne are for the tourists. While I’d like to stay away from the episodes of endless arguments on tourists vs travellers, you clearly know which one I have chosen to side with. Backpack, so you experience this beautiful world without frills up close.
- Empower your own spirit:
I’m not stereotyping but there are a lot of Indian women travellers who let their peers and folks be the collective decision-makers of their lives. It’s not that tough to pick that bag up and take the charge of being responsible for your safety, your finances and your belongings. Liberate yourself from the unwritten rules of the society and find out your own do’s and dont’s.
- Learn that the world is more beautiful than bad:
Lets face it, shielding the women of the house from the big bad world is the collective responsibility of all the men in the family but is the world really such a bad place? I once ran out of local currency at midnight in Hong Kong, the result of which was a Cantonese girl offered to buy me a drink instead. The truth is, there is a big beautiful world out there waiting to be explored.
- Experience a culture that’s not your own:
Yes, India is an ocean of traditions and culture but how about moving a little beyond our everyday ritual of sipping adrakwali chai with the spouse and filtering locally-produced coffee and using local spices to refresh yourself. Every country has a culture almost as deep as our own and nothing is more joyous than losing your identity to make an attempt to living like a local.
– Sonam Mahesh Kukreja