Almost three years ago today, I quit my job in Abu Dhabi, moved to a smaller place and had less than Dh 5,000 in my bank account. One would suggest the next best thing is to take up a new course or find a new job. However, I did neither and decided to take a flight to India and go on a road trip to get in touch with my roots and value the lessons learnt while travelling. I travelled through 12 different states, made dozens of new friendships, met hundreds of fascinating people and experiences, and even picked up a couple of languages along the way.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all misty-eyed and narrate about how I discovered my true calling or claim that I “found myself” through travelling. Travelling the world, like any life path you choose, has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, its pros and cons. But I will say, picking up and leaving my life behind and spending the next year vagabonding about India was one of the most challenging and rewarding decisions I’ve ever made. And I wouldn’t take it back.
One learns a lot about people, about the country, about life through travelling. You just don’t always learn what you expect to learn. Sometimes the lessons come at unforeseen times and give you unwanted truths. But regardless, you grow. Today, after a year of being isolated from the fractured world, travel will reignite hope and optimism of approaching the world with a newfound appreciation. Hence, Travel We Must to fall in love with the world all over again and immerse ourselves in learning about new cultures and languages. Travel We Must to get inspired by the kindness of strangers, empathy, understanding, and unity to strengthen our social connection. Travel We Must to rediscover the thrill of finding new places, tasting unfamiliar foods and most importantly, cherish the lessons learnt while travelling.
Here are some of the lessons that I learnt on the road.
1. Leave your comfort zone:
There has likely been a time where you’ve heard someone say, “I can’t do that. That’s definitely out of my comfort zone.” The act of leaving your comfy bed, abandoning your daily routine, crossing an unfamiliar border, and immersing yourself in a new culture are all part of leaving that restrictive comfort zone that we call home.
Stepping out of our comfort zones is something we’ve all experienced before, be it on a large or a small scale. With travelling, it’s a lot different as you are thrust into a whole new environment where the locals speak a different language and enjoy a diverse culture and way of life.
On my first trip to Delhi, I was completely overwhelmed by the chaos of the city. The traffic, noise and congestion in Old Delhi was an absolute mayhem. Walking down its streets was an experience of sorts as motorbikes and rickshaws constantly blared their horns, insistently offering a ride “for a cheap price..just 50 rupees.!” and cars occasionally travelling against traffic. Meanwhile, shopkeepers were trying to lure me into their stores, trying to get me to visit their carpet store or garment store. Someone squirted cow dung on my shoe without me noticing and I recall being furious over it for a couple of hours!
Although Delhi was less drastic than Chennai, it was still not uncommon to see large buses, motorcycles, and cows all fighting for the same road. When I was in Chennai, I stopped and got the chance to look around some rural village homes. It shocked me how simply they lived in tiny houses with many members. However, these villagers weren’t hindered by their lack of extravagance but rather welcomed me into their homes with open arms.
I was pleased to find this friendly demeanour in almost every city I travelled to. I was warmly welcomed everywhere I went, and eventually, I seamlessly transitioned my way out of the travel comfort zone, thanks to the comfort I received from the kindness of people. This ended up being one of the most crucial lessons learnt while travelling.
[Also Read: Delhi: India’s Historical City]
2. Appreciate Diversity
From waking up to the 5:00 am call to prayer from a mosque in Delhi, to feeling the weight of the Goan sun on your shoulders, to reliving the history by walking into a beautiful temple in Lepakshi, or paddling out over the shallow reefs of the Lakshadweep, every single experience highlights India’s cultural diversity. The mountains, forests, plains, deserts, rivers and oceans are a testimony to the diversity of the landscape of India.
One of the most important lesson I learnt while travelling is appreciating how diversities lie in all of India’s festivals. These festivals are celebrated with equal fervour and frolic across religious and cultural lines. From dancing with a friendly crowd and playing with colours on Holi to spreading the love of Christmas by getting homemade Kuswar (Christmas sweets), and getting invited for an Iftar party by your Muslim friends, the spirit of diversity brims in this country. India is a big melting pot of cultures which allowed me to learn about so many different lifestyles, languages and customs and has given me a deep appreciation of diversity. And as you explore the cultural differences, you may also realise that we are all not so different after all, as we are intertwined by love and togetherness.
[Also Read: Experience Live: Unforgettable Indian Festivals!]
3. Enjoy experiences over things
We always try to find happiness in materialistic things. However, one of the greatest lessons learnt while travelling is how we need very little to be happy. And it’s not cars, phones or clothes that make us happy, it’s our experiences.
I had that moment of realisation when I agreed to go camping with my friends in Himachal Pradesh. They picked out the beautiful Spiti Valley that I had read so much about. However, I was extremely hesitant to embark on this trek, as I had a bunch of project deadlines to fulfil, and camping with my laptop to an area with no network was not particularly ideal. I recall being stressed and grumpy throughout the trip. However, I had a complete change of heart when I reached the Spiti Valley. Oh, how I was enamoured by the views!
Suddenly, the lack of network did not matter anymore. I was more interested in living in the present. I recall sitting up by the fire, looking at the stars and the fireflies rising from the meadow. The joy of having a warm cup of tea from a flask and having hot Maggi while exchanging stories, singing your favourite tunes with your friends, stargazing and soaking in the views makes one feel like a primal sense of being placed. As it got darker, the chorus of insects and frogs started fading, and there was a deep stillness in the air. One of the lessons learnt while travelling is how sitting in silence, without Spotify blasting in my ears can be both peaceful and energizing. I finally realised how to live in anticipation, by gathering stories, memories and valuing experiences over materialistic things.
[Also Read: A Guide to travelling in Lahaul and Spiti]
4. Never stop learning
Just because we’ve left school doesn’t mean our education stops. Learning keeps us young, and travel is one of the greatest teachers of all. Travel inspires a sense of wonder and discovery, and one of the lessons learnt while travelling is that there’s an entire world of things to do and people to meet out there.
Before my trip, my phone seemed attached to my hand, but travelling somehow managed to soften the glue. My first long train ride in India jolted me. It’s funny to remember being the only one in my carriage with my phone out. People chatted to their neighbours, shared snacks, played card games or just gazed out the window at passing landscapes. That was the first time I learned to keep my phone in my bag and appreciate the views. I soon started putting my earphones down while roaming the streets, and I was surprised by how many social interactions putting my phone down opened up to me.
India has so much to offer. The incredibly diverse scenery for one ranges from deserts and mountains in the north to tropical beaches in Goa and the barren moon-like scenery around Hampi. The ornate, grand and mystifying temples, the scrumptious food that bursts with flavours that made me feel like learning everything about all these wonders is seemingly an endless process. I only feel I have seen the tip of the iceberg and there is still so much left to learn in India.
Travelling can teach you many things, it can teach you to be adaptable, patient, more open-minded, tougher, yet compassionate. Tackling the challenges of travelling in India has increased my confidence and I am also learning to let go and not worry so much about things that are out of my control. When you travel, you never stop learning.
[Also Read: How can you make travel meaningful?]
5. Don’t take nature for granted
One of the best things about travel is exploring the natural beauty of India. From the beautiful rainforests of Agumbe to the deserts of Kutch and the pristine backwaters of Alleppey, India has an abundance of flora and fauna. However, on the flip side, one of the lessons learnt while travelling witness the fragility of our planet. You may visit places where clean drinking water is a luxury or where natural disasters have caused mass destruction. You may see forests disappearing, coral reefs dying, or glaciers melting before your eyes. When you travel, you learn to appreciate every natural wonder, every sip of clean water and every bite of healthy food.
[Also Read: Love Letters To The Western Ghats of Karnataka]
Before I left for my trip to India, I felt like I was drowning in feelings of inadequacy and self-pity. Travelling opened my mind and allowed me to free myself from the societal norms, reinvent myself and not allow expectations to identify me. These lessons inspired me to make the most of my life by giving me a new sense of appreciation to experience things and share them with friends and loved ones. The roads are calling, so Travel We Must to rediscover the thrill of what was once lost and relive it all over again, and keep learning more.
Witness the magic of travelling and exploration by booking a car rental to take you to all these places with a local driver. Install Savaari cab booking app for offers and discounts on outstation rentals.