I travel solo in India, and I feel safe

In the current scenario of India, it is very strange on my part to come up with this article. I feel ashamed, helpless and angered by the increasing number of rape cases in the country. It has given me sleepless nights and at times I have wondered if I should reschedule my travel plans. But holding on to my urge to travel, I didn’t allow my fear to overpower me. I travelled solo this month and I have been doing this since I was eighteen. I travel solo in India and I feel safe. I wish no one goes through the horrendous situation and everyone feels safe, be at home or in a distant land. As a traveller, I would tell you how and why I feel safe for solo travels in India.

1Carry a self-defence equipment

To be on the safer side, I always carry a self defence equipment, even when I am travelling within the cities. I still carry a pepper spray and have even upgraded to a taser gun. I make sure to place them in the most conveniently reachable part of my bag. And if you know any self-defence art, it’s cherry on the cake.

2. Dress according to the culture

I have always been a rebel about wearing clothes and have never stuck to the conventions of Indian society about my dressing. But while you are travelling, it is always wise to dress according to the culture of the place and not hurt the sentiments of the locals. That does no way mean that a dress invites a crime. I am totally against the notion. But I like to dress comfortably and according to the local culture. That doesn’t even mean wearing a kurta or a saree while you are hiking in the jungle. I prefer wearing t-shirts and tracks. I would suggest to wear anything that doesn’t grab attention. While travelling in a rainforest, I would not like to be in my LBD or stilettos, I would rather be in something that is comfortable for a hike and not seeking attention.

3. You will meet people who will worry for your safety

When we have a perception about something or someplace, we tend to think of the place like the way we have read. It’s better to ignore the perception, let go of your jitters and be on the road and experience. You will know how to avoid the nasty ones. And don’t you think we will meet jerks if we are living in the comfort of our city lives? You meet them at nightclubs, schools, colleges. Avoid them. This time, when I was staying at Ginger Hotel in Delhi, because I had to catch the early morning train, I was a bit worried to walk or to take a cab to the station alone before sunrise, though the New Delhi Railway Station is a 3 mins walk from the hotel. So, I asked the person at the reception to help me with a security guard who could give me company to walk to the station in the early hours of the morning. I am grateful to the employees at Ginger for being sensitive about the issue. On my return journey, my train was to reach the Old Delhi railway station at 4 o clock in the morning. The lady of the homestay, where I was staying, informed me that there is a McDonald’s outlet at Platform No 1 and asked me to wait there till there is daylight. This information was helpful and I did accordingly. People are nice to solo travellers, especially female travellers all over the world and in India people really worry about you and want you to be safe.

4. You will find ‘women-only’ everything

From the queues at bus depots, to seats at metro rails, you will find ‘women-only’ everything. You will find cabs driven by women to homestay run by women. When I booked the first class train compartment  and got up in the train from Kathgodam, I was worried to find the entire compartment empty. I panicked for a moment. I sat on my berth hoping that the cabin shouldn’t be filled with men. And thankfully, the cabin was reserved for three other women, solo travellers. Later, we discussed we all had shared the same worries. Happily, we made our night journey discussing everything and even reached safely.

5. People in India are friendly

Of travelling over the years, I have always found people in India to be friendly and caring. They would take you to your home and feed you with the humblest meal, but would not allow you to stay hungry. What we consider as over-peering neighbours at times, turns out to be the most life-saving people in the country. They will constantly remind you to be safe, not to be vulnerable to strangers and will always permit you to contact them for emergencies.

Leave your jitters at home, tie your shoe laces. Sitting at home, worrying over the perceived notion of the world would not lead to any experience. Work towards a better and safe place and walk fearlessly.

 

What travellers don’t tell you about coming back home

“There’s nothing half so pleasant as coming back home again.”

In my childhood, I loved Calcutta, today better known as Kolkata, the city I have grown up in. The city had grown with me too. I grew up nurtured by its old world charm. In my teenage years, I wanted to escape from this place. And so I did. In my 20’s, I didn’t appreciate the pace at which the city was moving, neither its work culture nor its efforts to westernise, the pattern did not match its rhythm of its history. Looking for a city that I can call home, I have been a nomad, travelled far and wide, and lived out of a suitcase. In my 30s, I am re-discovering Kolkata and falling in love with every part and even cracks of it, finding it back like a lost lover, catching up with the years lost by, and falling for the way it’s evolving, still maintaining its old world charm, that I have seen while growing up. I have found my old love in a completely new song.

I went to study in Chennai, I worked in Bangalore. And when I quit my job, I travelled across India and other far-flung places. I never thought I would come back to Kolkata. Yes, I would have come back, to see my parents, who are settled here, to meet my family, to meet my old friends from school. But in the wildest of my dreams, I  did not imagine to come back to the city, falling in love with it again and travelling within it, lanes after lanes. Everyday, waking up to a new sun under the same sky, it is like resting my head on the old familiar pillow. I found the lap of Kolkata. I realised it’s a funny thing. It seemed Kolkata was waiting for me. Actually no. It wasn’t waiting for me. Everything is same, looks same, feels same, and smells same. What has changed is me. Every time I travel, I come back home to appreciate it more.

I returned to Kolkata, struggling with everything and even my Bengali to communicate.  It wasn’t comfortable. It even did hurt. But, now, every time I travel, I take something of Kolkata with me. And I leave something behind, hopefully good.

There is an informality about the way people interact with each other and there is a casual acceptance and friendliness that you don’t see outside this place. You can walk into a shop and people will laugh and joke with you as if they know you. I feel a real sense of connection with the place. I can go back to my ancestral village near Kolkata and walk the same dusty path that my great-grandfather probably walked on and that gives me a sense of being rooted. The mornings are early and the evenings are late. And in the day, the auntie next door smells what’s cooked in our kitchen, and knows for sure we have a guest today. When clothes have not been hung for drying in my neighbour’s balcony my mom’s intuition never goes wrong that their maid is absent. She sends a box full of a dish that’s been cooked for our lunch. Where do you get such love that’s so unconditional, though a little barging affair at times. In the bus, the passenger next to you will almost take your shoulder granted to be as his pillow. In the train, the old uncle would ask for your newspaper and forget to return to you, as if it was his. Initially, all these bothered me and bothered me a lot. I realised, now I have found innocence and warmth in these behaviour patterns and accept this pattern as much as I accept the iconic heritages of the city.

I wake up at 5o’ clock in the morning to travel to the other end of the city in a bus, something I would not do ten years back. I detested taking a bus ride. I like to see the lung power of men, in the wake of the dawn, travelling from one end to the other, to fetch their daily needs. I sit at the Mullick Bazaar Ghats,(one of the famous flower markets near the river Ganga and Howrah Bridge) most of the times turning my face away when people answer nature’s call. But nowhere on earth sunrise is as beautiful as it is here, blooming out like a hidden gem from the lap of the river and rising softly kissing the bridge and leaving it to glitter. I hate city rains; I hate how the puddles leave marks on my trousers and skirts till my hips when I walk. Yet, it’s a weekend regime for me to go to Maidan (the largest urban park in Kolkata) to sit under the open sky, rest my ears on the green grass and hear them beat. If people complain about the polluted metropolitan cities they need some detoxification, they need some dosage of this place after the rains splash the city and leave it drenched in all shades of green. I take the leisurely tram journeys and get down at the old vintage houses in North Kolkata. I cannot stop mesmerising at the colonial houses from the British times, look at their architecture like an awestruck traveller, the verandas, the pillars, the red-cemented floors, the shuttered windows. I start a friendly conversation with the elderly person in the house and welcome myself to their abode over a cup of tea and lots of stories and legends. Like a kid, I often vanish to Nahoum’s, the legendary Jewish bakery in town. The best part about Kolkata is its food. From chicken cutlets to fish fries, to the traditional luchi, alurdom (deep fried flatbread with potato curry), to the lip-smacking phuckas (round, hollow puri, fried crisp and filled with a mixture of flavoured water), the array of street food stalls never stops luring me. I find a cheat day, every other day to treat myself to these gastronomical wonders.

The hand pulled rickshaws in Kolkata are British heritage in India’s colonial treasure. Irrespective of the stories of the inhumanity of city’s unbarred use of man-powered rickshaws, tourists regard it as a cultural icon along with the famous Howrah Bridge and Victoria Memorial. Yes, they are my favourite too. But the more I fall in love with the city, the more I feel like contributing for my love towards the city. With collaborative efforts of few talented and thriving souls, I am stepping into an initiative and drive ‘Aamar Sohor‘ (My City). This initiative includes photo series, capturing the growth and decay of the city, appreciating imperfect, impermanent and incomplete, a journey of transience and imperfection, finding beauty in everything that is Kolkata. I do not want the millennial generation to grow up without knowing and enjoying the parts of Kolkata that I loved while growing up. I feel sad when I see most of their lives revolve around gadgets and malls. I want to show them the Kolkata through the eyes of the one who calls Kolkata home, even after travelling the world. And with all these we will be promoting responsible travelling in Kolkata, spreading awareness about keeping the city in a zero-waste condition, doing our bit in beautification and taking care of city’s icons like the tram, the vintage buildings, its monuments and its local artists. You can find that being updated through my works over time. I will be happy sharing those stories.

Coming back to my city, if you ask me my favourite place in the city, it’s the Ghats in the city, the Outram Ghat, the Prinsep Ghat, that witness the flowing of river Ganga through time and tide. This place creates the same wonders for me what 3D movies do to the kids of this generation. I grew up visiting these places every Sunday, like a ritual in my childhood. I practise the ritual even today. Travellers tell you, they return home either finding it awkward to adjust to the life there or they return home valuing it more. I say, we, travellers evolve. Seeing the beauty and the ugly in our journeys, make us more tolerant and grateful. At least, it has happened to me. Do you like smelling a new book?? For me, falling in love with Kolkata, after every journey, is like smelling a new book, falling in love with a long-distant lover. Do you love your hometown? I am curious if you have rediscovered yourself and your place over time.

The North-East India changed my patriotism

Before March 2016, I haven’t been to any part of North-East India. I was with a premonition that it’s more or less like a poorer China, where people use imported products, eat noodles and momos, has an unhygienic lifestyle. I was completely judgemental. Now, when I think, I am embarrassed by myself and my hypocrisy. If I wouldn’t have taken this trip, I would not have experienced, what I now call, the best part of India. This was completely a life-changing experience for me. Though I always travelled, you can say, this is what literally pushed me to explore travelling.

In March 2016, I was supposed to take a family vacation to Arunachal Pradesh. I was reluctant in the beginning, given my narrow judgment about the place. But my family insisted and I agreed. I was in a pathetic state of mind, due to personal setbacks. I wasn’t much interested in the planning of the trip. The only contribution of mine was going to Arunachal Bhawan and getting the Inner Line Permit and permit to visit Bum La Pass.  As Arunachal Pradesh falls under restricted area, official permission is required to enter the state. There are two kinds of official permits prescribed by Government for entering into any area within Arunachal Pradesh. They are:

  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) and
  • Protected Area Permit (PAP)

The Inner Line Permits are required by Indians other than natives of Arunachal Pradesh for entering into any place in Arunachal Pradesh. All the foreigners are required have the Protection Area Permit or PAP for entering into Arunachal Pradesh.

Later, due to unavoidable circumstances, my family could not make it, but now, I wanted to escape from my situation and I wanted to take the holiday. Everyone warned me of the road conditions, the weather conditions and health hazards I might face at a high altitude. I could not have listened to anything because all I knew was, I wanted to breathe under a new sky, I needed some fresh air. I insisted and took a leap of faith.

Though I had a minimum expectation of some wonder, I took the flight to Guwahati and then hopped into the pre-booked cab from there to head to Bomdila. Bomdila is located in the northwestern part of the state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is set amongst the mighty Himalayas at an altitude of 2,530 m above sea level. When I reached Bomdila it was six in the evening and it was very cold. Nothing could be seen around and I wasn’t even curious. I got into my room at the circuit house and wanted to sleep after a tiring road journey. It was chill, piercing my bones. Blankets and heater weren’t enough to keep me warm. Moreover, the dogs were barking the whole night. I didn’t manage a good sleep. I already decided that the journey ahead was going to be pathetic like the state of my mind.

Next morning when I woke up to some nice fog laced with sweet sunshine, my mood changed. I was pleasantly surprised to see the small town adorned with colourful flowers at every household. The smiling faces of the people touched my heart. It was like the magic hour, where everything transformed for the better and I was then looking forward to the journey.

Feeling the fresh air, whirling up around my face and hair, we headed towards Tawang, the mountain town in Asia and the smallest of the 16 administrative districts in Arunachal Pradesh. As our car, criss-crossed through winding hills, I kept humming my old favourite song,

“Almost heaven,…

Blue Ridge Mountains

Shenandoah River,

Life is old there

Older than the trees

Younger than the mountains

Blowing like the breeze

Take me home, country roads”

And I knew, I was struck by pixie dust.

There were hardly another car or people on the road because there was no civilization on the way and the season for the tourists was yet to start. When I reached Tawang, it was already dark. The caretaker at the circuit house informed that it had snowed last night. The weather was better and colder than normal. The best part was it was not raining.

Next morning was lit by gorgeous sunshine, could see the mountains clad in fog and the peaks shining with glitters of sun rays. I had never experienced a better weather. ‘You are fortunate. It’s a cold day but a bright one.’ Exclaimed the care taker. He insisted to pack my lunch for the day and when I refused he said ‘You won’t find anything up there.’ I keep myself stocked with dry food so I did not worry. We headed toward Bum La Pass. Roads were free, the only place we had to stop was to show the permit. The best part was, Kalikacharan, the person who was driving me around is a shy person, did not speak much unless asked. It allowed me to soak in the beauty of nature and my thoughts. As the rugged hills changed into snow covered mountains, I was enthralled like a child seeing a black forest cake in front of me. All I could see was frozen lakes and snow clad mountains. My mind was cart-wheeling with joy. I was missing my family and was disheartened for the experience they were missing. There was nothing on the way apart from army camps. I have been to other mountain towns, but this place is unbelievably beautiful. Untouched, pristine and paradise on earth it is. Bumla Pass is one of the four official border meeting posts between India and China and about 40 km from Tawang. It’s at 15,200 ft above sea level. It boasts of an army regiment at the highest altitude in the world. I was filled with pride. When I reached there, the army officers welcomed me with a lot of care. They briefed us about the history, the stories of the place, the wars, and the memorials that make it memorable. They even treated me to some hot paranthas and tea. I used their washroom. I mention this here because I was surprised that the water in the commode was frozen. At such critical conditions, our army officers fight not only with enemies but basic needs, to ensure that we Indians are safe. Respect was the only thing that I was filled with. I could not thank them enough for giving me company. I was heading back to Tawang filled with pride and humbleness. On the way, road construction work was taking place. We had to wait two hours, to move the car, but to my astonishment, I wasn’t restless and anxious. I felt evolved as a human and I could spend hours by the lakes and sitting on the rocks, looking at the bare mountains. I wanted to stock my eyes and memories with as much of nature’s bounty, as much I could.

I reached Tawang by four in the afternoon. I went around the town. I was seeing North-East India in a new light.  The town is kept so clean, no litter and waste, that I was embarrassed about my mindset. Next day, while heading back to Bomdila, the rugged hills transformed into a wonderland. It was Christmas in March. It was snowing. On my way back, we stopped at Sela Pass. At an elevation of 4170 m, windy, enjoying the landscape there is once in a lifetime experience.Blue water lakes surrounded by snow mountains and echoing tales of legends and patriotism, this place romances you with a charm unseen. It’s truly said, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I wanted things in my life to change and it changed me and my perceptions for better. This trip showed me a new world, an India that made me proud, it has made me tolerant as a person and it has pushed me more into travelling, travelling more of India.

After Tawang, I visited Meghalaya, which amazed me, but you have to wait for another day to hear about the wonders there.

5183 miles away – A love story without baggage

Long distance relationships aren’t easy. It wasn’t anything different for me. I was seeing a doctor for a year. The doctor fellow moved to Madrid for higher studies and I was in Bangalore. The craziness of time zone difference, not being able to see each other hit us. And it’s only then all around you see couples walking together, holding hands and you wish you could throw a pillow at mellifluous music. I am an in person’s person. I need to see the person, hold his hands, feel the silence. Phone conversations are not my thing. In 2009, there wasn’t Whatsapp, video calls weren’t common. So I hope you can imagine the hardships of missing someone you love. 

Two months after he left, I decided to visit him for Christmas. Till that date, I had travelled only with family. It was supposed to be the first time, I would be using my passport, travelling alone. Firstly, I had difficulties in getting a Schengen visa. I was a novice, I didn’t realise, the ECR stamped on my passport was the reason. It was completely out of my mind that I was a minor when I got my first passport. (As per the Emigration Act, 1983, Emigration Check Required (ECR) categories of Indian passport holders, require to obtain “Emigration Clearance” from the office of Protector of Emigrants (POE), Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs for going to following 18 countries). I was doing the paper works all by myself, from scratch, so there was no travel consultant to guide me. Through hook and crook, I got my visa, though it was days after New Year. Never mind, I was all excited to fly solo, fly international and finally meet the doctor. 

Before travelling, I went for a haircut, a good day at the salon, stocked up my shopping bags. So much so that I carried overweight luggage at the check-in counter and even paid for the extra kilos and can you believe, I checked in all my luggage!! The mathematical calculator in my head wasn’t working, because I was wearing glasses tinted with love. I had a transit in Paris. Luckily, it snowed in Madrid after 20 years, airport authorities weren’t prepared for the same, so the airport was shut down. We had a halt in Paris. But ask me! How unlucky I was! Air France authorities informed that I would receive the luggage in Madrid. We were in Paris, it was cold, I had nothing apart from what I was wearing and my handbag and to top it couldn’t go around, not even see the Eiffel Tower. I did not let all these give me agony, I was all anxious and excited to see the doctor next day. Next day, the flight finally landed us in Madrid.

Here, I couldn’t wait anymore to see him, and the flight authorities had lost my luggage. I waited in the never ending queue to register a complaint. It seemed everyone at the airport lost their luggage.

I spent one week of fifteen days without my luggage, managing with my doctor’s clothes and shopping some more again. I had to buy lingerie of course. 

Madrid, in cold was fun, from its streets to its shops, its museums and food. I met some lovely people out there. I was overwhelmed, that whoever I met in the elevators greeted “Hola”. Such a wonderful gesture, than to stand in an enclosed compartment with sombre faces, like the world is gonna end the next moment. A different world unfurled in front of me. You learn so many things, you gain insights. Truly it’s said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” 

I used to cook Indian for us, and I remember, the German, who used to share an apartment with him, would sneeze all time. The Mexican girl, living in the same apartment, introduced me to “Pikante”, chillies in Mexico and a sauce named after it. It was completely a new experience for me, sharing an apartment with new people but enjoyed every moment of it.

Museums, zoological parks, we had hit all the touristy places. Tried out eateries, hopped into night pubs, even though my stilettoes did hurt my feet. When your arm is in your man’s arm, do you care!

I was high on love. Two places that still managed to sketch a mark in my mind, in-spite of high dosage of love. Debod, an Egyptian temple on the land of “Loca people’. And the other one that I will always remember is Botin, world’s oldest restaurant. Well, that does not say that I did not love Madrid. Of course! I did.

What made me enjoy my travel, apart from a dosage of love, in-spite of all the negative experiences?? I wanted to travel, I wanted it wholeheartedly. So, I didn’t panic. I let things happen, stayed composed and enjoyed each moment.

Yes, we are no more together. If you ask me, then travelling half the world was it worth it? Absolutely, without any qualms. One that prepared me for my next journeys. 

Few lessons of travelling that I learnt:

  1. Air France is a pathetic carrier (it’s solely my opinion). I don’t fly with them anymore.
  2. Travel light.
  3. Don’t check in all your luggage. Carry a light hand luggage with essentials.

This was an experience of a lifetime, one with varied experiences, but only the sweet ones linger in my mind. Experiences shape you and so did this baggage-less holiday has done to me.

A Village Under Thousand Stars

 

Long ago in the past, I had travelled to Uttarakhand, I think before it had been even named Uttarakhand. My recollections and my reads on the place urged my wish to explore it.
I took the early morning Shatabdi express from

I took the early morning Shatabdi express from the national capital to Kathgodam; hopped into a cab from there and headed towards Almora via Bhimtal Bhowali road. It was extremely sunny and warm and honestly, I was frustrated with the weather. Once I reached Almora and asked the cab guy to drive towards Hawalbagh, there was a change in the wind. As you drive down from Almora, you’ll stumble upon tiny villages of Uttarakhand and Hawalbagh is one among the loveliest, with a retreat, Innisfree ~ Hawalbagh, that is a home away from home. This is one of the beautiful experiential accommodation I have visited.

It’s an old dak bungalow, converted into a homestay, by the most loveable hosts I have met until date. Lat, Julia, their children and Arjun and Prakash, the two boys who work at the experiential accommodation, will go out of the way, to make you feel snug. All my weariness whisked away after I was treated to a glass of chilled homemade rose water. I might never consider making it or have something thing as refreshing as this one.
I call this place, a retreat beneath thousand stars, as a result of at the primary night here; we were sitting beneath the open sky, the lights of the Almora town and also the stars on top gave the impression to dance and celebrate the sweetness on earth, glinting around us. After eons of years, I could see a shooting star.
When I woke in this Kumaoni retreat, the sunrise, the sound of the breeze needling through the pines, the birds chirping around, playing with the wind bells, soaked my morning with the warmest sunshine, the sweetest aroma and the most dulcet music.
Julia will spoil you with homemade kiwi, orange and fruity marmalades and a good spread breakfast. Once spoiling myself with the irresistible food on the table, I hiked right down to the Kosi stream. Few kids, on their way back from faculty, gave me company. Though it absolutely was a sunny morning, I could not resist the natural pool with Jacuzzi and spent until afternoon here. The walk back to the retreat was through the cover of cedar and smell of flowers.

I reached right in time for lunch and how overwhelmed I was! Julia, Lat and other people here create some tempting dishes from deep-fried chicken, Kumaoni rice, bhang chutney (no, you will not go high on this), pork curry and after all, the desserts, I bet you’ll not leave your bowl aside, be it banana frozen dessert or mousse.

I must tell you, they’re tributary to nature, by not exploiting plastic. In rooms, they serve water in recently used liquor bottles. I was delighted to envision that, myself being into recycling and up-cycling things. Their place is given a vintage feel with the usage of furniture and linen spreads.

In the evening, I walked to the Katramal Sun Temple, that is that the solely second sun temple within the country. It is a 13th-century heritage. I lost my way back to seek out a brand new way. One of the women from the village astonishingly asked me, on an overcast evening, why was I walking!! I told her, laughing, nature will guide me back.

I returned and was delighted to understand, Julia would be accompanying me for a stroll to visualize the panoramic view of the village.

I will be heading towards a new place tomorrow morning, my baggage is packed; however, I am unable to wait to come back to the sunrise, the sunsets, the smell of the pine, the canopy of the cedar and also the conversations over food at Lat and Julia’s experiential accommodation.Every day is sort of a family Christmas lunch.
I will be back before long to inform you a lot of tales from this place, that has been my workplace for last 3 days.

 

 

 

How I started My Travelling everafter ??

It was August 2012. I got back to Kolkata, from Bangalore. My whole world was turned upside down. It was my life, that I couldn’t recognize. Blood was gushing to my head and I was gasping for breath. I moved out of a choking, broken relationship. I was the one, who seemed to be at fault! I was financially bankrupt. My father underwent an open heart surgery. I was blamed, for him to have gone through procedures under the knife! I had changed the city, for my family’s emotional well being, without any qualm, but I could not adjust to the work culture in Kolkata. I was breathing, functioning, but not living. Not by any means. I was there, existing.

I am not trying to sell you a story here. I am trying to sell you optimism, with which you can climb mountains. And I am telling you this, because there was no-one to tell me, but if you dream, if you want to change your situation, “Start where you are, Use what you have, Do what you can”.

The only connection between me and my life was sketching and daydreaming. Like a child, in school days, I would draw, mountains, a river flowing through the middle of the mountains, the sun rising and birds flying, with clouds floating around. Though this was my favourite image since I can remember. At night, I would stay wide awake, looking at the midnight blue sky full of stars and dream to sleep under millions of them.

Even before this situation, I have been claustrophobic. I always cherished the vacations we used to take, in school days. Writing an essay on it has been my all time favourite activity. I always looked for the getaway opportunity, in my growing up days. I used to sit in glass-paned office and look at the sky, mindlessly for hours. In my leisure time, I cultivated life’s pleasures from putting emotions into words and shapes, from capturing moments under the rain, by soaking in the sun, smelling the air, and plating memories on dinner plates. That is why I call myself a quaintrelle.

Finally, by mid-2013, I decided to quit my job, quit the life I was breathing and start living, start creating, start living. I had no savings to follow my dreams (instead of working in an MNC. That riches to rags story I can touch down upon some other day). But, I have something many doesn’t, an incurable optimism and palpable lung power, to get out of the situation.

Probably, I would have started rigorous travelling only by my 60s, if my bones would have permitted, like most of the vacation deprived Indians, when my children would have been married and settled. But, I could not wait that long, I could not have waited for a star to fall into my hand. I had to rise, take the star in my hand, and make it shine. I took a leap of faith. I followed my heart. Success is very subjective. To me, a part of it is taking my own decisions, making a choice.

I quit my job; I abandoned my history’s shame, kept my head when all were doubting me. I walked lanes, I walked cities, crossed countries and continents. I followed my forever dream, I travelled through my adulthood crisis and walked the road for me. I started travelling, connecting the dots and seeing my sketches as a living entity, in front of my eyes. And this allowed me to indulge in all my leisurely pleasures. Nobody else could have walked that for me. Yes, people did question me and condemn my idea, but they were not funding my dreams, so I wasn’t answerable to anyone. People will discourage you no matter what you do, but if you keep listening to them, you will never face your life head-on.

I have walked, taken public transport, eaten with locals, slept in tents, and I still prefer doing the same, getting under the skin of the place. I am not a backpacker, neither do I avoid the touristy places. I travel. I have taught kids while travelling, I have written contents for travel brands, magazines, engaged in freelance photography, I have sold my pictures as postcards and prints, I have upcycled products and exhibited them, to fund my travel dreams.

Having no qualms about what I have left behind, I followed my intuition, not to escape; to face my battles. To turn the sunny side up, I started travelling, which has given me enough reasons to rejoice and evolve; since then, there has been no looking back, The road hasn’t been rosy like an Instagram feed but so isn’t real life. I made a choice, a choice from which I never have to escape. I keep travelling ever after.

I started travelling, for living, living my life.