I have wake up moments in life. In a stroke, I take major decisions that can alter the course of my personal or professional life. The summer of 2017 will mark a decade of my career in travel writing. I did not plan or think through this choice; one fine day I just declared I am a travel writer, and I was off.
No matter where my physical being is, my spirit is still on the highway. And shows no sign of coming home. There are miles to go, and then some more. For me, travel has become a way of life, a realization that we are meant to be on the move. Trees grow roots – so they may provide shade when weary travellers need a break.
If I look in the mirror of time, I would not recognize the image of me upto a decade back. Yes, travel changed me. When I stood alone atop high Himalayan passes, or looked into the eyes of an elephant in forests, I was able to develop some understanding of the cosmic scheme of things. The vantage point allowed me to look at the planet around, the universe above and, most importantly, within me. What I saw calmed me; priorities changed as did the definition of happiness.
We all aspire for material gains but, beyond a point, the joy they bring are but a mirage. My wealth lies in the stories I collected, the experiences I had, the people I met, the animals I admired, the silence I heard in the forests, the clear starry skies I saw from the dark desert, the fresh air I inhaled in the mountains, the apples I plucked from trees, the fish I swam with in oceans, the endless highways I drove on, the fields I smelled along the way, the rivers I rowed in – and the time I spent with myself. My assets are the journals I scribbled in, the books I wrote, and the photos I shot.
I would any day dance with tattooed tribals in their villages than in a stuffy night club. I will rather drive a week to get to the Indian Ocean than be stuck in urban traffic. I prefer to check in to a cottage in the wild than a palatial mansion in the city. I will hum more spontaneously to the tunes of a folk musician in Nepal than a chartbuster on a Bose system. I find a meal at a roadside dhaba (eatery) more wholesome than that served by a fancy restaurant. Having chai in a tea estate is more refreshing than in any café in the world. My best friends are those I made during my travels.
Travel has made me rich, it is time for me to give back. I do not know how to completely, but I have some ideas to start with. Inspiring others to travel – responsibly – can be a start. Without sounding patronizing, I believe the world would be a much better place if people allow travel to change them, each in their own way. I want to do my bit to keep the planet beautiful – and restore some of the sheen it has lost. Cultures, habitats, fashion, monuments, Nature’s creations – there is so much to see and preserve.
I was moving earlier too as I am now. In the past, much of what I was chasing does not matter any more. I was trying to reach somewhere but it was not really taking me anywhere. I am constantly on the move even now – I am not reaching anywhere but I have arrived.
For travel is the destination in itself.