A few days ago, I got chatting with a friend who’s getting married soon. She seemed excited and nervous about the approaching wedding day, but lamented that her family and spouse were about to spend the better part of their savings – a mind-boggling 60 lakh rupees (~100,000$) – for a not-so-big wedding in a big Indian city.
That means she probably won’t have any money to travel in 2018. Hopefully by 2019, they’ll settle down in a new rented apartment and will be able to take atleast one holiday. Where should they go, she asked me curiously.
I couldn’t find the words to tell her this, but it’s lingering in my mind, so I’m going to tell you: don’t put off your travel dreams in 2018. Here’s why:
Are you spending your money on what fulfills you?
I recently found myself walking the aisles of a fancy mall in Bangkok, looking to buy a winter jacket for my upcoming trip to Switzerland – where I’ll be trying skiing for the first time in the Alps! As I walked past shop after shop selling trendy clothes, footwear, accessories, cosmetics and electronics, I was consumed by a materialistic urge to buy whatever I could afford.
As someone who has studied marketing at university and been associated with the industry for over eight years, I’ve been privy to what goes behind those subtle marketing messages. Right from the latest fashion trends, to upgrading your electronic gadgets, to throwing a lavish wedding, to buying a diamond ring worth three months of your salary (seriously, that’s a thing now!) – marketing agencies understand how to make us crave material possessions. The question we have to ask ourselves is, do these possessions really fulfil us?
If you ask me, it’s not the contents of my bags (or everything I owned until four years ago) that has ever filled me with joy. It is chatting with Buddhist monks about life and detachment in a remote Thai temple, feasting on a traditional beyayenetu platter at a local eatery in Ethiopia and hiking by myself in the snow-covered German Alps. And money can buy those experiences if we choose to spend it on the things that matter.
The world is changing fast
Back in 2012, I won an adventure trip to the remote Socotra island with alien-like plant life in Yemen. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough money to buy a flight ticket to Yemen then, and postponed my trip indefinitely. An ugly war has taken over Yemen since, nearly destroying the country and access to Socotra. It’s heartbreaking.
Back in 2014, I considered spending a month on the island of Dominica, labelled the ‘Caribbean’s nature island’ and said to be one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world. But I dropped the idea, thinking I could do it a few years later. Recently, a massive hurricane has nearly destroyed the country and its entire rainforest. As it tries to rebuild itself slowly, it seems like things will never be the same.
I’m not trying to say that we need to go everywhere right now. But civil unrest, natural disasters and the surge of tourists in countries that have recently opened to outsiders are making our dream destinations change quickly. If you can afford to travel somewhere meaningfully this year, do it.
The road tends to give you perspective
It is one thing to stay at home, work where you’ve always worked, hang out with friends you’ve always known, do the things you’ve always done. But if you want to grow as a person, the road can give you plenty of perspective. Living with a Mayan family in Guatemala, sipping tea with a Bedouin family in their makeshift tent in Jordan and mingling with Odisha’s tribes in their markets, taught me more about life than any classes at university or conversations with intelligent people back home.
And being on the road, owning only what I can carry with me, has made me realize that we need little to get by comfortably in life.
You don’t have to wait for someone’s approval or company
Even as a twenty-something Indian girl, if I had waited for someone to give me “permission” to travel or for someone else’s company, I would never have had half my adventures. My first solo trip to Spiti unleashed something in me – the desire to spend my days exploring new horizons and a deep appreciation for my own company. Some of my fondest solo travel memories include hitchhiking in Bahrain, cycling across the Eastern Ghats (mountain range) of India and hiking in the Ecuadorian Andes – and those memories wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t gone it alone.
But if you’re apprehensive to give solo travel a try, there are plenty of other ways: join a group trip, visit a friend in another part of the world, or try to relocate to a new country. Ultimately it’s about conquering your fears and taking the leap.
People are the same everywhere, despite what we read in the media
I hate how much negativity is bred into us by what we read in the news. Everywhere I’ve travelled, the world feels completely different to what we’ve been told. Hanging out with Syrian refugees in Germany, chatting with an Iraqi designer in Italy, living in a tiny village in Honduras – labelled the most violent place on earth – and smoking shisha with a Saudi guy in Bahrain has taught me that most people are the same everywhere: warm, beautiful, insecure, friendly… just like you and me.
Life is short and unpredictable
I hate to break it to you, but life doesn’t care that you plan to follow your dreams in a couple of years. In 2017, I was shocked and heartbroken to lose two young and inspiring blogger friends to a road accident and disease. My heart goes out to their loved ones, but it doesn’t mean that we should live our lives in fear. It means that life is fragile, that we take too much for granted, that along with planning for the future, we need to live our present in a way that fulfils us.
That we need to seize every day we’re lucky to experience in our lifetime. Carpe diem.