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How Travelling Changed My Perspective on Getting Married and Having Kids.

never getting married, not wanting kids

In India, our personal choice to get married and have kids is everyone’s business. I’ve been inundated by these questions hundreds of times, but rarely has anyone asked me if I’m happy, content and excited about the way my life is shaping up. For the record, I am, on most days.

While many of my peers have chosen the well-trodden path of “settling down”, I prefer my seemingly unsettled ways. In 2019 alone, I’ve spent a month losing myself amid the awe-inspiring wonders of Iran and another, digital nomad-ing in Armenia. I’m typing this post sitting in a handwoven swing, hearing the chatter of birds, on the balcony of my current abode – a stone hut, surrounded by a gorgeous old oak forest in the Uttarakhand Himalayas.

Despite being financially independent, in a mature relationship and passionate about what I do, I’m constantly told that I need to settle down. That I’m somehow shirking my responsibilities and being selfish.

This stems from a deep societal conditioning that, sometimes even unknown to myself, I’ve been unlearning on my travels. After putting it off for many years, I finally decided to write this post for fellow dreamers, adventurers and rebels, who dream of doing life differently.

There’s already a lot said and written in favor of marriage and kids, so all I seek to do is share an alternative perspective I’ve learnt on the road, one that I hope will convince you to think, question and consciously make your choices:

Contrary to what Indian society will have you believe, these are intensely personal choices.

The concept of marriage came about some 4,000 years ago in ancient Greece, when humans began settling down and practicing agriculture. The idea was to make a woman a man’s property, and ensure that the kids she gave birth to really belonged to him. Over time, religion became part of the equation, making marriage a pious affair, one that signified stability. However, it was only in the Middle Ages, that thanks to the French, “romantic love” became associated with marriage.

See where I’m going with this? The concept of marriage came about as a practical (albeit patriarchal) transaction to arrange society. 4,000 years ago. And I dare say times have changed. Many women, especially in urban India, are financially independent, command equal rights and choose their own romantic partners. Binding a relationship with a legal contract or having it blessed by a religious authority is no longer a practical need. It’s a very personal choice, and unlike what our family, friends, relatives and the nosy world out there would have us believe, we have every right to choose.

These thoughts first occurred to me while living with tribal communities in Maharashtra and Odisha, where live-in relationships are the norm. Isolated from technology and the evolution of marriage in the rest of the country, their traditional wisdom recognizes the practicality of a partnership based on mutual trust, rather than legal or religious binding. But more than that, women are free to pursue their own path and not judged for their choices, just like men.

I mean no offence to people who choose to walk down the well-trodden path. That’s exactly what it means to have a choice.

Also read: Unexpected Ways Long Term Travel Has Changed Me

As much as you think otherwise, your life may never be the same again.

I often receive emails from individuals who lament that they chose to get married or have children without fully comprehending its impact on the rest of their lives. When we make such an irreversible decision in our twenties or early thirties, we need to contemplate alternate viewpoints rather than accepting the only one offered to us.

Think about it: raising a kid is a full-time job that’ll take atleast 15 full years of one’s life. No individual should take it on unless they really, truly, deeply feel a maternal/paternal instinct, and are financially and emotionally capable of raising an entire human. These parameters are important to ponder upon before deciding to do what everyone else seems to be doing. It’s a taboo topic to talk about, but some of my friends who’re mothers (and love their kids, needless to say) have candidly confessed that if they could turn back time and choose differently, they would. Not so long ago, the BBC anonymously featured mothers who regret having children.

Also read: How Responsible Tourism Can Challenge Patriarchy in India

Most people do it at the expense of finding or following a passion.

I’m 31 and have no desire whatsoever to be married or to procreate. Yet I’m constantly reminded that “the clock is ticking”. If you ask me, that’s probably one of the worst reasons to change the entire course of your life. Worse still, is when people tell me they’re thinking of having children because they need something more in life, they’re bored of their regular schedules or they need to stir up their relationship.

The more I travel, the more I realise that there are a thousand ways to live your life, but most people only choose one. The work – home – sleep schedule tends to breed boredom and an absence of purpose or meaning in life. And the only recourse society seems to suggest is to have a kid. But think deeper about it and you’ll find so many ways to get more out of life – work for the environment, fight for animal rights, teach someone a skill, learn a language, use your privileges to help create alternative livelihoods, travel with purpose, start a company to solve a pressing challenge, chase a forgotten dream, take some risks!

Also read: How Travelling Inspired an Indian Street Kid to Chase an Impossible Dream

People will criticise your choices no matter what.

If you’ve grown up in an Indian family, you’re all too familiar with the “log kya kahenge?” (what will people say?) line of thinking. It’s incredulous – and mildly funny – how so many of our life choices are made to appease what our friends and society at large think of us.

But perhaps you’ve heard the story of the farmer, his son and a donkey? No matter what the farmer did, people ridiculed him. And that’s true for everything we do in life. If you don’t get married, people will wonder what’s wrong with you. If you do, they’ll come to your wedding and criticize the food and the skin color of the bride and how much the groom earns. If you don’t have a kid soon enough, they’ll wonder what’s wrong with you. If you have three kids, they’ll laugh at you for procreating so much.

I’ve met many interesting people on my travels. Social entrepreneurs, naturalists, activists, poets, nuns, writers, musicians – and the one trait that’s common across all of them is that they don’t fear criticism. They don’t try to fit in.

Ultimately, we are the only ones who have to live with our choices. That could be a life with or without a legal partner, with or without kids. And it’ll be criticized by others anyway.

Also read: What Solo Travel Has Taught Me About the World – and Myself

The carbon footprint of having a kid is high but there’s an alternative.

It’s 2019 and we know that climate change is real. But the impact of our consumption choices never hit me as hard as when I went to volunteer on a remote island in Cuba. Once stunning corals looked dismal, uninhabited beaches were covered in algae and the seabed lay littered with plastic. According to the WWF Living Planet Report, wildlife and marine life populations on earth have declined significantly, over just two generations.

Luckily, there are some things we can still do as individuals: Choose not to create more humans on this overpopulated earth, eliminate meat and dairy from our diet (or atleast reduce them significantly) and reassess our transport, water and energy needs.

If you feel strong maternal instincts and the need for a kid in your life, consider that there are millions of little humans and animals who’ve already been born, who are looking to be adopted, who need a home and a whole lot of love. You could fulfill your desires, change someone’s life and help the planet. That would be truly selfless.

Also read: An Open Letter to Indian Parents: Let Your “Kids” Travel

Why do we follow society’s version of a “normal life” so seriously?

It’s almost like we’re a bag of potatoes destined for the same fate. Well, we are destined for the same fate ultimately, but that doesn’t mean our life journey needs to be a replica of everyone else’s. We don’t need to follow all the rules of adulthood. We don’t need to silence the child, dreamer, adventurer, rebel and freethinker within each of us. We don’t need to give up on our dreams. And we certainly don’t need to be told how to live.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re 16 or 60. Now is a good time to ask why you’re doing what you’re doing, and if this is what you want to keep doing. Get your finances and skills in order, revive those dormant dreams, tell that ticking clock to f*ck off and set yourself up for some adventure, whatever that means to you.

After all, we only have one life and we are all destined for the same fate, ultimately.

Inviting you to join my new Facebook group (women only):

Over the years, I have received messages and emails from many, many women struggling with their life choices and having no exclusive, safe, confidential space to discuss such dilemmas. I’ve just created what I hope will be such a space online, where adventurers, dreamers and rebels can connect with like-minded souls and form a support system. If that’s you, join the group here.

Has travelling shaped any of your major life choices?

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69 Comments

  1. Reshma says

    Really enjoyed reading through the blog, hope perspective of people changes in years to come… keep up the good work Shivya, good luck!

    • Shivya Nath says

      Thanks Reshma, quite overwhelmed by the feedback to this piece.

  2. Charu says

    Shivya, very well thought and put here. Wish many more ppl look at life the way u do and have done 👌

    • Shivya Nath says

      Hope so, Charu. Or atleast let other make their choices in peace 😉

  3. Bebo says

    I am unmarried but most of my friends are engaged or getting married or having children and I keep getting those questions too.. Sometimes I feel as if there is something wrong with me.. Infact I used to get so anxious and sad whenever I saw those posts on fb that I deactivated my account…

    And it’s not just the pics.. Sometimes it’s the caption that tugs my heart… One had written “enjoying my greatest right and blessing as woman-becoming mother’s and it seemed as if there is nothing else in life but marriage and children.. And these are same woman who lament about feminism and equality and independence otherwise…

    Thanks for your posts!!! It’s great knowing that one is not alone.. 😊

    • Social media is deceiving, don’t you ever feel anxious or sad reading/seeing about other people’s lives on social media. A girl or boy might be writing about their significant other from the different part of the house pretending they can’t get enough of each other! So whatever you see or read probably far from the truth! Stay strong 🙂

    • Shivya Nath says

      Social media often turns out to be a deceptive happiness competition. Don’t base your happiness on it 😉

    • Aasavari says

      I agree. I am 29 something and unmarried. I hate it when people say that the best thing that can happen to a woman is her child, or that only then can her life be complete.
      So my point here is, women who choose not to have kids or the ones who can’t, have no rights to live peacefully?
      Even so many television programs emphasize on the importance of woman having to give birth to kids.

  4. It’s a cool thing to be able to make your own decisions and live your own life. Other people will always judge, but I think it’s important to do whatever you choose to do with all your heart; travel or no travel, kids or no kids. Loved reading your perspective

    • Shivya Nath says

      Exactly, to not judge and not be judged is the dream, but until that happens, we have to do what we have to do.

  5. The passion and candour adorning your narrative is admirable. It takes a lot of courage to launch out on an off-beat track in an endeavour to live the life of one’s choice. As individuals and societies evolve, institutions like marriage are bound to lose its imperativeness and get relegated into merely one of life’s options. All the best on your journey ahead.

    • Shivya Nath says

      Thanks Rajagopal, I do appreciate all the support I’ve found online on this endeavor. Sometimes it’s even easier to encourage a stranger than a loved one! But I hope what you say will be true about the evolution of individuals and societies.

  6. Nice post Shivya. I wish more people start to think on these lines about life’s choices instead of assuming there is only one way to go. Everyone has their own perspective and it comes down to respecting it instead of judging or criticizing them. We could be right or wrong in our choices but at least it would be our own decision instead of succumbing to pressure from others.

    • Shivya Nath says

      Absolutely. So important to have the freedom to make our own choices.

  7. Divya says

    Great post Shivya! I love kids but never wanted one of my own. I don’t share this with anyone as most people don’t understand. I really hope people become more tolerant towards others choices.

    • Shivya Nath says

      I hope so. But until then, we have to stick with what we really want (or don’t want).

  8. Thank-you, Shivya. My husband and I(in our 50s) just returned from a 6-month sojourn into.Asia, including 2 months in India. I couldn’t agree more with the key ideas in this post. Step out of your routine. Take a chance. Life your own life, nobody else’s. You will never regret it. Take care, and stay strong, safe and optimistic!
    Best,
    Sybille and Doug (Toronto, Canada)
    P.S. If you ever come this way, you are welcome to stay with us. I’d love to meet such an adventurous spirit!

    • Shivya Nath says

      Wow, I hope you enjoyed your time in India and the rest of Asia! Thanks for the wise words; hope our paths cross soon 🙂

  9. Diganta says

    Brilliant post Shivya, we live in a society where it is difficult to ditch stereotypes and conventions but then one should try & carve a life of his/her choices and don’t care about what others have to say.

    • Shivya Nath says

      Exactly, especially given we just have one life!

  10. Megh says

    Hi Shivya, loved the post. I have a similar story that you shared in this post. I was married for 7 years but didn’t wanted to have a child, so now living single. Struggling a lot, but hope i would find a way. Thanks for such an article. I have given up socializing because of the same and all my friends have left me because of the same reason ofcourse.

    You are a brave girl, travelling alone. It needs a lot of courage. I too wanted to travel alone but in India not having such courage. Read your book, liked it very much. We had comment exchange on Instagram but can’t reveal my insta name here.

    • Shivya Nath says

      Thanks for sharing about your life, Megh. I hope you’ve found a sense of liberation, and will embark on some journeys soon. Perhaps you could start with joining a group trip to build your confidence? Highly recommend joining my new women-only FB group (link in the post above), where we’ve started having discussions in a closed, safe space, on sensitive topics like these.

  11. “It’s almost like we’re a bag of potatoes destined for the same fate” – this is so deep!

  12. Very well written Shivya. There are lot of such things in the society and one has to choose their path. More power to you 👍🏼

  13. Good one.. I am fed up of telling people that me being happy is more important than being married or a mom..they don’t get it .have given up and just live my life my way.

  14. Deepshikha says

    Finally someone wrote down everything I wanted to hear. Thanks Shivya. Forwarding it to my family group rn.♥️♥️♥️♥️

  15. Sharada Ganesh says

    Dear Shivya, I totally agree and second these points. Although I am married myself, it was not due to societal pressure, it was a conscious choice to purse common interests and have a partner in my travels. And of course, the argument about connection between having kids and climate change is definitely something that we should all think about. I find it funny that I can list atleast twenty reasons why I don’t want to have kids and the person I would be talking to would have none to support why they had kids!

  16. Neethu says

    Thank you so much shivya…being a woman in thirties who has chosen the unconventional path of staying in a relationship without having kids, not obliging to the norms of society..i ve been regularly bombarded with sermons frm all my dear nd near ones ,imploring to me to change my perspective, so much to the point to instill self doubt about my decision making capacity…your articles are many a times a breath of fresh air to my confused brain…Thanks for inspiring me nd many more to chose our own destiny and more importantly to stay happy…

  17. Five stars for your post! One of my daughters was pressured (after marriage) by her in-laws to have children and when she bought another dog they were disgusted! Yes, the choice is ours and I may have taken the traditional route too, but for several decades since being on my own, have been able to achieve life long goals I doubt I could have in marriage.
    And that “clock ticking” nonsense is just another way to pressure you. Another of my daughters has similar freedom with her work as you and recently decided to have a child on her own.
    And lastly, having children is not at least 15 years responsibility and although I’ve loved every moment of that responsibility, it’s a LIFE TIME responsibility!

  18. Ram Kumar dixit you says

    First time read your blog I am really inspiring .i am strongly agree with your thoughts. thank you.

  19. Jayanti Mukherjee says

    Your writing has changed my perception of life that how one should live about. I always want to contribute something towards the society but at the same time didn’t know where to start from. Being a family man I used to feel all the roads are blocked to me but now I have started seeing the life with a different vision. I must say that your writing came to me as a blessing because now I know that what I want to do with my life?

  20. Rona says

    You spoke my mind. I’m in my early 30’s and for the last decade and a half the one question that the whole world keeps asking me is when am I getting married. It doesn’t help when you’re the eldest and especially when you’re a girl 🙄

    Nobody cares how I am, what makes me happy, what I would love to do. They don’t really care and I always end up havin a fight with my parents because they never asked me about my dreams hobbies or the state I am in. They only wanna know when I am getting married. Anytime I say that I wanna achieve my dreams, I want to travel, I want to to buy my own house, the answer is you can do it when you get married and I’m like “what the fuck”
    Why after marriage? Why can’t I do it now? Then they come up saying; you will be lonely, the brothers won’t take care of you and all that bullshit.

  21. Tushar says

    That’s exactly what I feel.. And you have put it in blig very beautifully.. Thanks you for writing on this topic. Your blogs have my heart. ☺

  22. Orpita says

    All the cliche points were mentioned. All the dialogues us girls hear were quoted. Yes, yes, choice and all that, sure this is cathartic to read. But frustrated about the lack of depth. For example, yes, there is infact a biological clock ticking. What about it? Would have hoped to hear a bit more about what you learnt on your travels that weren’t just ‘yea, I visited that cool place and I want to place it in the article’. What did you really learnt from that? Would have liked to hear more.

  23. Amrita Gangatirkar says

    I completely agree with whatever is written in this blog post but I also feel that if people like Trump are having more and more children who will be raised to ignore the climate change then it’s the responsibility of people like us to raise kids who will protect the planet from such people. Otherwise the world will be full of destroyers and not nurturers.

  24. Such a beautifully written post, Shivya! You’re an inspiration for so many of us, men and women both😊

  25. Ahh, the adrenaline rush reading this and knowing what I am doing is right; at least it makes me happy!

    Thanks for the great post 🙂

  26. It is good that you did not let anybody control you and your life’s decisions. There were a lot of good lessons in this post which I have learnt. It has encouraged me highly to pursue my own dreams while not intending to get married or engaged. Thank You for the post.

  27. Priyanka.Nair says

    So well written…. after all all we all want is to breathe, eat and live some day, why not that someday be today.
    As soon as I got out of a relationship all I did was travel, I travelled and is still travelling with a lot of questions in my head, but I think the journey just brings you all the answers you are looking for. This journey was more of me finding myself & embracing it.

  28. Streamtheflow says

    Hi, you have written your thoughts and experiences And are praised wonderfully. You have faced enough criticism from the world you don’t need me to do anymore. ( I also can relate to your adventures passion for travel and living on my own terms as aspirations … Of my 20 year old self. So don’t think I can’t relate to what you are feeling .. I can. )

    Just reflect upon these questions while in Himalayas :

    What would the impact be on future generations of Indian culture, if majority (70%) of women chose the path you have chosen? By future i mean 3 generations from now.

    Our society’s norm are set for cultural and moral preservation. An individuals interest has to be flexed for the greater good of the community.

    You doing this alone has no impact on our future as a community. You glorifying this, promoting this and inspiring more women to join this path is greatly damaging to our society. So, stop!

  29. Ranjani says

    Nailed it! So so well expressed. I’m sure this article would be the voice for many who’re unable to express their decisions to their family just before if the fear of not being the norm.
    The Facebook group link isn’t opening. Could you check?

  30. Manisha Jhalaan says

    Lovely post,I am 30 am can relate to each and every sentence written in this blog post. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful piece of writing.

  31. You nailed it Shivya. I am 30, successful working professional and a travel blogger. I love my passion and so much want to live my life at my own pace. The job, the travel , the blog give me the vibes to follow my passion more and more. There are much more to do apart from marriage and if I am happy and fulfill in my life I really have no issue to be like this..

  32. Sonia Trakroo says

    Love your thinking. So sensible, rational and confident. And environmentally conscious.We.. Love the adoppart aboutting children already born! The world needs more like you. Every woman should have a choice of when they want to do what. As a mother of 2 growing up girls I hope I can always encourage and support their choices, and make some choices of my own… Traveling solo being one of them. The forests call to me, love spending time in nature, trekking. Love reading your posts!!

  33. Sanjay Kaul says

    Hi Shivya. Liked your post,. Mostly. Well nothing is so right and nothing is so wrong. So ..j…just live.do what you feel like. That’s what life is about. Just live. Take responsibility for your decisions.
    Seems that my daughter is a fan of yours and my wife seems to be out looking for you, to give you at best and at least, a pep talk.
    Be happy, keep exploring, keep writing and inspiring

  34. Dhiraj says

    Its relevant to males too. I don’t know why especially our Indian society is hell bent on the concept of marriage and having kids. Friends, family, relatives all have just one suggestion. “Get married”.

    If you don’t, you slowly but surely end up being an outcast, excluded from events, gatherings and looked down with pity.

    • Dear Dhiraj, you can unite with fellow unmarried men and women to support each other in your independent lifestyle. Start bachelors’ pages in social networks, for example. All the best with your free life!

  35. appreciate your reasoning. So reasonable, sound and sure. Also, naturally conscious.We Love the adoppart adjoining youngsters effectively conceived! The world needs increasingly like you. Each lady ought to have a decision of when they need to do what. Love perusing your posts!!

  36. I loved the way you started this blog and even more enjoyed when you continued writing in the same pattern…I loved every detail of this post!!

  37. People think that marriage and having kids is a part of our life. .if everyone start showing sympathy to the homeless child , than it will be a huge benefit to the world.

  38. Vignesh says

    I am in my early 30s and married. We both love ourselves and are fine with it. We travel, work and lead a peaceful life. Now we are pressurised with this question, when you ll be having kids. 4 years into marriage, so many people come to us and tell about doctor contacts etc and I feel like wtf why are ppl telling all these to me! We love our life and don’t want to make any change to it.

  39. If only I could tell you how much I adore you for writing this one particular blog post and how I come back to read this again and again!

  40. Ameya Tarde says

    These are so important decisions in one’s life that they make or break you as a person if the right choice is not picked up. I can say this from my own example that I got married when I was 30. Yeah being a man I also had to listen to “Clock is ticking, You should be in earning stage when your kid graduates” and all those pearls of wisdom that everyone had to tell me. So after lots of seaching for the partner I got the woman who practically shared all my passions or let me say that we both shared the same passions. Then we decided that we don’t want to have kids as we are not meant to raise the kids (make no mistake, we love kids and kids love us.) And as you rightly put here; we are not ready to spend 15-20 full time years in raising a human being.

    But having said this we got advices from everyone as to how a family is complete when a couple has kids. Questions like “Is anyone of you impotent/ having problems” to suggesting sex enhancing medications, going to temples were suggested. We are now married for 14 years and we have travelled a lot and we have a passion to take people with us to Jungles of India. We love to spread the love for nature & jungles in our campers. We both travel on shoe string budgets and the main motto being mingling with locals, living in homestays and tasting local cuisine made by our hosts. We would love to teach kids about nature and its conservation in day to day lives, but that is not immediate agenda. We have many places to see and multitude of cuisines to taste.

    So extending this article I would like to say; get married or get into any association only if you think that your life partner and you are in unison with the ideas as to how you want to lead your life. And the brutal reality is that “We come alone in this world and we go away from this world all alone. So make your life count.”

  41. You’re really bold enough to take your own decisions in such a conservative society in India. The blog can be a real inspiration for people out there who are lagging behind.

  42. Everyone around me is either getting married or engaged, this post really took me for a while. I am glad I came across this post and now I feel a little relieved(about the idea of marriage).
    Thanks Shivya for this post. It was much needed to me! 🙂

  43. Meraj Shah says

    Women, around the world, but especially in India, are raised on a diet of guilt. Men have it different, but not necessarily better, since the pressures are less obvious and more insidious. I think there’s nothing like time to understand that you need to define what brings meaning to your life, and live that life. But, like you said, too many people never have that luxury. You’ve obviously ducked that bullet, as I did, but unlike you, I wasn’t brave or anything, just plain lucky. Loved the Japanese phrase by the way.

  44. jamaicanwanderess says

    This really made me cry because it describes exactly what i’m going through right now with the pressures of marriage and children. Thank you for the reminder!

  45. Amazing piece of wisdom at just the right time when I was searching for directions!!😘😘 Thank you so much for writing it!!! I think all women now will feel a less guilty about the choices they made for their selves and all those who are going to make in the future.
    I wish with more people like you inspiring us with their lives people especially Women will ultimately be free in all ways to pursue whatever they want to do!!!💖💖💖😘💛

  46. Tanvi says

    Hi, I want to join the Facebook group, when I click on the link it says closed. Pls add me my name is Tanvi Chitroda on fb, there is only one of that name.

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