About this post: Does travel really change you? What is like to travel the world long term? What does a digital nomad lifestyle teach you? An as Indian traveller and travel blogger, a reflective post on how travelling the world has changed my perspective on life.
I’ll spare you the clichés. Four years of constant travel hasn’t made me the most fabulous person; in many ways, the opposite. It has gradually, sometimes unnoticeably and sometimes frustratingly, evolved the way I think, interact and live.
It has broadened my perspective but also narrowed it, given me answers but many more questions, taught me to appreciate camaraderie but perhaps made me more of a loner.
My restless mind is no longer my best friend.
The very thing that helped me build this incredible life of travel four years ago, the one that wouldn’t let me settle for anything but freedom, is the one I seem to chide often these days. Perhaps I’ve fallen in love with a place too many times and broken my heart that many times (Read: How Travelling is Breaking My Heart).
I long to go back to places that I made an instant connection with as much as I long to discover new horizons. I long to build deeper bonds with people I meet along the way as much as I long for fleeting new encounters far away. Sometimes I even long for the one place that could tame my restless soul. I thought slow travel was the answer, but on some days I think it only makes me more restless. I hate that I’m always having to choose, often under-appreciating that unlike many, I have the freedom to choose.
Ambition be damned.
I was raised in a house where grades were compared so closely that lying became part of my study plan. I’ve felt competitive all my life, even in a simple game of pictionary! But meeting simple village folk everywhere from rural Guatemala to the mountains of Kumaon, who have nothing, yet the biggest hearts, the greatest friends and a seemingly happier life than most city dwellers has put much into perspective (Read: What a Fisherman Taught Me About “Paradise“).
I’m more content now, with the things I own, what I believe in, the way I look, my blog and my life in general. I stopped comparing myself to friends with cushy jobs and a high life a long time ago. And recently, I’ve stopped comparing myself with other bloggers and travellers too, realizing that I can enjoy what I do and if in the process, I get to somewhere bigger and better, then so be it.
Money is no longer part of my equation.
And that’s not to say that I have too much or too little of it. Since last year, I’ve earned enough to fund my travels, and then some (Read: Practical Tips to Save Money for Your Travels). Two weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a new business idea, and was so convinced about it that I wrote down the nitty-gritties. I laughed in the morning because I really don’t need to struggle to earn more money.
Sure, I won’t work for free or with companies that don’t value what I offer, but I’ve learnt, time and again, that when money becomes the goal, there’s no end to it. My goal is to travel, share my experiences and enjoy the little joys of life, and money is just a variable in that equation, not a constant that bothers me.
I’m more judgmental now.
In an ideal world, rubbing shoulders with locals across the world should have rid me of all my prejudices. And to a large extent, it has.
But factor in fellow travellers, and I must confess I judge more than I should. I judge people who proudly tick off 3 countries in 7 days. I judge people who look down upon the locals of the very place they’re escaping their mechanical lives to. I judge people who’s only interaction with the country they are in is within the walls of a five star hotel or the bubble that is a hostel. I judge people for their behavior in public places, for the way they interact with the local environment, and even for judging others too much. I know it needs to stop.
I realize I come from a house made of glass.
Speaking of being judgmental, I decided I would never travel to China because, Tibet. Every country has its skeletons and it’s silly to judge based on the past, but how can you not judge based on the present, how can you not judge a country that is systematically destroying an ancient culture? But the more I travel, the more I realize that coming from India, I have no right to judge another country (Read: The Romance of India, One Year On).
We are perhaps the only developing country that denies its citizens the basic right to a life of dignity and a plate of food. And its not because we are poor or lacking intelligence or lacking technology. We have been independent for 60 goddamn years, and I don’t care if our leaders have filled their coffers with gold to last a century; how can we call ourselves a country when our people don’t even have a basic standard of living?
Feeling at home is not so hard.
When people ask if I miss “home”, I can’t decide which home I should tell them about. I miss Ban Lom Jen on the Thai countryside, I miss Cancio’s House in the interiors of Goa, I miss Vogelhochzeit on the German countryside, and I’m sure as hell going to miss my friend’s loft I’ve been crashing in Tbilisi (Read: Thinking of Home).
I remember having a tough time finding apartments in Singapore and Delhi to call home. But after all these years of traveling, I’ve come to believe that home is not a place but a feeling, and I try to carry that feeling with me wherever I go.
Societal norms be damned.
I recently stumbled upon the incredible story of Jason Lewis, a British man who travelled the globe for 13 years without any mechanized means of transport – only cycling, kayaking, rollerblading and walking! He wrote upon his return: if you go away for too long, there’s really no coming back. You can’t fit back in.
I’m far from his league, but his words are the only truth I know. I’m the girl who walked away from her life in the cubicle and can’t understand why anyone would spend their whole life bound to a desk. I love my friends from school and college, but find it hard to rejoice at another wedding or kids announcement on Facebook. I’ve dwelt for hours over societal norms, and I’m sorry, they are just beyond my understanding. There’s really no coming back (Read: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Me).
There’s so much more I can do, but I’m choosing to drift along.
This coming from a girl who always dreamt of making a difference. Somewhere between running away from ambition and accepting that happiness is just an illusion, I’ve become a drifter with no goals (Read: 10 Lessons from 2 Years of Traveling).
And I know that must change. It’s not about making money or being a better blogger or getting on another social network. I think the time has come for me to start doing what I intended to quit my job for, of which traveling and writing was to be a mere offshoot. I wanted to get out there and find causes and organizations worth supporting, and now that I’ve built a great community of readers and travellers, I need to get started. The road has changed so much for me. It’s time I give back.
How has travel changed you?
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I’m the founder of this award-winning travel blog about offbeat and sustainable travel, and author of the bestselling travel memoir, The Shooting Star.
In 2011, I quit my full-time job, and gradually gave up my home, sold most of my possessions, stored some in the boot of a friend’s car and embraced a nomadic life.
Connect with me on Instagram to hear more about my adventures and personal journey.