Unexpected Ways Long Term Travel Has Changed Me.

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.

Honduras ziplining, Honduras blogs, Honduras travel
My mind is on a perpetual zipline!

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.

Lake atitlan, Guatemala offbeat, san marcos la laguna
On a hammock above Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Little joys!

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.

Upper racha georgia, racha georgia
Money is only a bridge to where I want to go.

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.

Pacific ocean california
I want to free in my mind again.

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.

“Home” at my friend’s loft in Tbilisi.

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.

kazbegi georgia, kazbegi photos, kazbegi blogs
I’ve walked too far away.

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.

Himachal Pradesh forests
I feel like the mist, there but not quite there.

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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  1. wow, Shivya……:) Everything in here resonates with my life. makes me think.

    1. ‘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’

      I find myself revisiting your blog and posts after two years too, they give me newer meanings to my present circumstances. Like, ongoing at the moment, is exactly this. Being compared to relentlessly and having parents and siblings who are only worried about their egos. Which reflects on lots of stresses and abuse hurled at me every single day. I started to recognise this pattern only now and that this is the very reason for my unhappiness. I’m not going to ever be able to give them what they want. That realisation sets me free now. Before it used to make me sad. It still makes me sad because of my attachment to them. How do I set myself free!!! I’m on that path and hope to discover that too. much love <3

  2. Bravo Shivya. You have achieved something in a tender age that many octogenarians cannot. Win over every Bandhan that ties you back, be it money or societal bonds. Greed for money, cozy lifestyle is a never ending rat race. Running after money can never buy one peace, yes it is necessary for surviving,pursuing your passion. Personally, what little bit I traveled(compared to you), taught me to live for the moment, be honest and dedicated to whatever you do. I never dream to be a rich brat like some of my other friends. I dream to see the world as much as I can, if not possible, see my amazing motherland as much as possible. Rest depends on destiny. I may not be as courageous as you, I may not be able to leave my corporate job, but will continue to travel for living or living for travel.

    It is a very good idea to give something back to this world especially people like us who believe in a world without borders, world without violence, world without boundaries. When I see people begging, suffering, people littering our heritage, it pains me a lot. As responsible traveler we can certainly take some initiative for a teaching program in remote corners of our country, cleaning program at heritage sites, save nature or animal campaigns etc.

  3. I guess one never knows the answer.. the journey to self is enduring, they say.. with your post I can feel its true.. All the best with your endeavors!!!

  4. Sometimes that freedom is scary. Sometimes that fear itself is the freedom.

  5. Great to read your articles. Your articles give solace to ever-struggling souls and time to look back at the path we have traveled. Also, a good thought of repaying back to the Mother Nature for whatever we have been blessed with.

    Keep Writing. Wishing you all the very best in your Journey of creating a Better World around. Amen !!!

  6. Loved it.
    One must travel just for oneself and gradually there is so much to teach the world too…

  7. Box Canyon Blogger Mark says:

    Introspection = insight. Brilliant…
    Box Canyon Mark

  8. Keep going Shivya, we are with you in whatever you do 🙂

  9. your last point, “there is so much more…, totally resonates and wishing you all the luck ahead for new and exciting endeavors.

  10. Fantastic post! Loved every bit of it. Clearly we are made of the same material if you are competitive in pictionary! I love that!

    I agree wholeheartedly with this post. I miss traveling long term. And I think if you’re traveling for any extended amount of time that it is truly difficult to go back, to act like the things that used to matter to you still matter. Truly now they don’t. Every single thing about me got twisted, flipped upside down, and turned on its head when I started traveling. When you can be anyone you want you find out who you really are. And your opinions, ambitions, and personality all shift. This happens over time anyway but travel accelerates these shifts and changes greatly.

    Thank you for this brazenly bold and beautiful piece. It has given me some freedom in my thoughts and my life today. I’m excited to see what your giving back will be.

  11. Wow! Thanks for sharing your experience and insights. Been following you on Twitter and reading some of your posts. Your journey inspires me. And that final insight on drifting along.. I guess that’s a stance I need to learn to adopt to let myself discover what it is I indeed want to do in life.
    Best of luck with searching for causes and organizations to support!

  12. Oh, incredible post! Nice to read your deep thoughts on travel and your life. Travel has changed me in many ways. In fact, I also wrote a similar post recently. Travel has made me a lot friendlier and warmer as a person. I have started cherishing little things more than so-called big things. And yes, I can never trade my freedom for anything in life.

  13. Looks like you’re having an amazing time with yourself lost in the woods and books. Clicks are amazing, great going gal. God Bless

  14. Sometimes I read the blog and sometime I don’t. When I don’t its mainly because I’d rather be out there than in here reading about out there. This ‘restless’ thing is interesting, its nice to know others have it too, reading the blog sort of calms it at times. It’s raining cats and dogs here and makes we want to get on that road and just go, keep going.
    Al these thoughts in your blog, very nice indeed, perfect for today’s mood.

  15. Your posts are always so honest and lovely to read! This was another such beautiful post.
    I think travel changes us every time, whether it is traveling long-term or short. My personality, perspective in life and thought processes have moulded over the years all because of my little travels, and it’s also partly responsible for who I am today as a person. When you share your travel stories aloud, you kind of hear your own voice and what it is saying, your opinions and wisdom come out alive, and you quietly think, was that really me?
    I feel that too- being happy and sad both at the same time when at a destination, but it’s great to have lived so many lives, right?
    I wish you all the best for the next step Shivya! It is the next best thing indeed. Please continue to inspire us 🙂

  16. wowww! the post ended an unexpected way 🙂 looking forward to read about your journey ahead. Kudos! Brillioant writing as always..

  17. Hi Shivya,

    Thank you for making my day 🙂

    Keep Travelling, writing and inspiring us

  18. It’s interesting that you talked about Ambition and Drifting. It is a struggle most of us go through everyday. Whether to do more and make sacrifices in the present term (because most great things demand them), or, drift along this sea of life truly living in the moment and aiming for more contentment rather than bringing about outward change in the world.

    One could argue that these two are not mutually exclusive, but I have slightly contrary thoughts. Spent more than 3 months and 2500+ words to pen those down in a post asking you a seemingly innocuous question of How To Live Life: http://www.mayankja.in/blog/how-to-live-life

  19. I love your beloved emotions and abstract thinking. This is remarkable. I wish more would travel and grow through the rest of the world. We will never find peace if we never understand each other.

  20. Shivya,

    A very deep thoughtful post..You have put it very beautiful especially the “restless” part. And the pics are simply out of the World. Keep going gal:)

  21. writinghertravels says:

    Great post! This is a subject I’ve also been reflecting on though in my case as a long term expat (Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Romania) which I think gives a somewhat different perspective. I admire you for planning to give back, and look forward to reading about how you do that…

  22. Roberto Amaral says:

    Your travel stories are inspiring and you are …even though you won’t admit it… amazing! We love to follow you as our family member through valleys, over mountains & across seas for two reasons… your stories of adventure & (get this) to know that you are safe!
    God speed…

  23. Akankshya says:

    I came to know about this blog, and you, very recently. It was when your mother, and my Chemistry teacher, told me about you. I must say, when Nath ma’am first described you, I was awed. Now I’m just plain reeling under the impact of your words, your experiences. Very few people in the world are able to do what you’ve done. I want to be like you, in that sense… I want to be writer. I’ll always owe ma’am, for telling me about you, because in you I have found a source of inspiration. Also, I have now become a dedicated reader, and plan to introduce a friend, who is an absolute gypsy at heart, to your amazing blog. Kudos, and thanks so much!!

  24. Reblogged this on The Sassy Wayfarer and commented:
    AWESOME! Must read!

  25. This was so beautiful to read. Travel broadens one’s horizons so much..but i think you are right..one might not be able to fit in after so much time. The question is – whether one even wants to.

  26. I could not agree more with all of this! I think about societal norms ALL the time and how absurd it is that people just get stuck in these ruts and cyclical ways — I’m 23 and also recently quit my job to travel and you are such an inspiration and I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    “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.”

  27. I guess the saying is right that ” travel leaves one speechless and then turns you into a storyteller.” Your travel stories and adventures are really inspiring.

  28. swatisinha09 says:

    Lovely post and great observations. Loved the honesty in the article. Its inspiring what you achieved and I do wish you the very best. Do make the thing you set out to do count !

  29. How about Isha Foundation ?

  30. Hey shivya
    I am from a very orthodox family . I hav completed my grad in 2012 . I love to travel . Though i have never been out of delhi except for the family trips yo agra , jaipur and haridwar.. i want to travel the world but dont have a support from my family .. i wish to leave home and travel.. i was going through some details on canadian passport when i aw you blog. Seriously speaking my heart out it was very inspiring and motivating for me . I dont have any knowledge about travel blogs or travelling coz i hv never been allowed to leave home alone.. can you help me on that n guide me for what can i do…you could give a call or mail me I would feel greatfull..
    Awaiting your reply

  31. Pbzepellin says:

    The more u travel and see all sorts of places and lives.. can u pick causes to support? Is this an endeavor to see what impacts the world most… or what connects with u the most?

  32. I respect your decisions and love all of them. No denials, whatsoever…!!! May life bring you all the good luck you need. Thumbs up for all your journeys! May I ask you something? How many countries you have visited this far? Do you actually go back to the countries you have already visited? If so, based on what… Eagerly waiting for your response…

  33. One thing : you say you can’t understand why someone would stay tied to a desk forever but I think you don’t get that some of us have desk jobs that we are passionate about and actually love. In my job as an urban transport planner, I believe I’m making a difference and it’s a career that I wanted to have. I also love travel (which is why I follow youI enjoy reading your travel stories) and would love to take more time off to travel but at the end I think I would stay committed to my job because I actually love it. It’s not just staying ” bound to my desk”.

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