Why do I want to travel?
Having been born and raised in the tea gardens of Assam, the earliest of my childhood memories are of daily drives across a stretch of forest (converted to a wildlife reserve a few years ago) to school. I hold vivid images of days that were turned adventurous by herds of gibbon monkeys blocking our road or wild elephants that broke into our lawns to feast on bananas – all of which meant school had to be missed for the day. I remember how childhood was defined by the many road trips with the entire family. Times when all of us just got into the car while Dad drove us as far as Shillong in Meghalaya and Khonsa in Arunachal Pradesh, both of which lay about 14 hours away.
Taken aback by how much things had changed over time, last year, on a rare occasion when the entire family was together back home on my birthday, I decided to plan a road trip. Even though it meant waking up at 4 am and driving through rugged roads to a quaint spot in Arunachal for a mere three hours, surprisingly, none of us complained. Probably, like me, they too had let the day quietly drape them in nostalgia and escape to simpler times that no longer seemed familiar.
Over the last ten years, as I’ve dwelled away from home, I have slowly become aware of how little I know about my own country. Spending a few years each in Hyderabad in the south, Dehardun in the north and Mumbai in the west, I have seen glimpses of cultures and communities that are so multifaceted, so distinct from each other. Times when my friends and I sat talking about our respective home towns, each of us excited about sharing personal anecdotes, there arose questions that left each of us without answers. There was so much we didn’t know about the towns, countryside or cities that we called home. And how could we? After all, each nook and corner of India, I believe, leads to new discoveries every day.
Today, with travel magazines piled in every corner of my tiny room, several plans made for journeys to remote corners of India, and a travel bucket list in place for the next ten years, I realise that I have a long way to go before I can tag myself either as a traveler or a writer. But I also realise how this only drives me to work harder towards becoming both. Every time I go to Assam now, I am motivated to bring back more than factory fresh tea and homemade food. I try coming back with better understanding of the highly misunderstood state and its neighboring regions.
As I remember mentioning to another traveler during my trip to Himachal in September, we have all been conditioned with too many stereotypes while growing up and the only way we can shake them off is through travel – by experiencing regions and traditions as they are, for ourselves.
So, in the last month of what has been an extremely challenging year, I ask myself, why do I want to travel? Perhaps, I cannot bear to simply dismiss this world as complex anymore. I am on a quest to understand it. It lets me drift back to the simpler times – in varied places, in sundry ways.
Why do you travel?