This is not one of those articles where I suggest you to leave everything and travel and quote Robert Frost that the road less traveled is the one I took.
Why do so many people change their careers and lifestyles to travel? Sometimes even indefinitely?
Do they travel to see new places and eat different food? Or to fill their passports with stamps? Or to be able to say at their deathbed that they have seen the world?
Could be. But it is more than that.
Let me take you through what travel has taught me.
1. Travel taught me that the hack of life is to simplify it —
As part of an algorithm course during my under graduation in Computer Science, I started solving many problems by designing complicate solutions. And then someone would come along and remove a hundred variables that I had put into the equation and make my life easy.
My approach was wrong. A solution is a solution. Not another problem. With time, I learned that the simple solution is the best solution. And, mostly, the only correct one.
That was my favorite course.
As I traveled, I saw solutions and patterns unfolding in front of my eyes.
Reservations got canceled but we got another place at a cooler hostel when we bumped into two French girls from that hostel at the plaza. I didn’t know from where to catch the last bus but an old lady walked into the restaurant and complimented my cat eyes and then boarded me into the bus herself and warned the conductor to drop me safely.
After resolving each problem that travel put in front of me, I realized that no problem needs that much fretting over. Same holds true for other life problems.
Most of the problems have simple solutions. We just need to find them.
When it seems to get too complicated, take a step back. Withdraw. Start afresh.
A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.
When I travel, I have so much to see and explore. I was so mesmerized by the rainbow cloud, the train running across the mountain, the green pastures and the grazing sheep, the little emerald-eyed Argentinian girl in the bus that I didn’t get a chance to think of the past or of the future. In these moments the whole universe channelized all its positive energy — zooming into that one scene. I was calm and resolved. I was present in the present.
Once I experienced such moments, I started craving for them. And I realized that I needed to make more of them. And that — they create life.
3. Travel liberated me from the mundane —
I was just thinking that the cleaning lady hasn’t come today and the kitchen stinks due to a pile of dirty utensils and the roommate would pile up more but then the rainbow-cloud scene that I described above flashed in front of my eyes and I smiled, unconsciously.
While taking me out of the mundane regularly, Travel also gave me beautiful moments to survive the mundane.
4. Travel taught me to keep my teeth clean or to say it like adults: taught me the importance of small basic things done at the right time —
By small things I mean the things that keep life going.
I am undoing what I learned in my teenage years. I was competing to get into a fiercely competitive engineering institution. I got up and studied without even stopping to breathe. During those years, I lived with my brother once. He was amazed to see my acne-patted face. I did not shower or shampoo every day. My shirt was stained. I had crocodile skin. My teeth had cavities.
He wanted to fix me. I did not care. I thought that getting through the engineering college was the only important thing. I wish I knew better.
Staying focused is important but we should not ignore the basics. Working out, brushing teeth, visiting a dentist regularly, doing laundry, finishing the required chores on time.
While at home I could get away procrastinating these things, during travel I could not. Travel helped me realize that these routines and personal care keep our life in order. They keep us ready to go anywhere any time.
Else we would be stuck in a night bus with bleeding gums. Else we wouldn’t have any cash to give to the camping guy in the middle of the desert. Else we would wake up in that institution with everything else wrong.
5. Travel and travelers taught me how I only needed one jacket— minimalism in short —
At our homes, we expand ourselves much farther than our requirements. When I worked in the finance industry, I had many handbags, heels, dresses, skirts. Many copies of the same thing accomplishing the same purpose.
But everything counted when I carried my bag on my back. I carried the minimum essentials.
Having fewer things to take care of and feeling possessive for fewer things make life easy.
When you start living out of a backpack, you feel liberated. Hell, our hunter ancestors did not even have backpacks or the stuff that could go into them.
My fellow travelers taught me how to value and make maximum use of the things that we have. And I would never forget.
6. Travel taught me that it is not bizarre to spend the night at the Chilean-Bolivian border refugee center — or that plans could go really awry —
When I was rejected entry into Chile and Bolivia refused to take me back, I was calm. Because creating a scene or doing an unusual amount of drama would not have helped. I went along with the flow of the situation, gave candies to the Bolivian border-control people who frauded documents to let me in, and took selfies at the border with both countries’ flags in background.
I understood that no matter how much we plan, things would go their own way. And they should. And we would figure them out on-the-go.
And that just isn’t true for travel. All of this applies to life too. I never planned to get fired, travel to the other end of the world, be unmarried at 30, and write. It happened. And am glad that it did.
Have some goals. Follow a routine. Dream of marrying your girlfriend. But these plans might never materialize. Things go awry more often than not. And that is okay. You can’t control everything. Just handle the situation. Something else would work out. Something has to always work out. That is the beauty of life. It goes on.
7. Travel made my confidence jump on the trampoline and taught me how to survive even in the strangest atmosphere —
When I landed in South America, I could only speak a few Spanish words. I had to live with a Chilean family who didn’t speak English. I had to teach English to Spanish-speaking teenagers of a rowdy-government school.
Boy, oh, boy. I had taken too much. I could be the confidence-queen of my own land but the world is much bigger. I had to learn a lot to fit into the South-American culture and to teach well and even to communicate about daily things such as going to the bathroom or having lunch.
As I stuttered in Spanish, my confidence fluttered like the chaotic pigeons, those sit outside the window, flutter.
I embarrassed myself. Made mistakes. But while learning Spanish, teaching teenagers a secondary language, and adjusting through South-American nuances, I learned to survive the strangest.
[bctt tweet=”I would have never known what all I could do if I never tried. And that is the crux of life.” username=”guptapranky”]
8. Travel showed me the other side —
India has many cultures, religions, and strong social and family constraints. We are known to make a big deal out of everything. But the social norms of the western world are more liberating. I drank and discussed the intricacies of my life with my Chilean host mother but I cannot even imagine doing the same with my own mother. Leave drinking I cannot even talk to her about being drunk.
Rather than thinking about what is right and wrong all the time, some cultures allow you to really live. I was a different version of myself in South America and no matter how much I try, I cannot live like that on the outside in India.
But I know that a world away, I have friends who store litres of wine waiting for me to visit and that they would drink and laugh away with me until 5 in the morning. And the same people taught me that doing what you want and being happy is the most important.
9. Travel taught me to look at things with a fresh outlook —
In South America, after having pecked you on the cheek, everyone asks if you slept well. Then they ask you to make the most of the day and to stay safe. You walk out of the house with good thoughts and warm hugs and kisses and feel loved and relaxed.
I learned that spending some time just in making each other feel good and taken-care-of was a good start to the day.
Or just simple things like how to make chicken soup with fresh rosemary, how to talk to children when they do something wrong, how many times you brush your teeth in the day, how you keep an extra cover close to your feet on the bed so that you can even sit on your bed with home slippers.
You know just everyday life.
If not for travel, I would have never known that a simple concern — how did you sleep at night — could make you feel so good.
10. Travel exposed me to the slum and to the skyline of Homo Sapiens —
Travel brought me in touch with people I didn’t want to be. A crazy, jealous Chilean English teacher, a creepy, psycho girl from the US, another crazy North-American boy, and well, the list could go on.
To cut it short, while traveling I met some of the most mentally unstable people who focused on the wrong things.
But I also met an amazingly honest British guy, the sweetest German girl who became my best friend, an old lady who taught me how to be myself, and well, the list could go on.
Seneca, the stoic, said that you need people in life whose energy — even if they are not present — could guide you in the right direction. You think of them and you know what to do.
Travel added many such people to my life. I don’t need to hang out with them every day. I just need to know they exist.
I write and stay at my writing desk for long hours though I love the road. As I wrote this article, I cried missing the places I have been to and the people I have met. Though the same places and people did make me laugh some time later. And I felt happy and proud that I have so many memories.
Being frustrated with the traffic or the boss at work — this all has a bigger beauty to it. But what if you never leave your home?
I leave home to see what I haven’t seen. And I won’t stop until I have seen it all.
Are your travels taking your life story forward? Let me know in comments.
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