I know I am extremely lucky when it comes to traveling. For me, a combination of genetics, opportunity and luck definitely played a hand. There are many who never got a combination of these three and still try to make it their point to travel. I think I am in awe of such people and they are an inspiration to many.
I belong to a travel obsessed family. So I definitely got my genetics part bang on. I have a dad who is 60+ and even now there are days when he is in 5 different cities in a week. Mom is more of a closeted traveler but my dad makes it a point to drag her along wherever he goes. That is exactly what happened so many years ago. They got married and they were soon on a flight to Africa following my dad’s dream.
It must have been terrifying back then. Africa still was a continent shrouded in mystery and many would not have ventured to go there. But my parents did and I believe that it was one of the best decisions of their life. Soon there were three of us but that did not stop them from following their passion of traveling.
When I was barely six, my dad got a job in a remote town called Sumbawanga in Tanzania. In those days, it was a 25 hour car journey which we used to cover in two days since my younger sister was still a baby. Have any of you tried traveling for that long with three young kids? It must have been a nightmare but my parents still did it. For the next three years, we made this journey every few months to the country’s capital and back. Both me and my twin sister were home schooled during those years and we had to go back to write our examinations.
You may be wandering where I am going with this. But trust me I am getting to it. Slowly as usual.
My dad’s next job was even cooler. He got a job at Air Tanzania, the national airline. So why was it cooler? This meant he could travel wherever his job required him to, totally free of cost (for him and my mother). We got to tag along few times and that is when we started to travel outside India and Tanzania. How I wish I would get a job like that. Those days were fun. A new place every few months. Yes I was very lucky.
So after a few years of globetrotting, both of us had to shift back to India for continuing our studies. Tanzania did not have good options back then. If you ask me, that was the hardest thing I ever did. It was literally a battlefield and you had to be highly competitive to stay ahead here. Suddenly priorities changed and my life of travel and adventure was a thing of the past. The only objective of most of the students was to get into a good college, then job, house and so forth.
But is this cycle of life really worth it? I love being an engineer and a corporate professional but I have seen many people struggle with it. Do we, as Indians focus too much on achieving things rather than experiencing them? Sadly we do.
I was also sucked into this Indian dream and for years I forgot those golden days of travel. Then one trip to Dubai in 2010 to visit my twin and it slowly started to change. Let me assure you, it did not change overnight. It was a slow transition and then I started remembering those bygone days. The wanderlust in me started fueling again and there was no stopping me.
I still travel far too less than I would like. However I have realized over the years that I am much happier when I escape into the woods once in a while. I may not be able to travel full time but will still try to if I ever get the opportunity. I will never let that opportunity pass me.
I know many Indians don’t get me. I keep hearing ridiculous questions. Why I have to go to obscure places? Why I will never be content in just settling down? Why do you have to disappear every now and then? Why I will never be a typical Indian woman? Why do you have to go there, there is nothing to see there? Don’t go to South America, it is not safe. Are you not scared of traveling? Why do you do these things, have you not seen what happened in Taken, the movie (You do realize that you are talking about a movie)? I feel like screaming every time I hear this one.
At least it is easier for me because of my family. Yes I do spend a lot of time convincing my mom. But she eventually surrenders every time since she knows it is futile to argue with me when it comes to travel. After all, what did she expect? She has not been able to change my dad after so many years. I am after all his stubborn daughter. Like father, like daughter. Also there had to be some drawback of raising your kids in Africa. The wild nature of the continent has somehow got infused in all of us.
So you may ask, what is the point of writing all this? I did tell you in the beginning that for me it was a mixture of genetics, luck and opportunity. Even with these three, I struggled for a while to remember and follow my passion of traveling. I blame it completely on the Indian society and what it expects us to do. I too got lost in the rat race and the expectations of a society.
But did it help me? It definitely did not. I cannot get back those years which I could have spent traveling. It definitely did not make me happy. I am happy now since I am doing what I love. Don’t let them dictate what you want to do. I know I told I won’t advise people about traveling but I just couldn’t resist.
It is okay for your kids to miss a few classes. I was home schooled and I turned out to be okay (hopefully). It is good for your kids to travel so that they realize that these boundaries of castes, religions, gender and race are only in people’s heads. Most of the people around the world are nice and kind. Don’t let the norms set by society govern your passion, Not only for travel, but for anything.
You can’t give an excuse saying that your kids may not remember about your travels when they are older. But you are so wrong. Those days in Sumbawanga are as vivid in my mind as if it was yesterday. Living in a big house surrounded by nothing other than my mom’s vegetable garden. The cries of the house maid when she delivered her baby in our house. The carefree days of playing as much as we wanted. The memory of a running hen inside the living room while we stood on top of the table (I am an Alektorophobic). Those days of camping or hiking remote corners of Tanzania. How we used to watch in fascination whenever lions crossed the roads every time we passed Mikumi national park.
I am glad to see that the view of many millennial Indians are changing though. They are traveling more like me and they have got a world of opportunity that their parents did not have. It is still a small fraction of the number of World travelers. But something is better than nothing and hopefully we will see a growing number who are willing to take risks like the ones my parents took so many years back.
(I am traveling this week. So you have to wait for a while for my next post. Also I have to make some major decisions and I will let you all know about it soon.)
P.S: Also let us take this opportunity to wish my parents a ‘Happy Wedding Anniversary’. We wish you many more crazy years ahead together.