Growing up in an average, middle class family in India is not easy, especially for millennials. On one hand, you have to live up to (all) the expectations of your family and society, AND on the other hand, the rapid growth of the country forces you to think out of the box to beat out competition in every nook and corner. Being in the ‘general’ category is the worst!
My family and I have been very fortunate to have close ties with the aviation industry for a very long time. My father retired from India’s national airline in 2014 as an AGM after 36 years of praiseworthy service. Although we didn’t start out financially well off, we still got those envious concessions on airline tickets. My father’s work took him to numerous continents, near and far, and my mother was bitten by the travel bug while she was still young. I think it is safe to say that the passion for traveling runs deep in our blood now and my sister and I try to keep up the tradition and explore as much as we can.
Our first international trip was to Hong Kong, while my father was returning from Australia. It was in 1995, I was 7 years old and Hong Kong had yet not come under the administration of China. Since that moment, my family would strive to explore as much as we could, saving as much as possible so that we could make that one international trip every two years, when my father would receive those discounted tickets. Domestic trips were still averaging about 2-3 per year.
I couldn’t help but be fascinated about how much there is to see on this planet. Although the saying goes ‘It’s a small world’, it definitely isn’t. My mother used to say “never visit the same place twice. There are so many things to see! Why waste time, money and energy visiting the same place twice!” As time went by, I became a fan of websites which had articles on exotic destinations, one of them being the Travel section on Business Insider. What would really put me off a bit was when I would (regularly) come across articles (commonly) titled “How one person quit his 9-to-5 job and went traveling the world for a year” and the sort. Yeah, great! I did not earn in Dollars, Euros or Pounds and the Indian Passport gets you practically nowhere. That means that every year, the millions of outbound tourists from India still need to apply for and obtain a tourist visa for each and every country they want to visit (except the Schengen zone, thank God). So even if I wanted to, I couldn’t leave my job and family behind and go exploring the world (I’m pretty sure I’ll never get a job again if I do so).
I am really grateful for the opportunity to come abroad and study at one of Europe’s best B-schools. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my family. But ever since I’ve been here, that thought still bothers me a bit. So one fine day, I decided to have a new goal in life. It had to be a meaningful purpose, something I would strive for no matter what, something I would really put time and effort into while I could, and I would stick to it. It had to motivate me to get up early in the morning and work till late. And I came up with this – to visit each and every country in the world, as soon as I can, at the least possible cost.
Sounds like a mouthful, and a bit improbable. So I decided not to give myself a time limit. Instead of focusing on reaching the goal, I decided to enjoy every moment of the journey. A lot of people have already accomplished this, although they were in a very different situation than mine, so I truly believe it is not impossible. If, in the end, it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out!
But how to document it? Surely I could write, even though I’m not an excellent writer. After reading the excellent blog of my MBA colleague Stephanie, I decided to go with a travel journal. Et voila! Every post of this journal will highlight a country I’ve been to, the cities visited, and any special mentions. And it definitely is a better blog than the one I use to vent out my stupid feelings!
A few things to note. I generally count those countries where I have spent at least two days or nights. Couchsurfing has proved to be completely useless, or at least the people on it have. Although I quite like the concept, I am yet to receive one affirmative response. Airbnb is the best thing ever (highly recommended)! Also, to keep to my goal of traveling on the lowest budget possible, I usually take the bus whenever and wherever I can. I see quite a difference between the lifestyles of travellers in Western nations and of those back home. My friends and I are quite okay using the roadways for travel and an eight hour journey is the norm for most inter-state destinations. Here, I’ve raised quite a lot of eyebrows whenever I’ve mentioned the fact that I prefer the bus. Flights are the preferred mode here (damn you, rich countries!)
So here you are! Let’s start with India, my home. The country where I’ve transitioned from innocence to maturity, witnessed how relationships evolve and deteriorate over time, loved, lost, ran, fell and learnt to get back up! Even though I now plan to get some international experience (keyword here being plan), the best things I’ve learnt and experienced are and will always be the ones from India.
I hope this journal resonates with the traveller in you and brings out the same spirit my parents have imbibed in me. If it can inspire even one more person to travel more and see what the world holds, instead of just slogging through their 9-to-5s, I’d be extremely grateful.
P.S. Couchsurfing offers are now accepted! 🙂
Country Counter: 1 Cities Visited: Too many to count Timeframe: NA
Pictures (from left to right): (Top row) India Gate from Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mumbai coastline, Humayun’s tomb. (Middle row) Lotus Temple, the Taj Mahal, the Sunderbans. (Bottom row) McLeodganj, Goa, Haripurdhar.