What Travel Has Taught Me..

“Not all those who wander are lost.” Tolkien’s words from The Lord of the Rings transcend time and remind us that each new adventure has a path laden with surprises and discoveries, and inspires us to follow the unbeaten path. It claims that wandering is not without purpose, whether one knows it or not, rather, it enables one to garner knowledge and skills that mould one over time. I come from a family of enthusiastic travellers and spent a large chunk of my childhood sailing the East Pacific and Indian Oceans to visit different countries. These experiences have been enriching beyond words and have culminated into important life learnings I have come to realise over the years.

1. Travelling has made me discover more not only about the world, but also myself. Journeys are inevitably and simultaneously around one, as well as within. It could be translated into being a conscious individual quest, fuelled by an energy that builds character over time. The awareness that we are all tiny specks in this big world has an incredibly humbling and grounding effect.

2. Looking through a different lens: Little did I know that my childhood family travels would be the initiation of a perpetual storytelling adventure. I have never stopped travelling. Be it to a nearby town or an entirely different continent, visiting a new place never fails to fascinate me, there’s always something unique and new that drives you to adopt new perspectives. Even though I live and work in India, a small part of me looks ahead to my next adventure, and the cycle sustains.

3. More often than not, things rarely go according to plan. Your carefully set itinerary becomes redundant and you are left with two choices: sulk about it and risk ruining your trip, or go with the flow and react to the situation with optimism and enthusiasm, which would ultimately make for long-lasting happy memories. Before a journey, you set off with certain expectations and picture that experience a certain way in your head. But such notions must be left behind the minute you step out of your door, because sometimes, straying off the beaten path is a good thing, and leads you to stumble upon the most incredible hidden gems of places.

4. Travel makes you braver. Travelling alone for the first time is indeed intimidating, more so in a place where you know no one. The hesitation gradually vanishes and roaming as you choose without any commitments is actually quite liberating. The pace of exploring and flexibility of choice is worth experiencing.

5. Be open minded to try new cuisines, meeting new people, learning a new language, to be more accepting of new ways of life. Spending the summer in a new country brought it’s own dose of culture shock. Adjusting to new ways of life in a short span was a necessity. But more than that, being open to adjust in the first place was the main thing. The ability to unlearn and be a sponge to new but different concepts is an art more of us must adopt.

6. Experience each moment to the fullest. I fully abide by the YOLO (You Only Live Once) principle. Back in the 90’s we didn’t have camera phones or even digital cameras. Some people had polaroid or film cameras, and even those were reserved for only the most momentous of occasions. For my parents, travelling regularly did not necessarily warrant regular recording. Today we live in a ‘Clicker’ and ‘Selfie’ age, where people have the desire to record as much of their lives as possible. Back then, all I could do was record moments in my mind palace of sorts, that I recall to this day. As a little girl, I remember standing on the ship’s bridge and look out point, and realising in that moment that I was surrounded by a a big blue round circle of ocean. Here, opposing horizons displayed both night and day, a blotch of dark storm here and there, with no other living being in view, all quiet except the ship’s revving engine. That was a powerful memory for me.

7. Be Inspired. As a designer, I believe everything around me has the potential to be a piece of inspiration. When it comes to visiting a new place, the sky is the limit. Setting forth with no expectation and an open mind is all that’s needed. Today people simply turn to the world wide web, but there is so much out there that you as a person do not yet know that you know. Right now, in terms of knowledge, you are probably aware of 10–15% of things that you know you know. Twice this amount is the knowledge that you know that you don’t know- and would subsequently desire to learn about. But the majority and remainder of all knowledge around you are the things you are not even aware that you do not know. I believe experiences like travelling makes up for a lot of that unknown knowledge in a big way, by throwing information your way left, right and centre!

8. Collecting memories. A typical souvenir is most often a small nostalgic object that represents a place, and which has the power to make you relive a memory. For me, those souvenirs were maps. I know, you’d probably be thinking right now that maps are available everywhere. They’re on the internet, you can print them out whenever you want. But for me, a map that I’d pick up from a small shop hidden round the corner of the street was something special that when viewed, would remind me of paths I’d walked down and areas I’d seen, not to mention contain my own little doodles and notes I’d scribble on each of them! A map is a visual representation of what area you would like to cover, and the possibilities of where you could land up. The differently designed maps fascinated me and included road maps and subway maps, even ocean trails . They give clarity and perspective to a hazy, lost traveller and guide him on the road.

9. Curiosity. I disagree with the proverb ‘curiosity killed the cat’, I believe curiosity inspires ideas as well as change for the better. For example, as a child, curiosity had led me to leave my preoccupied parents’ side in stores and enter different ones. I was years later told that the store staff would keep me occupied in conversation while someone would try and locate my parents, who would not have spent too much time panic stricken looking for me. This happened several times. Thankfully, events like these never stopped them from being incredibly encouraging.

10. The butterflies in my stomach. Each trip I’ve taken has led to the moment when I board the plane and am struck by the sudden realisation of visiting a new country. Up until that moment- from getting the paperwork done- to planning – to packing – to setting up the alarm and waking up early in the morning to go to the airport, the trip was just an interesting idea in my head. Now, sitting in the plane, about to take off, the excitement of the situation sets in and it is then that the butterflies in my stomach come to life. This has now become a pattern and it amuses me every time it happens, deja vu, I look out of the window at beautiful views of home turning small, and smile as I start a new adventure!

Coming back to Tolkien’s verse, one can never get lost if there is never a set destination. The truth of the matter is, there never was a destination for the wanderer in the first place. The choice for the wanderer is to take the journey knowing the true purpose, or not venture at all. ‘To be lost’ translates into being bound by one’s own limitations, but, to trust in the prospect of venturing into the unknown, if even without direction at first, leads to creating one’s own path and to keep going ahead from there.

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