Sujata is an architect by profession and has a passion for writing. She shares her life experiences through writing, hoping to be of help.
My travel journeys have begun only recently, from 2017. Prior to that I did visit a couple of places but did not pay much attention to them. I would usually just go around and would not bring back anything except from the shopping spree that I would go on in the new place.
But since 2017 I have become a more conscious traveler. Of course, I do all the touristy things like visiting all the top tourist destinations of the place I visit, take hundreds of pictures, and make sure to #hashtag them on Instagram. But in addition to that, I have now become more aware of the surroundings. There is so much to learn as a traveler. A lot of the times, when we consciously observe while traveling, we learn a lot about ourselves that we did not know.
As of now, I can call myself an avid traveler. I might not have traveled to many places. That, of course, has to do a lot with the current Covid-19 pandemic that has brought forward a lot of restrictions and bans on travel. However, prior to that whatever traveling I have done since 2017 to early 2020, it has been a learning curve that are now a part of my being as an individual.
Some of which that have immensely impacted me and has altered how I view the world and life; I have listed them here.
I have divided them into two subsections, one where I have come to know me and the second what I learnt about the logistics and preparedness of traveling.
And I start with what I learnt on the personal front.
While growing up when we live only in one place, we tend to know only about that place. I am from Assam, India. Though I have been to different places here in Assam because of my dad’s transferable job, I was primarily exposed to only one type of culture and people. And no matter how much television we watch, there is only limited exposure we get. Primarily, we learn what we practically and physically see. So even for me, I only believed what we were taught and saw, and believed that they were the only ways of how things are supposed to be.
But as I visited cities in different countries and different cities in the same country, I realized the variety that the world has. I learnt to accept and appreciate the different cultures. I understood that our way of dealing with people and situation is not the only way. Every culture has its own ways and we as individuals need to understand that and appreciate the uniqueness every place and individual has to offer.
I am an introvert. And there had been a lot of occasions where I had been socially awkward. If I am put in a room full of strangers, majority of the times I would have nothing to say and I would wait until it is time to go home. That has drastically changed now. I feel like I am an evolved person when it comes to communication. I might still not be able to have long conversations with strangers, but I am highly confident in dealing with people in any situation.
As we visit a new place, we also meet people we haven’t met before. It could be anyone – from the driver to the hotel receptionist to the co-travelers in a tourist bus. And many a times, they are all from different cultures. And to have a smooth stay and travel, we need to make conversations. And because of that, I learned to communicate with different types of people. This has developed my communication skill to a great extent.
And additionally, we can only get to know a place better when we communicate with the locals and hear stories from them. That has become the most essential part of my travels now.
I have humbled down, and a lot. I had a stubborn personality where I would just want what I want and do things the way I want to. Traveling makes you realize that no matter how much you plan, there might be changes and we always cannot be too rigid about our plans. We have to humbly accept it and try and work things around it.
Apart from that, when we meet people from different background and culture in their own place, it is disrespectful to not honor them. We are guests in their country, and we ought to understand that we always cannot have it our way. As guests, we have to abide by their rules and regulations.
I have been to places where people have been extremely rough and to places where people are extremely soft and welcoming. I have enjoyed both the places. I learnt to accept both as their ways of life and I lived my days there and left respectfully. Both have been truly humbling experiences.
4. Not a Solo Traveler
As someone who had not travelled much earlier and had developed all the concepts about travelling on the internet, I too fantasized about traveling solo someday. I have and still travel mostly with family. I traveled with friends while I was doing my graduation and post-graduation. But that would be mostly on academic purpose. Otherwise, my primary travel companions would always be family. And the way solo traveling is portrayed, I had assumed that that would be the ultimate way to travel.
But, after I had tried going solo a few times, I realized I hate traveling that way. I do not like traveling in a huge group, but I would definitely always want travel companion – people I am close to and share a bond with. But not travel solo. I felt travelling alone meant I would not have anyone to share the memories with. And being an introvert, I knew it would always be difficult for me to share the entire trip and have the same feel as I had when I was on the spot. And therefore, I realized I am not a solo traveler.
5. No one Cares (Let us Loosen Up a Bit)
Most of us have a habit of overthinking. And we keep getting anxious about it. However, travelling helped me a lot in overcoming overthinking. Though I have not gotten over it completely, but I am at a much better place now.
Whenever we travelled, we would tour around in cabs, or tour packages or some booked vehicle. The people handling them would all interact in the friendliest of ways in every city that I have been to. But that is how they are with everyone. And I am no special. And as soon as we get off, they forget, and they go on to the next client and that is exactly how they continue on.
I realized that we really need to live in the moment and not carry our baggage to the future and not let ourselves think too much about what and how we did. Whatever we do and however we do, people will forget, and everyone will just move on. At the end of the day, no one would really care enough or remember anything. And sooner we realize and accept it, the better and easier it gets. I learnt to loosen myself up and not plan or think much ahead of time. I learnt to live at the moment. The way we communicate with the tour guide at the moment of the moment and say whatever we feel like and forget because we know he does not care, similarly we should continue living our lives at the present moment. Do and say what we think is correct at the very moment, and let things just pass by and flow.
Apart from these learnings about personal growth, there are some travel requisites that I take very seriously as well. And I have listed five of them.
Itinerary is the most important thing that I carry with myself whenever I am travelling. I am a planner. I like to know where I might be spending my time and days. I might not be very rigid about it, but I believe we at least need to know how and where our day might be heading. I also plan rest days on my itinerary to be a little more spontaneous on the day, but I do have an overall itinerary. Having an itinerary is helpful so that we do not have to struggle every morning. It is not a rigid plan but a rough idea on what we can do on the day. And being unaware of the public transport in a new city, it is convenient to just have a planned trip with our rides and tickets being booked beforehand. And sometimes we also need to have a back up itinerary just in case it becomes difficult to follow through the original one.
2. Walk Around
I mostly travel around a rented car in a new city. It is a private service and so it is easier to move around. And this is great when our drop locations are at a distance from each other. However, if places are close by and walking can be an option, it is a better choice to walk around. Walking around helps us identify and understand a locality much better. Walking allows us to feel the essence of the city and also helps us learn a lot about the place and its people. In addition to that, it is also beneficial for the health. Therefore, as, and when we can, we should allow ourselves to walk in the new city.
3. Stay Location
Personally, it is really essential for me to decide on the location of our stay prior to the visit. I usually prefer the central part of the city where the communication is really good, and which has a variety of food outlets to go to. So that in case we need to go anywhere immediately or want to try different food than the once available in room service, we have our options open. Additionally, these central parts are usually the busier parts of the city and therefore are the safer locations. I do not prefer the overcrowded areas though but having the minimum density of people that could make us feel safe is a priority.
4. Short Trip, One City
I am not a multi-city travel kind of a traveler. So far, as many trips we have taken, it would usually last only 10 days. And I prefer visiting only one city for the 10 days. This allows us to know that one place better. We can visit the tourist attractions and the other hidden gems of the place as well. We take time to know the place well and its culture better. If it’s a multi-city trip in a short duration of time, we are always in a hurry and there is barely any time to peacefully enjoy the space. Incorporating rest days also becomes difficult with multi-city tours, and towards the end of the trip we tend to become too tired. Therefore, I prefer exploring only one city at a time with rest days in between too to keep the holiday and relaxation spirit alive.
5. Always Try Their Food
Being from a particular country we might tend to keep eating our native food only. Not knowing what the new place serves, we might be reluctant in trying them or we just settle for the fast-food chains. But I would recommend that one visits a restaurant who serves local food and try the local food. They will always have options for everyone – either vegetarian or non-vegetarian. We must always try the local food and have a conversation about their food. Food holds a lot of stories about the place, and it is really interesting to know that.
Food has always been on my list of priorities, and it has never disappointed me.
Everyone has different preferences of how they want to travel. And therefore, they will have different experiences and learnings from their travels. And we will always miss out on something or the other because of our choices. And that is absolutely alright. We just need to make sure that whatever we choose to visit, explore, and experience we do it to our heart’s content and be happy about it. For me, these have been the primary learning experiences that I had as a budding traveler.
As I plan to resume travelling again post my Covid double-vaccination, I hope to learn new things about places and myself. Covid-19 itself has already been a huge learning lesson for us and has made us rethink our lifestyles. As I begin exposing myself to the world again, I am sure there will be so many new things to learn and experience. Hopefully, I can add more to this list soon.