Quitting our jobs and giving up our house, to travel around India for one year is one of the most radical things we had ever done. Now that we are back from the epic journey it is time to look back and reflect how the year has been for us and what we had learnt in the journey.
(1) Start before you are ready
Before every trip most people plan judiciously. A packing lists that covers all possible scenarios, like rain coat if it rains, 5 kinds of accessories, 3 colours of lipsticks etc to match the dress that we carry and might buy. Things to do before the trip like cancel the newspaper, inform the maid, close the water taps, get a new cylinder etc. Even a short trip of one week can be overwhelming if we keep such exacting demands on ourselves to be prepared for everything and to look perfect in every part of the trip.
In reality, we can never be fully prepared and ready for all the demands of travel or life.
As Tim Ferris says ” The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. If it’s important to you and you want to do it ‘eventually,’ just do it and correct course along the way.”
So like Nike says ‘Just do it.’ Atleast get started.
(2) Break it Down
Travelling around a country as vast as India is a daunting task, even when one whole year. So overwhelming, that despite my deep desire and intentions I had put it off for over a decade. The decade’s wait came to an end, solely due to my Husband Hari’s programmer mind.
He broke down my wishlist of travel around India into a time bound states wise plan. Based on that we further decided on the list of activities and places, mode of transportation, route to be taken, reaching out to local people etc. This breaking it down clearly gave us our action items to move towards our plan as against my vague idea or wishlist.
As the saying goes, “How to eat an Elephant, one bite at a time.”
(3) Be flexible
A self- planned trip is a lot different from one planned by a tour operator, it has several benefits but it also has its own challenges and uncertainties. While we enjoyed the Hampi city and the history, the tourist buzz around the chariot felt like an hype. We also felt Badami was truly a hidden gem where we had not initially planned sufficient time for. Because we were flexible with our plans and schedules we were able to enjoy more of the places we like and skip or cut short places that were not to our liking.
This flexiblity also enabled us to manage better unforseen repairs on the road, sickness or just plain fatigue. While it is good to have a plan, be sure to improvise on road. You never know what the road has in store for you.
(4) Face the Inevitable without the drama
There were days we had to drive 100 + Km’s before we could find a tea shop. Sometimes stranded in the middle of nowhere with a bus breakdown or a puncture of our vehicle in a hilly road. At times, excellent roads abruptly stopped and we were facing non-existent roads with no tar, no shops, no villages, no signboards and sometimes even no people. We had to cross over rivers at three different times in our motorbike with the fast flowing currents threatening to damage the engine. We crashed multiple times with sensitive injuries.
There didn’t seem to be a way forward. Often there was no way back either. Even staying back was not an option. We took a lift when stranded, got the repairs done with a mechanic on the way, rode the punctured bike till the tyre shop, walked miles to get a phone signal to call for help, towed our bike with help of another. We did whatever had to be done to get us safely out. We were not always calm and composed. We did not always know what to do. But we did what best we could with the resources we had.
Difficulty is Inevitable. Drama is optional.
(5) Rest when you must
Travel is not as sexy as travel industry and even some travel movies make you believe. It is like shifting and looking for a new house every day, a new cook for every meal, a new mechanic, doctor etc. The surprises are sometimes pleasant, often not.
We had our set of nasty surprises and dramatic incidents. Motion sickness in our day long bus journeys, caught out with a sudden bike failure in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal or even any villages nearby, dramatic high speed falls with injuries and bruises all over our body, stuck in the middle of bad roads with no way forward and no way back.
Quitting not only crossed my mind, I had almost decided on it after our very first day on the bike riding 330 KM to Aurangabad from Mumbai. My back felt like it would fall apart. That day and each of the days we felt discouraged, the one thing that stopped us from quitting and let us go on was a good and sound sleep. Sometimes even in the day, sometimes even for a few days together.
The problems did not ofcourse go away when we woke up from our slumber but we had regained much of our will, reason and energy both physically and mentally and decided to push on one more day.
So if you are feeling tired, dejected, quit if you must, but first rest. Rest and evaluate and then decide.
Travel is often a proxy for life. It is life intensely lived every moment. It teaches you a lot, but it always comes dressed up an inconvenience and sometimes even a danger. So Live well. Travel Well. Learn Well.