Deeps' Travel Aspiration
My Story dates back to 2000 where we used to go on a family tour every year during summer holidays. I had a couple of long road trips visiting the Taj Mahal, the Himalayas and the vibrant city of Goa, happened when I was 10 years old. Things changed slowly and when I look back, I haven’t travelled anywhere for leisure or holidays in 15 years. The only exception is visiting Allepey Boat house with my friends, which was a part of University tour
I love travelling, but the fear inside kept me quiet all these years. The first time I travelled alone in India, I was 23 and fresh out of college. I had a hard time convincing my parents to get a nod. I had to keep them updated with the itinerary, stay, things to be packed and call them frequently.
The Bitter truth & the Indian Culture
Times are changing and people are opening up. But the fact still remains the same. Women are generally married off at a young age (23 is still considered late), do no travel outside your hometown/workplace for leisure, some even stay at home after getting married and worst part is they themselves think Travel is not their cup of tea
I've hardly travelled even with family from 2004-2014. My priorities were different and I believed only in studying & studying hard. Not that I'm a genius, its all to get a job just before finishing University. Professional growth, marriage, baby, family improvement is what I was thinking. I never had the opportunity to think about my own personal growth, mental health, enjoyment, life in the outside world. Today I'm leading a comfortable life in Melbourne and looking at the young teens, I feel I've lost most precious years of my youth life and it still remains a deep Regret.
Many reasons for not speaking up for myself. Life of a girl in India is surrounded by safety and that's Parents greatest fear. Not that every time I go out, I was harassed by someone. Its only a step which is taken as a precaution. Majority of the Indian girls/women are living life similar to the Covid-19 lockdown. Strict orders from parents about "Stay at home" and go out only necessary. How about restaurant?? The response you get, How about take away?. The simplest of things are looking like Luxury for majority of the girls from 2nd and third tier cities. While much has changed for women living in metropolitan cities in terms of opportunities and access, mindsets are slower to change.
Large parts of India are predominantly patriarchal, and things often get linked to the girls brought up in Indian culture. Chilling out with friends, Outing with Boys, staying out late, wearing comfortable clothes tops the list. Girls who do these things are often judged and believed to be immoral. Despite having good education, a hefty paying job and living in the city, I couldn't come out of my inner fear. Even my best of friends had a similar mindset and that didn't help either. I needed some one to standby me, motivate and give that extra push to take me over the line.
Life Changing Moment
With my professional goals achieved (haven't ticked off any my bucketlist), I was getting ready for the next biggest step in my life, Marriage. I met Manny online and after 2 years of long distance relationship, we got married in 2015. Manny is a frequent traveler and has already been to 10 countries. Travel or moving to a new place is so easy for him and took it in a much lighter sense. Its the opposite for me.
Even after marriage, we were living in different cities and the situation demanded me to travel Solo to reach Manny's place. This was my first instance of travelling alone. Manny was so confident that I could do it easily despite all the inner fears. He simply devised a plan and asked me to follow it. With smart phones in hand, all you need to do is some basic research on how to reach from one point to other. Taxi to Airport-Flight-Taxi to Manny's place(he used to pick me up). I was wondering why I was so reluctant in doing this in first place. This became a practice and I started to knock the doors of Travel.
I still had a long way to go, but this was the most important phase of life. A life changing one
Travelling is so much fun, a world which was totally new to me. Domestic trips became International trips! With Manny moving to Norway for his Masters, I too moved with him shortly.
During Holidays & weekends, we used to plan short trips to the nearby countries. At the end of the first year, we've been to close to 10 countries. Slowly I felt my perception about travel has changed so much.
Travel was never a part of my life and it is a one off activity which used to do during annual holidays being a kid. Growing up, I never felt the need to travel. After my 20's I had a illusion than Travel is waste of money. I was wrong all these years.
What Travel taught me?
Pre-Travel Deepthi had so many issues. Never had eaten anything other than Indian food. Never wore any comfortable outfits. I was always sceptical about how others would think of me. I was judgmental about other cultures
Now, I’ve visited 20 countries across continents. I don't panic anymore. I’ve fallen in love with Thai food. I've started to tick off my bucket lists and I'm seeking new adventures everyday. I'm smiling at fellow travellers & talking to them freely. I know that stepping out of my comfort zone will help me to be a better person.. I Became More Compassionate, Tolerant, Patient, and Less Judgmental. Let me tell you my kutti story of what happened
Conquered my Inner fears & Negativity
My First overseas trip is to the beautiful city of Phuket & its near by islands in Thailand. I was equally anxious & excited. Manny was accompanying me, but still I had so much fear inside me. Manny being a frequent traveler, had arranged only the accommodation and nothing else. He told me, he'll plan it after our arrival. The moment I heard these words, negativity started to pop into my head. So much was running inside me, what would we be doing for the next 4 days, have we wasted the trip without planning, what will say to my friends, have we wasted time? It was crippling me throughout the flight and left me depressed.
Once we landed, Manny was quick in sorting out the plan & air port transfer. I realized that my anxiety was always caused by me worrying about the worst case scenario. Because of which I didn't enjoy the flight as well. Now with repeated travel and gaining experience, I'm in a position to handle any situation or seek alternatives. Not to just sit and worry about things
Then came the next issue, Food! Manny took me to a Thai restaurant and ordered couple of dishes. First I couldn't use chop sticks, second, I didn't like the smell of the food. Third I was starving after the journey. I forced him to take me to an Indian restaurant near by and ordered the usual's. Indian food costs 4 times that of Thai food, but it didn't matter to me. Then going on a day trip, i used to pack my bag with Sandwiches, biscuits, chocolates, muffins and whatever I could eat, buying from the supermarket. I was so devastated after that trip.
After a couple of months , we permanently moved to Norway. Manny got me Turkish kebabs, wraps, Steaks, Salads, Bacon, Hawaiian Pizza (bacon & pineapple). He slowly asked me try it out, one piece at a time. I never had beef or bacon before either. Slowly, I was able to increase my flexibility towards other cuisines. Later pad thai, fried rice in Chinese, Mexican Tacos all became my favorite choices. This opened up me even better and I never felt I would be starving going on Trips. We made it a habit not to look/search for Indian restaurants anymore going on holidays. I couldn't believe that I broke the second Barrier
Fitness & caring for the body
Manny is an athlete and a fit person who loves Hiking. But I don't for sure. For me, Holidays is to enjoy places & not to put any physical effort in it. Simple walking and climbing steps was ok, but I was not comfortable going on extensive walking tours, biking or climbing up to a view point. I had a healthy diet, but never cared about exercising and improving my fitness. Norway is full of nature and the only way to enjoy the views is to climb the goddamn mountain. Yes, the final views are rewarding and we had awesome photo memories, but still I never tried to concentrate on my fitness. The Other adverse effect is that you will have to settle with plus size outfits instead of the fitter ones
After Ryan, I took exercising as a serious task and now involving myself in small hikes around Melbourne. It is tough, but I'm not giving it up. If not for travel and wanting to look good on photos, I would have never taken it up
Change in Personality- Fear, Tolerance, Being Judgmental, Dependency
Travelling in Metro train in Rotterdam, Manny and I got separated with the doors closing suddenly. I was shell shocked, not knowing what to do. We didn't have our roaming activated, meaning no phone access. I was full of tears. Luckily I got down at the next station and I saw Manny taking the next train and reached me in no time. When we went back to our accommodation, we discussed how we could have avoided it or what we should do if such a situation arise. Manny was breaking it down and giving me simple solutions. yes, that's true, the actual problem is not missing out, it is fear. Every time we went on trip, we made so many mistakes. It gave us a chance to learn & improve continually
I was taught that Indian culture & traditions are the best. I was so judgmental about travellers if anything goes contradictory. Women drinking and talking freely to fellow travellers are a strict NO NO! My thoughts were so backward. Manny's friend joined us in Amsterdam during one of our trips & he was joined by anther friend who was a girl. I was so quick in asking if both are in a relationship. How stupid? I never imagined a boy/girl traveling together. First time I'm seeing a mixed dorm hostel, I couldn't believe such things existed in first place. I was wrong, totally wrong.
Every individual needs to be respected and so are their cultures & traditions. When you start discussing with your fellow travellers, you will learn to appreciate each other's cultures. People who had never spoken to me, whom we met as a part of our travel came out of their way to help us, guide us. Never brand a girl who wears short skirt or drinks with a guy to be wrong, she will be the first one to help you. never be judgmental
Getting out of Comfort Zone
Pre-Travel Deepthi & Post-Travel Deeps are complete opposites. I still haven't tried many things out, but I now the open mind set to go for it. I love to travel, but the real reason behind the love for travel is the self -realization. I'm enjoying this freedom and it was possible only because of let going of things which made me more comfortable
What I would say to my fellow Indian girls?
What people think when you travel alone or with your group of friends? They might have 100 reasons to ridicule you, but just smile on their ignorance and walk away. The first thing we have to do is stop worrying about what others might think. 3/4th of your problem is gone.
Communication is the biggest problem in India. Parents don't speak freely with daughters and even the simplest of things are considered taboos. If you have a problem, Talk. if you have a desire, Tell! if you want something, Ask! Find a friend who has a similar mindset and that the best way to start. It will eventually grow into a group
Running away from fear is not going to help you. Be inspired & inspire others. From my description of how I was before, you could easily say that I'm a typical Indian girl, wasn't the most confident, living in her inner fears. All you need is little experience. Once you learn the knack of doing things, do's and don't, you'll become a pro. First step is the most important and then you'll have the ball rolling.
Your best companions are your school/college friends, work colleagues, hostel mates who has a similar mindset. Get into groups & start organizing things. Start with a day trip from your city. Research & Plan.
Solo female travelers in India are on the rise. read their blogs, talk to them for advise & support. They'll gladly do. We see many girls coming from overseas to India and are so confident in going around. We can take that as an Inspiration
One thing I wanted to share again, is that travel is not expensive. When you travel in groups, it is even more economical.