The lessons learnt on the road are etched much deeper in our personality than the ones learnt in history. Advice, preaching and warnings hold lesser importance than a first hand experience. Our parents teach us our early life lessons, telling us what to do and what not to do, what is wrong and what is right.
As we grow up, we realise that despite our parents meaning the best for us, there are limitations in their methods or knowledge. And without being disrespectful to our parents, we should realise that they cannot teach us everything, as they are limited in their capacity as humans. They are not the superheroes we believed them to be in our childhood. They are our heroes, but realistic ones.
Parents put others before travel
My parents were born in the 1960s, a time when India was finding its course of development. Jobs that built the nation were important, and people who did those jobs were respected. Apart from the usual city hopping, travel was limited to migration or transfers.
As kids of civil servants and government officials, my parents travelled to a large part of India. But this travel was necessary and was not out of pleasure. Even when I was young, my parents travelled. But travel was about putting others first. It was for that distant relative who had requested them to visit, for that aunt who was to get engaged, and for grandparents who were ill. My mom took trips without us, with the students she taught at a school. But this too was a responsibility and not something for herself.
When I look at all the parents of us millennials, I see that whatever vacations they took, whenever they travelled, they were never without responsibility. Sometimes, it was to keep the kids and their own parents and in-laws entertained, at others those were official tours. Our parents managed to find time for fun through responsibility, but they never put themselves or even travel first. Travelling was just a part of the process.
How things changed when I started travelling?
Until the age of 21, I had travelled only with my family. I liked that we stayed in good hotels and did not have to toil hard to reach to a beautiful spot. But I had missed stopping by in the middle of the highway at those green pastures or getting to try the street food in a narrow alley.
After I started earning, I wish I had people around me who would travel together. But people either didn't have time or money nor they did not like me. After several attempts to find people to travel with, I went on my first solo trip. This was a time when I had quit my job, had not told my parents about it, and had stopped getting any response from an HR after going through six rounds of the selection process at a dream company.
I decided to put myself first. Of course, it was selfish to not let the family know about my career decisions which could have affected them. However, at 22, I knew that if I did not do it then, I wouldn't be as free ever. I went to Parvati valley and it certainly wasn't this popular destination as it is now.
I happened to travel with strangers who offered me money, food and shelter. I met foreigners who wanted to know about my culture and appreciated my narrative. It might sound cliched if I say this, but I found myself in the Parvati Valley. I had worked as a Financial Analyst, and always looked at myself as someone who could do serious jobs. The epiphany definitely didn't hit me sitting under a pine tree in the valley, but I realised that there are many more ways that people live and earn, and one single job barely defines someone's life.
If I had taken my parents advice at this time, they would have asked me to come back home. From the confines of my home, I could have never got an outside perspective of my own world. As I travelled more, I realised more of the things that I had been putting aside to make peace with others. I certainly did not like hanging out or partying. Rather, I would take a nature walk, or forest shower, as it is known now. Sometimes we need solitude to recharge and reflect.
And even if my relatives called me out to be selfish at this point, at least, I wasn't a part of a gathering where they were sharing their disappointment with their own relatives for whom they had sacrificed personal well-being. We all love our families, and want to spend time with them, but a long union in my family has always turned out to be sessions on giving in to society's expectation of marriage, bitching about in-laws, and cursing their neighbours. Why shouldn't I vent out my frustration through travel? Cutting off gives us the time to find happiness in union. I remember the time trekking in Meghalaya, when after no human interaction for hours, I found a traveller who had taken the same effort to reach to a beautiful spot. I didn't avoid him like I would avoid other tourists at a crowded spot. But had a great conversation with him. Travel taught me that it is scarcity that helps us recognise the value of a thing.
Self-time is always scarce
In a bid to please our parents, boss, spouse, children, friends and strangers, we do not realise that we are living for others. Travelling is the most indulgent activity in life where you put yourself first. It isn't like going to a rom-com movie because your girlfriend likes it, and you like your girlfriend. It is about liking the movie itself.
And while everybody around you might want you to care about everybody else, you can do it, at all other times of your life, except for when you are travelling.
My parents travel by themselves now. Even if they travel to religious destinations, it is their choice of travel. I don't join them, and if I had I would have only spoilt their experience by being fussy, and reluctant. They like crazy shopping, having long chats with anybody and everybody, and they shouldn't compromise on that because of me who does not appreciate it. My parents are learning to enjoy things they exclusively like, and even if they taught me to take care of others before self, they too should get the pleasure of putting themselves first.
Don't you think so?
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