When I was little and my parents were responsible of vacation/travel planning, we went everywhere. By the age of 16 I had been to eight countries and done the most touristy thing in each of them. We kept a tower of albums (real physical ones) from our travels. Though I kept growing up album to album, there wasn't much learning I had taken away from travels. Sure I had duty-shopped at some of world's best airports and pretended to push the Leaning Tower of Pisa but none of those trips exactly changed me.
And this is why I am here, trying to engage the wonderful Indian traveller in a dialogue of introspection.
As a travel writer myself, I come across many bucket lists. A lot of them begin at a European country and end somewhere near the Americas. There is nothing offensive in wanting to burst open the gates of your home and run to the nearest foreign land, that is actually the most innate of human instincts.
But there is an entire sub-continent at your doorstep and it does not need your passport, visa or security checks.
We have the luxury of being born in one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world. India has 7,517 km of coastline and over 2,500 km of the Himalayas. Even if you take out an entire month, you won't be able to even permeate the density of just Northern India.
While you have been dreaming Ibiza, the beaches of Andaman remain criminally ignored. While you have been saving salary after salary for a Euro trip, your backpack has been collecting dust waiting for an adventure to the Himalayas.
It breaks my heart to see that somehow we reached a place where the world outside India deserves more respect, nurture and love. That its sinister to dump on the streets of Paris but perfectly alright to shoot plastic bottles into the Parvati river.
The generation of our parents never looked at travel as a way of life. For them it was just a break, a vacation after which you resume the monotony of life.
But we are not like them. We, you and me, changed how traveling was looked at. We started planning holidays, working overtime and even prioritized travel over weekends with friends. 'We' headed out with curiosities in our minds and fierce passion in our hearts.
And unlike our parents, who packed detergent soaps for two day trips, we began operating on impulses. And unlike our parents, who considered it almost violent to leave garbage around, we began littering packets of chips on quiet trails.
Our miles have increased, but our respect for the wild has fallen to non-existent.
This absent respect somehow reaches its peak when the backdrop of our travels is changed to a foreign country. We turn off invasive bluetooth speakers and frantically look for a garbage bin to dump water bottles.
I can make peace with the fact that at this moment hundred thousands of people my age will jump at the opportunity to travel and move abroad. But I cannot stand another an utter of criticism by those who take massive four-wheelers, for one passenger, and create endless jams on narrow hill roads.
Dear Indian Traveller, you have the blood of the oldest civilization running in your veins. Don't make your own home a personification of laziness that floods out as sheer dis-respectfulness.
I know this place isn't perfect. I know there are probably many countries you find much better. I know it is hard here. But may be, just may be, if you started taking that roadtrip a little longer and farther than small weekend getaways, you will begin to see. Begin to see that the roads here reach over 18,000 ft and connect through seas. That even the poorest of people here will open their homes for you and share whatever little they can.
Begin to see that in our massive country, there is a place for everyone. Irrespective of your choice in food, scenery, religion, ethnicity or even mode of travel, there will be a small town, village or city which will be your match made in heaven.
But there is no place here for irresponsible travellers who are inconsiderate. Who end up sinking their jeeps in pristine lakes, threaten sea creatures for selfies (what even!) and treat open lands as their dumping ground.
Dear Indian Traveller, this Independence Day, take a moment out of your celebrations and vow to travel locally and responsibly. Because if we don't treat our home right, no one else will.