Toothbrush, sunscreen, a contingency snack – I went over the final touches and zipped my backpack shut. I was ready for my flight to Bangalore. Mother had given me a hug before she left for work. I picked up my bags – too little for a rather longish trip – and said goodbye to my sister. She asked if I had enough money and my phone charger, and why I had decided to wear that sweater. We went on to exchange a slew of mock insults, and then I was out the door. It hadn't yet hit me that I would not be back home for another five days.
But it hits you, and at the oddest of moments.
Like the night before, while I was packing my bags – a practice I have come to excel in over countless trips – and my mind went into a downward spiral of self-doubt. Why was I going on this trip? It was a perfectly good long weekend that I could spend at home catching up on my never-ending to-do lists. Why on earth could I not sit in one place for long enough, and why had I even planned this trip? Why so restless, Mahima? Are you running? I convinced myself I had a problem. I was always in escape mode. I began wondering if I should cancel my tickets – there were no hotel bookings to forfeit, since I was planning to stay with friends. My clothes lay scattered in piles all over the bed as I slid into the hole of my own making.
In a fit, I decided to share my indecision with mother. And as it often happens, in an entirely unexpected manner, she helped me make my decision. Because when she heard of my dilemma, she suggested checking cancellation charges and, if they weren't too ridiculous, cancelling my tickets.
And that was it.
In a heartbeat, I knew I had to go. Because her words reminded me of why I'd even started travelling – it was to pull myself out of comfortable patterns of routine and familiarity. It is to consistently push myself out of my comfort zone that I sign up for new experiences all the time. If I let a little self-doubt and anxiety derail my plans, what kind of a traveller, or indeed person, would I be?
It took me five minutes to pack my bags after that.
Why do I travel?
Travel is not a hobby for the faint-hearted. It takes a lot of skill and perseverance and brings out your best and worst instincts. But for some, it comes as naturally as the sound of burps at a Punjabi restaurant during lunch.
I’ve been travelling since I was too little to recognise anything but my parents' arms. I blame them for being the worldly, ambitious young couple they were, going about exposing a little kid to the joy of travel at an impressionable age. I became so used to the idea of leaving home for a road trip or a weekend in the hills that once I was past my teens, it was natural for me to want to travel even more, and on my own. It was a recreational activity I'd been brought up to love.
We were by no means rich or even comfortably well-off for most of my childhood, but travel isn't expensive. It's ambitious, but rarely expensive.