July 2019

So you are a traveler, but are you?

Posted By : Sumit Singh/ 243 0

The world of travel more often than not misleads you to a happy place. What is that happy place? that rock on the mountain top, that beautiful shore with colorful pebbles, the adorable, sometimes angry faces of young kids? After that it is just filters…

What is that happy place you need to be at for you to be a traveler?

Thanks to the outburst of social media (more on that later), travel is the buzz-word. But what is travel really?

Travel is the movement of people between distant geographical locations. Travel can be done by foot, bicycle, automobile, train, boat, bus, airplane, ship or other means, with or without luggage, and can be one way or round trip. Travel can also include relatively short stays between successive movements.

The origin of the word “travel” is most likely lost to history. The term “travel” may originate from the Old French word travail, which means ‘work’. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the first known use of the word travel was in the 14th century. It also states that the word comes from Middle English travailen, travelen (which means to torment, labor, strive, journey) and earlier from Old French travailler (which means to work strenuously, toil). In English we still occasionally use the words “travail”, which means struggle ~ Wikipedia (most basic and easily accessible reference point).

Travelling in India is more often than not considered a luxury as it is an escape from your beaten-to-death routines, hardships, personal battles, miseries, sorrows and what not. That explains why tourists on the roads are so impatient, driving rash, honking mercilessly, hurling abuses at fellow travelers, fighting and anything else. “Friends” traveling together with alcohol in their veins and music in their soul are no different; one moment of confrontation and hell breaks loose. Are you the weekend offender / holidaymaker, visiting popular holiday destinations for to spend the night partying at a resort?

How it affects the minority of people who are neither pissed at their life nor travelling for ‘fun’ is that it spoils the journey and sometimes the entire travel. In a country as livid as ours, many people have died in road rage.

If you somehow manage to escape the rut, the road-age, near-death experiences and reach your destination, you would realize the same set of people already waiting for you, the same set of people you were running away from. There are traffic snarls in city during rush hours and now there are human jams on Mount Everest. Mind you, you cannot travel higher than Mount Everest at least on foot and there too, people are honking / yelling at each other to let-go first, without any oxygen to breathe.

I remember having rescued vehicles from Pagal Nala on the Rohtang – Kaza route as they forgot they are in a 4by4 terrain and had no preparation for times like that. Are you an adventurist?

The restaurants, shopping places, local attractions too are filled with the same howling kids, pushing moms and staring dads that you left behind in the city. So, are you a weekend traveler out there for few hours of relaxation?

The most touristy spots generally have a queue for everyone to get a picture and the most-famous local food shop owners have no time to talk ever and generally seems annoyed with the cacophony. A lot of people hate small-talks that have to be endured to be the subject of your insta-worthy pictures.  Are you a culture-vulture or an explorer?

We live in a world of global warming, extinct to near-to-extinct-species, dying marine life, rising water levels and erratic temperatures, plastic that can envelope the planet and suffocate us to death in moments. Yet, we stand at mountain tops proudly spitting, peeing and throwing away the potato chips’ packets and plastic bottles while we pose for a photograph with a victory sign using the index and middle finger. Should ideally have been just the middle finger to the entire human race.

In between all this havoc, you will find a beautifully dressed damsel or sometimes even a fella posing for an out-of-the-world picture. The camera guys, light guys, make-up artists would flank the daredevil-artist out of sight, before this leads to another roadblock. Are you the fashionista traveler or a beauty blogger?

Are you a photographer travelling to different places to capture some unique moments?

One of the most popular tourist destinations in North India; Rohtang Pass Top is 50kms from Manali and one has to cross through a check-post to feel the snow. In the peak season a tourist cab charges as high as INR 20,000 and even more for a few-hours to a day-trip, depending on your paying capacity and eagerness to get to the snow top. Nobody will agree to having paid this absurd amount of money for ‘fun’ in the snow for few hours, yet there is bumper-to-bumper traffic for 5-7 kms each day waiting to cross the check-post by hook or by crook. What happens when you make anxious travelers / tourists wait on a hill-top, they get hungry and they need to relieve themselves and hence we have human and plastic waste piling up on that route each day. At the mountain top, you have to navigate through the carelessly parked vehicles waiting for major disaster while you see thousands of happy tourists / travelers crawling on the snow on their fours, eating whatever there is to eat, drinking alcohol gloriously after having achieved such a great feat, couples ruminating in all the famous movie scene enactments they know of. It takes real courage to un-see this once you have witnessed such acts by the most-intelligent sentient race on this planet – homo sapiens.

Everything about Rohtang tourism is a case-study and is just one of the thousands of examples we witness each day.

Once could argue that not every other situation is as grave as Rohtang, but is it? It is the same route, same people, same mannerisms that are slowly eroding away all the beautiful places we had as the closest escape from the city life. The temperaments do not change whether you are in the city or 1000 kms away from it.

There is this other breed of off-beat travelers (mostly working for the social media and trying their luck at getting famous for reasons best known to them), who have taken it on themselves to spoil the areas which were still unknown to the breed of travelers. Among them, there is always a race to get somewhere first or go to the last humanly possible region of the planet and ask the world to visit the same place and ‘tag’ them. You will find such specimen mostly on social media with long captions about themselves and how they are the best in what they do. If they are lucky or smarter than the rest, they get paid in free gifts or sometimes money to say what they say and do what they do by brands who are always trying newer ways of capturing eye-balls. Are you a travel blogger? 

Let us not even start with the influence traveler category, it is a bubble waiting to burst and one should never get influenced enough to talk about them.

We also have short-on-money or sometimes pretending to be short-on-money kind of breed who want to travel and experience the world as is. Now the world doesn’t change if you travel by flight or on foot and why the urgency to travel if you are not capable of meeting your basic expenses?

You can be a traveler and be any of the categories mentioned above or not; but in any case, you need to question yourself, why do you travel?

No, this world is not a bad place, on the contrary this world has a lot of beautiful places. We make this world, we are the ones who need attitude correction and need to understand our responsibility. The places, routes will not change, they will just keep getting crowded and will eventually diminish, if not taken care of.

Going back to the origin of the meanings to the word “travel” – ‘to torment’ is one of them. If you are moving from point A to B only for careless “fun” and not being responsible towards the environment, the region, the routes, the fellow travelers and most importantly yourself; you are just doing it all wrong. You may not torment yourself but what about the people who are really passionate about travelling, discovering, exploring, helping, creating things?

Do not do travel for the heck of it and do not travel in a rush, it is not going to help anyone.