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Describe your first transformative travel experience.
My longest trip, and that was also a solo trip, was to South America after quitting my job in 2016. I traveled around the continent for about nine months. My journey through Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, the three countries that I visited on this trip, has been one of my most transformative experiences.
I had booked a one-way ticket to South America. My family was sure that I had gone crazy, but I ignored all the opinions and flew to Chile. A four-months-long travel and teach volunteership on a Chilean island soon turned into nine-months-long solo travel throughout the continent.
My journey through South America showed me a different world. Though Chile and the other countries I visited are in many ways similar to India, the cultural experiences I had in Latin America, the people I met, the freedom I felt, and the challenges I faced brought out many character traits that I didn’t even know I possess.
I realized I am more confident than I think, that not only I can manage my way in any part of the world but make many friends, that I love being on the road and a desk job will never suit me, and that all the people around the world are the same.
After going through a challenging phase when I couldn’t understand Spanish to converse in the language fluently, I learned that life isn’t about overthinking and being afraid but going out there and doing what it takes to get what you want. I also understood that I can find a home anywhere.
Towards the end of my South America trip, I had finalized that I would write for a living while traveling full-time, which is what I have been doing now.
Why is travel important to you personally?
I travel to get lost in the mountains, explore nature, see different landscapes, learn new things, come over challenges, and just be. But more than the landscapes, I travel to meet and see people living in various parts of the world with their own set of customs, geographies, languages, and social systems. I also love putting myself in uncomfortable and strange situations and then coming out of them, having learned at least a few things. Traveling is a big part of my life now for I have adopted a location-independent lifestyle. As writing allows me to work on the go, both writing and traveling fit together like a crossword puzzle. I am the founder and editor of the blog On My Canvas where I document my travel journeys. So I go on trips and then write about them.
While being on the road, I get a feeling of belonging, ironically. I believe that the world is one, and we are all in this together. So while traveling, I try to look at the people beyond the boundaries of citizenship and passports. I realize that at the end of the day we all need the same things and have similar insecurities. I travel to be one with the world.
How do you prefer to travel?
I focus on culture, local communities, offbeat adventures, wildlife, nature, and other DIY activities. I mostly travel solo. I don’t plan my trips. I book a ticket and leave. I love using public transport, walking, and hiking. I eat local food preferably made by families or whatever is sold on the streets. I carry a light bag, and I am not a big shopper. While supporting local products and services, I travel at a slow pace. I don’t make an itinerary. I love to hang out with people, and sometimes those conversations might go on for longer than one can expect. I soak in the travel experience and then write about it later.
What tips do you have for travelers to make their experiences more meaningful?
Be open to what may come your way. If something makes you uncomfortable, please give yourself time. Be gentle and respectful to others and give them time to understand you. This two-way communication would help you transform any place into your home.
Choose places as per your priorities and not under the social-media peer pressure.Travel light for you can then always move quickly.
What are your favorite travel-related books, movies, paintings, poems, songs, etc.?
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – In this book, the author Robert M. Pirsig zooms-in on the various situations of life while driving in the US with his son. I loved how the author connected every small event and thought of his life with a bigger perspective and to the concept of quality. Driving on the open US roads gave Robert the mental space he needed to think about all the philosophical things he talked about.
My Family and other Animals by Gerrald Durrell —Though the book is based on the island of Corfu in Greece, I consider this a travel book as the family in the book travels from London to Corfu and make a life there. But then comes along the various challenges and the situation the family has to face. The animal-lover youngest son who brings home anything alive that he finds on the road or under the water makes up for hilarious situations.
Queen is a Bollywood movie in which the heroine goes to London and Paris on her honeymoon, alone. Traveling changes the protagonist, the girl, by showing her how the world outside her comfort zone behaves.
Travel helps us to come out of our world of problems and look at other people and their challenges. Travel puts things in perspective. We all need to explore and see the world so that we know that we are not alone in this journey of life and that everyone faces problems. Not only can you bring happiness to the people you meet while traveling, but you can also learn about how they handle situations in their life.
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Priyanka Gupta on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onmycanvasblog/