Wednesday, 11 May 2016

7 Lessons I Learned While Travelling in Asia

When I first started planning my round-the-world journey, I had a simple plan. I would take a year off to travel to the 2 continents I had not yet visited. Antarctica and Australia! Along the way, I would visit new countries. I would experience their natural landscapes, lush green hills, and forests. I would even spend time with friends and family I had not seen in years. All before I turned 31!

As I began travelling, my expectations began to rise. I wanted to inspire young women to pursue travel, to pursue their passions. I wanted to discover whether I could travel as a single woman to far away countries, proving that the world is not as unsafe as we perceive.

My journey has been a difficult one; my
 increased expectations crashing and burning in the presence of my original plans. My family and friends struggling. Myself learning new lessons.

In this post, I wanted to share my innermost thoughts and lessons with you. Many of you asked and I listened. So, please read on! Because there is a good news too! 

Lesson 1. Family and friends come first

You may have noticed long periods of silence between my blog posts.

As I continue travelling, I find it necessary to take these breaks to recover when I fall sick, to feed a hectic travel schedule, to work on my next blog post, and to spend time with family.

This trip has taught me that charity begins at home. We know the personalities and needs of those closest to us; we know how to steer them in the right direction and to provide them with emotional support. In the process, we also know our own body's needs and must take care of ourselves too.

Balancing an appreciation of self with selflessness for family is difficult. Maintaining self-confidence and independence in the midst of this balance, even tougher.

Lesson 2. Everyone is inspirational

You asked me when I will be writing my remaining 4 stories. I have come across so many stories in the past 4 months. Without enough background on each of those stories, I am unable to write about them. But, one thing has made itself clear; that each and every one of us faces challenges and each and every one of us is inspirational in the way we survive those struggles.

Educated, loving mothers in the most average of families have been fed false information; their daughters suffering through female genital mutilation; sons unaware. Wives have been physically and/or emotionally abused by their husbands; they are encouraged to leave by their families, but stay on for their children. Single women, who spent their lives supporting their siblings, are now old, sick, and alone; their nieces and nephews around the world are bonding to show them love, balancing commitments to their own ill health, their own families, and their jobs. 

Yes, I have even seen blatantly visible sex shops advertising sex with women; men selling sex on menu cards and naked women in photo albums.

To top it all, I have heard many negative assumptions about other religions and other people.

But, I have also seen a lot of positivity. Women in "developing countries" running their own businesses, travelling to and from work alone, acting as the sole breadwinners of their families. Muslim countries giving the most "Western" of freedoms to their daughters and mothers; boys dating girls; girls free to wear the clothes they wish; women working as policewomen and pilots.

My belief in the media has greatly reduced!

Lesson 3. Love and let be

On this trip, I have also lost my once-admired ferociousness. My pop's favourite name for me - "tigress". But, on this trip, there have been times I have doubted myself, even been scared.

I have sat in my hotel room all day, afraid to step outside, afraid to walk down the street alone. Why? I do not know. Maybe because there were people on the other side of that door; what would they think of me; how would they look at me. What if someone found me out - that I was not a local. What if they took advantage of me. What if I took the wrong bus and ended up in a shady street, with men who would rape me with their eyes. What if; what if; what if.

The reason does not matter. I learned a valuable lesson. It is easier said than done.

Asking people to grab a hold of their inner passions and take that first step - it is easier said than done.

How did I break out of that mold?

My first step was to allow others to step back, to tell me they were busy. I had to find my own way to pre-determined addresses where I could meet them. I would then use my mobile app to order an Ola cab, shower and get dressed, and then wait for the call from the driver before I made my way down to the hotel entrance. Once I was in the cab, I would hold my breath until I reached the destination, which I would have Google mapped in advance.

Something that was and is so trivial for me in Canada took me a great deal of willpower to do in India.

My lesson - just love those who are unable to do. Understand that they may be unable to do what you are asking them to do. Give them an opportunity to learn through the babiest of steps, and maybe they will overcome. If not, just be there for them emotionally. 

Lesson 4. Travelling solo does not mean travelling alone

Some of my favourite moments have been in the company of new and existing, young and old friends. But, there were times where I could not enjoy the moment because I thought I was losing my independence, which was not true.

Once I realized that I could be independent even in the presence of my friends, I began to appreciate new experiences even more. Like the time I laughed endlessly with my aunt and cousins in Mumbai about how I was destroying my English just to fit in. Or when I shared a car with my friend and his childhood friends, watching them laugh with each other, playing their favourite songs on the radio.

In an effort to reclaim my independence - carry my own bag, make my own plans, problem solve my own way in each city - I forgot that it was okay to work collaboratively with others and still feel accomplished and successful. I knew this was important for work, but this trip taught me it is true for travel too. You just need to find the right travel companion

Lesson 5. A child's fantasy

Recently, I had the opportunity to share an AC private cabin on a train from Jodhpur to Delhi. Not something that is easily available. A god-send as the heat in India is deadly at this time. I was in a bad mood though, and could not enjoy the cabin as I should have.

I lied on my back on the lower bunk of the bed in the cabin, and realized that I may never have such an opportunity to see villages and cities in India. As I lay on my back, I shifted the curtain slightly, and looked out the window at an upside down world, passing by like a movie reel. Looking at the world like a child made me appreciate it all the more.

Lesson#1 - Absorb each new experience, artefact, building, beach, and park like a child.

Lesson 6. Life is (not) beautiful

Tucked away in the suburbs of Canada, I had mastered the art of a simple life; one in which I was learning to be independent, confident, selfless, and understanding. No lies. No duplicity. 

As soon as I stepped out of that safe haven to experience the beauty of life, oh what a shock!

My naivety that all people have an inkling of good in them was shattered; that everyone can be understood, and that to steer them onto a path of selflessness and compassion, they only need to understand.

Not true!

Fact#1 - Each of us is inspired by movies like Wild and Zindagi Na Milegi Doobara and Highway. We forget the pain of the characters, and focus only on the extreme moments of joy they experience while travelling. Have you watched 127 Hours instead?

Lesson#1 - Accept the fear of travelling solo, the possibility of harm and/or death, and embrace travel for the rollercoaster that it is. If not, don't despair, travel to a park close to you and build your self-confidence. Until then, you can also visit new places using Google Street view - thank goodness.

Fact#2 - Cities are an infestation of exploitation and probably have a history of war, conflict, loss, and death. Each city I have visited, each lake-side village, I could not dissociate myself from the possibility that behind closed doors there are people who are struggling for their daily bread, have broken relationships, and are sheltering abused wives and children.

Lesson#2 - There are only four options if you want to enjoy travelling in a city - 1. Do not overthink; 2. Volunteer with a local NGO, expecting to learn from them instead of teach them; 3. Limit yourself to tourist destinations to avoid reality; 4. Stick to nature - your mental health will thank you for it.

Fact#3 - Travel bloggers do not lead a life of luxury 24/7. They work hard. For example, I found myself, in every new situation, formulating my experiences into words that I could articulate in my next blog. Every moment had to be captured in a photo or video. Every dish I ate. Every alleyway. And once that was done, came the sorting, the writing, the multiple edits over days and weeks.

Lesson#3 - If you are travelling for yourself, do not write a blog. If you would still like to start a blog, check out the blogging tips by World of Wanderlust, posted on my facebook page.

Lesson#4 - Successful travel bloggers may not be staying in hostels and backpacking. They have worked very hard to promote their blog and win free stays at spas and hotels.

Lesson 7. Media is marketing

Fact#1 - You will be bombarded with negative stories from social media - sexism, destruction, exploitation, and loss. On the other hand, you will notice travel bloggers post beautiful photos of the places they have visited and the people they meet. Both worlds are make-believe.

Lesson#1 - Experience the world in your own way.

Lesson#2 - Music always helps enhance your travelling experience. Try out these Hindi travelling songs on YouTube - Road Trip Songs. They helped me.

In my next post, I hope to share more definite tips about what has made my travels easier, including apps, finding your way around a new place, and finding company.

Please stay tuned, and continue to support my travels by reading, sharing, and following me on Facebook and Instagram! And, don't forget to leave a comment for me below!


  1. I'm going to assume you're either headed to Africa or Australia/NZ next. I recommend heading to Australia/NZ first, as winter season is on it's way. NZ south island gets a bit chilly and there are snowstorms from time to time. I would visit the south island first if it's on your to-do list. Melbourne: Great Ocean Road and Philips Island a definite must. Those sites together with Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef were highlights for me. Of course, I'm a I have to do tourist things.
    For Africa, I would say it may be better to travel during our summer months June/July/August especially if you plan on going to Victoria Falls. Seeing 4 of the big 5 in safaris are pretty common. Usually 2.5 days is sufficient. Seeing rhinos is the biggest challenge though. Looking forward to your next post. The depth of your blogs/experiences has given me a different perspective on travelling. Take care!

    1. Thanks Shawn. Yes, planninv to head out soon so will keep your suggestions on mind as I travel!! And thanks for the kind words again :)

  2. Your blog was philosophical and suggested that you were disillusioned by reality and selfishness of people. However do not loose hope cos there still are caring compassionate and empathetic people and you will come across them.
    Your blog was inspirational in many ways. You are a courageous and compassionate person and keep positive, do not let negativity affect you.
    A smile from a child, a kind gesture from a stranger , the beauty of God's creation - all these simple things and many more can bring happiness.
    Wishing you happiness and joy in your travels

    1. Yes, you are right. Smiles from children and kindness of strangers, although not as frequent, are a major uplifter! Will continue to be positive and thanks for your compliment about the inspirational points in my blog! :)