When will you travel out of India?
It is one of the most frequent questions I get asked. How long will you keep wandering here (in India)? Seems the entire existence of my blog has been a lost cause! I started this blog when I started (re)discovering India. I wanted everyone to know there was so much to see here. I have ranted here before and there's a very good chance I might get into that mood by the end of this post. :) Let me warn you dear reader, this post addresses those who keep insinuating that I should travel out of India to really “travel”. If you are just curious, by all means do read the post but don’t get offended because I am not really addressing you when I say “you”, it is the insinuators!
Is this really in India?
As I grew up, I had dreams like most. Seeing the snow capped peaks of Switzerland topped the list, deserts, pyramids, Eiffel Tower and what not! In fact so much so that, I thought India had no marvels so to speak. Even up till three years ago, I was still dreaming of that Phoren Trip! Then I started traveling within India. Then I met the Mountains!
In the very early days, when I was just posting travel stuff on the internet from my treks, I was asked many times if this was in India. Such great confidence we have in our country or perhaps it was plain ignorance that no place so beautiful can be in India. I still see this question being asked on many photos from many people. Of course it is India, if you ever cared you would know!
There is a thing called A-G-E-N-D-A!
My first and last love will always be the Mountains. It started with Western Ghats and ended at Himalayas. The world's mightiest peaks are right here, almost like next door. Why in the world would I want to go anywhere else? There's a thing called agenda! Different people have different agenda. While many travel to just go out and have a good time, there are few like me who always have a specific agenda in mind. Few travelers might be on a cultural quest, few on a heritage trail, few on a culinary trail, and few on an adventure trail or more. If you are looking for birds-of-paradise, damn right you are, in saying what are you doing in India, you have to be in some exotic rainforest of New Guinea. And if you love mountains, there couldn't have been a better place! My love of the mountains is indescribable. Just for starters, look at the amazing collection of Indian Himalayas. There are so many treks that I want to do and so many mountains to climb here! Remember? My agenda is not to have a million postcard pictures in front of the Empire State building or Windsor Castle or St. Peter's Basilica or London Eye! I want to climb mountains and they are right here, right next to me. So, sorry to disappoint you but I am not going anywhere outside in near future! Maybe Afghanistan or Pakistan, for its amazing Himalayas again, but that isn’t fancy enough for you I suppose!
I see no purpose in telling the same old stories. I want to tell new stories!
For starters, just google for Nagaland, Manipur, Nicobar or Chhattisgarh and tell me if you found any good information on places there. Now, then google for Rajasthan, Kerala, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and tell me what you found. It is our own folly that we have stereotyped India to be those few states and comfortably forgotten the rest of the states. These famous destinations have been written about over and over again by many publications so far. And it amazes me that such less documentation is available on the other states. I do not want to have a conversation where I say “Taj Mahal was beautiful” and you say “Oh yeah! It is very beautiful.” Both of us know it is beautiful and end of conversation.
Instead, I want to tell you how amazing the lakes of Kashmir were and I want you to tell me how that poacher in Arunachal Pradesh turned into an active conservationist. I want to tell new stories and there are so many of them, untold.
I am not infinitely rich!
I know the world is a beautiful place and there are many many countries that I do want to visit! Trust me! But my priorities are totally different, I admire nature alright. But I do not have infinite resources backing me to take infinite trips to any place I fancy. I don't travel to take a vacation. I travel to learn, to be inspired, to witness nature's glory. So, traveling to New York or Paris or Rome or Singapore or any other fancy location is practically useless for me. I really don't consider going to any of these places travel (in my dictionary). People travel for different reasons. Mine simply doesn't include any cities in the itinerary. If India was all about culture and temples and religion, I would’ve been first to travel outside the country.
Yes, on the other hand I would like to climb some mountain or glacier in Alaska or Chile, if you would sponsor the trip. But otherwise I am not all that rich to spend all my money to just fly down to Alaska, climb one mountain and come back. I could do so many trips to Himalayas with that money. Simple logic, really!
It is an amazing Country. Oh wait a minute, it is your country too, remember?
And it is really not just about mountains. It is about exploring my immediate surroundings, my country. Even a year won’t be enough to see India entirely. Ask any outsider who has visited India and they will all say the same thing. Many have come back and stayed here for years together. Such is the charm of our country. I am just a weekend traveler taking few travel breaks in a year and all my travel days put together won’t be more than 150 days. It’s like just 5 months and how much would I be able to see in such a short time? I haven’t even seen a quarter of India’s glory. I haven’t even stepped into 19 of 35 states and Union Territories of India! The more I have traveled, the more I understood how much more there is to be seen. India is an exquisite country geographically speaking, so much variety it has to offer apart from the incredible people, history and culture. Before I knew any better, Phoren trip was all I ever wanted, but now, all I want is to explore the unseen beauty of our country.
No! Once and for all, no, it isn't all the same!
If "when will you travel out of India" is the most irritating question, another stupid question that comes quite close is why do you keep going back to Himalayas? Why do you keep trekking in Western Ghats? Isn't it all the same? No! Once and for all, no it isn't all the same! Western Ghats is a 1600km long stretch running from Gujarat to Kerala and you think it is all the same? I won't even begin to talk about the diversity of the Himalayas. It is as sad as saying siblings are all same, they all look same anyway to an outsider. Does that mean they are not different persons with totally different individual traits? Only those close to them would know how different the two siblings are. Only those who keep going back would know how different these mountains are.
Isn’t it strange enough that foreigners have been the first to arrive to most of the spectacular places in India? They were first to arrive at Ladakh as travelers, same with Spiti. You will see more foreigners there than Indians. Kutch always featured in the foreigner’s “India trip” while we ourselves were quite late in even realizing there is something to see in those barren lands. Very recently when a group of Indian Trekkers entered the remote valleys of Kashmir, the army there was surprised to see domestic visitors. Apparently foreigners have been trekking that route regularly but not Indians, and here I was thinking we are exploring unknown lands. India is way too big to be contained in a Lonely Planet guide book or two. I’ve had it enough. I want to discover my own secret destinations, call them our country’s best kept secrets if you will. If not us, who will write about our wonderful Country?
At the end of it, it might seem to you that this could be a case of the sour grapes! But let me assure you, it is not. I want to travel outside of India too, but exploring my home ground would be of a higher priority any day. Imagine sitting with a group of travelers and while everybody is telling great things about their country, I’d be talking about great things of other countries! Something doesn’t feel quite right about that picture. And even if I do travel out of India, it would be to a country whose name you haven’t heard of. Try Kyrgyzstan or Eritrea for instance.
Maybe that is why I am not traveling out of India yet. To answer your question, to tell you that there is so much to see here!