Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How do you travel so much?

This post has been toying in my head for a while, so I decided to put pen on paper. One of the most common questions that people ask me is "Vamsee, how do you travel so much?". Depending on who asks me this question, I am always trying to give excuses - "I have lots of vacation time", "It was a work trip, but I went a day ahead", "A friend was going, so I tagged along" and my favourite "We have a lot of frequent flyer miles, so we got free tickets" (basically translates to "don't think I am travelling because I am rich, I am just smart about spending)

All those are still valid excuses but the real reason why I travel is very simple. I love travelling. I love exploring new places, I love meeting new people, I love eating good food, I love seeing natural and manmade miracles and most of all I just love that I am doing exactly what I want to do. Travel is what I do when I want to celebrate success and travel is what I do when I want to get over depressing times. Travel is what we gift ourselves for birthdays and travel is what we do on anniversaries. I love every aspect of travelling from planning to being there to coming back and blogging about it.  There is nothing more exciting than planning a trip. You open a map and the entire world , opens up to you. Where do I go - the colourful cobble stone streets of Europe, the high mountains of Himalayas, the Fjords and glaciers of Norway or the underwater world in Lakshadweep.... There are days when I can't sleep because I am too excited about picking a destination for our next trip. I have even deluded myself in believing that flying time is quality time with myself. It doesn't matter that I read cheesy novels, watch horrible movies, drink cheap wine and cannot sleep. It still is "MY" time and I do all those things without any guilt. I even love my business trips. For somebody who works from home, I love to meet my clients and interact with them. Days are full of meetings, but evenings are for fine dining. We pick restaurants with great care and have long lavish meals.

Tigers of Pench National Park, Jan 2012
Sanchi Stupa, Bhopal Feb 2012

Gwalior Fort at night, March 2012
I used to be a very normal person who wanted a great career and good income. I worked towards it very meticulously for over a decade and noticed that the joy from pay hikes and bonuses and promotions lasted just a few days. Don't get me wrong, I still want a great career and a good income, but somewhere along the line I realized that I wanted to be happy more than anything else. And happiness comes when you do something you love and enjoy. In India, I have come across so many people who have quit their plush jobs and started travel related businesses. I have no such ambitions. In fact, I love my work and I love the balance I have between my work and my hobbies. "How do you have so much time to travel and bake and maintain a full time job" is a question that I get a lot. My answer is very simple - When you love something you will make time for it.  

There is nothing more fulfilling than following your passions. If you look around, the happiest people are the ones that take the time to do what they love. I agree that we are all busy, we have jobs to do, money to make, family to take care of, chores to run and of course facebook walls to update. What I have observed is that people who are passionate about something will do it in spite of all the above. These are people that have exciting lives and are fun to talk to and in general are always in a  happy and positive frame of mind.

Leopard at Kabini, May 2012

My best friend dreams of publishing a novel. He has two kids and a job in a start up company which means 12 hour work days. In spite of that, he takes an hour every other day, sits in a coffee shop and writes. He also manages to run a few miles in the middle of his long work day. My other best friend, an amazing mother of 2 kids, an avid reader, she loves to travel and wanted to go to Israel, a very uncommon destination. Earlier this year, she found another friend who was interested, flew half way across the world and spent a week exploring Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and other places in Israel!
There was this old couple that used to come on birding trips with Nature India. Among other things, uncle had rheumatoid arthritis which is a painful condition. You would think he is better off staying at home, watching TV, but no. They went on every possible birding/nature trip. They used to be the first to line up in front of a spotting scope and I even remember uncle trekking down to a waterfall without complaining.
My friend D loves to dance. With 3 kids and a job, she not only manages to perform at every occasion, she also finds the time to teach kids in her neighbourhood. Then there are friends (and the husband) who absolutely love their work. It is not as glamorous as travel or music or dance, but they are very passionate about their research and making a difference in their community.

My point here is that -If you really love something, you will find a way to do it in spite of family responsibilities, demanding jobs, finances and even health.

Sojnefjord, Norway July 2012
The most common excuses that people give for not doing something:

Time: These days it has become a fashion statement to boast about how busy we are and how we don't have time for anything. Yes, were in that age group where we are in the peak of our career and are handling very impressive responsibilities. If you are juggling so many projects and clients, how hard is it to juggle family and hobbies? One of my friends is the CEO of a publicly traded company. She runs her company, is a loving mother and wife, socializes with friends, travels around the world and is  very active in charity organizations.  If SHE has time, trust me, you have time too. A common thing that I hear in India is "I am too busy to take vacation and the days just expire' and I am shocked. Vacation time is a benefit just like your salary. Do you tell your boss to take back the pay hike or bonus they give you? Then why the hell do you let your vacation days lapse? Even if you are not interested in travelling, why are you not taking the days off to relax and spend time with your family?

Money: I wish I can tell you that travel is cheap. It is not and costs are going up as we speak. But travel is something that can be done with all types of budget. I remember driving through the night in Canada when I was a grad student to save money on hotels. On our first trip to Hawaii, we took a hotel with a kitchen to cook and save money on food. Now that I have been earning non-stop for 15 years, I have become what Saru calls a pseudo-snob (Apparently I think I am posh, but am really not). I enjoy good things in life and am willing to spend money for it. Again, it all boils down to my theory that people will spend on what they are passionate about. I have a friend that loves decorating her home and she does not bat an eyelid spending vast amounts of money on it. Then there are people who  spend tons of money on clothes and jewellery. Saru is a careful spender, but he has no issues spending big amounts for his camera and lenses. I don't care for expensive cars or jewellery or electronic gizmos. What I care for is good food and travel and I spend my money guilt free on those.

Children: A friend of mine says 'It is all in your attitude" when it comes to travelling with kids. Another friend says "It depends on how easy your kid is". I think both of them are true to an extent. But going back to my theory, people who are really interested in travelling have done so with or without kids. A fellow blogger, M and her husband love to hike in the Himalayas. Now that they have a child, they take turns and go on separate hikes. They also take plenty of family vacations with all three of them. My friend J, who is an inspiration is the mother of an amazing teenager. She takes her daughter on most of her trips. The young girl has more stamps on her passport that I do. I recently met an amazing fellow travel blogger writes about their trips with their special needs child. Not travelling with Varsha was never an option for us. Saru and I made a pact that we will never become those parents who give up all their interests for their child, so we have been fiercely trying to maintain the same life that we had before. Yes, it is easier to stay at home and do nothing, but that is not what we want. And luckily for us, Varsha has turned out to be a wonderful traveller.

Balestrand, Norway, July 2012

Company: If your spouse is busy and/or not interested, travel with a friend. In today's age of social networking it is not hard to find people with similar interests. Saru has no interest in heritage sites. Instead of bugging him to go, I found friends and went to Khajurajo, Orccha, Mandu and even Italy 2 years back. It is win-win. I go wherever I want and he can work to his heart's content. If not, you can go the way of my cousin S who took 10 weeks off from work and went solo backpacking in Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain.
Jahaz Mahal, Mandu, August 2012

So, there you go - I travel not because I have time or money or company. I travel because I want to.

P.S Pictures are from the last 6 trips we took this year.