Years ago, I heard a well-travelled musician say that men are defined by the manner in which they pack their bags. I have since been obsessive about my boxes. My shirts are always neatly folded. My several wires—chargers for iPods and iPads, phones and Kindles—have their dedicated pouch. Even my portable speakers have their own compartment. When put through X-ray machines, I hope their operators will be stunned by the symmetry of my packing, but airport employees unfortunately like keeping their wonderment to themselves. When journeying to lands and countries that are unfamiliar, travel can sometimes seem unnerving, so a precisely packed bag or case is assuring. You’ll know where things are.
Buying tickets and planning itineraries leaves me excited, but only when I empty my cupboard to make its contents luggage do I really start to inhabit two places at once. While travel helps disrupt the every-day, breaking monotony and habit, it also makes discovery possible. Being foreign can help us learn who we are and being away often gives us a checklist of what we miss and love most about home. The transference of my belongings helps pre-empt this transition. Departure makes imminent an arrival.
In the last month, we at National Geographic Traveller India have found ourselves packing our own little box. Members of a new team, we have chosen from the abundant experience of our predecessors their best and most proficient editorial practices and intent. We have, however, left some room for the shopping we hope to do once we dig in our heels. (We’re young. We like things that are new.) In the pages of this magazine, you’ll continue to find maps to places that urgently demand exploration. As we try and make your trips more frequent, we’ll also ensure your experience of reading us and our writers will be an escape in itself. You will get tips on where you can stay, what you can eat, and what you should do. Your itinerary will be as neatly packed as our design. That’s a promise we’ll always keep.
Since airlines are usually more exacting about weight than gym instructors, our endeavour will be to never carry any excess baggage, both as travellers and journalists. Before epiphanies and self-realisation, we believe travel should first make real our ideas of fun. Going to a concert or a film festival can be as rewarding as witnessing Loy Krathong, a festival of light in Thailand, or travelling to Macao for its Latin City parade. In this month’s issue, one we have devoted to festivals and festivities, we try and blend the traditional with the contemporary. History fascinates us as much as culture and it is our eclecticism that gives us something to celebrate all year round. More importantly, it helps us travel light.
Hugh of St. Victor, a 12th-century theologian, knew how to stay pertinent a thousand years later. He had once said, “The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land.” There is more wisdom than judgment in Hugh’s assumption. It is, in the end, our capacity for wonder which makes travel replenishing and joyful. We strive to continuously be surprised by the world, but also by the several homes in which we live. Since souvenirs have regrettably gone out of fashion, we intend to bring back stories instead. Stories that entertain and stories that make the unknown a touch more accessible. For decades now, National Geographic has delicately unpacked the world for us. Its yellow frame helps give the stories we find at Traveller a perfect box. Our task is cut out. We’ll pack it with care.
Shreevatsa Nevatia never travels without his headphones, coloured pens and a book. He is particularly fond of cities, the Middle East, and the conversations he has along the way. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveller India.