My husband and I took our son on a road trip to Leh to celebrate his first birthday. As a mother, I was posed with questions about my kid’s wellbeing even before we commenced our journey. We travelled for 17 days and covered 11 states and 8,274 kilometres, bearing witness to snowfall in Khardungla, Chang La and Tanglang La, and a landslide while returning from Pangong Tso.
There were other hurdles too as travelling with an infant is strenuous. I had to ensure he was breastfed at regular intervals. Our drive up Khardungla was worrisome due to high altitude, but my son slept through the route and woke up only after crossing the peak.
I hadn’t taken a trip without my daughter ever since she was born. I had also nearly given up on the idea of trekking with her or my husband since neither of them are adventure enthusiasts. That was until a friend mentioned a trek to the Namik glacier in Uttarakhand. It was too good an opportunity to pass on. So, I set out on the 10-day group trek in the company of photographers and naturalists. We camped at a mountainside setting with a clear view of the Nanda Devi, navigated snow-dusted passes at elevation as high as 11,000 feet, and even plucked and ate sweet rhododendron flowers from trees. No amount of guilt can surpass the wonderful memories that I had made on the expedition. I hope that someday my daughter too finds a pursuit worth pursuing.
In 2019, I went to visit my daughter who works as an architect in Leh. The region is absolutely picturesque and is peppered with charming old houses. Despite a language barrier, I managed to make a few strong connections. One evening, I gladly accepted a dinner invitation extended to me by a local woman. She spoke about the challenges they face in the winter and even sang a folk song while cooking and doing the chores. We have remained friends to this day.
I love travelling solo, but the guilt of leaving my six-year-old behind got the better of me. So, I took my son to the jungles of Ranthambore, where we got a glimpse of the wilderness in its most untainted setting over a course of three days. We set out at wee hours on jungle safaris in search of the tigers, and tigers we did find! The famous T-39 tigress—who also goes by the names of Noor, Sultanpur or Mala—was mid hunt. She moved stealthily, stalking a deer before crouching and pouncing on her prey. We had witnessed a wildlife documentary come to life.
I winced, unable to watch the killing. “Mama, it’s fine. It’s the way of the jungle,” my son’s voice comforted me. He is 10 now, and we still fondly recall our adventure in Rajasthan.
I was tending to my Covid-positive mother in Surat when my son’s boarding school in Dehradun announced that they were temporarily closing due to the surge in the second COVID-19 wave across the country. Taking public transport to Uttarakhand in light of the Kumbh Mela event would have been gravely risky. I decided to drive down to the destination keeping in mind that the state borders and hotels do not consider the validity of RT-PCR test beyond a time frame of three days. I broke down the journey in stretches, first making it back home to Ahmedabad and then halting at Jodhpur and Jaipur along the way. Constantly being in touch with my family and friends, and sharing my GPS so they could track my whereabouts put me at ease. But my challenges as a single mother were put to test on the final leg of the journey during which I drove for 17 hours straight and covered 800 odd kilometres. The barriers seemed like a small bump in the road when I finally reunited with my son. I have undertaken solo travels before, but none of them mattered as much as bringing my child back home.
When I gave birth to my baby girl, I promised her I’d show her the world someday. So on her 21st birthday in 2012, I decided to gift her (and me!) a EuroTrip. We flew to Paris and made memories beneath the Eiffel Tower, went on to Italy and visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This was followed by a visit to the Swiss Alps and paragliding in Innsbruck, Austria. We even attended Oktoberfest in Munich, rode canals in Venice and climbed up to Mount Jungfrau. Waking up early morning to catch another train, exploring a new city on foot, trying local cuisines, imbibing in the history of beautiful spots—everything about this trip was so perfect and made even better because I was with my daughter.
I have had some of the greatest adventures in my life with my daughter, with whom I’ve been travelling for 27 years! I have taken her hiking to an active volcano in Indonesia when she was barely a few months old, and we have even snorkelled together in the Great Barrier Reef. I had sustained an injury in Switzerland, but we managed to hop around the place with a plaster on my leg. We’ve also taken multiple road trips across India, the most memorable one being a three-generation holiday (with my mother in tow) to Himachal Pradesh. It helps to have a common taste in cuisines too. We have devoured everything from simple, local food to exotic dishes made with frog and snail.
My six-year-old son is my favourite travel partner. One of the most special trips I’ve taken with him was to Meghalaya, to tread the Double Decker Living Root Bridge. He was just four at the time. Alot of people advised me against taking a four-year-old to what would be a challenging climb, but my boy looked at me and said “I want to go”.
The trek began at 6 a.m. the next morning: the trail was tough and full of stones, and we had to constantly keep crossing streams. But we kept our spirits up: we sang, played in the streams, and urged each other on until we came within the breathtaking view of the Living Root Bridge. Travelling with my son has been fantastic, and it has made me more patient as a traveller.
In 2019, my daughter and I set out for a well-rounded trip to Kenya. We’d decided on a series of safari travels. Our first stop was at Amboseli National Park, where we came across herds of elephants grazing on lush grasslands against the gleaming backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We went to Naivasha next, where we took a delightful boat ride and crossed paths with a variety of cranes and hippos. We saved the best for the last—Maasai Mara—and as we knew it to be, it was breathtaking. We watched a lioness taking her young cubs out for an early morning prowl, saw herds of zebras pilling about and gawked at majestic wildebeests in the distance.
I’ve been taking my son on my travels ever since he turned two months! Every trip I’ve made with him has been special, and in fact I’ve realised that travelling with your child actually helps give you a broader view of the world. One of our more memorable trips was the one to Amritsar, where we visited the Golden Temple, the Attari railway station, the Wagh border and Jalliahwallah Bagh. For my son, it was like seeing his History lessons come to life. To add to it all, we sampled the most amazing food.
In March 2018, I got an opportunity to travel solo to New Delhi and then later, to Jim Corbett. I was in my early 40’s and a mom to a nine-year-old. Despite my dad having forgivings about me travelling solo, especially to Delhi, my partner and child were thrilled for me and encouraged me to go on it.
And so I set forth. I spent half-a-day in Delhi before taking a train to Ramnagar, Jim Corbett. If I have to recollect this trip now, I can say only one thing: when things fall into place, please do travel. Especially moms who keep postponing their dreams, it’s alright to prioritise yourself sometimes. Travelling solo brings an immense amount of confidence and you learn to trust your instincts. Also you start to enjoy your own company which is a great asset.
I’ve always loved travelling, meeting new people and seeking new experiences along the way. When I became a Mom however, my priorities naturally changed and my vacations took a bit of a backseat. However, the minute I thought my son, now five, was old enough, I hit the road again. I took a roadtrip to Sankri, a remote village in Uttarakhand and a trekker’s paradise, when he was just nine months old! We also did an offbeat trip to Kashmir when he was only two-and-a-half.
However, it was my recent solo trip to Varanasi last year that’s been the most memorable. It wasn’t easy at first. I naturally had “Mom guilt”. I constantly worried that the others wouldn’t be able to take care of him, that he wouldn’t be able to communicate with them the way he does with me. However, I soon decided that rather than an ideal Mom, my son should think of me as a woman who followed her heart. I didn’t have an itinerary for Varanasai, I just went where my feet took me: from Ghat to Ghat, ally to ally. I faced prejudice from several people I met along the way, who couldn’t digest the fact that I was married and a mother to a toddler, and still traveling solo. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.