Anniversary editions have the feel of a graduation: a year of studious slogging (of which, truth be told, my team and I do very little) and madcap fun (which we only wish we could indulge in more) rounded off with a sense of achievement and lingering anxiety. There’s pride that National Geographic Traveller India has lived to see another day, and in today’s precarious media landscape, that should account for something. Then the gnawing question: did we get it right?
When it comes to travel, is there a right or a wrong way to do it? Early this month, The New York Times unearthed Albert Einstein’s entries of his journeys around Asia and discovered a surprising side to the Nobel Prize winner. About his time in mainland China he wrote, “In the air there is a stench of never-ending manifold variety.” The people, he found, were “industrious, filthy, obtuse…” Travel often functions as a Rorschach test of biases.
Some are acutely aware of this and spend their time making amends. Anthony Bourdain’s recent passing prompted glowing tributes from around the world to his open-minded exploration of parts and cultures unknown. There are others who stand their ground: If a traveller’s true sentiments veer towards exotification, maybe it should stay so.
Read Indian-American author Akhil Sharma’s recounting of a fortnight in Japan, featured in this issue, for a perfect example. The counter to which, also in this edition, are the observations of three insiders on their hometowns: Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor sings paeans to Thiruvananthapuram, musician Raghu Dixit toasts Mysore and writer Janice Pariat reminisces about Shillong.
The “how” of travel is a matter of debate too. Dyed-in-the-wool snobs harp on about authenticity and immersing yourself in local culture. The more you are inconvenienced, the more real your journey. To which, casual travellers will respond with, “I will take my comfortable stay in a nice hotel, thank you very much.” NGTI’s sixth anniversary is a distillation of these myriad attitudes to travel. In their own way, our writers show you the “right way to do it.”
Our centrepiece is the “Smart Hacks” section that features an expert’s take on how best to navigate a place. Lensman Abhishek Hajela, a regular visitor to Ladakh, gives readers a glimpse into getting drool-worthy shots in Ladakh. Vaishali Dinakaran, an avowed gearhead, has the lowdown on grappling with Europe by road. Kaushal Karkhanis decodes solo backpacking in South America for the faraway dreamers. Chinmai Gupta offers a guide through that most “mystical” of institutions—a London nightclub. And if these stories are only a reminder of how ill-prepared your wallet is to go anywhere, we have solutions for that, too. As to whether we got it right, we have another year to fuss over that.
Lakshmi Sankaran fantasizes about a bucket-list journey to witness the aurora borealis someday. Editor in Chief at National Geographic Traveller India, she will also gladly follow a captivating tune to the end of this world.