We’ve all come a long way from the first-ever trip we took. And with experience comes wisdom—or so they say. At a recent edit meet, our web intern Akanksha Ohri (ironically the baby in the team) thought of gathering all this retrospective advice in one place. So we decided to give the NGT staff and others here at Amar Chitra Katha Media (National Geographic Traveller India’s parent company) a chance to talk to the newbies they once were. Read on for our blast to the past.
You don’t know this yet, but you really are an immensely lucky kid. Your parents have invested in taking you around the world, even though you probably won’t remember much about these trips when you’re twenty. Writing a journal and sticking lopsided pictures in a book to remember your trip by is an excellent idea. Why? Because there’s another thing you don’t know yet: It’s a great start for what you will be doing for a living several decades from now.
Dear younger brat,
Relax a bit. You don’t have to rush off to the next spot while on vacation. Take your time and breathe it in. Stay a while.
Do not go on that holiday with the couple and that other girl. She’s not interested in you. It will get awkward. Very, very awkward. And you do know that you can buzz off on your own, right? You are extremely good company you’ll realise, a little too late.
It is a little pointless to get into that fight with the Israeli cafe owner because he won’t serve you food on time. He won’t, anyway. So just move on.
Buy better bags. The one you bought at Chung Town for 500 bucks will not last. Save some money and get another one.
Also never say no to a holiday to save money. You do it more than once and you will always regret it. Don’t buy all your friends shots the next time you are drunk.
Really, you live in Delhi. It is a hop, skip and jump away from the hills. If you do not just jump onto any bus from ISBT, you will really hate it when you are living in other cities.
P.S. India will lose that match you have tickets for. Badly. Do not skip that trip just because you got free stadium tickets.
I don’t know if you’re worrying about travel at this age. I think you’re far more involved in college and fitting in and wondering if you’re always going to be geeky and nerdy and this uncertain about what you’re going to do with your life.
So first of all, breathe. And I’m not allowed to give too much away but I will tell you this. It is going to get very brilliant very soon. You will have access to the world in ways that you didn’t ever expect or imagine. Especially for the wildlife enthusiast in you. Travel will become a way of life.
But here’s the thing – try not to take that for granted. You do, more often than you should. Read more about the world (yes, more than you do already), it gets harder to find the time when you’re older. You’re good with languages, join that Spanish class you’re thinking about. Don’t get lazy. Join.
Two things in particular: There’s a trip coming up that you and dad will take alone. Treasure every moment. Take lots of photos. And talk, really talk. Make memories while you still can.
And two, you will go on a trip to Meghalaya. In Cherrapunji, there are tiny roaches in your room. Wear ear plugs. Trust me. Just do it.
No matter where you go, pack your sense of humour along. Plans will fall flat on their face and trains might get cancelled, but you can find a way around if you keep laughter in one pocket and time to explore without purpose in the other. The true delight of travel is in unexpected discoveries made in unforeseen circumstances. So, let go, let loose.
Dear Younger Self,
“We need to talk”— you will be hearing this a lot as you grow up, so be alarmed the next time those same four words are uttered to you.
For the next 10 years, as April ends and summer vacations begin, do not cringe or throw a fit. It’s family-vacation time and trust me when I tell you that these trips are worth it. You’re going to ride from Delhi to Rajasthan and stop at every delicious dhaba on the way… and you won’t have to spend your precious pocket money. You’re going to get to live on a houseboat, stay up past your bedtime, and play hide-and-seek with the animals in the Periyar forest. Don’t crib about missing your friends; they will be there when you return and will hang onto every word of your stories.
Keep a diary. You will forget names of places and even entire vacations as time passes by. Also, hug mum and dad once in a while. They are the reason you have itchy feet and are currently fascinated with the word “wanderlust”.
P.S. Do not get that as a tattoo. Just, don’t!
About that Auroville trip. You have no reason to go except that crazy surge of excitement when you think of living in a forest community, even if you’ve always forgotten to water the plants. Nothing about the trip will make sense to most people you know, but you’re about to meet a lot of people who will make sense to you. It’s the trip that will make you begin to trust everything that makes you excited, and it’s going to change your life. You’ll want to leave in the first three days, and you’ll want to stay when it’s time to go. You’ll try very, very, very hard to visit Matrimandir and wonder why people who don’t even care about seeing it, already have. Trust the timing of your life. It’s all going to turn out better than you ever imagined.
There’s a lot that’s going to happen that you think you’re not going to be ready for. You will be, don’t worry.
Make the most of those family vacations; don’t take them for granted. Take lots of notes, because you’ll want to remember every bit of it. Don’t worry about what people say, and definitely don’t believe everything you’re told. You know that your 13-year-old opinions matter just as much as everyone else’s, don’t ever believe otherwise. Everything gets a whole lot better really quickly.
When you’re in college, travel as much as you can (save up, it’s worth it). Go for those music festivals. Get your driver’s license. Cycle more. Pack light – you’re not going to need all those dresses and shoes, but you are going to have to cart that suitcase up some very steep subway stairs. Save yourself all that trouble.
Stay alert, do what you like, and enjoy yourself. I don’t know what journeys lie ahead for both of us, but I’m excited as hell. We’re having fun.
P.S. Don’t order the cuttlefish.
My advice to you is to walk. I know how much you hate walking but ditch those cabs and trains and hit the pavement. You will find that walking around lets you see things you would have otherwise missed. Walking will help you find that glorious stationery shop in Zurich, the little record store in Split that had the John Mayer CD you were looking for everywhere, and that shady shop in Hong Kong that sold pretty legit-looking fake wallets (score!).
And the food. Aimlessly wandering around will help you find some of the best things you will ever eat. There will be the banana chips-wallah in Coimbatore, the tiny gelato joint in one of Venice’s alleys that will make you never want to leave the city and some fantastic chocolate pedas (they taste great, don’t worry) in Ahmedabad.
Just a head’s up – there will come a time when you will be forced to pose with a St. Bernard at a Swiss station for a group of Japanese tourists. It will be terribly awkward and best not experienced. So the minute you see that Japanese flag and tour guide bobbing towards you through the crowd, run as fast as your chubby little legs will take you.
– Still chubby
Dear 12-year-old Akanksha,
Please, please don’t refuse to go on the family trip to Ladakh because you’re worried about the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir. You’re just 12, with two seasoned travellers for parents – let them do the worrying! You’ll regret not going so much in the years to come. Also, don’t spend all your safaris in Jim Corbett and Ranthambore frozen in fear of being eaten by a big cat, because that’s going to be all you remember from the trip. You had your face buried in your mother’s shoulder for most of the ride. Really, who does that!
In short, relax. Trust your parents, and don’t be a scaredy cat. Fortunately, you’ll grow up to be an eager, happy-go-lucky traveller, making up for lost experiences wherever you can. Just don’t let your childhood trips be so tainted with silly fears – make the most of them.
Your 21-year-old self
So, that weird restlessness has settled in, huh? Yes, it is exactly what you think it is and it’s going to be there until you get a chance to whisk away somewhere. Staying in one place, doing the same thing for too long is going to get even more annoying. Trust me, I know! You’re going to want to travel, you’re going to have many more squabbles with Baba trying to explain to him why you need to go, but go anyway.
Hey, I’m not a grown up! But there’s one thing I’ll tell you. Go for that trip. Even if you have to do some explaining (for a while), even if it’s on a shoestring budget, and most importantly, even if it is alone. No one else wants to do it? Fine! You go ahead. Don’t wait around for company. Not every time. Eventually though, you’ll find your people. Until then (and even after), just go. Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently!
Baba will eventually know that you have to go. He will still remain paranoid.
With wishes and dreams,
P.S. Don’t cancel the ticket to that musical. Oh, and stay off the Doritos in the UK.
Enjoy the details, because you’ll only ever remember the details. Listen to that song fully. Don’t be so eager to get back home. Try that “pizzho” because who knows if you’ll ever have the chance again? Relish discomfort — it’ll make for a good story. Trust certain strangers. Give chance a chance. And don’t ever stand right in front of a blind tusker.