TravelHer: Travelling Is Much More Than Seeing New Places
Having grown up across the country as an army kid, traveling is much more to me than just visiting places I would like to see. One thing I genuinely enjoy is spending time at a new place in a way that feels like we are living there. Exploring the local culture, learning the language (to the extent possible), understanding how people think and function as a society, etc., is all something I love to do. That’s why whenever my husband and I get an opportunity to work at a new place, we take it because we get to ‘live’ it.
My most adventurous and challenging trips
Surprisingly, the two trips that fit this bill were both work related trips.
Adventurous would be the 20-day road trip across three countries in Central Asia that we took in 2013. Our route was Kazakhstan (Astana – Karagandy – Balqash – Taldykorgan – Jarkend – Khorgos – Almaty) -Kyrgyzstan ( Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) – Osh (Kyrgyzstan)) -Uzbekistan (Aldijon – Fergana – Tashkent – Samarqand – Bukhara – Khievak – Urgench). This was as part of the India-Central Asia Foundation’s (ICAF) delegation to CA to explore bilateral relations organised by my dad. The travel bug runs in the family! He is familiar with these places and felt if we truly wanna connect, then this is the way to do it. I went as a media fellow and we covered cities and villages, met diplomats, university students, industrialists, city dwellers and villagers. It was quite an eye-opener. While Kazakh was extremely modern and developed, Kyrgyz faced the same challenges as any developing nation. Uzbek was a mix of both old and new. The trip was so hectic I actually lost 2-3 kilograms in 20 days but it was a trip of a lifetime. I met two other girls from the International Relations field in India for the first time at the airport and we became friends for life. I can write pages and pages on things I experienced on that trip.
Exploring the local culture, learning the language (to the extent possible), understanding how people think and function as a society, etc., is all something I love to do.
Most challenging would be Venezuela when I was sailing with my husband Karan on a ship for four months. He was always busy with work on ship so I used to venture out on my own every second day in different ports and towns. It’s actually very unsafe but people are friendly as well. No one spoke English so I did two online Spanish courses and within a month, I could converse enough to find my way around, haggle with taxi drivers, get directions, exchange money, shop and order food, etc. It pretty much felt like I was on a solo trip in a country that’s highly unsafe, has a language barrier and a troubled economy. In two dollars, you could get your tank full but a milk carton might cost you five times the amount. I felt a learned a lot about myself on that trip.
Travelling as a mother
I’ve not really faced stereotypes as such but I do get a lot of messages from other moms on social media asking how do I manage to travel so much without my daughter and if my husband has helps at home. Both my husband and I continued to travel extensively with and without our daughter since we became parents. Karma had done ten countries by the time she was three years old. My husband has been a hands-on dad from the start and can manage her end-to-end on his own. During the first year, all it took was some extra effort to make sure I leave enough expressed milk behind for her. But the reality of how difficult it is for mothers to travel without their child even for just a day especially in the early years of parenting hits me with every message in which a woman says she really wants that break but doesn’t have the option. It’s sad that even in this day and age, they are very few fathers who can take care of their babies or toddlers independently on their own and give that freedom to their wives. For most women, traveling without kids just comes to a full stop for the first few years of parenting unless grandparents come over to help and I feel that really needs to change.
The reality of how difficult it is for mothers to travel without their child even for just a day especially in the early years of parenting hits me with every message in which a woman says she really wants that break but doesn’t have the option
My message for the aspiring women travellers
Traveling is so much more than just seeing new places. It can really open up the way your mind thinks. I feel my travels have impacted my views on life, relationships, parenting, etc. There are so many things I learned and observed in other countries and cultures that I have incorporated in my life because it made sense to me. It also boosts your inner confidence and discover things that you didn’t know you were capable of. Start with a small getaway for two days close by if you’re hesitant. There’s so much to explore in India itself. Trips don’t have to be very expensive. Budget travel ones sometimes give the best experience because you stick to local and really get to feel what a place is like.
Emotions my favourite places evoke
A feeling like I belong there! I feel that in Singapore but that’s because I’ve lived and worked there. But in addition to that, certain places like Copenhagen in Denmark, Ulsan in South Korea and Barcelona in Spain made me somehow feel at home despite language barriers and a totally different culture. It just felt comfortable and known from day one. And on two of those, we had Karma with us too so it took more work but I just felt as if we are already a part of the place. I would go back any day!
One recent travel trend that I have observed
Solo travel seems to be really picking up. It’s on my bucket list too. While I have traveled with just one more friend of mine where we really kept our budget low, met other travelers and locals, explored everything on foot and just went day by day, I’ve not done a completely solo trip. It was on the cards for this year but now I’m pregnant with our second baby so I’m gonna plan it for next year.
Shubhreet Kaur is a former business journalist/news anchor turned blogger who writes on travel, gender equality, parenting and lifestyle. She has travelled to 18 countries and countless cities. The views expressed are the author’s own.