Over the years I have observed that the travel style of us Indians is greatly different from that of the rest of the world. A weak currency, a weaker passport or a demanding work life may be the real culprits for how little we get to travel; but what saddens me is not the quantity of our travel but the quality of it. Most Indians make travel look like a chore and come back from a foreign trip without any real understanding of the place they visited, thus compromising their travel experience.
Thankfully, the wisdom of travelling right was imparted to me at a very early age. That’s probably why after my 12th standard exam back in 2006 (even when ‘Google’ had not formed a part of our DNAs) I could easily go on a trip abroad with a friend and come back with such interesting and fun anecdotes that put to shame the travel tales of even the most ‘seasoned Indian travelers’
So here are some quick tips to help you take your travel experience to a new high. When you travel this way, you won’t just come back with Facebook check-ins and Instagram likes but also with priceless memories added to your happiness-bank!
I may be writing this article specifically with Indians in mind, but there is a fair chance that this article may even apply to a non-Indian. Read on and find out if you are guilty of any of the below-mentioned travel traits!
1. Age-old Agents
Whether it is travelling for work or for leisure, Indians rely heavily on agents for their travel bookings.
Now, let me point out that the Internet is a transparent world. Travel agencies – probably not! Agents make you take decisions in ways that maximise their commission. If you research, you are likely to become aware of all travel options. You can evaluate each one and then finalise the one that suits your needs. That way, you won’t have to suffer on account of the carelessness of the agent who puts you on flights with terrible layovers or flights that take off at odd hours!
2. Stick to the Plan
Of all the wrong travel habits people have, the habit of travelling with a fully chalked-out itinerary is probably the worst. Knowing what exactly you are going to do at a place you have never visited cancels out the ‘wonder’ element in travelling. It puts blinders on and you snub all the amazing experiences shouting out for you simply because you had a totally packed itinerary.
My recommendation is that you just book your flight tickets and your accommodation. The rest must be figured out once you reach the destination. Take factors such as your mood, climatic conditions, available modes of transport, distances etc. into account. Also feel free to take impulsive decisions. If you find the Eiffel Tower too boring, don’t spend hours over there. Head to a classic French cafe at the Champs-Élysées and flirt with a cute French guy!
Another recommendation is to try different styles of travelling. If you have experience in travelling with well laid-out trips organised by ‘tour operators’, ditch that style and get bold enough to try backpacking. Take spur-of-the-moment decisions and leave without a plan. I understand that backpacking without a plan could be difficult in Europe (due to visa restrictions) but why not go backpacking in Southeast Asia?
3. Tied to the Spot
Why do Indians only include tourist spots on their itineraries when they go abroad?
Think about all your travel memories. Are they essentially about the tourist spots you visited or the people you met? I am sure your answer is the latter. Interacting with locals gives you a peek into their lifestyle and their belief systems and widens your mental boundaries. The differences in culture make for exciting stories. Therefore it’s time you add interacting with locals in your travel plans and in fact place it right on top of it. Besides, you don’t have to go out of your way to do that. You will invariably interact with locals if you book your local visits through them, eat at locally popular eateries or live at a local’s house.
4. Counting, not making it count!
Indians are guilty of ambitiously incorporating far too many countries and cities in their travel plans. I remember one lady bragging about her Europe trip which took her to 10 countries in 15 days. But looking back she couldn’t even remember which photo was clicked in which country!
Instead of insulting your intelligence and wasting your money in the most non-judicious way on such trips, it’s best to sit at home and flip through a travel brochure. The insights you will gather from the travel brochure will be deeper than the ones you gather from such country-hopping trips!
5. Worth the Weight?
The packing habits of Indians amuse me. Most always overpack and that too, by a huge margin! (That reminds me that an article on packing is overdue! I will roll it out soon) Changing hotels while moving between cities becomes a nightmarish experience if you have to constantly pack and unpack a huge amount of belongings.
Here is a pro-tip to simplify it for you – Ditch all the items from your packing list that you feel you ‘might need’ and ditch 20% of the items from your packing list which you feel you ‘will definitely need.’ I guarantee that you will not need either. Once you determine the items that you will be carrying along with you using the method that I just suggested, pack those items securely in the right kind of luggage option. Do not lug around huge bags unnecessarily.
(Related: Check out this amazing packing list for your backpacking trip to Europe.)
6. Checking in without checking out?
Constantly checking in to places on Facebook while on your trip indicates that you are not actually checking out the place you are visiting. What’s the point of sitting buried in your cellphones doing the same-old things when you have transported yourself to a new land?
Disconnect, soak it all in, come back and then show-off to your heart’s content. This way, you will gather far more connect to show-off too!
7. Click Click Click
Unless you mint money through photography (i.e. are a travel photographer for a celebrated travel magazine) you have no reason to click 5,000 photos in 1 week. I have been guilty of doing this and I felt empty when I came back from that trip. I felt as if I had only seen the place through a camera lens and not through my own eyes. What makes it worse is the realisation that I have never ever gone through the thousands of photos I clicked. Such a waste, right?
8. Tasteless Touring
Nothing beats the stupidity of carrying pickles and khakras with you to Europe! Food and culture are deeply interlinked. Geography has always played a major role in the kind of food people eat. Vegetarians also have innumerable food options in all major touristic cities. The taste of the food may be different, but will definitely be unique enough to sprinkle some ‘spice’ on your otherwise dull travel experience. So ditch the khakras and try a dish you can’t even pronounce!
Years of travelling have helped us identify the above vices. Not falling prey to either of those vices have greatly enhanced our travel experiences. You may find it intimidating initially to travel the way we do but like we always say on this blog… ‘it only takes a couple of journeys….!’