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What does TRAVEL mean to me?

What is Travel? What do you mean when you say you’re a Traveller? Why do you differentiate between a Tourist and a Traveller? Aren’t they the same? I think every traveller including me is often badgered with such questions every once in a while.
When I decided to drop out of college to travel, my parents, relatives, friends and every other Tom, Dick, and Harry were ready with these in their arsenal. Being curious is acceptable, I am happy to answer all the questions to everyone’s satisfaction as long as they are just questions. But, once the switch flips and all the suggestions and unlettered pieces of advice begin flowing, it becomes irritating. Here are my responses to some of the questions I was asked and suggestions I was pestered with. Even though each person has his own views and the intricacies may vary, I think every Traveller will agree with what I have to say, considering the bigger picture.
The Questions-
What does TRAVEL mean to you?For me, Travel is a way of life. It isn’t a…

Connecting With People


 
This cute little girl in Diskit, Ladakh wanted to me to play with her in the fields.

One of the most difficult and challenging tasks while travelling is connecting and bonding with the people you meet. If the people you meet, travel with or stay with just remain acquaintances, then it actually beats the whole point of travelling (at least as per my view about Travel). “Why do you travel? Why travel solo?  Why backpacking? What do you accomplish by travelling alone?” If you are just starting out as a Solo Traveller, you will definitely be asked such questions and it is always better to have an answer ready; because if you lack determination or there’s nothing that drives you to go travel & explore the globe, these generic (and irritating!) questions might demoralise you.
It is no Rocket science and is quite simple. Multiple ways exist (although you discover numerous new ones as you travel) to approach people. My way is quite basic and has helped me make a lot of friends wherever I have visited. Give it a read and try it out yourself.



SPEAK UP!


Talking or Speaking is the most effective way to communicate with people. I know that the Language Barrier is major restriction and we generally by-pass it by using written or non-verbal comm. methods. But, they aren’t as effective and sometimes misleading too.
When I travel, I always speak up! Gesturing or writing down stuff to ask just doesn’t agree with me. If I am lost and need directions or be it my wish to dine at the finest restaurant in town, I never use maps, internet, pictures or gestures to communicate.

Sipping coffee with my new friends by the serene Pangon Tso, Ladakh

English is a global language and most of the people you meet will understand it, but if they don’t, try speaking the local language (even if you can’t). Just like when I was stranded in a deserted place in Karnataka (India) and my bag was stolen which had my Passport. I had to deal with the local police officers to file an F.I.R for loss of passport, who couldn’t understand me nor could I understand them. But I tried speaking in English and Hindi, fortunately one of them spoke a little bit of Hindi and I was able lodge the complaint successfully. Waiting for 5 hours to get a copy of the complaint and an affidavit, I actually learnt some words of the local language, a lot about the cities of Chitradurga, Belgaum, Hubbali, Bangalore and made friends with many lawyers while sharing my travel experiences (in Hindi!). If I had just kept bickering about the language barrier and hadn’t tried to speak with the officers, I might have ended up in deep trouble.



TAKE INITIATIVE


When I’m travelling, I walk up to a local vendor or taxi driver and casually strike up a conversation. I actually gain some trust and the people feel free to share the information. If they feel that you aren’t sharing your true identity or intentions, the local people are bound to ignore you for their own safety (which isn’t a bad nor is it their fault). Calmly chatting with them and sharing a few laughs is enough to clear their doubts.

The shop vendor gave us quite a lot of serious instructions but cracked a few jokes too!

I got to know a lot about the Indian state of Manipur, its vibrant cultures & traditions and the political conflicts between Manipur-Nagaland-Myanmar on a train back home from Assam. 8-10 Army (BSF) personnel posted at the Indo-Myanmar border check-posts were travelling in the same coach as me and 4 of them happened to hail from Maharashtra. I simply asked them about their living conditions in such extremities of the country; but they were more fascinated about how I travelled solo, on a bike in that terrain and climate being a civilian (although they’re used to it!). They voluntarily began telling me stories from the time they spent in those parts of the country. This only happened because I didn't hesitate or act coy and approached them willingly. Without taking initiative and waiting idly for others to come by will increase your difficulties in connecting with people.



SHARE


The most effective means to win over and connect with people is to share your travel & life experiences with them. Once you open up, the people & you yourself feel an instant connection with each other. Sharing is great because it helps both you and your new friend to get a different (sometimes better) perspective of life! There are numerous instances when sharing my experiences helped me discover incredible things about travel, money & life.

I had the time of my life when I stayed at one of the oldest homestays in Leh city, Jammu & Kashmir. The founder and owner of the homestay, a 75 year “young” Ladakhi man gave me quite an insight into travel and the way of life. “The adventures I went on in the Himalayas are not ones you kids these days can fathom! It was a different story altogether back then”, he said, drinking his 3rd  glass of local rice whisky. He was quite interested in knowing why I had changed my career path from Engineering to Travel and loved the fact that I wanted to follow my passion. I have yet to travel the way he did and I hope I do, in the future, so even I can look at my life and say, “Now that’s how you live!”


The family at the home-stay in Leh who considered me as one of them!


How do you approach people on your travels and make friends?



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