I have been pondering what the term Travel Experience actually means. To me, to other travelers and to every person who has ever traveled with a sense of freedom.
I was surfing on YouTube for some good videos relating to travel and I came across a video of a TED talk by Rick Steves. He shared several experiences from his travels which taught him a lot and changed his perspective on various aspects of society and life. The video has been rightly titled “The value of travel”.
I have met hundreds of people while traveling and very few of them have had the same purpose and thought process behind their travels – to learn something new. It can be trivial or quite significant, it doesn’t matter to me as long as it teaches me something of value that I can hold on to and possibly share with fellow travelers through my blog.
I would like to define travel experience as an experience you have after visiting a place, trying a weird new cuisine (like eating snails & crickets!), meeting a complete stranger or doing something exciting that makes you think differently and challenges your current perspective. There’s so much to be explored in the world, and there are several stories or legends or myths or fables (whatever you may call it) that are still holding back people from setting out on the adventure they yearn for.
Here are a few experiences I’ve had that were truly incredible.
The family with the biggest heart
I was broke, with only 300 rupees in my wallet, and a seat booked in my name on a shared cab for the next morning to Mechuka Valley, Arunachal Pradesh. No way would it be possible for me to pay for my stay, that too for two nights, at the best homestay in Mechuka, .
I was planning on heading back to Guwahati and canceling my cab ticket but the owner of the hotel I was staying at in Along, urged me to at least talk with the owner of the homestay, Mr. Gebu Sona. When I called him, his wife answered and I explained my situation. She said, “No, No! Don’t return back. You’re so close to Mechuka now. Just come here tomorrow and we’ll figure something out. Don’t worry at all.”
The next day when I reached their place, they gave me a room and said that I could transfer the money to their account once I reached Guwahati and could contact my folks back home. I had an incredible time staying with them, chatting about my travels and downing some of the local made Ara – millet tequila.
|The Sona family and their humble abode.|
P.S- The man towering over them is Rohan Abraham, another great person.
But one thing I realized during the time I spent in Mechuka is that not just the Sona family but everyone in this quaint clime is very kind, helpful and happy. I wrote a series of Haikus about this amazing place and I hope you guys enjoy reading them.
I went to a place
Intrigued, many people ask
Intrigued, many people ask
What is Mechuka?
Kind hearted people
Beautiful inside and out
That is Mechuka
Chilly yet pleasant weather
That is Mechuka
Mountains surround it
But it survives being obscure
That is Mechuka
My heart fills with love
Thinking about Mechuka
Home away from home
All are so different here
I don’t wish to leave.
|This is Mechuka!|
My Khasi travel buddy
Because I like learning languages and am always keen on being able to speak at least a few words in the local language of the place I’m in, I often come across interesting people who have some fantastic stories. Like recently when I was in Sohra, Meghalaya, I was staying at a dormitory called “Kor Shongthait”. The owner, Alfred, has traveled quite a bit across the country and even overseas. I started chatting with him when he offered to show me around Sohra and saved me the taxi expense (that budget backpacker in me is showing huh? LOL!). But moreover, I was happy that a local Khasi person who’s also a traveler and likes backpacking was my guide for the day.
He told me about the earthquake that hit Meghalaya in the late 1800s that significantly altered the geography of the state. Villages vanished and a valley was created, the flow of an entire river was completely changed, waterfalls were formed, and things have been different ever since the calamity.
I asked him the meaning of Kor Shongthait. He told me that in the Khasi language, that term can be roughly translated as ‘taking some rest’ or ‘relaxing for some time’. Alfred said, “In the early days before there were proper towns and villages in Meghalaya, people from Sohra would walk several miles into Bangladesh to buy basic items like vegetables, fruits, etc. My grandparents did that you know? The walk was long and quite tedious so en route there would be temporary establishments, shacks if you will, where these people could stop, rest, and have some refreshments before heading towards their destination. I want my dormitory to represent that so I named it Kor Shongthait.”
I liked his ideology. What a kind thought? He doesn’t care about business or how much profit he can make, he only wants backpackers like me to have a roof over their head while exploring Sohra, if they’re in need of one.
My first Music Festival
Many travelers wish to attend music festivals on their travels. Big names like Tomorrowland, Sunburn, and Glastonbury and so on are always talked about. But I’ve always had my mind fixed on one spectacular music festival in India, the Ziro Festival of Music in Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh. In September 2019, I got the opportunity to attend this festival and it was an unforgettable experience.
|Festival arena of the Ziro Festival of Music|
The festival itself was fantastic but the company I had made the experience even better. I dropped out of college in 2016 and have been traveling full-time ever since. So I only have basic high school graduation, which is like a kind of taboo or weird in the minds of Indian society. I was yet to meet a person as crazy about travel as me and then before the festival, I met three of ‘em!
Shakti, Zoha and Trishita are full-time travelers like me. Shakti, an engineer, is into making travel videos and they’re incredible. Trishita studied pharmacy but if you check out the pictures she takes with her trusted Go-Pro camera, you are bound to be dumbstruck. And then there is Zoha, who like me decided to drop out of college and pursue something which she truly enjoys doing, traveling and writing about it. Meeting people who found their calling (yeah I know that phrase is a bit cliché!) and started doing what they want to do and enjoy instead of spending time living a more “societally acceptable” life is amazing.
|Friends I made in North East India. Shakti is missing though.|
Picture Credit: Trishita Bhattacharya
Another guy, Nathan, he’s my bruv from London! I met him in Varanasi; he’s a photographer & videographer who decided traveling and recording his experiences was what he cherished, not working as a chef (but that would’ve been really cool mate!). Nathan and his bro Sal make some mind-blowing videos.