As humans, we are born to explore, to ask questions, to go into uncharted territories without having a clue of what lies beyond. It’s not just out of necessity – it’s out of the undying thirst for the unknown, and a sense of accomplishment in conquering new lands, mountains, seas and depths. It is our immense love for nature and human life that propels us to travel.
As Richard Burton said – ‘The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.’
During my many sojourns, I have had moments of transcendence which have made me feel like these are the moments I have been living this life for. I remember waking up at 5 in the morning Lachung to venture out into the freezing cold while my friends were asleep. The Lachung river (which goes on to meet Teesta later) flows as a 10 metre wide stream here, with clear cold water. The sun hadn’t come up yet, and the water was the coldest I have ever touched. When the Sun came up, and the peak in the background glistened gold with the one in the front still dark white and in darkness, what I felt cannot be put in words. Travel does bring these moments in our life – these memories are sort of like high points without which my life as I know it wouldn’t have been possible.
Travel can’t just be just a vacation, it can’t just be an escape from the regular life, it has to mean much more. For some, it is coming face to face with the enormity and grandeur of nature and feeling overwhelmed by existence itself. For some, it is about soaking the culture of the places they are visiting. For some, it could just be about food. For some, it could be about discovering yourself, akin to meditation, something that soothes your soul.
Most travel is about affordable common places that people flock to in large hoards. So for the stoic traveller who wants to go off-beat, on tracks that are less explored and provide more of a magical experience, these places are a strict no. As new and new places get discovered and become mainstream tourist destinations (Spiti valley now and Zanskar a few years from now), seekers move on to yet more remote and undiscovered corners of the world.
Travel is also responsible – the larger picture is one of our planet. With climate change looming large on our lives along with the millions of other species, travelling can make a whole lot of difference in the attitudes of people who had hitherto not come face to face with the real impact of climate change. When you travel to places such as Antarctica and Greenland, when you see glaciers receding in mountains and acceleration in the calving of ice sheets, it leaves a gaping hole in your life and you wonder whether you need to realign your life goals and do something about this. Nature shapes us, and being an integral part of travel, the calling is just too powerful to resist.
So let’s travel. Travel safe, travel responsibly. Let the winds sail.