Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.

The first time I came across this quote from the renowned Moroccan Scholar – Ibn Batutamy instantaneous response was negative. Not because I consider the words of one of the greatest traveling scholars that ever lived, to be sacrilege.

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My reaction to this quote, had more to do with how I chanced upon this – rather than its meaning, and the poignance it conveyed.

I came across this quote as the title of a photo a friend of mine had uploaded in Facebook.

Shot by an underwater camera, it was an amazing picture – my memory of it is as vivid, as the quote itself. My friend was clad in diving gear, gingerly swimming through the Great Barrier Reef, in Cairns, Australia. He didn’t forget to pose at the camera with a Victory sign to boot.

I came across this post as in my Facebook News Feed (yes, this was before the Timeline was a thing in Facebook) in 2010. I was going through the worst period of my life – I was penniless, and on the verge of a depression, while my friends seemed to be having the time of their lives. I was not happy at all, and seeing this picture made things worse! I was clearly jealous of my friend, and hated Ibn Batuta for saying such wonderful things about something that I can possibly never do (or I never thought, would be possible) – traveling the world.

Fast forward seven years.

Today I’m far from being the penniless, broke, and depressed college-kid that I used to be. I’m married, and I’m happy! I work for the company that I dreamt about working at someday, seven years back. I just completed my first anniversary there, and it’s even better than I ever dreamt of! It so happens that International Travel as part of work is a cool perk this company offers – I must admit that the universe has been too kind on me (and I can’t thank it enough!). I travelled a fair bit during the past few years – and was lucky enough to click some amazing pictures, as well.

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A picture from the lovely Lake Callaghan, at Whistler, Canada. Not sure if I’ve done full justice to the view – but it was more amazing than the picture itself!

Every time I post one of these pictures on Facebook, or Instagram, every time I start writing a description about that picture – my mind goes seven years back, to that same Ibn Batuta quote, and the same photo from the Great Barrier Reef, not to mention the emotions I went through, back then…

Is Travel A Fad?

If one takes a random sample of social media posts from their feed, at any given time – there would be a fair share of ‘travel’ posts. Posts about people writing evocatively about the experiences they have had, breathtaking photos of unseen lands, pictures full of joy – of people having fun… You name it! Many of these pictures are professionally-shot, adding verve to their beauty, and their elegance. Then there are blog posts, articles, and even dedicated travel portals – declaring unanimously that travel is the best thing in the world. The BuzzFeeds, and the ScoopWhoops of world share their listicles about 30 Places That You Should Travel Before You Are 30 – all of them, well-worded…

Yes, I agree with Ibn – travel does turn one into a storyteller.

But, some of these storytellers are borderline narcissists. I know some people who travel just for showing off in Social Media, to satisfy their egos, and to proclaim this to the big bad world:

I am rich enough to afford return flight tickets to Europe!
I just had the BEST evening of my life at the Eiffel Tower!
I just backpacked through China – BEST Experience of my life!
I did this…
I went there…
I AM AWESOME! I DID THINGS YOU COULD BARELY DREAM OF! I JUST KILLED YOUR EGO! BOW DOWN BEFORE ME, PUNY HUMAN BEINGS!

All this buzz about travel, the barrage of social media posts, (not to mention the frequency of travel posts I share in Social Media), often makes me ask these questions to myself:

  1. Why do I travel? 
  2. Am I being that narcissistic jerk, when I upload my travel photos to Social Media?

Why Do I Travel?

Personally, travel is one of the things I love the most, in life! I consider myself to be a lifelong student/learner, and a lifelong traveler (and I’m lucky enough to get a life-partner who shares these thoughts). I have not had the chance to travel a lot, but from the little I have explored – I have had several experiences – which were nothing short of life-changing.

Like the time I lost my fear of guns, when I shot to my heart’s content, using a Pistol and a Rifle, at an Indoor Gun range, in Austin, Texas, last year…

Like learning about the heritage of the Portugese Empire, and the way they rebuilt the city of Lisbon, after a massive Earthquake in the 18th Century, at the Lisbon Story Centre, in Lisbon, Portugal – this year.

Like how I used the bits and pieces of German I learned from Duolingo, to haggle with a German shopkeeper for the souvenirs I purchased for home, at Berlin, Germany. And I ended up saving over €40 on a €150 purchase!

Like the short interaction I had with a security officer at the Dallas Fortworth International Airport – who stopped me to say that  he loved my V For Vendetta T Shirt, (which I purchased from a thrift shop in Penang, Malaysia).

Like how a shopkeeper in Whistler, Canada – originally from Australia, asked me: “Do you work for WordPress? Wow! I have a WordPress blog too!”

Like the Uber driver in Lisbon, who knew barely a word of English, but sang “Hum Tum Ek Kamre me Band Ho!” when she learned that my wife and I were from India!

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From a lovely July evening, at Berlin, Germany. Shot this while returning to the hotel, after a team dinner with my colleagues.

Most of my International Travel these days is for work-meetups – where I get to meet and discuss work stuff with my colleagues. I eagerly look forward to those few odd weeks that I get to spend with my colleagues (who are more of friends, than co-workers) – so much that I actually look forward to physically co-working with my colleagues! 🙂 More than getting to see amazing places, getting to be with my colleagues – perhaps, excites me more than visiting these exotic locales.

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From a Work Trip at Austin, Texas.

In short: I travel – because travel makes me a better person, through the life-experiences it gives me. I travel, because it recharges my mind, and body.

I travel, because I love traveling.

Am I being that narcissistic jerk, when I upload my travel photos to Social Media?

This was something that bothered me (and my wife as well – she was actually getting hate messages because she posted travel photos in Social Media), for a long time. I did a lot of soul-searching, and found the answer to this question.

The TL;DR: is No, I’m not a jerk. 🙂 I click pictures, because I love doing just that – and because photography is a passion. I share some of those pictures in Social Media, because that’s what Social Media is all about – Because, sharing is caring!

So, Why Travel?

For me, travel is definitely not overrated – it’s a breath of fresh air (sometimes, quite literally). Social Media, travel portals, Individuals who travel to show off in social media, and endless Listicles may make it seem overrated (and even disgusting – for a lot of people). But that’s just one side of things.

If you want to travel, I would highly recommend you to do so!

Travel – not for ‘checking in’ to exotic locales.
Travel – not for showing off to your Facebook friends.
Travel – not because you have a lot of money, and don’t know what to do.

If you travel for the sake of scratching that itch of your narcissistic ego, I have nothing more to say. 🙂 

Travel – only if you love traveling,
Travel – to rejuvenate your mind, and your body.
Travel – because the world beckons to you!
Travel – because it makes you a better person!

Just Travel.

And yeah – don’t forget to share some of those amazing pictures you took during your travels – because, sharing is caring! 😉 Try not to be a jerk though, cause that’s definitely not cool!

3 thoughts on “Travel: Life-Changing Experience, or Overrated Indulgence?

  1. Such a great post, Hari, and it certainly echoes my own thoughts regarding travel. Because you want to learn and experience so much in the limited time we have on this planet.

    It’s disappointing to hear about your wife getting such negative comments when she just wanted to share something positive. Sadly, there will always be bitter, spiteful people. The best we can do is try not to let them get us down.

    We have similar stories, you and I; I’m happy that we were both able to overcome our obstacles in order to enjoy our lives to their fullest potential.

    Take care, my friend. I look forward to seeing you again in Whistler to take more wonderful pictures 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Sean! Means a lot to me! 😊

      You are right – we are in this planet for such a limited time, and getting to explore as much of it, in this short while is enriching. 😊

      Sorry about the obstacles you had to face during your journey, but I’m happy to hear that you could surmount it all and live your life to the potential. Can’t wait to see you at Whistler! 😊

      Like

  2. Hello!
    This is our favourite post that our mummy has read to us so far!
    We really love travelling with our family and we really love sharing our adventure stories with other people. We like sharing them because we think that stories and adventures make people happy and we want everyone in the world to be happy!
    We love travelling because we think its so cool to see new things and make new friends. The world is so pretty and special and we think it is magical! We really hope that we get to travel forever!
    We hope you get to travel lots more too!
    Wolf, Bear and Monkey

    Like

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