Pack. Passport. Visa. Flight. Customs. Bus. Hostel. Unpack. Repeat. A modern backpacker’s lifestyle is nothing different from this.
One’s duration of the trip may vary anytime from a couple of days, to several years. It’s very uncommon to come across a long term Indian backpacker as the “backpacking culture” here in India has just set its foot in. Nevertheless, 14 years is a very unusually long duration for any backpacker, regardless of nationality. And yes, he was an Indian!
This young man along with his newly wed wife and younger brother set out into the unknown, into the wild! In the course of these 14 years unfolds an epic that any Indian puts in his treasure chest of stories – “Ramayana”, the journey of Rama as is translated. No, I’m not into recounting the saga of how Sita got kidnapped by Ravana and how Ram defeated Ravana with the help of the monkeys – the vanar sena – which you must have heard umpteen times as you were tucked into your bed, watched as TV serials or plays.
“Destination never matters; it’s always about the journey”. After returning to Ayodhya, from Lanka, Ram was received with much grandeur and frolic by the entire kingdom. Now people would imagine Kaikeyi to be the last person Ram would want to see as she was the primal reason behind his exile into the forest. But as opposed to this, as soon as Ram entered the palace, he frantically kept searching for Kaikeyi all around. She was nowhere to be found. Eventually, he found her curling up in a corner and he ran and hugged her! Kaikeyi was equally confused then, as you are while reading this. She constantly apologized to Ram for being the reason of his exile. Ram smiled at her and said, “Thank you mother. If it weren’t for these 14 years out there, I wouldn’t have learnt anything valuable in life. All I know would’ve been the luxuries of living here at the palace.”
This indeed is what every single backpacker out there would say after their long trips. It’s about the people you meet, the friends you make, stories you share, troubles you face, how you overcome them, skills you learn and gratitude you earn that makes a trip distinctive. The whole process of traveling is a character building experience which humbles oneself to the vastness of the world we live in. During Ram’s “backpacking adventure”, he destroyed the 10 heads of Ravana which symbolize 10 bad qualities; lust, anger, attachment, greed, over-pride, jealousy, selfishness, injustice, cruelty and ego. Thus, we celebrate Dussehra (Dasha+Hara – Dasha’s defeat) exemplifying Ravana embodying the bad qualities and Ram burning them down.
Every travel experience brings at least one change in the traveler’s perspective of life. Looking at the big picture, life itself is a journey about self realization and that can never happen if you’re inside the computer screen all the while. So stop reading this and go out there, talk to people, make mistakes, see places, discover yourself!
– by Sid Ramesh