“What inspired you to travel ?” This is one of the standard questions that am asked virtually by everyone . And this is probably one of the few questions that I have always found difficult to answer. My choice of travel as a career is not something that came upon me as an idea in the middle of the night . It was neither an Eurekha moment nor an escape route . It was something that grew on me as I discovered far and new places . True, that I quit my job to travel, that I found my true calling as a traveller, that I enjoyed every little discovery that I made on every trip, that it eventually became a way of life and that I learnt more on the road than from my desk job. And yet, when I ask myself this question, I go blank.
My mother always tells me that as a little kid, I used to run all the time like I had wheels on my feet. Perhaps, it is my curious mind that inspired me to travel. But then I think the answer lies in rewording the question a bit – who inspired you to travel and probably, even better, when did you get inspired to travel ?
I had grown up in a joint family and I was lucky to have grandparents who were alive when I was as a kid. Both my grandfathers were adventurers, pioneers and great story tellers. My maternal grandfather was an engineer and he had been to almost every terrain of India, mostly inhospitable, building towers. He had sailed to Canada when my mother was young and had travelled extensively to the Middle East and had been everywhere from Kuwait to Karachi. My paternal grandfather, a businessman and a stockbroker was a coffee planter and his estates were located in the heart of the Western Ghats. Many a night he has told me stories of wild animals crossing his path. Both of them were very spiritual and along with my parents, I had been to several heritage destinations as a kid, Sringeri being one of them. These journeys created indelible impressions on my mind.
So the question is now rephrased – ” When was I inspired to travel ?” Clearly it was as a young child . My favourite subjects in school had always been English Literature, History and Geography and in retrospect, they all had one common element – Places. The poems and prose of English Literature has enough imagery about cities and towns, while history always got me fascinated with tales of kings and queens.. Geography is a different subject altogether – I was fascinated by maps. The atlas became a new found friend. I had learned to draw a world map and shade the forests and seas and I spent all my time doing it than learn some equation in chemistry or do some arithmetic. I probably lost touch with all my books once I left school but today it all comes back to me, the moment I pick up an atlas or see a map.
I often wished history classes were taught in actual locations..I would have appreciated Pallava architecture better if I had been taught at Mahabalipuram. If quizzes were less about General Knowledge and more about Geography, I would have probably won more cups in school 🙂
Travel, I believe is a habit that grows on you and probably if it began at a young age, it stays forever And today, corporate companies are doing just that. Thomas Cook’s new Initiative, ” Travel Quest” is about triggering the curiosity in young minds and making them want to discover and learn more about the cultures they live in. The world is getting more and more competitive and I would be surprised if students would trade their MBAs and IT careers for atlases and maps. And yet, as young Indians find themselves working in global environment, it would only help them widen their horizon if they learn a bit or two about the cities they work in.
Travel Quest is not just a simple quiz contest but a way to experience History and Geography than just learn it as subjects. 1100 schools across 16 cities in India are participating in the initiative which started in October last year. Today was the finals of the south zone and soon the rest of the zones will be competing as well. The grand winner gets a trip to Swizerland and the interesting bit is that the History and Geography teachers from the winning school will get to accompany the students. Sigh ! I wish I had such an opportunity at school.
Wishing all the students all the best..well, looks like the travel mantra, according to me is to “Catch them young. ”