Traveling means different things to different people. The first time I ever traveled outside of India, I went with my mother (to the UK) and stayed with some close relatives who had organized the entire week’s activities for us. I didn’t know what the plan was; I didn't know where all we were going to go and I had no idea what was there to see in the UK. I did no research at all. I just relied on my uncle’s family to make the perfect plan for us. And since it was my first trip ever, no doubt, it was super! I loved every bit of it. I was in awe of everything – the country, the people, the roads, the cleanliness, the malls, the organized queues (something very hard to find in India), kind people (well, mostly), the history, the architecture, everything!
But that was the last time I traveled with zero research. And with relatives! Don't get me wrong, the experience was amazing and the family was a great host. But I wanted to have my own experiences, planned by myself, as per my own interests. And I realized – I don't like traveling with too many people, even if it is family!
We evolved in our research
The next trip was our honeymoon to Mauritius – and I very excitedly planned the trip – researched the places to see, things to do. I found us a fantastic ‘Honeymoon Package’, booked it through a travel agent, and we were good to go. And that was the last time we ever bought a ‘travel package’. Or used agents for booking vacations for us.
We evolved in our planning
Over the years, I have realized, the fun of traveling is in the planning! Going through blogs, websites, reading what people have to say about places, checking out pictures – these are the things that build up the anticipation of seeing a new country. I have no qualms in accepting that I am not the kind of person who can just land up in a country and figure out what needs to be done. I cannot afford to miss out on the months of research, planning and reading up because that is what makes the vacation all the more exciting for me.
We evolved in our exploration
When it all started, it was about covering maximum ground in minimum time. We would spend not more than 2 days in a city and sometimes cover only the main cities in a country so that we could cover the maximum countries in the minimum amount of time. When we traveled to Europe, we went to Paris & Nice in France; Rome, Venice, and Florence in Italy and Amsterdam in Netherlands. We had 2 weeks, we spend 4 days, covered 3 countries. But what about the amazing St Tropez, Lyon, Bordeaux, and Strasbourg? What about Milan, the Amalfi coast, Positano, Palermo, and Portofino?
It is no more about covering maximum countries. We would rather go to one country for 2 weeks and make sure we see as many cities as we can in the limited amount of time that we have! Yes, it is a pain to apply for the Schengen Visa every time you have to go to Europe (disadvantage of having an Indian passport) but so what! At least we don't look back and regret not having seen more cities.
We evolved in our interests
Our trip to Calgary made us realize our love for mountains, lakes, and hiking! It made us plan Switzerland, New Zealand and Norway within a span of one year. We just couldn't get enough of rugged natural beauty.
We evolved in our preparation
Although I still prepare my excel sheets with a day wise itinerary, we realized after our trip to New Zealand that sometimes, we need to be open to ideas and suggestions of the local crowd. Itineraries cannot be carved in stone; heartfelt testimonials of certain areas we didn't plan to cover as per the initial plan made us change our plan midway. Canceling hotels, re-booking last minute available hostels, buying a train ticket, etc. is not really the worst thing!
We evolved in our thinking
We were pick-pocketed in France, lost our license and car (seized by the police) in New Zealand, had to face a cyclone in Mauritius, had a major car breakdown in the middle of the Empty Quarter. Fuck ups are a part of travel. Things can never go very smooth – no matter how hard we try. We are slaves to weather, crime, and circumstances and if anything, these are the incidents that make for great stories about our trips!
We evolved in our tastes
We evolved in our tastes – a trip to Thailand made me fall in love with Thai food. New Zealand made us realize that coffee does get better than Starbucks. Italian Gelato made my husband develop a sweet tooth. Malaysia proved to us that street food could be way better than a fine dining restaurant in a hotel. And nothing surpasses the (magic) brownies of Amsterdam.