Obviously we’re not allowed to complain about our chosen lifestyle. We’re living the dream of many and we love everything that comes with travelling around the country and the discovery, well almost. Admittedly there are a few things that we could do without, things that constantly irk and irritate and one year of travel later there are definitely a few things that we dislike about the constant budget travel. And for anyone embarking on a similar journey, we will be the first ones to say, that as amazing and rewarding as it is, it does have it fair share of challenges so be warned!
A Small Budget – Travelling on a small budget is a double edged sword, more often than not it’s a huge strain on the journey. Granted a small budget forces us to travel cheap which allows us to experience the country in a completely different light and we love it, the random conversation on the bus journeys, tea with the auto guys, stopping at tiny villages and sampling the roadside snacks and the beautiful countryside all around. Budget travel also ensures that we seek out more village life and home stays, where we experience an India that is warm welcoming and inherently friendly. Our budget is not small, we get by well enough on Rs. 2500 a day for both of us, all included, but India is no longer cheap and if one were honest, this budget brings no creature comforts and that luxury we sometimes crave. We once did a job for a fancy resort in Gujarat, and man we did not want to leave the bouncy bed and fluffy pillows, the clean large bathrooms and endless room service. Eating and staying healthy in many places is challenging, especially parts of North India, where cheap food is usually fried or full of masala. The endless drives in rickety old state buses on bad roads and the lack of decent bathrooms and infrastructure in many states takes its toll on the body, which is further exacerbated by hard beds and the constant need to do our own laundry. It is at those times that we’re grateful for friends and family and the extended network who host us for a night or two (and let us use their washing machine!), before we set off again with renewed vigor.
Travel Fatigue – We travel for many reasons, to explore the world around us, to seek out the new and unexpected, to push ourselves and see how we change and for the simple love of discovery. The more we traveled across this amazing country the more we want to uncover and understand this beautiful country that is so diverse and yet so connected. We’ve taken two trains to reach a destination, sat on a bus for 8 hours to see one monument and spent day after day going from museum to monument to monastery. We’ve driven for hours on back breaking roads just to see a valley or waterfall and climbed down over 3000 steps to see some roots and bridges. Everything has impacted us in different ways and we’re constantly amazed at what this country has to offer. And there is a lot! This at times can get extremely overwhelming and tiring, where you reach a point when everything blends into one and monuments tend to blur and there is no appreciation for what you are seeing. We have found ourselves at this place many times, when we’ve tried to cram too much into too little time and fatigue sets in. Sometimes time is a luxury we cannot afford and have to keep going, and it’s in those moments when travel can lose its charm and joy.
Too Much Togetherness – We love each others’ company, which is probably a good thing since we got married, and can happily spend days with only each other and no one else around. More often than not we’ve vacationed by ourselves and are quite happy without anyone else. When we decided to embark on this journey we wondered how the constant travel would affect our relationship and if too much togetherness would ultimately be detrimental. And the honest answer is that is has changed us and if you are not cognizant of it, it can take a toll on the relationship. Not because we fight, which obviously we do, but because there have been days when we’ve had no one else to talk to but each other and that can get to us. Moving from one small hotel to another, sleeping in tiny cramped spaces, navigating new places where language is a barrier, constantly moving for weeks at a time, can negatively affect people who travel together, no matter the relationship. Maybe it’s easier for us since we’re married (or maybe not), but sometime it is a huge challenge and there is such a thing as too much together. Thankfully we’re both comfortable in our own silence and are not opposed to doing our own thing for a few hours here and there, but it is something to be mindful of and address before it overtakes the joy of travel.
Lack of ‘Ghar ka khana’ – We love food, our size is clearly a testimony to this! We love sampling new cuisines and dishes, eating stuff we never thought we would, like the silk worms in Arunachal or vegetarian thalis in Gujarat which we loved unexpectedly. We’ve eaten cheap roadside meals that have been fantastic and lamented wasting money on a fancy restaurant; we’ve tried freshly caught river fish with no names and countless different types of ‘curries’ all across the country. There is so much diversity in the country with the food that is a treat to be able to say we’ve tried over 10 types of biryani or that the best idli is in a tiny little restaurant in Madurai. But after long days of travel and sightseeing, when you’re too tired to think, sometimes the only thing one needs is a nice simple home cooked meal, with familiar tastes and smells. Eating oily food at an endless stream of cheap, nondescript places will definitely take a toll, not only on your health but also on your mood and despite the yummy food we’ve had in many homestays or the homes of strangers who have kindly invited us over, it’s the familiar that one seeks and misses.
Life Goes on Without You – Climbing up forts in Maharashtra, seeing a stunning ruin in the middle of nowhere Karnataka, eating the yummiest home cooked meal in a tiny village with farmhands in Arunachal, are only a fraction of our amazing experiences. Many have greater meaning because we are with each other and are constantly making amazing memories that will stay with us forever. We share our stories and lives on social media to keep our friends and family updated and are constantly in touch with the mummies (but of course). However, one of the greatest downsides to this is life that we are missing out on back at home; where a friend’s baby has a birthday party, or another is born, or a wedding where everyone was there but us. Festivals, holidays, special occasions are reduced to group phone calls and photos on facebook, and sitting at gatherings at home when on break you realize that everyone is in a different space. While we’ve met some really cool people on our travels and made new friends, there is no substitute for the ones that really know you, which is why in December of 2015 we rerouted our whole plan and took two overnight train journeys to spend New Years with friends.
As someone once said, we travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us’. When we embarked on this journey of travel across India, we knew things would not be easy, from managing a small budget to being constantly on the road at an age when most people choose a different more stable path in life. Many challenges we’ve faced are unexpected and many we thought would be difficult have not been. Travel is amazing in ways that you can’t even imagine, the urge is inherent in all of us; if we were meant to be stationary we’d have roots instead of feet. But this form of travel, where one is not an occasional tourist, can be daunting and it is important to be aware of your limitations and true realities of being on the go constantly.