By Hitesh Bhatt:
Two months ago when I decided to travel full-time, I had very limited money in my bank account. I had no other option but to travel cheap. Two months later when I have travelled to quite a few places in the northern part of India, I have realised the immense benefits of being a budget traveller.
If we have limited money, we’ll need people more than anything else: to hitchhike, to feed ourselves, to sleep in a cheap place or in our own tents, to know the directions, to travel. Money can buy any material for us, it can inflate our ego and it will definitely distant us from people because we won’t need them for our survival. A leisure/luxury traveller misses out on everyday-trivial-yet-important conversations that revolve around peoples’ lives. At least for people like me who see conversations as a must-have ingredient of travelling, low-budget really helps.
When I was in a village called Kalga in Himachal, I stayed at a place for Rs.50 per night. The hosts were such amazing people, that I can’t compare it with any hospitality offered to me by five-star hotel staffs. The reason is simple: The former were natural hosts while the latter were professionals. You get the point.
I read somewhere, “When you reach your limits, your limits expand.” In the consumerist world, there is no place for a poor person. Everyone needs to earn money to sustain a life. How much ever sad this is, this is the reality. When our pockets are empty, we go beyond our limits to fulfill our basic needs. From finding the cheapest place to have that afternoon meal to finding that reliable place where we can keep our bags without paying a penny to walking those extra miles out of the city to reach the highway; a budget traveller always tests their limits. I have walked many miles with 15 kg of luggage on me. Now I don’t even feel the pain in my shoulders. I can eat once a day and not feel weak or hungry. We are more than what we know of ourselves.
We have an enormous amount of ego stored safely in us to make us miserable. The ego which we believe to be our self-respect (who accepts that they have an ego issue?) is doing more harm than any good. The ignorance of self, I, me, and mine makes us an egoistic person. In reality, we never try to observe our existence independent of our possessions. We are all the same people without our possessions. Without air, water, and food we all will die. We realize this when we travel with a very low-budget (INR 300 a day is mine). When we are out there in a far away place with no worldly possession and everything is at risk of being lost, we find ourselves. We happily and gracefully kill our ego and come out as a better person who values everything and everyone in life. What best could travel offer than this! I have found people mean to me, mocking me, judging me and I have realized that it is not my problem, it is theirs. I do not feel bad anymore, I just do not take the unnecessary offense which helps me focus on my work and move on.
When we are testing our limits and killing our ego every day, we become less judgmental. The real learning starts. We learn how to hitchhike, how to talk to anyone, how to convince a total stranger in a village to let you camp in their premise, how to cook food and enjoy it and what not. Since we are willing to do anything, all the strings in our mind loosen and we tighten them again like a new-born baby. We are aware, empty, and always ready. These skills, I believe, will help us in a long run as well. These are survival skills. (I am learning how to cook and enjoying it.)
When we realize that life is more than satisfying our taste buds, we accept anything that comes on our plates. And surprisingly it tastes so good (better than KFC’s ‘soo goood’). We get to eat local food from different places that we enjoy with total strangers in their premises. And the conversations over food, Ah! inexplicable; tastier than the food. I make friends every day. I love the stories I hear during the meal. I love the sense of humor and simplicity with which people in the rural India live.Know Ground Realities: Apart from knowing who we are, what are our limits, what is our reality; we get to know the ground realities that are prevailing in peoples’ lives. We experience life situations at the bottom of the pyramid. When people share with us their stories, their struggles, their happiness, their tales, folklore; we learn how limited our problems are and also how limited our happiness is.
Apart from knowing who we are, what are our limits, what is our reality; we get to know the ground realities that are prevailing in peoples’ lives. We experience life situations at the bottom of the pyramid. When people share with us their stories, their struggles, their happiness, their tales, folklore; we learn how limited our problems are and also how limited our happiness is.
The more we travel; the more we break our stereotypes. We become less judgmental. We see humans as one species and learn that religion can be more dividing than uniting. It sometimes creates more problems than solving them. We find one in all and all in one. It is debatable and so I claim is true at least to me.
Life is more than what we will ever know. Travelling is one way of getting closer to its meaning and purpose. Travelling for me and many like me is just not an escape from the world, it is rather a journey of self-exploration. Travelling is adventure, travelling is for that adrenaline rush that makes me feel I am alive. It is to evolve and empathize and live: live beautifully.
This article was originally published here on the author’s blog.