World Tourism Day – Some thoughts on Post Pandemic Travel
A couple of days ago, I took my first flight after 20 months and I flew from one home to another- Bangalore to Madras. And on World Tourism Day, today, I take my second flight back home to Bangalore. As I feel overwhelmed and excited to be back among the clouds, I realize that I am not the traveller I was, a couple of years ago. And it is not just the pandemic or the fear and anxiety emanating from it. Indeed there is something that has changed especially with respect to post pandemic travel and I am focussing on slow travel experience and choosing to be a sustainable and responsible traveller.
But I am also in the midst of changing gears when it comes to my journey of life, and as I look inward, I realize that my perspective on travel and travelling has altered as well. Oh, don’t get me wrong – neither my passion nor my interest has waned. But it is just that I am no longer the random traveller who wants to be anywhere and everywhere, eager to visit every destination that is trending, following the herd, focussing on likes and views (on insta) and being seen and heard everywhere. As post pandemic travel unlocks, I want my journeys to have a meaning, a purpose, and an intent and hopefully, it will make a difference to someone somewhere and in the process heal me as well. I don’t want to undertake any crazy challenge or push myself to extremes or seek validation. Neither do I have any lofty vision/mission statement. I just want to experience every moment, cherish every conversation, absorb slow travel experience, lose myself in crowds and find myself again. I reminded myself why I started travelling 14 years ago after quitting a high-paying corporate life. And in many ways, I realized that I want to start all over again and probably traverse the same path. On this World Tourism Day, here are my thoughts on what travel means to me now, especially as we discuss post pandemic travel
1. Slow and mindful
I have always been a fan of slow travel experience and I have learnt to be a mindful traveller. I am in no hurry to rush to destinations and am in no rush to “do” destinations. I am also not very enthused to be seen in happening exotic destinations at this moment of time. And when that happens, I want to be a very slow and silent traveller, taking in every moment mindfully and letting myself be lost in the destination. I prefer short breaks that are slow and long rather than rush through destinations. I am in the mood to take baby steps, one at a time, and not leave my carbon footprint all over the place
2. Go local
I have always wanted to experience local traditions and delve a little deeper into heritage and culture and no one knows that better than local experts and guides. The pandemic has literally wiped out their livelihoods and I would like to connect and collaborate with them and travel with them and tell their stories. We often lose sight of the little details and smaller stories as we get wrapped in the destinations and experiences and creating content around them. Locals are the best guides and most of the tour operators who cater to smaller and boutique destinations are great storytellers too. However, their voices are often lost in the noise. In the post pandemic travel scenario, these local experiences will give me an in-depth experience of a destination.
3. Less is More
There was a time when I would like to travel every month and sometimes even twice a month. I would hop on from one flight to another without even thinking, planning, or savouring the experiences. But now I want my post-pandemic travel to be more focussed and have a meaning. It is not that I want every trip to be a soul-searching experience – some might just be a need to unwind or switch off, while others may be an assignment or a holiday, but I just want an intent to define any travel , especially slow travel experience.
4. Backyard Travels
When I started travelling in 2007, I was on a sabbatical from media and I went into the rural hinterlands of Karnataka and visited over 30 Hoysala temples. But it was not just the heritage that overwhelmed me. It was my experience in rural India. And it transformed me. I had just returned from my first trip to Europe but my jaunt in rural Karnataka transformed me. And it made a traveller for life. And although I have been to many countries and cities since then, the first trip is special. And something in me wants to revisit these places. And also make more inroads into my own backyard- Karnataka, Tamil Nadu to begin with as these are my home states. I do want to travel more in India and eventually visit overseas, but my tryst with backyard travels will be a priority.
5. Travel for stories and hobbies
I have always travelled for stories and that is how I became a storyteller. But somewhere down the line, the narrative had changed. I want to get back on track. And it is not just about people stories. I want to tell stories of birding haunts and lesser-known destinations, hidden temples and forgotten towns lost cultures, and fascinating lores. I want to explore wildlife and birding habitats, go on road trips, meet artists and artisans and share all these stories. I may not be trending for the gram but I want to make these people and places trend.
And this is the journey so far. But routes may change and detours may lure me and nothing is forever set in stone. But I would like to hope that my stories will make a small difference to someone somewhere. What are your thoughts on post pandemic travel ?