As some of you might know, I quit my day job in November last year (2019) and moved back to my hometown at the start of this year. I had hoped that after I was done moving back and was settled in, I would be able to plan a trip. Unfortunately, by the time I was, the lockdown was already enforced. Overnight, the idea that I might get to travel as I had hoped, suddenly became a distant reality.
During the weeks since, I have spent some time reimagining what travel might look like for me in the post-COVID world. Most of this exploration has been focused on how I can be more mindful when I travel. Mindful towards myself, towards others, and towards the planet at large. This exploration took shape in the form of asking myself some questions and diving deep on the why, where, and how of my travels. Here are some of the ideas that have emerged out of this exploration, along with images from my most recent travel to the 14th-century “Manjarsumba Fort”.
Last year I wrote an essay about how I no longer saw travel as simply – “visiting a place”. I now see it as migration undertaken as a way to survive and grow. This has demanded that I become aware of my motivations behind wanting to travel and explore how well they align with my personal and professional priorities. I see this as becoming aware of why we travel.
In my experience, becoming aware of why we travel, can help us approach it with a greater sense of clarity. This clarity has guided me such that I can avoid frequent travel and be more intentional and strategic about it, which is good for both the planet as well as for ourselves and others in the post-COVID world.
If why demands exploring our motivations to travel, where is about seeking a place to travel that aligns well with these motivations. Since being mindful of the environment is one of my motivations while traveling, it makes sense for me to prioritize local travel. It also aligns well with all my other motivations to travel, such as seeking nature and beauty, having powerful experiences by absorbing the local cultural nuances, and using these experiences to fuel me personally and shape my work.
After weeks of not having left my neighborhood, I was finally able to get away last month (June 2020), when I visited the 14th-century “Manjarsumba Fort”, on the other side of town. Although for many (and me in the past) this might not even qualify as traveling, I returned feeling all the positive aspects of traveling and it only reinforced my desire to prioritize local travel. And with the present restrictions in place owing to COVID, local travel is not only a sustainable option but it might be the only option.
Intrinsically linked with where we go is how we get there. It can shape both the impact of our journey as well as our experience of it. So, while weighing the pros and cons of various modes of transport, I looked at the trade-offs, both in terms of the environmental impact as well as the overall experience.
Since I will be prioritizing local travels, I do not foresee myself flying in the near future. I expect this to dramatically reduce the environmental impact of my travels on its own. I am also planning to prioritize using my motorbike. This has the dual benefit of having a low environmental impact as well as a good experience. I feel that it is a much nicer experience to travel on my own vs using public/shared transport. It begets both flexibility and control over a journey (which is good to have when traveling). That said, when it comes to longer journeys within the country (whenever that becomes a possibility), I will be making them over train.
The Road Ahead
Since this reimagined approach to travel aligns well with our present situation and restrictions, I am hoping that I will be able to travel mindfully a couple of more times this year (even if these travels are single-day local journeys on the motorbike) and I can't wait to share them with you.