By: Staff Writer, 11 Jul, 2018
Among travellers, there’s a certain amount of pride taken in “charting new routes”, “going off the beaten path” and all that jazz. All these buzzwords make it seem like visiting a place that’s been seen by a million eyes is a bad thing, and that you rarely gain anything from that experience.
Me, I completely disagree.
Some of my fondest travel memories have been made on paths that plenty of other feet have trodden. I proudly declare to anyone who’s listening that I waited patiently for the lights to go red at Tokyo’s Shibuya crossing, made famous by that Bill Murray-Scar Jo classic, Lost in Translation. Not just that, I’ve looked down at New York from the top of the Empire State Building and taken a picnic to Central Park. I’ve gawped at the majesty of Ladakh’s landscapes and happily posed for photos at Khardungla Pass. I’ve loved every second of each of them.
And you know why? It’s because at the end of the day, you’ll get as much or as little from travelling as you put into it. I’ve realised that you could be in the most secluded place in the world and gain absolutely nothing from the experience, or be among a thousand travellers and have the time of your life.
Travel, for me, isn’t just about uncovering the unknown – though that’s often a happy by-product of just being on the road. In the quest for the “untouched and undiscovered”, it’s easy to forget one simple truth: travel is what you make of it! Trips are made (and broken!) by the company you have, and even more by the mindset you approach it with. Ladakh is a prime example. There are few parts left of that gorgeous region that fall off the beaten path while still being accessible, which means that, in today’s world, to travel to Ladakh is a “done thing”.
But why should that mean that I can’t go – and have a brilliant time, at that? If I’ve never been before, it’s still going to be a novel experience for me. And even if I’m returning for the fifth time, there are ways I can make it my own. Maybe this time I’ll camp under the stars by the banks of Pangong Tso, instead of just swinging by the lake for a few quick photo-ops like most people do. I’ll stay in homestays and guesthouses now that I’m familiar with the place, and go about getting to know the people and the culture better. Who knows, perhaps I’ll meet someone who’ll let me tag along on a great trek they have planned. The opportunities are endless, if only you don’t close your mind off to them.
I’m a firm believer, after all, that travel requires an open mind. And that includes an open mind about places that seem over-visited. I’m definitely guilty of looking down my nose at places because I’ve thought that they’ve been “ruined by tourists.” And then I’ve given them a chance, and had my metaphorical socks knocked off.
If I could give one piece of advice to every traveller out there it would be this (incoming cliché alert!): every single corner of the world is worth exploring. Don’t let yourself be swayed or scared off by what’s currently ‘cool’ and what isn’t, and just follow your feet and your heart to wherever they lead you – you never know what you might find!