Travelling is so much fun for most people. You find the right spot near your city, plan a trip with your close friends, capture the perfect group shots, get a couple of selfies for your future profile pictures. Oh, and think of the perfect captions for Instagram, remember to tag your friends on Facebook; fun, right?
Surprisingly, there are some people who have different reasons for a getaway.
“A short trip anywhere always refreshes me.” That’s Ambika Thakur, a rich kid (not that big on Instagram) who left her cushy life behind to travel around and detox.
“Imagine you are constantly working for two months straight; if you just take a two-day break and head over to a new place, you’ll be completely recharged.”
She grew up in an established business family in a small town, but unlike most rich kids of Instagram, Ambika decided to get out of her comfort zone, land a job in a startup in Delhi and live life on her own terms.
Her terms: To do whatever she wants to do and go wherever she wants to go.
Her first solo trip:
Most people close to her still don’t know about her first solo trip.
“Parents, because of obvious reasons – you are a girl, what if something happens?” even her friends didn’t know about this, “I never told any of my friends because I ditched their plans and went away.”
Like most Indian parents, her’s don’t mind if she travels with a group but travelling all alone is out of the equation. There is no way to know exactly how her parents and friends will react after reading this, but memories are sort of more important here.
“My first trip all by myself was to Rishikesh. I was swamped with office work and needed one weekend away badly.”
Again, there is no way to predict how her boss and colleagues will react after reading the next sentence, “So Saturdays were working in our office. On Friday night, I texted my boss that I am sick. Told my friends that I am leaving for Jalandhar (hometown). I have no idea why I did that, maybe because I didn’t want anyone to tag along.”
She remembers why she chose Rishikesh, “I had been there once with my travel partner and I fell in love with the place. So that place only came to my mind when I wanted to escape the pressure or monotony, whatever you want to call it.”
“I love observing things around me. So when I am alone it’s easier to do it, because then I don’t have to spend any time people I am with and listen to them or talk to them. It’s me and me alone with my thoughts and things around me are like the subjects I am watching from above.” Something creative people would say. Her experience is exactly what most of us need. Quiet and away from the bustling city noise.
“I remember sitting near Ganga, to the sound of water and wind mixing together making this beautiful symphony. Met some new people in cafes there, roamed the streets. I am blessed with a lot of friends who love to travel and with them also, I get my me time because they know me well, but in solo travelling, you don’t have to wait for it, it’s all yours.”
The business of her career:
Leaving your family business behind to make a name for yourself may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but try to picture yourself in her shoes. “I never wanted to stay in Jalandhar after my 12th. It didn’t work according to my plans as during my boards I got really sick and my parents were really scared to send me out of the state to study.”
Spoiler alert! She didn’t take science in 11th, “When I went to A.P.J College for admission, I was supposed to fill B.Com form. I saw the Bachelors in design in their prospectus. Luckily my parents didn’t go with me for filling the forms, it was my friend and me.”
“I just told her I will take up designing. The first day of class only I was sure this field is perfect for me. It was just a sign from God I guess.” Now, most ‘engineers’ or ‘doctors’ or ‘MBAs’ know exactly how Indian parents react when you pick an option apart from those three.
Imagine telling them you ticked the box that said designing. “Yes! It was really hard, it is still hard for me to tell them what I did and explain my dreams because for me it’s different, for them it’s weird. But one thing I have learned is that you can’t help it. They are your parents and sometimes they don’t understand.”
Let’s try to look at this like a glass half full situation, “This attitude of my parents towards me literally helped me to push myself forward every time and prove it to them, it motivates me to do something and show them how capable I am.”
Let’s go back to the first sentence of this point, “I was the first girl child in the whole family who was out and working.”
“Many relatives were talking about me, why she is working? Baap kama ke toh de raha hai, why she is living alone? Did she have a fight at home?” Something relatives usually say, “So my dad would sometimes tell me – come back, stay like a queen here. Why do you want to work for someone? Sometimes I used to feel bad because they were not supportive and I was tired of proving them wrong, but then I decided, screw it, this is what I am doing and it makes me happy.” Now if that doesn’t inspire you to pick your own career, you are probably going to an engineering college.
“I never meant to hurt someone or my parents, but I always knew that I am doing the right thing and someday (I still pray) they will understand. Sometimes I feel that they do understand but they are just scared of people.”
“I, on the other hand, learned the art of not giving a crap long ago.”
Leaving her comfort zone:
If we had to compare people in a small town and people in a metropolitan city, “I feel Jalandhar lacks awareness and exposure. I remember the very first day of my college when my professor entered the class and the very first thing he said to us – there are sixty students, I will make sure by the end of the semester there are only thirty. I know yaha adhe bache bas marriage certificate ke liye aaiye hai.” Professors, shaping the minds of our future generations.
How does a person react to something like that? “I felt so bad after hearing that. The first day, first lecture and you listen to this demoralising speech from your professor. I was like how rude and what a male chauvinist he is. But he was right.”
Why was he right?
She goes on to explain, “Most people here are kids from business families. So they have a set future, no big dreams, no tension, they kinda know their future, that they are going to sit in a well-established business and have no worries. So that’s a limitation, I guess. They don’t want to explore themselves or take a risk.”
She also puts it in much simpler terms “Koi bhi bhari thaali ko chhod ke kyun jaiyega?”
Imagine telling your rich parents that you’ll manage everything on your own, get your own place in one of most expensive cities in the world, travel around and choose a less comfortable life. Because that’s exactly what she did, and here’s her reason:
“When I started living in Delhi, I met a lot of people. Got to witness a diverse culture, people from are all over the world staying together. I was so shocked to see young kids so focused and passionate about their future.”
“They have dreams and they are working really hard for them. That’s something that people in Jalandhar lack. People in big cities want to be independent. They hate asking for money from their parents.” The last line may not be true for all youngsters, but it’s nice to read about these independent children.
*If any of this offends you, you are probably still living on pocket-money.
Travelling for better performance:
You don’t need to be an artist to hate routines or monotony. Escaping our busy schedules and skipping town is something we all look forward to almost every month. But can it help you in your work?
“Yes yes! Of course. Visiting new places, exploring their art and culture, and interacting with people from different backgrounds helps me broaden my thinking. It lets me look at the world from a different perspective.”
In a new city, Ambika tries to study different art forms like local paintings, traditional weaving, textile, architecture, or trends that define people. “Like I said before, things around me are simply my subjects, so it’s good if they keep changing and my mind gets to experience something new.”
“I take a lot of pictures and try to take some inspiration for my art. I use the little conversations or whatever I observe in my comics.” Something she loves making. Maybe there will be a separate story about her comics.
The food connection:
“I won’t call myself a foodie, but I love tasting food from different states (no matter how small the portions are).” It’s like she said, not a foodie. Indian food lovers don’t even know the meaning of portions.
She does like one food festival though, “My favourite is Dham, it is Himachali food. Kind of like langar food. It is mouthwatering, made in traditional utensils and prepared by special pandits.”
*Before you read the next sentence, just know that we are all entitled to our opinions. She’s just talking about her favourite food. No need to get upset.
“I was a little amused when I tasted South-Indian food in the south. The dosas are not at all like the ones we get in North. Honestly, I like dosas of North better than that of South.”
Let’s quickly move on to the next point.
Where’s the money coming from?
Being an avid traveller, she believes that if you love moving around, you don’t need a lot of money. “I wouldn’t suggest you travel without a single penny because hitchhiking isn’t a thing in India, yet. A little bit of money is sufficient.”
Of course, she’s gonna tell us how she travels on a budget, “You should know how to balance money and time. For me, staying in hostels, homestays or two-star hotels is fine, I don’t spend much on accommodation, so I save there. I book tickets early or look for offers and save some money there.”
“The aim should be to travel smart and see new places, new experiences. Why spend it all on a single vacation when you can save some for your next trip, right?”
But sometimes she travels with her parents and all budget planning goes out the window, “Yes! when I travel with my parents I don’t give a shit about money :)”
Travelling alone or travelling with friends:
“It hardly matters if I am alone, with friends or even with my parents. I am actually blessed with amazing parents who love to travel. I think I got this passion from them.”
She isn’t bothered about the company, it’s wandering around and the idea of going to a completely new place that excites her. If you need her to be more specific, “I don’t prefer groups or going with a bunch of friends. I travel with just one person because It’s more convenient.” Just like all of us, Ambika chooses her travel buddies like we choose our friends. Gotta be on the same page.
Or as she puts it, “because this llama doesn’t like drama.”
The fit bits:
The term fit doesn’t just talk about a person with abs or a triceps, it covers all the aspects of your physical health. That being said, “I get up every morning and do yoga just so I am fit to travel anywhere anytime.”
Also, “It is very important to take health precautions when you are travelling, especially for girls, because you know how unsanitary places like public spaces can be. So I always carry a first aid kit, and medicine for cold, cough, stomach infection, because a change of weather or food can easily make you sick, sometimes even water. So make sure always drink bottled mineral water when you are out. I also carry V-wash and lots of napkins because I don’t want any skin infections.”
The age of marriage:
Here’s a fun fact for all you readers who were patient enough to read so much in one post (thank you for that by the way) – It’s not necessary for every single person to get married and have kids. There are more than a billion people in our country, and if all of us start listening to the society and produce even more kids, soon there won’t enough air for everyone (that’s sort of hypothetical but still, think about it.)
Ambika is in her late twenties, shouldn’t she be married by now? (or at least have a profile on a match-making portal), “My mornings begin with my parents taunting me that I am getting old, and they are worried and blah blah.” Just like the mornings of most Indian women in their late twenties.
But parents aren’t the only ones interested in young people getting married, “When I go out in family functions or society functions people can only talk about marriage, asking me when I’ll get married and that I should have found a guy by now. Some have even asked me straight away if I am interested in women.” So some parts of India are progressing.
All that is fine, but, why hasn’t she started meeting potential grooms? “I believe there is no such age for marriage. When you are mentally prepared for it only then you should do it, otherwise don’t spoil yours and someone else’s life. These days divorce rates are high in India. I feel it’s because people don’t think about what they want and they just follow the idea. Marriage is a huge step in life.”
“I don’t feel that you get stuck after marriage or your life ends there or that all your freedom is gone. Some of my friends are living their dream life after the marriage, staying just the way they were before (with a few changes, but that’s ok). It’s because before taking that huge step, they had a clear mind and discussed it with their better halves.” Open communication makes everything so much better, doesn’t it?
So she’s not getting married, then what the hell is she planning to do with her life? (asks every parent reading this) ” I want to live somewhere far from the city, in a small house, with a dog. Teaching kids in a school, earning okayish money and living peacefully.”
And naturally, “this thought of mine seems strange to my parents and some of my friends because they can’t imagine a life like that.”
In her defence, she does give an explanation, “Staying alone, without a partner, well, that’s what I want right now. Don’t know about my future as it is not clear. I didn’t find anyone with the same frequency as mine. I prefer not to take this step and trouble myself as well as this other person. You can’t be selfish because, in a marriage, it’s not just you. There are two souls plus their families (hell lot of people there) are involved. So, I believe we should experience every aspect of life, but only when we are prepared for it.”
Her itinerary for the future:
Unlike most Punjabis, her travel plans don’t include any foreign countries (at least for the next couple of years) “Top of the list is Varanasi. I have been making plans to visit for the past two years and some way or the other, the plan was always cancelled. Same with Hampi.”
“I have always wanted to go to Pondicherry and visit different places in the northeast. I travel for stories, and these states, cities have different heritage and cultures of their own and I want to experience them all.”
But that’s not it, “Spiti is last on my list. Somewhere I believe I am not prepared for that high altitude right now, but I want to see it for sure.”
That was 10 points with Ambika Thakur. Let’s hope her story inspires you to listen to your inner voice and live life on your own terms. Just like her, you can get up from that comfortable couch, go out, make new memories and actually give meaning to living life. Or you can just stay on that couch if that’s what you really want.
*If you have a story to tell or know someone who deserves to have a post here, click on that contact page or say you are interested in the comments section.