By Sumedha Bharpilania Oct. 10, 2017
For my generation, travelling has become the catalyst that we believe will magically propel us toward enlightenment. It’s essentially our version of the tree Siddhartha sat under to become Gautam Buddha.
The alarm rang. It was 8.30 am. Having snoozed four others, I had to force myself to get out of bed. I was, at last, riding off into the sunset. An entire year of liking Facebook albums titled “Ladakh On An Enfield”, retweeting stories that screamed “I quit my job to travel and I am loving it!!!”, and deriving pinspiration from travel posters that read “Book a ticket and just leave” were paying off. l was finally ready to paint the town (of Gangtok) red.
After a short flight to Bagdogra and a rather arduous cab ride, I was in what I expected would be the definition of Insta paradise. I had made several plans for the next five days. I would visit all of the city’s monasteries and have my Eat Pray Love moment where I find and reconnect with my spiritual self. I would head to Tsomgo Lake and make that momentous decision of quitting my soul-sucking job. I would hike up to Banjhakri Falls and get some not-so-creepy stranger – preferably an aunty – to hold my hand and click a picture of me leading her toward the falls which I would later post with the hashtag #followmeto.
On my first day, I woke up dazed and hungry in the afternoon, gloriously impassive toward Gangtok’s many monasteries, and toward my millennial duty of embracing all the #wanderlust on behalf of my generation. Instead, I got myself Tibetan takeout, a bottle of local wine from the bazaar, and proceeded to pay homage to another millennial god: hotel Wi-Fi. I promptly included Netflix as my lunch-time companion and started streaming House Of Cards.
Soon enough, afternoon made way for evening and as Frank made way for Claire, a disturbing realisation dawned upon me: I had zero pictures of my vacay up on social media. Worried about my reduced online #wanderlust standing, I hastily clicked a blurry picture of the lights outside my window, and slapped at least four filters from two different editing apps on it. In less than five minutes, my artificially hipster photo had amassed over 100 views on Snapchat. It may have been just day one, but my trip already seemed like a success.
The next few days followed a sort of a similar pattern of either venturing out only to take snaps that would be fodder for curating my online travel experience, or lazing in my room watching Netflix. When dad called to ask about my trip, I didn’t tell him of this pattern. You see, my dad and his generation seemed to have an idea that travel was a way of getting over our inherent prejudices by witnessing how wonderfully diverse the planet is, and discovering how differently people lived in various parts of the world. He was genuinely curious about exploring a new city, and its culture. There was nothing pressuring him to book a ticket.
We travel because we determinedly want to outdo our friends, and their updates.
Dad had no aspirations of quitting his job to be a travelling nomad because he did not believe it would help him seek The Great Perhaps. He wasn’t obsessed with having the reputation of being a solo traveller because he knew not everyone could be Alexander Supertramp. Neither did he expect to attain nirvana, nor did he use a trip abroad as leisure. It just brought him ephemeral happiness and helped him make memories. As I watched a Sikkim sunset from behind my laptop screen, it seemed like a rather outdated way to travel.
For my generation, travelling has become the catalyst that we believe will magically propel us toward enlightenment. It’s essentially the millennial version of the tree Siddhartha sat under to become Gautam Buddha. We quit our jobs, and travel, firmly believing it’ll give us answers. We visit countries, and spend most of our time documenting every single moment in our bid to provide regular #wanderlust updates to social media. We travel because we determinedly want to outdo our friends, and their updates. Travelling decides our self-worth, doesn’t it? So what if we don’t actually see the world? After the fourth day or so of watching Netflix in Sikkim, I realised this seemed to be a wholly stupid way of travelling.
After I got back from my “travels”, I recounted the minutiae of my lacklustre trip to a friend, worried that I may not be considered a traveller — a trait that is of utmost necessity to identify as a millennial. But I was swiftly assured that there was nothing to worry about despite having seen a total of two sights in the five days that I was in Gangtok. What actually mattered was the fact that I had taken the effort to find a quaint spot that provided a flawless background for all my candids. After all, as my friend enlightened me,“A journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single Instagram like.”
Sumedha has travelled across 31 countries, including a major chunk of India, and calls Japan, Thailand, France and Switzerland her pet destinations. She is seasoned in going off the beaten track and loves documenting her journeys. Apart from getting lost in metropolises and being stranded at airports, she writes for eminent travel platforms and spends an awful amount of time on social media.