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Travelling is essentially a way of life. Try to remember the last time you went and explored a new land. Now list down everything that experience brought you. The next step is to subtract all material gains. Finally, what you are left with - knowledge, stories, discovery, people, skills, a better understanding of culture, broadened horizons of your own self - is the core essence of travel.

Travel is the perfect medium for personal growth. During times when you might complain about lack of time or resources, understand that all travel requires is openness and the understanding that it is the simplest way of life. Social media influencers seem to make travel a fashion trend when it is in fact the opposite. It’s not about luxury spas and first class air tickets but rather about walking through old lanes of a thriving city, conversing with the locals, learning about their artists, culture and history. I have realised over time and after a lot of exploration myself that, the true joy of travel lies not in the souvenirs I brought back home but, in the stories I could narrate. I like to travel not for an escape but, for healing and growth and for realignment. I like to travel to places that make me feel close to my roots and connected with nature. I am mindful of my carbon footprint, and I believe it is important to be sensitive to a community and its beliefs. I recently went to Bali and what I brought back for myself and for all my friends and colleagues were locally made bamboo straws. It’s a simple gift but it addresses a much larger environmental concern. These small steps, however insignificant, are important individual contributions.

Carrying a metal or glass bottle for water and fabric bags are small ways to ensure you don’t add to the plastic waste.

On another travel experience, I explored an elephant sanctuary. Besides the sheer joy I discovered from being amidst these humbling creatures, I learned that the bond between a human and an animal goes beyond owning a pet. At one moment in my encounter with an elephant, I was paralysed with panic when I thought an elephant was attacking me. It took me a few moments of silent communication with the elephant to recognise and understand that we are all part of one ecosystem and that we are all connected. I believe it is high time we fix the damage we have done by sitting on the top of the food chain and being ignorant about other species. Our hunting, poaching, trafficking, encroachment and many such practices have driven us to a point where we now take our young ones to observe animals in a zoo behind bars. And this sad situation can be changed to a great extent if we only become conscious of what we indulge in as travellers.

Sustainability has become the need of the hour in every aspect of life and it is an urgent need that we must pay attention to whenever we go to new locales for a vacation. We should endeavour to ensure that we do not end up punishing the planet while we take in new sights and experiences on our holidays. It may be better to leave something positive in the places you visit, instead of plastic trash.

There are many groups based in popular tourist locations who inform tourists what their community really needs like clothes, medical supplies, stationery, etc. This way, you will be really giving back to the community. All it takes is a bit of research, planning and mindfulness to make sure that you are not harming the ecosystem in any way. When we look at travelling experiences, they should be about knowledge, emotional rejuvenation and creating fond memories. That is when we get the best of travel and we give back the best we can to the planet.

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