World Moms Network changed my life.
The first time I traveled out of my country was in 2013. Jennifer Burden, Founder of World Moms Network, celebrated. She couldn’t stop talking about it on social media. I went to Chicago to collect the BlogHer International Activist Award on behalf of World Moms Network (at that time we were still World Moms Blog). That trip was life-changing.
Less than a year later, I went to Brazil on a reporting project, also representing World Moms Network [WMN]. It was my third time out of India. Jen sent me a card that said, “Report your heart out.” The words have stayed with me ever since and every trip after that continued to be life-changing.
Now the world has changed and travel is restricted.
As I write this from India, we cannot travel to the next block or even the supermarket. So what of travels on planes or cars or trains, or even trucks?
From an early age, my father used to take me on trips all over India, a few times every year. We used to attend a lot of the Heartfulness events, which happened all over India. I enjoyed not just the pleasure of a trip but also connecting heartfully with new people. Being part of events and celebrations, and networking with people for a purpose, for altruism, for serving humanity has always been part of my life. Perhaps being part of the World Moms Network, is a naturally joyful process because of that lifelong experience of trying newness, initiated by my father.
So, traveling to the USA, or the UK or Brazil, and other countries was an extension of my childhood. The evolution of learning; the journey of growing as a person; the joy of seemingly tiny moments, continued.
Traveling is a privilege not a necessity.
Let me make a few things clear before I continue. First, I was not born into privilege but to a middle-class family. We saved money for our travels across India. That felt important to my father and as an extension to us. Second, now that we travel outside of India, we still save money, because that continues to be important to us as a family.
Also, I would like to point out, if you make intelligent financial decisions while planning travel, you can make it more affordable.
Also, for those who have challenging financial situations, I am not saying it is imperative for you to travel to find meaning in life. I would never say that. That would be thoughtless. I am not one to judge anyone. I am merely sharing my heart, my experiences, and my joys.
Traveling has made my heart softer.
Though not born into privilege, I lived in a very privileged atmosphere within my family, with all my needs fulfilled as well as some wants, and even a few luxuries. Though we were just a normal middle-class family, we were also content, satisfied, and always joyful – my father made sure of that. So, I have never had a need go unmet.
These days, every time I come across a mother in the slums, I am constantly reminded of Adrianna from Brazil, whom I met during one of the reporting trips. I wonder if all her 11 children are fed and receive an education. I wonder if she has a good job. I wonder if she is happy. I wonder if she had any more children. It makes me think of not only her but also about many other people Around the world.
I also think of Karma, the guide I met in Bhutan. He told us that, at the juncture of every Buddhist shrine, he is going to pray to Buddha so that he gets admitted to a university in Paris for his postgraduate degree in tourism. I wonder if he got in, and if he did, what is he doing now? And what happened to him when the world went into lockdown, with the tourist industry being the worst affected of all.
Just before lockdown, my family and I traveled to Egypt. In Luxor, we met Abdul, our guide. He had just had a baby and was always impatiently (and endearingly) waiting for us to wrap up our day, so he could rush home to his wife and baby. Where are they now? How are they managing their livelihood?
Traveling makes us think.
It expands our horizon; it helps create empathy; it has made me care more. I care for Abdul’s family. I care for Karma’s aspirations. I care for Adrianna and her babies. But I also know that my caring for them alone is not going to help them. A larger force is necessary for the world to get back to normal, to defeat that tiny microscopic invisible virus, now mutating into other variants.
Traveling instills joy.
And now, not being able to travel, has made life very different. I look for joy in other things. I have discovered the joy of long walks. During the beginning of lockdown, there was just a ban on international and domestic travel but we could still move freely within the city and state. I used to go walking here in Chennai by the banks of the River Adyar. I spent nearly 2 hours every evening, walking beside the river. The narrow dirt road, the setting sun, the buffaloes bathing in the river, cranes and a few exotic seasonal birds hopping by to say hello, and me listening to my favorite Laurie Santos podcast. Now, even these are nostalgic these days.
Finding joy in other ways
On Thursdays, I would take my weekly WMN Editors’ call as I walked. Sometimes I would have just returned from my walk, with a fresh mind and joy in my heart, I would bond with my WMN girlfriends over a cup of hot ginger chai. On other days, I used to walk my feet off, and it felt good. Walking was my substitute to travel, it felt like trekking or hiking. But now, with my state entering complete lockdown, I miss my walks too. I miss the goats and buffaloes walking towards me and meeting occasional friends on the walking trail.
One thing I have learned through all the travels, through all the walks, through all the lockdowns—which India is now so famous for—is to be in the HERE and NOW. To be present. The planning of the relaunch of the World Moms Network was the highest point in my life. I say the highest because I was at my lowest possible and it was these wonderful women from WMN who perked me up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. That gift was the most important for me then. The relaunch? Yes, of course, now that Is also a gift but the invaluable presence of the planning phase was when I felt the greatest joy.
Have you ever experienced the joy of a trek? I have. When we rowed the Phewa lake in Nepal and then trekked over a hilltop. We took breaks in between to drink chai from the village chai shops. When we finally reached the top of Peace Pagoda, it was like deja vu. I am sure you understand that. The joy of the journey of the NOW was the greatest. The sights and sounds and smells of the NOW were more precious than any future sightings of a heritage site.
Traveling has made me appreciate the power of the now.
But what of the NOW we are all going through? I will not be surprised if I feel nostalgic someday about the NOW of the pandemic. I already missed my girls last Thursday, when we did not meet (because of conflicts) for our editorial meeting.
What else will I miss? Surely having my son around all the time. He is having a great time with two monitors attached to his laptop—one with online chess and the other with online school—as I holler in the background to close the chess window and focus on the school. I am sure I will feel lonely when he is back to full-time school and away from home for 8 hours.
It is best to stay here and enjoy and be grateful for all that I have now.
Yes, I do miss traveling but I think I enjoy drinking chai every evening with my neighborhood girlfriends on the terrace of my house. And no trip can replace the soul-stirring conversation we have every day.
Travelling gives me joy, zest, but this lockdown has given me so much rest too. It makes me take leaps of faith into the unknown. Lockdown has restored my faith in humanity too when I witness so many random acts of kindness between strangers. Travelling has made me realize that I know so little of this whole world and that there is so much more to know and experience and eat and see and do.
But this lockdown has also made me realize that I know so little of myself, of my family, of what we can do together when cooped up in a house for such a long time, of all the loves and joys we derive in each other’s company.
So, as I wait patiently, to start traveling again and to start walking beside the river again, I take a few deep breaths and let go…of myself, so I can enjoy the present and experience the joy of the NOW.