A few weeks ago we got an email from a 28 year-old female traveller named Sneha. She was born in Bangalore, into an orthodox family where, as a woman, she was expected to study hard, marry early and follow a linear path through life.
For six years Sneha worked as a procurement specialist, earning good money and living up to the expectations of her family and her culture. But she wasn’t happy. So in 2016 she quit her job and told her parents what she really wanted: to travel and see the world. By herself. Her story touched a chord with us, so we asked if we could publish it. This is what she sent us:
Silence all around. A lake in front of my eyes surrounded by lush green trees. In the middle of the lake was an island and on the island a tree without leaves. Birds were resting on the tree. I just kept staring at it and thinking, trying to figure out what my life was about. I had lost some important people. I worried about where my career was heading. There were so many things I was passionate about, but I didn’t know where to begin. I looked at the birds resting on the tree and smiled. That was the moment I decided to only do what I love to do. And I love to travel.
The island was in Galkadawala, Sri Lanka, on an unplanned solo journey that I took in September 2015. I had been on solo trips in India before, but this one to Sri Lanka changed the way I looked at life. It confirmed my theory that I’d being procrastinating. I met people who shared their stories, who made me realize I am not alone in the world. There is so much to see on this small blue planet. So much to learn and so much more to share. I realised I had to make a decision.
After I got back to India, I had sleepless nights for months, wondering why it took me so long to figure out my dreams. Mostly it was my upbringing. I was brought up in Bangalore city, India, in an orthodox middle class family. Traveling was never a part of my family or my culture. Travel for us was either to the village to visit my grandparents or a religious pilgrimage. Other families chose exotic destinations and tours, but my parents would always prefer to go to temples. They could not afford to fly to any exotic destinations. However, as we grew older, and studies became more serious, even these pilgrimages came to an end. I was always told to achieve good marks in exams. I was told that this will lead me to a good, secure career. I was told that my parents would find a good boy for me to marry. I was told I would have children. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these. I wasn’t against it then and neither am I now. This is just how my parents were brought up and how they thought their kids should be brought up.
I did pretty much as they wanted. I studied well, got a secure job, and somewhere in this process I had to accept that this was how my life was going to be. With marriage though, for some I was reluctant to proceed. I was always scared of being married. It bothered me that I would lose my freedom. I had to smartly push away all the “offers” that came in through my family.
Being a girl, it was hard to break this stereotype. And saying that I wanted to now travel solo and without a secure job only poured oil on the fire. I had expected the repercussion and was prepared for it. I had made up my mind to be strong enough and stick to my decision. It was not easy to convince my parents, but at the same time it was not difficult either.
I remember as a kid I always loved to be outside. Rather than sitting within four walls studying I would always be ready, waiting for a chance to step out of the house. I would be curious to know details on everything I saw. Why is the Earth round? Why does the moon walk along with us when we walk? What is that person thinking in his head? The questions just kept flowing, with most of them unanswered.
I was someone who always wanted people around me, either family or friends. Sometimes when I look back, I’m really surprised to see the progress in me: from being always pampered to now choosing to be alone. I’m also surprised to see how comfortable and happy I am while travelling. I guess only you can give the best surprise to yourself.
The decision to quit my job was not an easy decision. I had to accept the fact that I would not be receiving a fixed salary every month anymore. But I also knew that this was not something that made me happy. It is the road that is waiting for me, opening its arms with a huge grin on its face, and I have to be there to find out all the answers for the questions I have locked in my head over the years. I have never planned well in advance with any of my travels, and I still don’t know what my future plans are. But I know that I will be in a new place every day. Even if it’s an old place, it will still be new with new experience. I want to listen to the stories of people and share them with the world. I want to keep moving as the earth keeps moving. I want to keep walking until moon walks with me. I just want to live.
You can read more of Sneha’s adventures on her blog, Wild Flower.