Don’t go for a holiday.

Go travelling instead.

Earlier this year, a colleague splurged lakhs of rupees on a ‘Euro tour’. Along with her aged parents and siblings in tow, they covered six countries in the span of ten days. And they returned with tons of pictures and memories – all resembling those of every other individual who had taken the same tour package.

Everyone travels for a different reason. For some, a country is simply a notch on the travelling equivalent of a bedpost. For others, it’s a conversation starter. But it’ll never be anything more than a series of AC transfers and packaged Indian meals and half hour long stops at touristy landmarks, unless you make the change for yourself.

There is nothing wrong in a bit of luxury if you can afford it. What else is that pay check for? But don’t let money take away the joy of researching, planning and squinting at signs in foreign languages, trying your best to figure out if that bus is headed north or south.

But you might wonder – why is holidaying and travelling all that different? A trip is a trip, at the end of the day. Well, there are two ways to reach the Eiffel Tower in Paris:

  1. Wait for your pre-booked coach to pick you up at your hotel. Get on to the coach and arrive at the Eiffel Tower (possibly in the hot afternoon because the tour planners find that convenient). Get whisked away to the first floor (because it’s cheaper) and spend a few minutes looking at the view, before being told that it’s time to leave. Get back into your coach and proceed to the next destination in your tour plan.
  2. Ask your hotel manager about the nearest metro station. Walk to the metro station and figure out the route to the closest metro station to the Eiffel Tower, using your map of Paris city. Buy a ticket and enjoy a few metro rides. Get out at Champs de Mars metro station and ask for directions to the tower before you look up and sheepishly realise that it’s already in view. Pay a few extra euros (because it’s worth it) and soak in the view at the top of the tower just as the sun is setting. Stay at the top until night has descended upon the city and the golden night light show begins. Later, sit by the river Seine and sip on wine as you gaze at the glittering tower, because you have nowhere else to go.

Guess which way is more fun? Obviously, the one that allows you to decide where you go, when you go and how long you go there for, rather than the one where you’re a mere puppet, following orders and being ushered along. It’s the one that allows you to take the wrong routes and stumble upon treasures that you will only reveal to your closest friends and future grandkids.

Five things you gain from travelling rather than holidaying

  1. You’ll have stories to tell – the kind that cannot be found in any tourist brochure;
  2. You will be energised rather than relaxed; making it easier to get back to your routine life when you return;
  3. You will realise that you have a lot of fears. And that you’re entirely capable of conquering them;
  4. You’ll hone your managerial, planning and improvising skills; in fact travelling is nothing short of a Life Skills School;
  5. You will truly discover the soul of places; by getting lost, talking to locals; trying out scary new dishes and making priceless mistakes.

Let technology serve you

Technology is a boon for people like me who are terrorised by the prospect of the slightest uncertainty. So, thanks to Google and various travel apps and websites, I can meticulously research and plan my trip much before it begins. I can go armed with maps, printouts and information about the opening and closing times of my favourite monuments and ticket prices as well, so I’ll never be caught unawares.

Of course, reality is usually a little different. When I was in Paris, I missed my city tour bus and spent some time sniffling at the Jardin de Tuileries, wondering why I’d spent so much time at the Louvre. And in London, I waited for a bus at the wrong stop and wasted my entire mobile phone balance trying to call the operator and ask her about the right one. Travelling can undo the best of plans. But that’s precisely why you should do it. It’s like a microcosm of what life does to us, all the time.

There are no rules to travelling

Being a traveller doesn’t mean you have to go bungee jumping and take a solo excursion through the forests of the Amazon. Every person’s comfort zone is different but what we all have in common is the desire to discover, explore and unravel the mysteries of the unknown. Unfortunately, many of us stop indulging these instincts as we grow up; convincing ourselves that as adults, we simply cannot go wherever we wish and do whatever we like. Travelling allows you to be a child again; to look at the world with eyes full of wonder and walk into any place that catches your fancy. You don’t have to be Columbus to be a traveller. All you have to do is throw caution to the winds, as far as you wish to.

Fortunately, these days a lot of tour companies have recognised people’s desire to make unique discoveries and designed packages that offer you the best of both worlds – the assurance of planned transport and pre-bookings along with the freedom of self exploration and flexible itineraries. Some start-ups cater solely to people who want to travel rather than holiday. Thanks to them, even if you’re not an energetic youngster or have kids and aged people along, you can still be a traveller.

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