Dussehra Special – 5 Ways How Travelling Makes Us Better Human Beings
Dussehra is around the corner. Dussehra – the magical festival, with the HUGE Ravana effigies exploding with crackers and fire, amidst enormous crowds witnessing this victory of good over evil. The pomp and show of this festival makes it one of the most anticipated festivals in India. And not just because of the burning of the Ravana, Dussehra signifies myriad different things to different people. It marks the end of 9 days of fasting (or abstaining) for some, the delirious ecstasy and excitement of Durga Puja for others, and the culmination of the fun Dandiya nights for a lot of people.
The significance of Dussehra is the victory of morality over immorality. Dussehra symbolizes the killing of the Ravana, who is not just an external enemy – the quintessential villain to be fought with bows and arrows – but also represents the evils that reside within us: ego, jealousy, greed and so on. Beyond the glitz and pomp and show, this festival is a gentle reminder to open our hearts, to let the goodness in us reclaim our mind and soul!
In this day and age, with shrinking distances but widening prejudices, nothing reintroduces us to our inherent goodness like travelling. Let us see how:
1) We get to see people from a fresh perspective
While roaming the imposing Dandak forest in his years of vanvas, Lord Ram realized that the Asuras, who, until then, were considered their mortal enemies, were not really evil but simply different from the Devas, and misunderstood. Travel helps us open our eyes about many a things – the driving force behind many actions of people, the ground realities of situations, why people behave the way they do. This increases our empathy for fellow human beings, making us more understanding and thoughtful. Having travelled extensively in Europe and the US, one realizes that short clothes do not translate to promiscuity for girls, and travelling through small towns in India and interacting with the locals, one realizes that wearing saris or suites doesn’t mean that women from these parts are old fashioned or backward. Travelling helps us understand that the Rajasthani auntie’s habit of asking so many personal questions is not meant to be rude, but that it is simply a part of her unabashed, innocent and curious culture. It is interesting to finally figure out why Delhiites dislike Mumbai and vice versa. Travelling opens our mind about a million different things, and we understand a lot about human nature simply through travelling through different places!
2) We step out of our comfort zone
How often have you been bogged down by the drudgery of daily life, going through the same motions day after day? The same office, the same home, the same food, the same people… Travelling is like waking up to be present in the moment, to go out and discover something new. The taste of a new dish at a new place, the views of the myriad spectacular sceneries Mother Nature has painted especially for us all over the world, the feeling of witnessing something unique, something different from what we are used to, even the feeling of waking up in a bed not our own, travel shakes up our daily routine in the most sublime ways possible, making even the mundane jobs full of awareness and pleasure! It helps us to step back, take a pause, and re-examine our lives. Quite simply, travel gives us a chance to figure out the quality of our lives, what we want from it and how to prioritize what is important.
3) We get to see challenges and tribulations of other people
How easy it is to judge people who are unlike us, people who follow their own customs and quirks and idiosyncrasies! We cringe our noses at migrant laborers coming to big cities for a better life, when one visit to their homelands would show us the abject poverty and lack of means of sustenance, and perhaps more importantly for them, the lack of education system for their children, which forces most to take the uncomfortable decision of leaving home and shifting to the alien cities for a life of hardships. Many feel a disdain for the youth of big cities with their loud music and late-night parties, when all one has to do is spend some time in their city to figure out that it is an unavoidable part of their atmosphere. Travel helps us understand that people from different places are inherently different, with their own set of trials and tribulations, challenges and highs and lows. Everyone has a reason and a perspective for their way of life, and this understanding helps us become better people, with more empathy and acceptance!
4) We get to drop our defenses and celebrate with other people
Nothing binds us to people more than celebrating with them. Whether you throb with the crowd as the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve at Big Ben in London, or you watch the evil burn to bits as the Ravana is set to fire on the shore of Ganges in Haridwar, whether you play the brilliantly colorful festival of Holi with total abandon in Mathura or sing Christmas carols with the thronging crowd at Times Square in New York, being a part of a celebration in a new city is an unforgettable feeling. We become a part of something bigger than ourselves, a microcosm in a bigger scheme of things, tied with the throbbing humanity through the simple and pure thread of sheer happiness. In celebrating with others, the innocence, the abandon, the wonderment, all come together to create a feeling of bonhomie and amenability, which is humbling and exhilarating at the same time!
5) We get reintroduced to ourselves
It is often surprising, what we can discover about ourselves when travelling. How much we like to speak to strangers, how much pleasure we derive from tranquil moments spent at marveling majestic views, how open we are to new experiences, how comfortable we are if our usual, day to day comforts like the regular morning tea or our own bed or the home cooked food are taken away. We get to discover how well we share – food, space and time among other things – with our fellow travelers. When visiting a new place, would you prefer talking to the locals or taking in the surroundings on your own? Would you want to stay in a local hotel or a branded chain? Eat the local cuisine or stick to the comfort food of chain restaurants? Go to the must visit tourist destinations or travel off the beaten track to discover the place on your own? Every moment we spend travelling teaches us something about ourselves, if only we are willing to listen.
As the majestic festival of Dussehra draws closer, it is worth our while to examine our own lives, to figure out how we can become better versions of ourselves, killing the many evils that reside in us. That there exists no better, fun way to do that than to just pack our bags, and head out for a trip of self-discovery, revelry and enjoyment!