Lose Control

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A holiday can rejuvenate the mind, body and soul. On this Independence Day, we celebrate the freedom that travel offers us. Promita Mukherjee speaks to a few influencers

Stepping out. Flying high. Letting go. Leaving the regular behind. Exploring the unknown…. Isn’t this what travel is all about? To most of us, just a mention of the word travel triggers joy and contentment. And to many others, the word brings with it a sense of freedom. However, as much as we wish, we do not always manage to find time from our commitments to embark on frequent journeys. But there are some for whom travelling is a profession, a means of emancipation and that’s where they find peace. So, on the occasion of Independence Day (August 15), as India celebrates another year of breaking free from the shackles of colonial rule, we speak to a few travel industry influencers about how journeys set them free.

Lee Grewal and Bhanu Uttam, travel influencers

Lee Grewal and Bhanu Uttam call themselves two girls from Australia and India who love to travel! Grewal, an expatriate based in Delhi, says travel keeps her going and sets her free. “We interpret travelling as freedom. It sets you free, above all things, from yourself. The limitations and boundaries we enclose ourselves in are pushed away when we experience the world outside. Every time we meet someone from a different region, religion or background, or people with diverse thoughts, customs and traditions, we edge towards a broader and more open view of the world. We grow, stretch and dream and we are liberated by the experience of travel,” they say.

Independence, for the two friends, is about the freedom to be themselves. “To go your own way and make your own mark on the world, free from judgments, boundaries and the expectations of others,” they add.

Shivya Nath, travel blogger and author

At the age of 23 years, Shivya Nath quit her cushy corporate job to travel the world. She gave up her home and the need for a permanent address, sold most of her possessions and embarked on a nomadic journey, not knowing what her destination was. Almost a decade later, her destination has still not been defined but the journey has been one of discoveries. It has taken her across the globe – from remote Himalayan villages to the Amazon rainforests of Ecuador. Along the way, she lived with an indigenous Mayan community in Guatemala, hiked in the Ecuadorian Andes, slept under a meteor shower in the salt desert of Gujarat and learnt to conquer her deepest fears. “When I started out, I didn’t know how this journey was going to shape up. But the longer I stayed on the road, the deeper I journeyed within and discovered a sense of freedom I didn’t know existed,” says Nath.

Ask her about travel and freedom and Nath is quick to answer: “Travelling solo offers a sense of liberation that’s hard to explain in words. Not just from everyday routine, but from the baggage of our belongings, from the weight of our emotional dependencies on others and from social ideas that we’ve been conditioned to accept.” Embracing this freedom, she gave up her “settled life”. “Now with a home nowhere, I belong everywhere,” she concludes.

Mandira Bedi, actor, sports commentator

Be it flaunting her perfectly-chiselled body on the beaches of Maldives, driving a truck to Leh, doing a little bit of surf and sun in Goa or trekking solo in Manali, actor and sports commentator Mandira Bedi redefines travel every time she steps out. So what is it that makes this self-confessed “travel freak” set such unique goals for herself while on the road? “Every time I step out, I challenge myself and test my limits. And with every challenge I overcome, comes a unique sense of accomplishment,” says Bedi.

For the avid traveller, these trips also offer a sense of freedom. “Travelling, and more so, being a solo traveller, is very liberating. I love the spontaneity of a solo trip. Your decisions are yours. Your destination for the day is yours. And when you get to go with the flow, there is much more to be seen and discovered.”

So what does freedom or independence mean to her? “Freedom is that of thought, action and speech, without judgement. Freedom is being able to do what you want.. when you want.. as long as it isn’t hurting or harming anyone.”

Yashas TK, travel start-up founder

A Bachelor of Engineering (Electronics & Communication), Yashas TK was working with a multinational company before the proverbial travel bug bit him. He quit his job and set off on road trips, exploring the world. Using his experience of longdistance tours, he set up MyRoadtrippr, a start-up that offers concept-based unique holidays. “It was my greed to be free that set me off on this path,” says the Bengaluru-based start-up founder. Ask him about freedom, and he quips: “Freedom is merely a perception that we set for ourselves. We have no definite yardstick to define freedom. It’s something that liberates you and brings peace. It is the driving force that makes your existence worthwhile; by giving you enough time and space to pursue your interest and bring about a change in the lives of those around you. Pursuing my interest in travel has given me all of the above,” he explains.

Through his venture, the entrepreneur wants to spread the unique concept of offbeat vacations. He says: “The best part about travelling with us is it gives you an option to enjoy an active vacation with a road trip you desire, coupled with many activities along the way. We aim to revolutionise the way Indians travel by bringing some of the exotic experiences from across the world.”

Mansi Ahuja Sharma and Kunal Sharma, avid travellers and homestay owners

For this young couple, travel defines their lives. It’s their profession, their leisure and even a family matter! The couple, along with their one-year-old son, have set out on a venture to build a home for themselves and like-minded travellers in the Himalayas. Mansi quit her job in public relations and Kunal in the garment sector, to build a homestay in Manali, Himachal Pradesh. “We both love long drives and the mountains. And so does our son Aadyat. We always wanted to build a home in the mountains. But never had I thought that we would quit our professions and plunge into the business of travel,” says Mansi. Gushing about the new property, she adds, “The homestay G Villas, Manali, is up and running and it’s unbelievably beautiful. It is located in one of the posh neighbourhoods of Manali, Simsa village, and has a celebrity neighbour too – actor Kangana Ranaut!” Travel is what brought the couple together and gave them a sense of belonging. “The virtue of travel is that it exposes you to other cultures, people and ways of life,” she explains.

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