How growing up in India made me fall in love with travelling locally

March 25, 2024

It’s a cold, misty morning in Mumbai. It’s February, our month-long break is over, and I wake up excited to return to school and see all my friends. With this in mind, I rush out of bed, get dressed in my uniform and leave before my Maa (Hindi for “mother”) can offer me “pohe,” an Indian breakfast delicacy in Maharashtra, consisting of flattened rice and a hot cup of coffee.

The school’s faded brick walls covered in vines always brought me comfort. Upon my arrival, everyone is sitting in groups ready to start the day and discussing the destinations they visited during the winter break. “Singapore!” “London!” “Paris!” They announce their vacation spots in excited tones. While it’s fascinating to hear this list of far-away places, I notice that none of my peers seem to have travelled within the borders of our own country. I spent the break roaming the tiny pockets in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India and trekking the snow-capped Himalayas. “Am I the only one who decided to vacation in India?” I think to myself. Somehow, this thought brings me comfort.

We often overshadow the beauty of domestic travel with the pomp and show of travelling abroad. However undeniably adventurous it may be to backpack through Western Europe, hike Machu Picchu, go wine tasting in the South of France, or jump off the cliffs in Santorini, there’s a charm of travelling within the borders of your own country. Exploring domestic historical landscapes, widening your cultural horizons and wandering the streets of your motherland, offers offbeat adventures that should be appreciated and not overlooked.

While the list of reasons to travel domestically could be endless, here are a few points as to why you should consider getting to know the little hamlets of your country before you decide to step out into the vast lands of the rest of the world.

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1. Travelling locally helps cut costs

One of the biggest reasons I enjoy travelling domestically is the amount of money I end up saving. Travelling within India changed my perspective on splurging on travel completely. Where a trip to an international destination could cost twenty or thirty thousand rupees, a local adventure could be covered in hundreds or a couple thousand. For example, an overnight bus from Mumbai (Western India) to Goa (Southern India) is only one thousand rupees. Identifying the methods and costs of travel within your country enables you to book a journey without the financial hangover. Buses and trains are the way to go IMO.

2. You get to learn about regional cultures with your country

As an Indian, I’m privileged to be able to interact with people from different cultures across the country. The diversity from one state to another is shocking (in a good way). For example, Maharashtra’s staple food includes “vada-pav,” and “sabudana khichadi” (made from cassava roots) whereas if you were to travel to Tamil Nadu in the south of India, the staple food would range from “idli sambar” to “uttapam.” Travelling domestically not only enables you to meet new people within your borders but also helps you learn about the diverse cultures, languages and foods that are situated within your country. On my trip to Ladakh in the North of India, I tried their famous "Ladakhi khana" (khana means food in Hindi). It was scrumptious, hot, and rich in carbs and protein. You start with a soup called “thukpa,” move to light food such as “chhutagi,” and then have a main meal such as “khambir” or “skyu.” For dessert, there’s a sweet dish and some of their well-known butter tea. Yes, you read it right. Butter. Tea. Trust me, it’s delicious.


3. I feel more secure

I don’t think I can stress the importance of feeling comfortable while travelling. While there may be a certain thrill to international travel, exploring your own country gives you the safety net of having a better understanding of the space you’re exploring with the option of returning home if you feel lost, lonely or just ready to sleep in your own bed.

4. The local economy benefits

By choosing domestic travel, your local economy benefits. The money you spend on your vacation will go to local businesses, communities, and tourism efforts. Back in India, the government has consciously made an effort to boost domestic travel. “Incredible India,” is the slogan used to promote tourism in my country where people are drawn with travel incentives around tours, getaways, and experiences where they can soak up the beauty of the country. This campaign seems to have worked extremely well and today, many Indians choose to vacation within the borders and not overseas.

5. Hidden gems await

When I’m back home, I frequent the north of India more than I travel anywhere else, mainly because it feels like home more than home ever did. This comes with wanting to explore a hidden area of my country that tourists tend to overlook. In the north, I trek, meditate, unwind, and mingle with other hikers. Even though many of us seek to find undiscovered gems, that’s easier to do when you’re travelling domestically and have a more in-depth sense of the land. I speak from personal experience when I say there’s a joy in finding these underrated places by yourself (or with close friends) that’s like no other. I’ve made the north ones of my spots. Part of the satisfaction is knowing I can return whenever I decide to without too much of a hassle. That’s not true of most international destinations which you often get the chance to see just once.

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6. Local travel is more environmentally friendly

Travelling domestically can significantly reduce your carbon footprint especially when you choose not to fly. Travelling nearby might be your way to travel ethically as it contributes to sustainable tourism efforts and minimizes the environmental impact of your trip. If not for anything else, do it for the environment.

When I think back to the conversations we had after winter break, many of them referenced far-away cultures. But travelling within your own homeland can be a truly remarkable experience, as I’ve learned. With what I've come to know and appreciate about local culture, I wish more of us held closely a national pride and a value for the opportunity to truly know our own beautiful country.

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