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Travel is not just about leisure…

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Off late, I have developed this strange interest in visiting places in the so-called ‘off-season’. Discounts  are definitely one of the reasons, when travelling out of India. When travelling within the country, other than the obvious reason of beating the crowd, I feel it helps me get a more real picture of the place. As it did during my recent trip to North-East India.

Having mentioned ‘real picture’, I must clarify that by no means I intend to convey that situation otherwise is bad, but at the same time its definitely not as glossy as made out to be in tourism board ads, travel agents’ websites or government sponsored festivals. Of course, for those interested to visit through an agent of repute, one can get an all-good-looking picture too, while staying in best of hotels and travelling in good comfortable vehicles. But for someone like me who always travels independently (sans travel agents/ guides) and preferably in off-season, this journey not only gave me a new perspective to look at things around me, but also gave a whole new meaning to my travels.
Travelling can not always be about picture-perfect scenery, starry skies, rolling hills etc. All that stuff is for magazines. For me travelling has taken a new meaning altogether. Now, I am more concerned, about the lives of people and environmental impact of tourism on my destination, than ever before. I genuinely am able to connect to people and feel fortunate to be able to see and learn from their lives.
Of course, all this is easier for me because I no longer have a corporate job and therefore I do not travel to escape from stressful and busy life. I know I am fortunate. I travel because I want to travel and it gives me liberty to sample the ground realities- positive and grim alike. This idea will not be of liking to many of those who are working hard in their lives, making a living for themselves in their full time jobs and have a limited  number of days at hand to take that little break to relax and simply enjoy themselves. However, I still know a few travellers who, along with their full time jobs, make time to travel, not just to enjoy themselves but with more consciousness and responsibility.
My travel style has been changing over the years. I have previously written an article also about it, but I think its an evolving process. I don’t know but unintentionally I end up missing on famous tourist spots, and can be found loitering around in some unknown alleyway because a cafe owner told me about it.
During my research I read everywhere that Hornbill Festival in the month of December is the best time to visit Nagaland and for Ziro, it is September because all the rice fields in the valley turn green after rains, plus, there is now a music festival too during that time. In fact, it was reiterated by locals as well when I was actually in those towns. In return when I told them that I do not want to  visit during designated festivals, instead want to see their real lives beyond it, they were simply amazed that two people from far-off Mumbai have come just to really meet them and see them instead of being attracted to the festivals. I would have certainly supported the idea of these so-called  organised festivals if it was doing some good to people and adding to their prosperity. These festivals, to me atleast, seem nothing more than a put-up show. I will write more about it in detail later on. But, the genuine humble smiles we got after that conversation were really out of the world.
I have some great memories of my travels and I would certainly want more and more people to know about it, but for once I am finding it hard to put that on paper without talking about the hard lives which people in undeveloped parts of NE are living.  Travel writing am learning is not just about leisure but life.
Richa Gupta is based in Mumbai, is an avid traveller and also passionate about writing and encouraging responsible and alternative travel ideas. After having worked in the  fashion industry for over six years,  she decided to quit and started with a little not-for-profit initiative to help people with  travels which not only help support local culture, economy and environment but also offer life changing experiences. Her work and blog can be found at http://travels-and-stories.blogspot.in/

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