Being Women

The Rule Of Travelling Light and Its Consequences

A humourous piece on the perils of travelling light!

Pleasures of unplanned and impulsive travel

Since my student days, I have become addicted to the pleasures of unplanned and impulsive travel without a fixed itinerary or agenda. The mode of travel used to vary from local buses to general compartment trains to hitchhiking, sometimes on top of trucks. The top of the drivers’ cabin in trucks is surprisingly roomy, and a grown man can sleep there if he is not afraid of falling.

And then I got married

When I got married, I was lucky enough to find a mate who shared my enthusiasm for backpacking, although the means of transport were confined to the insides of vehicles rather than the roof. There was a small gap when our children were very young, but soon they too got used to, from an early age, the rigours and pleasures of travelling rough.

But the one essential rule for this kind of travel was that we travel light.

Other factors came in

Subsequently, age, relative affluence, sloth, and timidity combined to make our travel a more comfortable if less frequent phenomenon, but at least once a year we still try to do an exotic vacation to remote corners that involves some degree of trekking, camping, or roughing it, and the kids on their own continue to seek adventure and travel the less travelled roads. The taste of this experience is a lifetime addiction.

Over time, the dictum of travelling light too has undergone moderation, and this is the story of how that started.

Earlier, our aim was that we should not carry more than what could easily fit in one rucksack, be carried easily by me when walking long distances, and be easy to stow away on a bus, train, or airplane. This was regardless of whether I was alone or with my wife and kids.

The kids grew older

As the kids grew older, the rule changed to each person choosing what to pack and carrying it himself or herself. My solution was to have just one pair of jeans or shorts for the entire trip, which I would be wearing, and a minimum of spare clothes. For all of us, books took up the space of clothes until the Kindle and iPad simplified matters.

The issue with travelling light

This was usually not a problem, and the only mishap that was common was getting wet, and in Indian climates, wet clothes dry up and don’t kill you. Moreover, a windcheater with a hood keeps you dry in most inclement weather.

On this occasion, we were going to Vaishno Devi and further hilly areas in Jammu, and a colleague and his family were accompanying us. As the four of us had just one rucksack with us and my colleague, whose wife presumably did the packing, was carrying two suitcases and two other bags, her husband kept berating her on her unnecessary luggage, quoting us as an example of travelling light. The long-suffering lady looked thunderous but held her peace.

Trouble struck when I tried to clamber onto the saddle of the sad-looking pony who was to transport me uphill. After a terrible experience climbing up to Kedarnath earlier on foot with my daughter on my shoulder, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and hired a pony to transport me and my daughter to the top. As I tried to swing my leg over the horse with one foot in the stirrup, my long-suffering ancient jeans and companion of many trips gave way at the seat with a heart-resonating sound.

As I was not carrying a spare, I used the pony owner’s shawl to cover my modesty and hunted for a tailor. Finally, I was sitting at a roadside tailoring shop while my jeans were being repaired, wearing the tailor’s lungi, while the rest of the party waited outside.

I could hear my friend’s wife berating him on the handicaps of the travelling light and justifying the size of their luggage.

Since then, I have always carried a spare pair of jeans or shorts whenever on a trip.


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