Hi, I’m Radhika Sapra Sanyal from Chennai, and I am a former banker and now run an NGO that aims at spreading awareness against Child Sexual Abuse. That is when I am not raising my 3 kids – Soumik (also the Management Consultant Husband), Shaurya (our 11 yr old ‘Mr Know-It-All’) and Rishona (our 8 yr old Real-life Disney Princess)! We are your every day, Indian, middle-class family toggling between daily chores, schools and jobs. And between exams, appraisals and workshops, we managed to visit 65 countries across 6 continents, mostly in the last 5 years! Yes, on our Indian passports and always, with the kids in tow. We are the Travelindians and this is our Travel Story.
How Did It Start?
Now, it was not like we sat together at breakfast one fine day and set about a target for ourselves. Rather, it has been a slow, gradual manner in which we’ve warmed up to the idea of travel. It may be hard to believe that until our mid 30’s, we had barely travelled out of the country!
To be completely honest, I started off a reluctant traveller. The thought of travel would always be accompanied by several apprehensions – What if the kids fall sick? Will we be able to adjust to the unfamiliar food and cultures? Can we afford the additional burden on our finances? and so on. Hence it’s no surprise that our first international trip together was to the predictable comforts of an all-inclusive resort in Sri Lanka. Rishona was just 6 months old.
Three years flashed by as we got busy settling into the hum-drum of our every day, stealing a short domestic holiday every now and then. Until we decided to notch up the travel experiment during our subsequent trip to Singapore. This one had the zoos and theme parks in good measure while throwing in a lot of self-styled tours throughout the city on foot and the Metro.
Encouraged by our experiences, we decided to take the plunge in the following year and planned our first multi-country Euro Trip in 2015! Those 2.5 weeks across France, Belgium and the Netherlands together with visiting our friends in Luxembourg set the course for our future travels! Through skipped lunches, insane train connections, unending walks, impromptu picnics & spell-binding landscapes – we discovered our shared passion for travel. There was no looking back!
Weaving Memories Through Travel
And while the passion is shared, Travel inspires each of us uniquely. My husband, Soumik is convinced that the exposure to different cultures lays a foundation of inclusion and diversity in the kids, giving them a definitive edge in the boundaryless world of tomorrow, while Shaurya’s eyes light up at seeing a History or Geography lesson come to life.
After hearing the stories from our guide in Athens, Shaurya proclaimed his love for all things old & mysterious – perhaps we have a budding archaeologist in the family! Travelling with children is amazing, did you know Nehal Shah Goes on Backpacking Trips With Her 6-Year-Old Son, And Started Heart & Soil?
Then again, Rishona loves wandering around ornate palace rooms and castles, in the hope that she will walk into a real-life Queen or Princess – and maybe stake her claim to their throne!
But above all she enjoys being dotted on by kind strangers – be it Burma or Belarus, she usually has everyone wrapped around her little finger! Finally, I get my joy in seeing us come together, weaving memories for a lifetime. Also, it doesn’t hurt that I find it easy to imbibe traditional recipes like the Bhutanese ‘Shamu Datse’ into our meals back home – Mommy Masterchef Check!
Just as our travels evolved, so did the unique roles each of us played. We count on Shaurya to remember the finer details and spot that unmissable, yet invisible point of interest. Rishona is our glam quotient & has the uncanny knack of turning even the most unremarkable layover into an adventure! Soumik is the meticulous planner – his insanely detailed itineraries have evinced awe in seasoned tour guides across the world. And I am the ‘reality-check’ – the not always popular but necessary voice of reason so that the team stays healthy and hopefully not bankrupt!
The Challenges We Face
As with all things in life – Travel, especially Family Travel isn’t always a bed of roses. And we have seen our fair share of travel googlies and bouncers. And I’m not referring to the usual flight delays, washed-out rainy days, packing faux-pas & last-minute cancellations, which one learns to shrug off over time. We’ve been through some big ones. Wading perilously close to the edge through waist-deep snow in the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria – when no snow was to be expected!
Leaving a passport in the hotel locker in Brussels, only to realize it after 2 days in Luxembourg. Thanking our stars when just after 2 days we saw the lava flow on the same roads we travelled in Guatemala. And having an earthquake rock our dinner table at a rooftop in Myanmar!
But through it all, we have endured and grown closer as a unit – learning to deal with adversity and uncertainty together. We have felt the hand of God carry us through challenging times and the kindness of strangers bail us out of several pickles.
Travel Is Really Worth It!
So is it really worth it? My unequivocal message to families like us is – It SURE is! If your health and life situation allows it – get out there. Travel. Together. You will surprise yourself with what you discover about your own perceptions and limits (and your partner’s!). Bask in the joy of watching your kids test new waters – striking up conversations, bringing back new stories.
See an inanimate fridge magnet or souvenir breathe life into a family anecdote and relish the joy coming back home with eyes laden with new dreams!
Shaurya hit it off with this amazing Australian kid he ran into in a play park in Sydney and they’ve since kept each other updated through frequent video calls. Rishona thinks she is half Christian – having visited more churches than temples in her life. And of course sports an enviable collection of clothes, shoes and trinkets from the world over.
Soumik has realized when it comes to Beer – there is no such thing as too much. He feels the same way about chocolates, icecreams & food in general (thankfully mostly when he travels).
And I have learnt to step out of my comfort zone. We have all become more confident versions of ourselves, rely more on our ability to converse than being glued into screens to while away time. But above all realized that despite our differences, deep down we are much the same and that so many of our perceptions stand corrected.
Rwanda and Bosnia are NOT unsuitable for kids. World cuisine is not always difficult to adjust to –we’ve found remarkable similarities be it in Panama or in Georgia.
And, that you don’t need language if you carry the currency of smiles and good manners – be it in larger than life Colombia or far-flung Vanuatu!
Tips For Families Who Want To Travel
To sum it up, as far as travel goes, the gains far offset the pains! It certainly is not easy but it is not without reward. We plan our trips well in advance in sync with the school calendars.
It is a matter of personal pride for me that Shaurya was awarded 100% attendance in school in 2018 when we had actually visited over 20 countries that year! This often means both of us to have to manage expectations at work accordingly.
It starts off with Soumik listing out new locations and experiences, a quick sanity checks from me to filter out the outright crazy from the first draft and finally a buy-in from the 2 little soldiers to refine the plan. We book a combination of apartments and hotels to optimize costs. Balance the off-beat with the mainstream destinations to keeps things unique yet affordable. And lastly, seek out local providers instead of mainstream bigwigs to get a more authentic experience without burning a hole through the pocket. Did you know According To Research There’s A Scientific Reason Why We Love To Travel?
What’s Next For Travelindians?
If you are wondering what’s next – you won’t be surprised to hear that we want to see it all! But beyond adding country counts, there are 2 specific objectives we have set out for our future travels – firstly to see more of our own country (we have only been to 15 States & 2 Union Territories thus far) and secondly, to make an epic trip to Antarctica. We have started chronicling our adventures in our travel blog and we hope our stories inspire you to travel!
To know more about the Travel Indians click here
This article was contributed to Curly Tales by Travelindians. If you have an article or similar experience to share, do write to us on email@example.com