I did not grow up travelling to different countries. I had a simple and happy upbringing in a working class family of 7 in England. Mum and dad worked hard putting great food on the table, and my father would grow vegetables in the back garden. During the summer we sometimes went on day trips with many of our relatives to the seaside, or to an adventure theme park like Drayton Manor or Alton Towers. Holidays were what other people did. We lived in Smethwick, an area in the West Midlands highly populated with Sikh Punjabi families just like us, and many of my friends were Indian. School was quite multicultural.
I was a curious creature from a young age and English became my favourite subject, then Philosophy. I loved stories, thinking outside of the box, and challenging norms and conventions. In 1997 I moved away from home at 18 to study my first degree, the only graduate in my family. Over the 3 years I lived in Leeds I changed my house mates each year, constantly accumulated new friends, and tried out different types of music and nights out. Belonging to a group didn’t really work for me; I like variety and independence. The people that inspired me most were the international students. This was my chance to learn more about the world, and I connected with them quite easily. Partly I think because I am of dual heritage, born into a traditional Indian family living in England, able to relate to different cultures naturally. During the summers many of them would spend their time on holidays and adventures abroad; I envied them. I would return home doing whatever work I could get my hands on, in retail, factories or offices to save as much money as possible for the year ahead. When I graduated it felt like my last chance to work and travel in the USA on a student scheme. So that is what I did.
The last time I had been on an aeroplane and flown out of the UK was at 9 months old. Mum took me and my 4 older siblings to India to attend her youngest brothers wedding. Aged 21 with a degree in Sociology and no idea what I was going to do in my career I boarded a plane at Heathrow airport in London for New York. The next four months were life-changing and set up my travel addiction. I fell in love with NYC instantly, and spent the summer living and working in Ocean City, Maryland, living with 12 others from around the world in a bungalow next to the beach. I had two jobs and saved more than enough money to spend 5 weeks travelling from East to West coast with a friend. We ticked off many famous sites that were familiar to us from Hollywood and the diet of American television we had grown up on. It was super exciting and the love affair began.
During my 20s my career as an arts manager took off brilliantly. I used any free time and money on holidays and city breaks to many places in the West. I’d been saving for a big trip around the world for a long time. Following a 5-month project in China I planned a year of solo travel around South America, South East Asia and India, ticking off 14 countries in 12 months. It was awesome, exhausting and quite overwhelming. I started a blog but failed to keep it up as I immersed myself deep into the experience. I followed this with a year living and working in Melbourne, and have since visited different countries for work related projects for longer periods.
Ticking off is no longer a priority for me, as now there is more joy and fulfillment to be found in spending longer in one place. Living in one city for a few months appeals to me more than dashing through a country these days. I want to meet the locals, eat where they eat, dance where they dance and learn what is happening on a social and political level, not forgetting being able to appreciate and understand the cultural landscape that is essential for me. If I can build a relationship with the natives and not just expats, and work on some changing making projects I have hit the jackpot.
Now I’m at a point where home does not seem to be anywhere; the world is my home. I don’t want to travel for the sake of it, only to research and work on creative ventures. I can’t decide where to live, the idea of settling in any one place permanently or even for a year or two does not appeal to me. I shared with a friend that one of my ideals would be to live in two countries during the year, and have a spare couple of months to work and travel in new places. She told me there is no such thing as living in different countries. Oh yeah? Well I have the rest of my life to prove that statement wrong. In the last year I spent 2 months in Portugal, 6 in India and 4 in England. It’s time to build a business model around this. Who knows what the year ahead will bring.