3 stories that will inspire you to travel this weekend!

“I was born into a liberal family in a very conservative Iran. And so, while girls around me weren’t allowed to do many things, I grew up excelling in sports. And then at 20, I moved to India to pursue my Masters. Here, I saw women riding bikes! I wanted to do that too, and so, I asked my friend to teach me. Riding a two-wheeler made me feel free! The wind playing with my hair…I fell in love with that feeling! And so, I saved up and a year later, bought my own bike! I realized that there was no female bikers community in India. Back then, social media had just started to bloom so I took advantage of it and built a community! I met some strong women, went on multiple trips across the country and learnt so much about India! For the next decade, I juggled between my PhD and biking! And then at 32, I had a new dream–to ride across the 7 continents! But I had met Alex around the same time and I knew if I went on this adventure, our relationship would suffer. And so, I said goodbye to him, not knowing where things would go… But since when did love understand practicality…he followed me! He’d visit me each month in the country I was in. I knew he was the one! Within a year, we tied the knot. As happy as I was to be alongside my soulmate, I had to continue my journey! And so, I set off again the day after our wedding. Alex continued visiting me while I kept ticking places off my list. I even traveled to Antarctica! And just as I was onto my 6th continent, Africa, I realized I was pregnant! As happy as I was about the news, I found myself at a crossroads – I had come this far, I didn't want to give up on my dream. But when I saw the women in the villages of Africa juggling kids, work and travel so effortlessly, I drew inspiration and rubbed my belly and said, 'We can do it too!' And so, after consulting a gynecologist, I decided to go ahead with my trip. I changed my diet, shortened my routes, and slowed my speed, but I kept going! Alex continued visiting me, he’d book my sonography appointments in whichever city I was and would bring me my extra vitamins every month! The nausea did make me feel a little uncomfortable but the drive in me was so strong that I spent 6 months of my pregnancy on the trip! When I finally came back to Delhi, I felt ready for my baby! And then on 6th November 2018, Alex and I welcomed Nafas into the world. Holding her made me emotional – we'd already been on an adventure together, I was excited for more! Nafas is 3 and she already loves bikes! We continue to go on adventures together and she is growing up seeing her Mom never settle. And I hope if and when she finds herself at crossroads – she also puts her happiness over everything else!"

“There’s just something about India. How do I even begin to explain the warmth? Like, when I was in Nagaland, I posted a message on Instagram looking for local people to explore with, and in less than a minute, 30 people messaged me to meet up! They showed me around, told me their stories, gave me one of the best, and spiciest, meals of my life, and didn’t even let me pay for a single thing! I’ve even made some amazing friends here, who I keep coming back to meet. Just recently, I met a guy from Jaipur who founded a slum-school project that helped poor children from all over go to school. I really wanted to make a sizable donation, but I couldn’t afford it. So, I went back to the UK, fundraised long and hard, and returned just to surprise him with 40,000 rupees -- he couldn't’ believe that I came back just for him! That’s the kind of impact India has on me -- it’s made me value the important things in life. Once, when I spent time with a poor family in rural Assam, instead of asking me for anything, they opened up their home to me and cooked up a delicious meal, regardless of how little they had! Seeing how happy they were day in and day out made me forget all about the work-stress and pressure I felt back in the UK. Right now, I’m exploring the North-east region and everywhere I go I see mountains and views that are breath-taking. But when I was in Mumbai, I was in awe of the tall skyscrapers and well, the extremely high prices! But no matter what city I travel to, it feels different, and yet the same. India is a magical place -- not because of the culture or the food, but because of the people. I’ve managed to find a home away from home, a family that’s not mine by blood, but by adventure and travel!”

“I’ve always loved driving, especially on road trips– I’d take on the steering wheel whenever we travelled for summer vacations. It felt extremely freeing! So, once when my son and I were returning from a road trip, I thought, ‘How amazing would it be if I could drive across the entire country?’ So I called up a few friends and told them about this crazy idea– some were scared, some had family responsibilities and some laughed because a 60-year-old mother of 2 and Nani of 1 doesn’t do something this crazy! But I didn’t care, I’d made up my mind! When I called Monika, my neighbour of 10 years, she said yes instantly; so did my sister. So after a month of studying maps, learning how to change tyres and checking the engine, 3 of us ‘Nani’s’ took to the road! We were to scale the Ram Vanvas route– but on our first stopover we were greeted with a flat tyre and on the second stop, the brake failed. Clearly, we weren’t off to a good start, but I was determined to finish what we’d started. We’d drive 300-350km a day, halting only for pee breaks. 29 days and more than 4400 km later, when we reached our destination, it felt like such a victory. And we received so much encouragement that we decided to do this every year! In our second year, my sister couldn’t make it so instead we were joined by Pratibha; my college friend. And soon, the Nanis were back on the highway, this time to drive through Rajasthan’s galliyan. It was during this trip that we had to climb a fleet of 600 stairs– we were panting throughout, we didn’t stop making fun of each other as we climbed! And honestly, that’s how each day of any trip is– I’m the funny one, Monika’s the all rounder and Pratibha’s the rational one. It’s a great mix and I think that’s why we get together each year to take on another crazy adventure. Still, we’re Nani’s– so we carry a mini kitchen with us in the backseat of the car wherever we go. We travelled twice more– once to the Ghats of Bengal and then we went international with Bhutan! We were the first females to drive up there! In our 60s, we’ve done river rafting, performed ghoomar, chased after a monkey who took our bag, entered a police station and got robbed. But we live to relive these stories and each time, we laugh just as hard. Last year we couldn’t go anywhere because of the lockdown but we’re planning Nepal this year– we can’t wait to get in the driver’s seat, listen to Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana, fight over the aux wire and just take off!”

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