I come from a country whose people can be found almost everywhere in the world largely as immigrants or a ‘diaspora’. In addition, I come from a state in India, whose population can be seen everywhere in the country either as daily wage earners or on high administrative positions but never as travelers. In both the cases, much has changed in the last one decade. On the one hand, Indian backpackers have become visible the world over, and on the other hand, I recently found a massive number of people from Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh (as I could make out from the dialect) at Vaishno Devi, Katra. The latter case may be primarily due to Katra being a pilgrimage place as most people or families do necessarily go on pilgrimages even though they might not have visited any other place in their lifetime.
However, there cannot be simple explanation of Indians moving abroad as backpackers. Indian couples on their retirement do undertake foreign travel, and carry their sophistication of age with them everywhere. They being more excited than young ones was visible, having seen a lady at Cusco International Airport insisting his husband at the 50 percent discount that a Duty- Free shop was offering, as if it was free.
Young ones and to be more specific same-gender groups are more or less a drama abroad. I remember one such a group at Bali airport last year. My personal experience is that Indian couples look more disciplined than others.
Barring budget travelers who would make travel happen in every possible circumstance, in other cases Indians abroad as tourists are largely a reflection of the enhanced financial capability. Shashi Tharoor in one of his speech and eventually in the book India Shastra does document the fact that the opportunity to be deputed abroad and the prestige attached to the same has been for long what attracted Indian Foreign Service in the early years. That has of late gone down with Indians’ ability to travel abroad on their personal financial capacity and other alternative opportunities. In the backdrop, a question is to be raised do we really need to travel abroad to pursue our travel interests. A myth busted by many bloggers is that to pursue one’s wanderlust; one cannot mention excuses that put their incapacity to go abroad. In fact, India is a large country, and finishing even major places in India would not end in one’s lifetime. Not necessarily unless someone is really obsessed to go abroad to be clubbed under the class of ‘foreign return’. Even more so for Indians and similarly placed other nationalities.
Inspiration to travel has fairly a large list. Some travel all the way from Europe to Arab countries to see the desert and others to see the rivers, mountains and oceans in several other parts of the world. For full time travelers or so called the people under ‘wanderlust’ would travel a place because they like travel. That is opposed to the motive of casual travelers who necessarily filter out places based on their preferences. Even veteran travelers have ‘niche’ to either see snow or the deserts that would necessarily take them out the territory they reside in. I do not want to sound ‘chauvinistic’ but for Indians, you don’t have to go to Canada to see snows. Neither do you have to wander around Alps to see mountains. India is fortunate to have inherited several topographical features that may not applicable to many other countries. So if one likes travelling he does not necessarily have to go abroad.
As is told, tourist places are all the same, irrespective of many inter-related factors. Everyone would speak English at a tourist destination. One has to venture out to surprise oneself that English is a language few understand. I understood that well on my visit to Peru and Ecuador last year. Those travelers who write on online forums that having Spanish would be helpful, but one can manage with English in South America, are far from reality. They are the ones who arrive at the airport, take an airport taxi, live in a Marriot (!) kind of hotel and travel the places on a tour package. Just cross the airport and ask ‘Entiende Ingles’ and see how many ‘Si’ you find out.
In must confess that I saw snow on far off mountains in Cusco before I saw snow-capped peaks in Katra, Jammu in India. This however is not to say that I did not visit Shimla, some hundred kilometres far from Delhi, where I live. I have visited Shimla twice, but none during a snowfall.
However, one really has to move abroad to see the difference out there. One has to go out far and far enough to find how do people live in a foreign land that has remained only under ambit of our imagination. That would simply mean, going off beat as many emphasise.
To be very honest, there is a lurking feeling among Indians who have been to other countries that one does not have to go out of India as far as experiencing the difference of topography is meant. As a matter of fact, many travelers pursue their travel interests being in India and have not taken a flight to a foreign country yet.