Our first interview in our series of traveler interviews is an aerospace engineer turned software engineer turned full-time traveler. Pritam describes his style of traveling as slow, adventurous and clumsy. He has been traveling full-time for almost 4 years now. Whether it is riding a bike from Bangalore to Mumbai, climbing the highest peaks in the US or cycling through Iran, Pritam has done it all.
Q. How did you get into traveling? When/how did you realize it was for you?
A. It’s always been for me, I think. From reading adventure novels as a kid to going on treks as an undergraduate student to driving across the United States while climbing two of the highest peaks in that country, there’s always been a part of me that wanted to just be in the world.
Q. What was your first trip solo trip?
A. My first real solo trip was actually the start of this 3.5 year old lifestyle when I quit my job in 2015. I plunged headlong into a 650 km hike through the French Alps. I was warned that there might not be food (there was), that the people may be rude (they weren’t), or that they wouldn’t understand English deep in the mountains. Well, the last part was true :)
Q. How did you feel during your first trip versus how do you feel now whenever you take a trip?
A. In the beginning, it bothered me that I wasn’t travelling “fast”. I wasn’t even travelling slow like the “slow-travellers” that are popular on Instagram these days. I would sometimes just sit around doing nothing, and spend a week in a city and not even visit any tourist sites. But as I kept travelling, I learned that this is who I am and this is how I travel. More importantly, I came to understand that in your memories, you’ll always remember the things you did rather than the things you did not do.
Somewhere along the way, I picked up a quote that has come to define the way I live:
Do not hurry. Do not rest.
Q. Out of all the places you’ve been to, what is your favorite destination?
A. I don’t have a favourite destination. I have favourite moments, and ironic as it sounds, I think that as you grow into your identity, these moments come from within and largely independent of the place you are.
I write about this in one of my blog posts:
I was walking briskly one day, my thoughts occupied with where I would stop for lunch when I realised my mind was just as cluttered here as it had been back when I was working in Seattle. Hiking this trail had become a full-time job: wake up, eat breakfast, hike, eat lunch, hike, eat dinner, sleep, repeat. Here I was, in France, in the Alps, forgetting to look around. I slowed down till I could hear my the crunch of my shoe against the trail. I felt the wind, and when the wind stopped, I held my breath and listened to the silence. I closed my eyes, and waited for my mind to calm down. I now know that the peace that I felt at that moment was the peace I had left everything behind to find. This peace: it is a peace to be treasured, and while I am slowly making my way back into some semblance of the “real” world, I know that it is a peace I have to nurture very carefully.
These moments define my travels, though, having beautiful mountains around you helps a lot, and I’m generally drawn to the higher altitudes.
Q. If you could give just one travel tip to budding travelers, what would it be?
A. I’m not good with deep advice. If you want to travel, you should. But the more I travel, the more I’m realizing that travel is a privilege, and is in some ways quite a selfish endeavour. I’m now trying to guide my life towards a place where I’m contributing more back to society.
Also, think about your ecological impact as you travel. Take fewer flights. Use less plastic. Refill water.