Background,  Depression

How my battle with depression changed me into a traveller

I used to whine about each and everything around me and I had never been so lonely in my life until that point.

There were numerous occasions when I would ask myself:

“What did I do to deserve this?”

Depression is a major epidemic plaguing the world but is sadly a topic not discussed openly. Different people deal with it in different ways and come out of it as a different version of themselves.

My battle with depression was somewhere along the same lines:

It kicked me out of my comfort zone and showed me the path towards becoming the person that I am today. You could say it was like a parent trying to teach me a lesson.

Here is the story of how an episode of depression kickstarted the journey of a traveller inside me that would eventually become my way of life.

The comfort zone

I had been raised in an orthodox family in New Delhi.

So just like any other typical Indian family, my life was directed towards me studying hard, getting good grades and grabbing a corporate job thereafter. Anything outside of this seemed like a distraction.

Hence travelling and exploring places were never even an option.

The only travelling that I ever did was when my family used to visit our relatives in Kerala during my summer vacations in school/college. So even if you ask me today about the major attractions in Delhi, I would still have to rely on Google to fetch you the answers.

Kerala Express at a station in Kerala.
The best part about travelling to Kerala every year was enjoying the diverse sceneries via Kerala Express.

I always had people around me in Delhi. At home, I had my family and outside my home, I had my friends to hang out with. I was a lazy bummer back then and always dependent on people to get things done for myself.

As far as being in a comfort zone goes, this was the best it could get.

To summarize my Delhi chapter:

I was simply existing and going with the flow of things. I wasn’t having an identity of my own as I was living my life on autopilot mode.

It was only when I graduated from college that I started living independently.

The slap on my face

Moving out of your home for the first time can be quite a daunting experience as well as an exciting one at the same time. You don’t know what challenges lie ahead of you but you feel empowered knowing that you will be living life on your own terms henceforth.

It was certainly no different for me.

I had relocated to Hyderabad to pursue post-graduation. Naturally, I was excited about starting my life in a new place and being independent for the first time. I was looking forward to the course and making some new friends in Hyderabad.

An aerial view of Hyderabad from Golconda Fort.
An aerial view of Hyderabad from Golconda Fort.

The first couple of months, which I would like to call as my ‘honeymoon phase’, went well. I was getting to know my classmates, adjusting to the new culture and starting off with the course.

After a few months into my new life, however, I slowly started facing negative experiences in different aspects of my life.

In hindsight, it could have been appearing from day one itself but my enthusiasm for having moved to a new city had papered over these cracks initially. They were deepening day-by-day and the next few months turned out to be the most tumultuous months I have had to experience so far.

For starters:

I was staying in a paying guest accommodation. The food served there was never cooked properly. It was either extra SPICY or SALTY. It was during this time I realised the importance of having healthy and home-cooked food for the first time.

My course, on the other hand, being run for the first time in the institute, was not structured properly. The teachers were not engaging enough and in this whole process, I lost interest in studying. Even the crowd and the overall atmosphere at the institute couldn’t keep my spirits high.

To make matters worse, my newfound social circle (who were mostly my classmates) were the last people I wanted to spend time with. Their conversations seemed to revolve around gossiping and bitching most of the time which I was least interested in.

I stopped interacting with people completely. And hence, I started spending time with myself; something that I never did previously.

 

I wanted to avoid everything that life was throwing at me. There were countless days where I would simply sleep on my couch after coming back from my classes. I didn’t want to give my mind any time to chatter about anything.

I had the same routine for a few weeks before life inevitably caught up with me: I slipped into depression.

I had the best possible life when I was in Delhi; so how did it become so doom and gloom suddenly?

Tackling depression

During the months that ensued, I introspected and realised that my dependency on people to make my life happening was a major downside. It was the reason why I enjoyed my stay in Delhi and why I wasn’t enjoying in Hyderabad.

There was no middle ground.

In short:

I had been living inside a bubble throughout my life in Delhi that had just burst in Hyderabad.

I decided that I need to crawl my way back and start doing something instead of being stuck in the rabbit hole forever. I wanted to distract myself and pursue things that were of interest to me.

Given that I didn’t enjoy the food at my paying guest, I made plans to go out and explore the food scenes in Hyderabad.

Mutton Haleem is served during the Ramzan season.
Mutton Haleem is one of the signature dishes of Hyderabad prepared during the Ramzan season.

This was my first tryst with:

  • planning things for myself,
  • travelling solo,
  • and being independent.

I made use of public buses/sharing autos as I wanted to learn the routes, get a feel of the local culture and save costs since I was not earning at that time.

It was intimidating at first to do something like this but I slowly got the hang of it. I was building confidence in the process as I was going out of my comfort zone and exploring places.

Many gastronomical experiments and experiences later, I developed an appetite for food and at the same time, I learnt a lot about the variety of cuisines Hyderabad has to offer.

It got to the point that if I were to start a food blog specific to Hyderabad at that time, I would have made a career out of it by now.

In this process of exploring all the eateries, I also ended up learning about all the places in Hyderabad. I could tell you how to go from Point A to Point B or what you could find in a particular place.

Towards the end of my stay in Hyderabad, I was basically a changed man. Over a period of time, I was not only able to tackle depression but I also inculcated a new passion i.e. travelling.

I summarised my Hyderabad journey by posting this emotional status on Facebook:

Screenshot

The single biggest takeaway for me from this experience was that:

Getting my first job

During the campus placement drive at my institute, I got placed in a company in Trivandrum as a Data Analyst. This was yet another turning point in my life as I never thought I will end up working in Kerala one day.

I always viewed Kerala as a vacation spot; as mentioned previously, I used to visit my relatives during the summer vacations every year while I was a kid.

Given that this was my first-ever job, the novelty of earning an income and becoming financially independent kept me excited during my initial months. I was also living my ‘dream’ of having a corporate job finally as this is what my life had been leading up to so far.

However, as time passed by, I realised:

I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile outside of my job.

There weren’t many things to do as well in Trivandrum apart from visiting a few beaches or a few eateries. The nightlife was virtually non-existent here as is the case with many other places in Kerala.

A bird's eye view of the Varkala beach.
Varkala is arguably one of the most popular beaches of Kerala.

In terms of my professional life, I did learn a few things about coding and analysing data, however, it still wasn’t stimulating enough for me. It was also the same mundane routine week in, week out.

Life in Trivandrum had become monotonous.

As I was going through this rut, I felt a sense of déjà vu as I was able to draw some parallels here with my journey in Hyderabad previously.

But given what I had learnt there, I challenged myself again to pursue something that would give me a different perspective altogether.

I decided to take my love for travelling up by another notch.

A solo trip to Chikmagalur

Almost eight months had passed by and I had an exam that was scheduled to be held in Bangalore in September 2017. Given that I had leaves to spare, I made a very random plan to go to Chikmagalur on a solo trip right after my exam.

I made my bus and hotel bookings in advance. I boarded my bus from the Kempegowda bus terminal in Bangalore at night and reached Chikmagalur early the next morning before sunrise.

After having the complimentary breakfast, I booked a cab with the help of my hotel on the first day. The driver took me around a few well-known places in and around Chikmagalur and while I was on the road, I was getting completely disconnected from my reality…

…All I could see around me were the varying landscapes of mountains, forests and coffee plantations draped in mists and clouds throughout the journey. It was magical and exactly what I had been missing in my life at that point.

Trekking at Z Point in Chikmagalur.
A trip to Chikmagalur is incomplete without a trek to the Z Point.

The next day, to cover the remaining places, I hired a cab near the bus stand as I wasn’t getting any replies from my previous driver. I had a good rapport with the cab driver throughout the journey as we talked about his family, his under-construction hotel and the coffee cultivation business in Chikmagalur.

I met a few other travellers at different places including four bachelors from Hyderabad, a family from Bangalore and a couple of friends who had travelled only by bus.

I was able to spend time with people from different walks of life.

The second day was hence much more varied in terms of experiences than the first one. The same night I travelled back to Bangalore.

A new lease of life

I was back at my workplace in Trivandrum in a couple of days and I was already feeling nostalgic about Chikmagalur. That trip, despite lasting only for a couple of days, had a profound impact on me and it changed my outlook towards life in many ways.

For starters, as a person who was exposed to cities throughout my life, I realised how distinctly people lived in a rural setting and how slow the pace of their lives was. Interacting with different people, be it the travellers or the driver, gave me contrasting perspectives on how each one of them perceives different things.

And most importantly:

Spending some alone time with nature had a very calming effect on my soul. I got to reflect on the things that were happening in my life at that point.

Since the culmination of that trip till the time of writing this article, I have travelled to 12 states/union territories with more than 50 travel experiences under my belt in under 2.5 years despite having a full-time corporate job.

It is said that you are the sum total of the experiences you go through in life and I, for one, can completely attest to that. I attribute travelling as the best thing that ever happened to me and all the travel experiences that I have been through in the last few years have moulded me into the person that I am today.

Scuba diving in Havelock Island.
Scuba Diving in the turquoise blue waters of Havelock Island.

Becoming a traveller

When I look back at what all had transpired in my life after I left Delhi, I am thankful for the not-so-positive experiences I had in Hyderabad and Trivandrum.

If they weren’t meant to be, I wouldn’t have:

  • been writing this article today,
  • gone out of my comfort zone to explore and experience things for myself and
  • realised that I can create a life that I want for myself irrespective of the people around me.

Moreover:

Travelling, as a whole, has added meaning to my life.

 

I keep encountering different kinds of challenges when I travel but weirdly enough, I look forward to facing them because they have enabled me to learn more about myself and the world around me. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that travel has been my best teacher and I have become a lifelong learner thanks to it.

It also made me realize how small my problems were in the grand scheme of things. They seemed insignificant in comparison to the problems of the people that I met on my travels and the world in general. Hence, I have started to appreciate and be grateful for the finer things in my life.

To top it all, travelling has filled a major void in my life that I didn’t acknowledge previously:

It made me feel alive and live in the moment.

I realised how much I loved interacting with people from different cultures, spending time in nature and trying out different cuisines amongst others.

These are just some of the reasons why I have never looked back ever since I went on that solo trip to Chikmagalur.

And all it took was an episode of depression that showed me the path towards becoming a full-time traveller.


What inspired you to start travelling? Let me know in the comments!

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I am an experiential traveller and a passionate photographer. I have been travelling across India since 2017 alongside my corporate job. Three years down the line, I quit my job to follow my dreams. Connect with me on my social media channels to get my latest updates!

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