By Malvika Sehgaal Kaura
Nine months into lockdown (enough time to bring a human into this world), 12 paintings, hundreds of online art classes and image makeovers (I make women look slimmer), a whole lot of online study (even a Yale course), and taking my plus-size women’s wear online, I still felt the ache and longing for the madness that travel brought to my life.
As an avid solo woman traveller, for me travel isn’t about planning holidays, it’s a way of life that drives me. I typically make my ‘bucket list’ every year. This helps planning budgets, giving me the impetus to work harder.
Travel for me is beyond exploration. I’m like a child in a candy store when I’m on the move. Being a creative person, travel ensures I’m always creatively stimulated. I draw happiness and inspiration from people, culture, history, food and the biggest motivation: reconnecting with myself.
A year had passed since my outward flight to San Francisco. Then, on my talk show series on Instagram, Candid with Malvika, I interviewed a lady who has been driving through the country during the pandemic on a wheelchair. She motivated me to take to the road myself.
A work opportunity in Rishikesh had me taking my car during the farmers’ protests and blocked highways on Delhi borders, and heading out. I had studied the route a night prior and followed Google maps that avoided all tolls and took me via the old highway, ensuring no blockades.
Driving through farmlands, I stopped at large food courts (ensuring there were others around). I reached my hotel in a leisurely seven hours, had lunch and decided to drive out to explore the area.
Located on the holy Ganges, Rishikesh is always a peaceful place and the lockdown has only added to its serene vibe. There was ample parking and the streets were empty, though of course the vendors were not so happy about the loss of tourists and customers.
With its abundance of vegetarian cafes and yoga studios – maintaining social distancing norms – I felt instantly connected and in my element.
The days ahead were sunny and breezy. I spent my time walking, journaling, attending the evening aarti (customary prayer at the banks of the river), doing some shopping and exploring parts of this place that I had missed earlier like the Beatles’ ashram. In fact, that was the top highlight of the trip as a solo traveller.
I stuck to my safety protocols: I only ate hot food, nothing raw or cold. I sanitised and washed my hands constantly. I stayed masked when people were around and avoided crowds.
I did steaming, gargling and even jal neti yoga upon returning to my room daily. I carried my own water bottle with me (something I do even otherwise to conserve plastic and to always stay hydrated).
My car became a room. I carried my Diet Coke, dry snacks, bananas (a wonder food while travelling), sanitiser spray and more. I discovered a route (through Shivpuri) where I could take my car right up to the river. I spent another half a day shooting my bridal collection near the Ganges with my hotel as a backdrop.
This short trip cheered me up immensely and perhaps left a deeper impact because of its slow pace and the fact that I had not travelled for a year. It ignited my romance with the Indian highway. I now intend to drive out every month; next on the agenda is Rajasthan.
Our thoughts limit us, not our handicaps or our circumstances. The idea should be to regret-proof our lives.
Malvika Sehgaal Kaura is a fashion designer, marketing professional, and Vastu and Feng Shui-compliant artist.