I am a South Indian girl from a middle-class family. I come from a modern city called Hyderabad, but my family holds religion and cultural norms in high esteem, while also being very aware of the value of money. When I lamented I had never taken a flight anywhere, they would show me pictures of me as a baby on a plane. I understood my family’s constraints, and yet, the one thing I really wanted to do was travel with my friends. Like most families, mine was also reluctant about letting me stay with my friends. We needed week-long preparations to decide how to approach our parents about visiting each others’ houses let alone travelling with friends. When they finally agreed on letting us travel that measly 10 km between our houses, I travelled to my friend’s house and I felt like I was visiting Paris. It made me happy for a month. Today, my biggest fear in life is a cancelled plan. The anticipation of a trip was always a mix of excitement and anxiety. When I finally left Hyderabad for Bangalore for my undergraduate studies, I realised it was the best thing that happened to me.
The First Trip Ever: Gokarna, 2016
Moving from Hyderabad to Bangalore was overwhelming. Living on my own was a task and I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. I met different types of friends in Bangalore but three girls remained constant. With the help of these three, who would become a part of my routine for the next three years, I tried to adult. We sat together and planned a trip to Pondicherry. Nothing had changed—we still had to prepare our parents. Three pairs of parents agreed to the trip; one even sent a list of dos and don’ts. But as luck would have it, the remaining set said ‘no’. We had to abandon it, and instead, we went on a trip to Gokarna. We stayed in a hostel with bunker beds, making up for not spending our childhoods together. We trekked from Paradise beach to Om beach and ate delicious meals. We argued over who gets to hold the water bottle, complained about the heat, and barely stuck to our schedule and budget – a common result of travelling with friends. At Om Beach, we watched the waves splashed across the shore and dipped our feet into the water. We made ridiculous poses standing on the rocks, almost falling down but we made some amazing memories there. But that trip could not have been more perfect. We even had an impromptu dance party in our hostel room. I can still hear the laughter and feel the ache in my cheeks from smiling all night. I looked at them and felt happy; I knew that I was thankful for having these girls in my life.
Also read: 30 exciting weekend trips from Bangalore
Coming Back Home: Rajahmundry, 2018
After Gokarna, I have cherished every trip. But the one I will always remember is the trip to Rajahmundry. I have always been a fan of a rural atmosphere. Rajahmundry is a town in Andhra Pradesh located on the banks of the river Godavari. This time, four friends— two girls and two boys—packed their bags for Rajahmundry, which happened to be my friend’s hometown. These were another type of friends, the ones that took you home and fed you. We stayed at her house and celebrated the Telugu harvest festival Sankranti. The day before Sankranti, we were all woken up early for Bhogi. This was a festival where we threw useless household articles into a bonfire, while people gathered around it wearing traditional clothes. We pushed each other out of our beds and gathered around the fire in shorts. We did things on that trip that I don’t think I’ll ever do again. We swam in canals, enjoyed freshly plucked mangoes from a farm, had picnics in a field, and felt like children again. On Sankranti, all of us wore ethnic clothes as my friend’s mother fussed over us, showering us with compliments. Everyone, including the boys, was dolled up and made to feel beautiful. The day before we left the city, as the sun went down we sat at the famous Pushkar Ghat and had lengthy conversations. There was a low murmur of the crowd there, children playing and the beautiful view of the Godavari river made it a day to remember. It felt like I had known these places and people all my life. These types of friends and people are hard to come by.
The Last Trip, For Now: Matheran, 2020
In 2019, I decided it was time I visited the mayanagari or city of dreams aka Mumbai. I moved to Mumbai for my postgraduate studies. I met a lot of people in my one year in Mumbai. But four people stuck out from the crowd, and I stuck with them. These were the types of friends that were special, because no matter where we lived, at the end of the day we gathered under one roof and talked through the night. The idea to go on this trip was born half an hour before we started out for the place. A lot of people told me that spontaneous trips are the best, but I never believed them because I work only with a schedule. But this trip was chaos.
Imagine the worst traffic jam you have ever been stuck in, and this trip will beat that. We had just woken up and one of my friends, whose mental age was ten, proposed the plan to visit Matheran, a hill station near Mumbai. The cheapest way to travel from Mumbai to Matheran was by the local train, which left in ten minutes. The station was ten minutes away—Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, one of the busiest stations in India. So we divided duties, and while one person ran to get breakfast, others started out for the station to get tickets. We reached late, but luckily the train was late too. We stood in the train for almost an hour to reach Neral station, and from there took a cab to Matheran. None of us had a lot of cash and almost all the ATMs we passed were either broken or closed. We pooled in money, gathered every coin and note, and reached the hill. Matheran does not allow cars, so after our cab ride, we trekked the last two hours to reach the top. It was getting dark and we hadn’t booked any accommodation. We were five friends, with a small amount of cash, different walking speeds, with barely any cell phone network, and very hungry. We settled on a hotel in spite of disagreements, with fatigue getting the better of us. But as we sat down and tucked into our dinner, one by one our worries slipped away. We booked two rooms that night but we ended up talking, dancing, singing, and sleeping in just one.
The next day we trekked to Charlotte Lake while meeting a few locals on the way. They were kind and cared a lot about their town as they forbade us to litter the town. The town sleeps early and there are no cars. As everything was shut we took to the winding lanes of Mathern and went on long walks. These are the types of friends and moments I treasure.
Also read: 10 incredible weekend road trips from Mumbai
What Travelling With Friends Has Taught Me
The one thing I learned from travelling with my friends is that you can never predict what kind of a trip you will have. And that I will pounce on the chance to take a trip with my friends any day. I have been to Goa, which is the place to travel with your friends. But it didn’t give me as much happiness as the trip to Gokarna. I wouldn’t change anything about these trips. The only common factors are my friends and the happy memories I created.
Beautiful People Result In Beautiful Places
I completely agree with John Green when he says, “The people are the place is the people”. Beautiful people are the ones who bring out the beauty in different places. Through all these trips, however different they were, I learned more about my friends. Travelling with my friends reminded me of the exact reason why I love and hate them. Matheran was my last trip before the world came to a standstill because of the coronavirus pandemic. This Friendship Day, more than going out, I miss going out with my friends.