Memoirs from the first trip of my life

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury

I was lucky. Having experienced my first trip as early as the fourth year of my life. This was the first trip of my life. And thanks to my parents and grandparents to have organized this wonderful first trip that gave me the first awesome travel experience. So much so that I have been bitten by the travel bug since then. It was a wonderful family trip. Even while I was so small at the time of this first trip, there are scenes from the trip, clearly imprinted in my mind, forever. Truly, travel touches everyone deeply. And the first trip is always so special.

My first trip

This is where it all started

Both my maternal and paternal grandfathers had retired a couple of years back. And they were willing to celebrate it with a grand trip. This was to be a trip to the pilgrimage places of north India, high up in the Himalayas. It included halts at destinations like Gorakhpur, Dev Prayag, Rudra Prayag, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Rishikesh and Haridwar. Although I don’t remember the exact sequence of events and destinations that we took, I do remember a lot of stuff. They must have made a deep mark on my baby brain. So, coming back to the point, my grandparents materialized my first trip. And it included a whole bunch of relatives – maternal and paternal uncles and aunts, parents, grandparents. Amongst them all, I was the only child, apart from my 10 months old cousin. So, definitely I got a lot of attention through the first trip of my life.

The first day of the first trip

Drama before the departure

As was planned, we all gathered at my maternal grandparent’s home because it was a stone’s throw away from the railway station. And almost half an hour before the arrival of the train at the platform, we started to gather our bags and head off to the station. But alas, grandma had lost the keys to the house somewhere during her frantic packing! Everyone was alerted to look for the keys. As the clock was ticking, everyone was getting tense about missing the train. I could as well feel the tension. After all, it was my first trip and also my first train journey experience and I didn’t want to miss it at any cost. (Later I came to know my grandma was famed to miss her keys at the last moment!!)

Finally we started unpacking the luggage and there the key was, inside one of the beddings that she had just finished rolling in the last moment. After a round of passing on the blame from one person to another for the loss of the key, everyone stepped out for the railway station. The train was just starting to leave the platform when we arrived. The ladies and the kid (myself) was pushed up the train and then the luggages came next. I almost panicked seeing my father and uncles running on the platform, parallel to the train, ensuring all luggage was on-boarded, before they boarded the train themselves. I had almost believed they were going to miss.

Finally, on-boarded

Finally, we all boarded and settled in our seats. I liked the rhythmic journey of the train. And I liked hopping from one compartment to the other conveniently as almost half the coach was occupied by our extended family only. Somewhere in the middle of the night, we finally reached the first destination of my first trip – Gorakhpur.

Gorakhpur

Gorakhpur was then a small town. It is located on the banks of Rapti river. And it is a part of the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. The city is home to the famous Gorakhnath temple. Two things I remember precisely from our short overnight stay at Gorakhpur –

  1. We took almost 20 rickshaws to commute from the railway station to the  dharmshala of Gorakhnath temple. It was like a chain of Rickshaws parading through the middle of the night.
  2. In the temple there is a massive clock. It strikes (or rather bangs) loudly every hour to mark the time. I couldn’t sleep peacefully almost all through the night because of the sound and the change of place. I remember that sound clearly even today.

Gangotri

From Gorakhpur, at some point, we traveled to Gangotri. Maybe we halted on the way at couple of places, I don’t remember that clearly. Gangotri is a town in the Uttarkashi district in the state of Uttarakhand (then Uttar Pradesh). It is a hindu pilgrimage that lies on the bank of holy river Bhagirathi. The holy river Ganga is believed to originate from the foothills of Himalayas at Gangotri. The water here is extremely cold.

The one scene that I remember is when everyone was getting ready to take a dip into the holy water, braving through the cold. The part of body which went inside the water immediately got numb due to the cold. My maternal grandfather went in to take a dip. However, upon coming out he realized his false tooth were washed away in the river. A never to be beaten spirit that he was, he said merrily – “Chalo arpit kar dia Ganga me” (meaning, let it go, I presented it to the river).

Gangotri
A scene from the banks of River Ganga in Gangotri.

Yamunotri

Yamunotri is yet another Hindu pilgrimage town, located in Garhwal in the upper himalayas. It is the source of origin of holy river Yamuna .. the tributary of Ganga. When we visited Yamunotri years back, the roads were not tarred and the path used to pass through dense forest. There were no fencing, no proper roads, no mobile networks, no means of taking a vehicle up the mountain. And it was a steep climb of 13 kilometers. A few incidences that I remember from the Yamunotri trip are

Incidences close to heart

  1. Along the way, upon getting tired, some of us opened a pack of biscuit and sat below a tree to eat it. Suddenly, a wild dog appeared. Then another, and yet another. Soon we were surrounded by packs of wild dogs who wanted all our food supply. We, all ladies, and a child (of course myself) were deeply horrified. That is when a local appeared from somewhere, to our rescue. He told us to start shouting loudly, anything. That finally scared the dogs off.
  2. Everyone had got extremely tired in the last stretch of the trek. So, we decided to hire mules and horses for rest of the journey. However, it was difficult to tame these animals, for inexperienced people like us, across the mountain terrain. They often used to run here and there. I was so horrified sitting on the back of one of these creatures, along with my mom. So, I made all possible excuses that someone will get me down, but alas, no one did. At the same time, my aunt seemed to have got lucky with her extremely friendly mule named ” Basanti” who gave her a pleasant ride through the trip
  3. Upon reaching Yamunotri, we slept in a dormitory. I woke up multiple times at the night due to thirst. But I couldn’t sip more than a single sip of water, it was so bitterly cold. Next day morning, as we got down into the courtyard to get some water, there was none. Because the water had frozen into the pipes!!
My first trip
The Yamunotri trek

Badrinath

Badrinath is a holy town in the chamoli district of Uttarakhand. It is one among the four important pilgrimage of Hindu in India, the Char Dham. Badrinath was established as a main pilgrimage by Adi Shankaracharya. We visited here as well as a part of this trip. However, it was a quiet and smoothly sailing trip.

My first trip
The temple of Badrinath

Kedarnath

Next, we headed to Kedarnath. Kedarnath is a holy town in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. It gets it’s name from the Kedarnath Temple. It is located at the head of the river Mandakini and is flanted by snow covered peaks.

However, after an exhausting experience of the Yamunotri trek, some of us decided to stay back while others headed to Kedarnath. Among the one who stayed were my uncle and aunt who had to take care of my 10 months old cousin, and needed a break. My paternal grandpa who was exhausted, and myself who was terrified. Although I totally enjoyed my stay with grandpa whereas my parents went ahead to visit Kedarnath. There was a small shop at the first level of our homestay. I made grandpa buy me chocolates from there all the days that we spent there. And he complied thinking he had to keep me happy since my parents were not around. (Children are so smart , so was I 😉 )

Haridwar

Next we headed to Haridwar. It is a holy district in Uttarakkhand where the river Ganga leaves the mountains and enters the planes for the first time. The force of the river is incredible at this place. Haridwar is regarded as one of the holiest places for hindus. The famous Kumbh Mela is celebrated here every 12 years. Har ki Pauri (Literally meaning footsteps of God) is one of the most famous Ghats in Haridwar.

I guess for some reason, of all the places that I visited in this trip, Haridwar remained closest to my child heart for some reason. Here are the things and incidences that I recall from this place, which left a mark somewhere.

My first trip
Valley view and river bed as seen from the mountains of Haridwar

Incidences from Haridwar

  1. Our dharmlsala (resort) , Jaipuriya , was located right on the banks of the river Ganga. A provision was made on the back side of the hotel for people to take dip in the holy water and take bath. Myself, too afraid of getting into the water, used to sit on the bank and take a bath while all my relatives and parent went inside the water. Everyone tried to first encourage and then ridicule me in order to provoke me to get into water , but to no avail.
  2.  The food that was prepared in the restaurant was first offered to God and then all the guests were invited to eat. I was very hungry one day. So my mom went to the kitchen with me to enquire about the food timing. The priest replied “Although the food has not been offered to God, but a child is a form of God himself. So, we must not make her wait for food”. Though I was too small to understand the depth of his words, his kindness and wisdom did touch me.
  3. I loved the narrow lanes of Haridwar , the evening that we spent at Har Ki Pauri floating diyas in the holy water, the small stuff that we bought and once in a while when I sat with my mom and aunts on the bank of the river, dipping my legs in the water.

Rishikesh

Yet another holy district in the foothills of Himalayas, Rishikesh was our next stop. All I remember from this place is the calmness of the same river Ganga which was so forceful in Haridwar. The river spreads it’s banks in Rishikesh so much so that standing on one side, you can’t see the other. The place was very offbeat and un commercialized when we visited. And one of my fondest memories is a walk across the Lakshman Jhoola ( A hanging bridge). I was thrilled to walk on a bridge that swayed.

My first trip
On the banks of River Ganga in Rishikesh

Some interesting random memories

Although the rest of the memories are quiet hazy, there are some funny things that I remember from here and there along the trip:

  1. Perhaps at some point we had taken a group tour in a bus that took us from one destination to another. Although half of the bus was always occupied by our family only. Two of my aunts used to get travel sick badly. They used to sit on the back seat and throw up all the time, still they used to be in high spirits through the trip.
  2. The roads that cut across the mountains were so narrow. Two vehicles couldn’t cross at once. One had to stop to let the other pass. And the one that stopped was always on the valley side, with one tire almost into the slope of the mountain. My grandpa, terrified,  used to chant every time our bus would halt like this.
  3. We used to sing and play song sequences through our bus ride.
  4. When we used to sleep in dormitories during this trip, I enjoyed a lot, sometimes sleeping besides one aunt, and sometimes another. Making everyone narrate a different story to me.
  5. We did use makeshift toilets, drink from broken water pipes and trek through some of the wildest path in this journey. And I still enjoyed.
  6. I felt astonished that they had a different cuisine and I didn’t get to eat the same stuff that I used to eat at home.

In conclusion

The first journey of my life was the wildest, weirdest, longest and the best. It had the thrill of not knowing where we were headed next. And it had a joy of traveling with the whole extended family. It was a trip of a lifetime, nothing like this could ever happen again. I am glad it was my first trip. Since, it gave me so much of exposure to travel at such an early stage of life. I strongly feel my first trip had a great significance in arousing the wanderlust in me. So, what was the first trip of your life? I will love to hear..

PS: Sorry for the hazy pictures. I restored them from way too old prints.

Uttarakhand, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Rudra Prayag, Dev Prayag, Uttarakhand, Chaar Dham, Har Ki Pauri, Gorakhpur, Gorakhnath Temple

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85 Responses

  1. Nicole Anderson

    How wonderful that you got to experience something like this at such a young age and still managed to remember so much of it. I understand what you mean about the photos from that time being somewhat hazy but it is clear from these that the areas you saw in the Himalayas were exceptionally beautiful. It certainly would have been very cold up there but worth every moment to experience it. Thank you for sharing such a lovely memory and providing something so enjoyable to read.

    • Thanks a lot Nicole for your lovely words. Indeed the pictures are hazy. But the memory is so clear. And that itself tells how much I would have enjoyed that journey that I could still remember parts of it so clearly. Perhaps it’s going to never ever fade

  2. Haha my parents did the same for me taking me on my first plane when I was about 4 years old (and my little brother only 2). Don’t really remember much of it though, but reading this makes me wonder if there are any pictures if that trip.. your pictures are really nice! I always love how good pictures make you want to read through an article even more!

  3. Wow, you have both great memories and a great memory. I don’t remember anything from when I 4, but I didn’t go the the Himalayas either. 🙂

  4. It sounds like your parents and grandparents are your inspiration to travel. A little bit of a worrying start with the keys but y’all found them. It’s brilliant you have the original photos from this trip really before cameras were so popular.

    • Definitely. that trip was so awesome that it remained in my memory and sparked my travel lust forever

  5. What a wonderful throw back to your first trip at 4. The Himalyas sounds like a fabulous place to start experiencing travel!

  6. I so much like your photos, they have something really warm in them , they tell a story…It’s true as the quote said this life is more great than any possible dream, if we are aware to notice it. beautiful story u said

  7. I have been to Gorakhpur just once and that too nearly 10 years back. The city seemed tidy. From Gorakhpur I went to Kushinagar, the place where Gautam Buddha was cremated.

    • How was your journey? I guess you went a decade after me, things must have changed since then

  8. beautiful post I haven’t been to India yet but I would love foo

  9. Wow this is amazing! I cannot believe you remember all this, yet maybe I can because it sounds so beautiful. I honestly cannot think of my first trip/ any an early travels. Thank you for sharing your amazing story.

    • Thank you. It’s always nice to go down the memory lane once in a while and refresh these memories.

  10. This is like reliving the childhood days again and the pics look like my family holiday too. We have come such a long way in camera quality.

    • You are absolutely right. The cameras then used to have reels and one snap wasted used to be so costly. Do you remember that? We don’t blink twice before taking hundreds of snaps now a days. But then, it was to be judiciously decided what to click and what not. Then you had to wait for a week for the snaps to develop..

  11. This made me feel nostalgic as I still remember my school days trips to Rishikesh and Haridwar. Thanks for sharing it. Great content

    • Thank you 🙂 I guess who ever amongst us has been there as a kid can relate to this experience 🙂

  12. Wonderful first journey of your life and as you said above, a lifetime trip! I can’t answer your questions because I can’t remember my first time; anyway according what my mom said to me I think my first trip was to Trapani, in Sicily from Alghero, my city in Sardinia! I was 2 year old! thanks for sharing your great experience, 😀

    • Thank you. And if you were 2 years old, you will definitely not remember anything. But you were lucky to have done your first trip so early in life 🙂

  13. Such a lovely post Neha, and the pictures seems to be just out of my own family album!

    Btw you did extensive travels in my home state 🙂 🙂

    • Glad to know that Siddhartha. I did enjoy the place at that time, in spite of tough terrains. As you can see from my memoire. Curious to know how it is today. Are the roads better structured now and the terrains easier?

  14. You really got off to an incredible start in travelling. It seems like such a grand trip to go on with your family to all the pilgrimage sites. That’s a trip that you will remember for the rest of your life.

    • Definitely. No matter what, I am going to remember this trip for the rest of my life

  15. Nice memory. 🙂
    Impressive how much you remember. I have only very small fragments left in my memory about early trips with my family.

    • Thanks Jesper. Maybe because the experience was so unique and it touched me so deeply, I remember so much.

  16. I can only imagine it must have been to go on a trip with extended family with most of the compartments all to ourselves and then the rickshaw parade in the midst of the night. Sounds fun! lol. Looks like everyone had a great time with loads of memories to make.

    • Absolutely Rashmi. And to a little kid, it was even more fun. And I forgot to mention in the post, there was one incidence in this trip where a friend’s father got down on a railway station and missed the to board the train again. We realized it after a long time, since there were so many people in the group 🙂

  17. travellingslacker

    You must consider yourself to be extremely lucky to have strated so early, that too with the Himalayas. I had to wat till my mid 20s to get the first glimpse of the Himalayas. However my life changed gradually after that.

    • I do consider myself lucky for that. But no wonder at what age you take your first trip, it does transform you in some way and then the transformation continues. I guess the same happened with you too

  18. What a beautiful write up. It cool you have photographs from the trip. You will always have the memories of it. xx

    • Thank you. By converting these snaps into digital ones, I have tried to preserve the memories forever

  19. You’ve basically taken me to this trip along with you. You’ve portrayed it so beautifully. Thank you! Very pretty pictures! 🙂
    xoxo
    Radhika

  20. What a beautiful write up and the images makes me wanna go to India now! I have a trip planned to the south parts, this post really drove my motivation up.

    • Thanks George. I wish you the very best for your trip, hope you will enjoy it as much as I did with each of my journey in India so far

  21. How exciting!! This looked like it was a great trip with family!

  22. I don’t remember my first trip since I was only 6 months old at that time. Our mom had come to India for our delivery (I am one of a twin btw) and my first trip was when we went to Tanzania for the first time. Even though I don’t remember that one, I do remember a lot from my many trips in Africa when I was a kid.

    • Wow Soumya. Sounds like you had quiet an exposure to the travel world as early as possible. I would say you traveled with your mom already when she came to India for her delivery 🙂 And travel at 6 months.. those will be the words of my daughter. She will also not remember her first trip because it was when she was just 6 months old 🙂

  23. You started traveling at 4 years old?! Wow, you have some good memory that you are even able to tell the story in great detail. And you have wonderful parents for taking you in that trip. I wish my parents were travelers, sadly they aren’t. I learned traveling all by myself.

    It’s amazing that you still have these old photos with you and now it’s even on your blog.

    • Thanks Marge. Yes, I do remember many things from that trip which is surprising to me as well. Maybe because those left an impact, and others I loved so much, my brain didn’t allow me to forget them. It’s wonderful that you became a traveler even when your parents weren’t. That’s quiet an achievement I will say..to form your own path like this

  24. Wow, this is an incredible post, love how you were able to include some old photos! I thank my parents as well for my wanderlust spark, they took me on my first journey when I was 5 and thats how I want to raise my kids as well! My first trip was to Bali Indonesia and I have now been there 20 something times and call it my second home 🙂

    • Wow Kayla. You are also like me one who got the taste of travel so early, because of your parents. No wonder you have been to Bali so many times and it’s like your second home. That’s what the first trip does to us.. it is so special 🙂

  25. Wow, what an amazing trip to go on for your first one ever! And how great to have so many memories of it! I’m not surprised you got bitten with the travel bug!

    • ha ha.. thanks Emma. I do admit this trip had a lasting influence and greatly inspired my wanderlust in the subsequent years

  26. I cant even recollect what my first trip in my life was. You are so lucky to have such lovely photos from your trip. Such a cute story and beautiful pictures 🙂

    • Thank you so much. As you don’t remember about your first trip, I presume you started traveling at a quiet young age 🙂

  27. It must have been really nostalgic as you delved down the memory lane to bring alive these priceless moments. I guess travel is all about living and reliving those special moments.

    • Exactly. It was so very nostalgic. And then as I pen down each travel memory, and every time I myself read it, it is like time traveling again 🙂

  28. I am happy for you Neha. You’d always have something utterly wonderful to look back when conversation stirs to “first travel experiences”. Mine was with my family, in the northern part of the Philippines. It was a fond memory but not anything grand. I would love to have a “grand” first trip though with my 5 year old son.

    • Absolutely Kopikang. Do plan that trip. It will be the special first trip for your son and I am sure he will always remember it fondly.

  29. dwellboxes

    Such an interesting read! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  30. Nadine Smith

    You are truly blessed to have experienced traveling a lot at an early age. That is what I want for my children too. I want to be able to give them the gift of travel. I didn’t travel a lot when I was younger and I regret it!

    • I truly was blessed, now that I think of it, I more and more realize it. You surely are doing the right thing planning travel for your children. The memories that they will form as a part of it, they will cheer those memories forever

  31. wanderingwagarschristina

    What a great first grand travel experience. I also enjoy looking back at pictures and recalling past travel experiences. My favorite are always the ones where are a lot of family members were able to come together and travel together.

  32. Wow, you have an amazing memory to remember & write about your first ever trip! That’s incredible! It must be so nostalgic for you to look back on the photos too & now you have them preserved online 🙂

    • Absolutely. It is so nostalgic. I love looking at these snaps. Things have changed so much, but that feeling will never die…the excitement of that first trip is still live inside me

  33. Wow Neha! Such an interesting read. I really like how you have made a post out of your travel memories from the past. The places look so stunning even in the hazy pictures. How long has it been since you took this trip?

    • Thanks Sindhu. No matter how many trips I take, this one will remain the dearest to my heart. So, I had got to share it with you all. I guess it was 22-25 years back that I took this trip.

  34. The first trip is always among the most memorable. And what a beautiful place to do your first trip! Glad you averted a drama that almost scuppered it before you started it (as they say, a bad travel experience usually makes for a good travel story later on!), and that not even makeshift toilets and the like didn’t put you off!

    • Absolutely Joe. I consider myself lucky to have this beautiful first trip experience. And to have the snaps from that trip as well. This just proves children are so excited about travel

  35. Wow! you remember a lot. 🙂 Something similar to pack of dogs crowding around you all to have biscuits had happened to us while traveling to LePakshi here. I can imagine the scare.

  36. We still look at our old albums and reminiscence about the time. Those times are always cherished and are close to our hearts. A great travel story indeed. Lucky that you have these memories. Cheers.

  37. I love Travellers, and its really good to know you had a good time. Thanks for sharing

  38. This is beautiful. It reminds me of the first trip I did with my family when I was a child and I can barely remember anything but it made a big impact on me. The photos are beautiful also. I love how you can almost see the era they are from just by the film. These are amazing memories to have!

    • Can absolutely relate. This was an era and the only way to connect back to it is through these lovely snaps and the somewhat faded memories that we have

  39. Nice. I also love travelling to new places but have not been opportuned to due to school issues. Hopefully i will pack my bags in few months time to sojourn to my home town

  40. Beautiful memories!! You always remember your first trip!! Its a unique experience .. Thanks for sharing this post with us 🙂

  41. It’s wonderful that you have these memories to cherish. Thank you for sharing.

  42. Hi Neha,

    This is a special one — made me think of my first trip, wow!
    I will now go back and try to find old pictures!!

    The photographs are lovely, those you shared. And the quality translates the sentiment of nostalgia, drama, crazy times (love the wild dog story!) and typical family fun.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • A big thank you Celma…I can see you totally have my feelings. I myself have read the post God knows how many times, since I wrote it. Like no other post of my own. I wish you all the best finding your old snaps

  43. chelseadaigle

    That’s really cool that you have the photographs from that trip. I sadly do not have any photos from my first trip and don’t remember it too well.

    • That’s really sad. It’s such a great feeling to look at those old snaps and cherish your first trip. I guess the snaps help in recreating the memories

  44. 2travellingsisters

    Hey Neha! Such a beautiful travel story you have shared here, while we were reading this it brought back memories of our travels when we were kids! With all the twists and turns, you had a fun trip which you remember till date, that’s so sweet:)

    • Thank you so much. The first trip is somehow always a very special one..isn’t it? And the one we take as kids is even more enjoying. Because all we have to do is enjoy and live in the moment without worrying about the travel arrangements 🙂

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