“Travelling brings about an exhilarating change in people. It is the path to healing and self-introspection.” says, travel blogger Kamya Buch. She is also a digital nomad and founder of an NGO, Healing Planet Earth, and today she shares her story on how travelling physically and mentally has helped her discover herself and understand the world better. By Swastika Mukhopadhyay
1. Your IG page bio mentions that you have been on the road since 2015. How did the travel bug bite you?
I started my travel journey after completing my Masters in Economics from Warwick University in the UK, where I’m originally from. Though I had achieved the peak of academic success at the time, I knew something was missing, and so I decided to take a year out to travel. During this time, I had been emotionally scarred by an extremely manipulative guy and I needed to heal myself. At the beginning of 2016, I took off to Cambodia and Vietnam for two months – my first long-term solo trip. And since then it’s just been a continuation of the journey: making money on the road and traveling. Because for me, it’s become a way of life.
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“Ye meri beti hai,” she said, as she draped the woolen cloth around my shoulders. “I made these designs myself.” She had removed her own pin so she could fasten mine, running back and forth in her home to dress me like a Himachali. . And then we roamed around in the field. Witnessed only by our own love and the giant facade of the mountain. You took a few pictures of me and we laughed. Because there was nothing on our minds. And there was everything to feel. . “Come and stay here,” she urged us. The little village had no signal, and barely some electricity. But the quality of the air was something else. Maybe 3, 4 hours passed. Drinking ginger lemon honey, blazing, soaking up every moment of this indescribable fullness. . Soon, it was time to leave. We had said goodbye to her five times already and hugged her thrice. And she said as we walked away “Aapko mil ke bahut accha laga mein bata nahi sakti.” And we resonated the same emotion; our hearts were full, ten times over. . Walking down, was like walking down from another world. Running, dancing next to the flow of the river Parvati. Savouring those few minutes we had left before I caught my bus. We sat and did Hapeh there in the grass, sitting in silent communion with everything. With ourselves. With our divine mother that held us there. And we realised, we would never lose this moment. . From the most content morning of 2019. . 📷 @shankzakaneo
2. A lot of your work involves travelling to different places and conducting workshops on digital nomad, psychedelic society and also regarding your NGO – Healing Planet Earth. Is there any time when you’re not travelling? Do you have a permanent home?
It’s funny because I don’t have a permanent physical home. My parents used to live in the UK but they shifted back to India in 2016. I go to visit them from time to time, but after a week or two I end up leaving. My stuff is all over the place; some in Bangalore, some in Himachal. Most of the time I’m living out of my backpack and then go and exchange items when I come to India. Having said that, my concept of ‘home’ is something entirely different. My two spiritual homes that I love the most in this world are the island of Koh Phangan and also Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh. Also, the UK where I’m from. When I want to slow down, I’ll stay put somewhere for a few weeks – for example, the longest I’ve stayed in one house since 2015 was Bali this year for 45 days.
3. Among all the places you have travelled to, which place is the one you keep going back to and why?
Travelling solo has really carved out my individual path in life and also shown me one of the biggest things I missed before – my tribe. There are certain places on earth where the spiritual community circulates, and one of those is Koh Phangan in Thailand. This island is made of quartz crystal, so the energy is very high; there is a small hippie town here where I usually come twice a year. I come back because it’s my home. Not a physical one, but a much more palpable one. I instantly belong in this place and it instantly heals me. Just like this, another place of regular return is certain places in Bali.
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There will always be these moments in life, where you’re presented with a blank canvas. When you’ve quit your job and you’re designing a new life for yourself. Or you’re just lying there in bed instead of enacting all the plans you made before. It’s funny because we think about the future linearly, but really nothing ever stays the same for even a millisecond. . And so instead of watching Netflix, you have to gather the motivation to go back to the canvas and chart out your own life serial. Life is a series of infinite potentialities in any moment. Either we get stuck in our own boxes, or we’re confused about the thousand options in front of us. And at that point the blank canvas seems empty; a void through which you’ll tumble for infinity. . Letting go into the void is always the scariest part of any life experience and here we are, being presented with the chance of letting go in every moment. Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, who cares if you’ve only got a few hundred in your bank account. If we’re too caught up in situations we can’t see that we have everything in our hands right here. If we breathe. All we need to do is visualise the picture and start drawing. 🌦
4. How would you describe the purpose of your blog?
Well, this is something I’m still trying to define, and it seems to take its own shape every day! I started my blog as a way to simply share experiences on the go. As a channel for me to express myself openly because I really had no close friends. Since starting it properly in 2017, it’s become a medley of travel information, spirituality, environmental awareness campaigns (primarily organising plastic clean-up drives), drug awareness, as well as lifestyle topics. I’m basically using my platform to share content that means something to me, whilst also making use of the numbers to create change in society. If I would summarise in a couple of words, the main purpose of my blog has always been to share my internal voice.
5. Tell us something about your most memorable travel experience.
Where do I begin? Literally, every day for me is incredibly memorable. There have been so many ups and downs, crazy moments, synchronous instances and surprises, it’s now pretty much just a norm. But I’ll share with you a turning point I can now look back and think of in my solo travel journey; significantly, stepping from the alone into the expansive oneness.
It was 2017 and I landed in Jakarta with little idea of where I was going to go. I had done a tons of research about Java but hadn’t made any plans. At the airport, hardly anyone spoke English. I opened my laptop and picked out a place which seemed to be close by and also natural. Bandung. Somehow, I landed upon this local van going there with an Indonesian driver, and three Indonesian men in the back. “How long now?” I’d ask him, and he would just make a hand symbol indicating five minutes. Literally not a word of English and I had no internet either. Maybe four hours later, we rolled up into Bandung – where I ran off into a recognisable hotel to get internet and figure out where I was.
I found a hostel, got a taxi, and made my way to McDonald’s because all the food around there wasn’t vegetarian. Fries. I hate fries. But that day, I loved them so much. Because they were familiar. They were safe. And though I can’t say there has been any one major travelling turning point, when I look back at that one week I spent there, mostly sleeping in overnight buses and struggling on my own, I realise how easy it all is for me now. I hardly think about it, going to an unknown location by myself and actually feeling pretty damn good in the process. I love it. I’ve had tons of bad moments as a solo traveller just by myself, but through all of these experiences I’ve emerged the ridiculously strong and self-assured person that I am today.
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For a year and a half, I’ve been taking it kind of slow, with travel. I’ve become more relaxed about how long I stay somewhere and what I do. There are more than a few days where I don’t care about actually going out and travelling, but rather spending the whole day in a coffee shop, staring out at the road. And I’ve been like this in Canggu, as well. It’s been slow. Apart from a few trips to Ubud, I haven’t explored much of the island, like I’ve done in the past. Like two years ago when I couldn’t even drive (still can’t) and hit a bunch of waterfalls and temples getting taxis and hitchhiking on my own. I miss that feeling. The thread has been unravelling for so long, that I’ve reached a point where I think it needs to tighten again. I want my high enthusiasm back. I want my fast life. I want to be engaged in activity, work on the road, and still do all the crazy things and see all the crazy places that I used to make the central focus of my life. We all need balance in life, but somehow my pattern of life has seen me finding an equilibrium through extremes. Too much activity, and now, way too little. I’m hoping now that the pendulum is going to converge in the middle, and stay there. . Have you also experienced prolonged travel fatigue? Share a comment below.
6. If you hadn’t taken the road to travel, what would you have been doing now?
Had I continued on the conventional path, I would have most probably completed a Ph.D. in Economics or working in research. But after joining my dream research job for about two months, it was utterly clear to me that I only ever wanted to work for myself. That I would only be truly satisfied if I was building something with my own hands and expressing my activity in the world without any external restriction.
7. As a woman travelling solo, what hardships do you face during your travels?
When it comes to bad experiences on the road, hardly any of them actually relate to anything sexual. Of course, I’ve had the odd person here and there touch me inappropriately, I’ve had a couple of guys try to follow me. None of that was more distressful for me than the general experience (at the beginning of my travel journey) or being utterly alone when no one understands you, when your parents don’t support you, and then being kicked down by the outside world. The majority of solo travel struggles I’ve faced have been in India, and also Hawaii when I did my “How I travelled without money for 5 days” YouTube video – which was one of the lowest points of 2018 for me. As a woman, I think some of the greatest hardships are actually internal. They are so ruthlessly emotional. Believing in yourself and being your own best friend through whatever the rest of the world is doing has been the greatest asset.
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And in some way, you learn to shape freedom into a new vessel. Instead of running down some dark road and dancing by yourself, you’re now taking a ten minute stroll down the beach standing next to another human being. You’re not stepping out into the ocean in your own silence, but you’re staring up at the moon on the back of someone’s bike as they take you where you need to go. . It’s wierd, isn’t it. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and you only find out about something after you have it. The grass is always greener on the other side, or maybe even just a different colour. But why are we trying to fill our pallette with every fucking colour that exists? Some people have their own house; others just live out of a bag. Some have families whilst some consider every stranger their sibling. Nothing is better than the other. . And I guess it’s all about maintaining that one thing, that keeps you alive inside. A spark of spirit. Your consistent happiness. It doesn’t matter what’s around you or where you are in the world. But you have to find yourself in that situation. Where is the tunnel that leads you to your own expansiveness? Is it taking a swim before anyone has woken up, or simply taking the time to look up at the stars? . You can lose anything in life. But one thing you should never lose, is your own internal freedom. 👁
8. What is the first alluring factor about a place that you always tend to notice?
It’s always the feeling that the place gives me. It’s the vibration, the energy of the place which will instantly hit me in the face. More so than the aesthetics. I’m already deeply connected with my own being and so I notice how I respond in that environment. It could be a homecoming feeling walking down a small street, or a silencing feeling of peace in a mountain. It’s always the feeling of the experience that I capture the most.
9. Do you prefer solo travelling or do you like to travel with a bunch of people?
If there’s one thing I absolutely detest it’s travelling with a group. I’ve hardly ever travelled with a group – may be a few school trips, and a psytrance festival where I stayed with friends in a villa. That’s it. I’ve met people I love on the road and have gone places with them but when it comes to the day in and day out travelling, I need my own space. I have my own way of doing things and for me, nothing beats my own company. Though most of my trips have been solo, I’ve joined hands with a companion at certain points. For example, my boyfriend in 2017, and a new companion I have now, who has spent a lot of 2019 with me.
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Today, I am disappointed. I’m disappointed in the idea of an optimistic reality I’ve always sought out even if I’m drowning. I’m let down by ideas of a better life that I perpetuate into the future. I can’t express the disgust I’ve felt towards the industry I’ve become a part of. Influencer marketing. I’m an influencer, right? There’s tons of other things I do. But if I was to go back, I would have allocated more time to my website, even YouTube, not Instagram. . As you see, I don’t do a lot of promotion work. I do sometimes because just like you I’m hustling, and unlike a lot of people, I stand for myself. I don’t want to be owned by a corporate and I wouldn’t give up my lifestyle. The freedom to go where I want and do what I love. One of those is content creation, so when you work with large companies you expect them to treat you with the same respect you‘ve given to your work. Work that’s taken you months to build, by yourself. . Although I love India as a traveller, in professional conduct I‘ve never experienced anything more unprofessional. The whole working culture is so far from the UK. And in nearly every industry – if you are an independent person, people fuck you over. At least in the UK on the whole people abide by contracts. Apparently in the Indian market, it’s okay for an agency to say they’ll pay in 30 days and then not even pay for 4 months. . But guess what, they say, it’s just like that. And I say, guess what, the industry is made of the people who are in it. I’ve hardly seen a group of independent people unite and fight back to a large company for justice, which would certainly bring huge changes now in how business is done. I guess for now, I’ll fight my own battles. Anyway I can’t relate to most of the influencers in India and I’m very grateful for the few good influencer friends I have. . At the end of the day, I guess that’s all that counts. No matter what country or industry you’re in. Remember that you have a voice. Remember that you have the power and you can exercise it. Change doesn’t happen overnight; but a continuous flow of water drops from a mountain makes a whole lake. Change begins from you. 📸 @shankzakaneo edited myself
10. What does travelling mean to you?
Travelling is simply being alive. We are constantly travelling, whether we notice it or not. We are constantly being presented with the opportunity to go inward and explore ourselves. Travelling for me is not only a way of life but also a channel of self-discovery. Whether it is physically travelling through unknown landscapes or travelling through my consciousness with the aid of psychedelics, one thing is for sure – travelling is where I come alive the most.
11. Do you plan your trips thoroughly beforehand or are you more of an impromptu traveller?
It’s a bit of a paradox this one – I do extremely thorough research about a place beforehand and have an Excel sheet I’ve been filling in for two years with everything: from where I’ll sleep that night to what I budget. I’ve also got an article on my website on how to make a kickass travel itinerary. This process helps me to get the most out of a place and also save money doing things that make geographical sense. But once I’m on the road, it can be utterly spontaneous and I’ll change my plans very often.
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No matter who we are, the majority of society will mostly judge us for our external attributes. How much money we have. How hot we are. Who we hang out with and who we know. And it’s funny because they also tend to project this onto their own experience. That they can only hang out with people as hot as them; they only give value to other famous people if they’re famous. That if they have a certain amount of money, they relate to people for the most part, only in that economic bracket. . The more I grow in this societal world as an individual persona, the more I’m seeing people cast these sort of inherent expectations on me. In one way it’s flattering to think that people care about my personal life, like who I might be with. I mean, I do intentionally share my whole life on social media because those barriers don’t exist for me. But the problem comes when people only understand you from the surface and not for the substance. When people think that you’re famous and so expect you to be a certain way; when people think that you’re hot and so expect that any partner you have to some related aesthetic. . The fact is, the way I see the world is far far far beyond how much money someone has or how subjectively good-looking they appear to be. I literally, do not give a fuck. I care more about music. I definitely care about the quality of my drugs (good ones). I care about spiritual perception and intuitive understanding. I care about vibration and energy, not the outlines on someone’s face or the designer label on their jacket. Maybe because I grew up in series of private schools, I can still relate to that sort of mentality but I’m far removed from it. People will only ever understand my trip and the decisions I take, once they start to see the soul, and not the superficiality. . ⚡️ Go on my stories to see the before / after. I edited this pictured in Lighroom, and I’ll be releasing my presets SOON if you want to transform your photographs. ⚡️
12. Where are you travelling next to?
My next major destination is South America. I feel strongly called to the culture there, to shamanism, and it’s something I feel I’ll have a life-long relationship with. I’ll be starting with Peru and working my way to Mexico, stopping in Guatemala as well depending on the time. After this, it’s festival season in Europe, and then Durga Puja in India. Or, I may just end up staying in Europe for Christmas.
13. What are the five things you always carry in your bag when travelling?
I’ve managed to find a great camera bag, which stores all of my technology, so I mostly keep this with me for safety purposes. Apart from my camera and technology, I carry essential oils like Lavender, which relieve me when my mind is tired. I carry my own Kuripe and some packets of Hapeh, a shamanic snuff powder, which is a powerful grounding medicine that provides me with deep clarity and reassurance when I feel off balance. Also, certain crystals, which I charge with my intention. And my regular supplements such as B12, I’m currently using some blends from Ming Herbs for optimising brain function.
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One day, Reality will just dissolve into your face and your hands and You’ll be lying there in the sand without Your phone or your name or your rationality, Just whatever is meant to be there Right in the moment. Just a mermaid and a merman Washed up on the beach The people that were meant to accompany you Through this journey into yourself. . And maybe you’ll question it as to why; And what the fuck is happening and It will suddenly dawn on you, Fuck! My ego is melting. And you’ll just feel all the parts of yourself Going down down down into one And with it, it will take away anything false Leaving you with only just your self Just whoever the fuck you are, Without your name. Without a single piece of clothing Or any ideas of what should be. . Simply whatever you decided to show up as For yourself in that moment, Dancing somewhere in some nonexistent paradise You don’t actually know how you go to. Because really, It doesn’t even exist. Paradise is that state of mind. It’s the source and it’s the end; The circle of life. But you landed there, free. Just a speck in the infinite series of time Dancing there in the sand with the sun and the waves Just you and this beautiful nature and people And that will be it. Your perception is altered, forever. . Your ego will keep trying to hold on to it To control. The idea of what you are, Just fucking let it go. It’s hard but you have to, let it go; You have to die in order to be reborn. We are beautiful We don’t need to be anything or anyone We just ARE And when we can flow, like the river. Merge from this huge reality into a small circle of nothingness, Like all the single waves into the ocean And come out on the other side like, This IS who I am I am not my insecurities I am not my fears or doubts. I am everything. I am everyone. I am infinite. Everything is only love. But to get there, You had to go through it all first. . #egodeath #toomuchlsd #lysergicaciddiethylamide
14. What does luxury travel mean to you?
Luxury travel is something we see a lot of on Instagram. The funny thing is, most of the people showing luxury travel on their feed are not even getting paid to create that content. I’ve done that myself as well – staying in 5-star resorts, sharing it with your audience, and in exchange, they’ll provide you with accommodation and food for a couple of days. Luxury is basically materialistic comfort. Whilst I highly appreciate some of these experiences, there’s always a part of me that’s happier being rough. Hitchhiking, being stranded. Being simple. It’s the balance which makes life beautiful.
15. Do you remember your first holiday?
As a child, my parents moved around a lot for work, maybe every year or so. I’ve therefore constantly had a sort of nomadic feel to life and now I’m fully nomadic as an adult. I can’t say I remember my first holiday because I’ve been on so many, but I do have to thank my parents for exposing me to different things as a child. They road-tripped around Europe whilst we lived in the UK, and also America when they lived there. I’ve had some great experiences in childhood. Now I do this for myself.