“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.