When I was 11 months old, my parents took me on a road trip from Bangalore to Delhi. A lot of people would consider that crazy -2 kids over such a long distance and that too back in the 80’s when there was little or no technology. I asked my Mom how she managed; she smiled and called it an awesome adventure.

On a vacation, people generally tend to focus on the destination that they are planning to visit – all the things to see and do that have to be ticked off a list. That’s how they end up trying to find the fastest means to get there- fly.There are yet another class of people who like to explore more than just the destination, who want to savour the journey and probably stumble upon things that weren’t common knowledge.

It does add more time to the vacation, or take time away from some of the things you might have wanted to do – but in the end, I think when you are spending so much money, time and effort – adding little more time and effort will only enhance the experience. Money of course is usually saved as flying costs more.

I fall in the second category – it’s not just about the destination. During our travels, my husband and I have always hired our own vehicle, a kick ass bike or a cool SUV - in India or abroad. There are so many details that added a fifth dimension to each trip that we took:

Langkawi, Malaysia

We hired a bike and explored parts of the island that we would have surely missed if we depended on the Hotel or on taxis. The super cool go-karting track, the lovely hike to the Seven Wells, the long drives along the coastline – I haven’t met a lot of people who have done all of this. All they remember is the suspended bridge, the ropeway and the island hopping tour.

Go-Karting-Let it rip!

Los Angeles – Las Vegas

We drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and every bit of the drive was beautiful. The rugged desert, the iconic ‘What Happens In Vegas’ sign, driving up and down the strip with Punjabi music blaring on the music system - we would have missed all that. I know this for a fact because we flew back from Vegas and the journey was singularly un-inspiring - well, except for some last minute gambling at the slot machine in the airport. I know people who live in the US have done this and each has a different perspective on the drive, but when visiting the US, people generally tend to fly & miss out on a unique experience awaiting them on the road.

The gorgeous desert enroute to Vegas

Krabi – Phuket, Thailand

It is an absolute pleasure to drive in Thailand. Famous for the smiling hospitality, the Thais are patient, courteous and silent drivers. We hardly heard a honk! We drove from Krabi to Phuket, a 2.5 hour drive that was scenic to say the least. Thanks to our car, even though we were staying in the party area of Patong Beach, we managed to explore the quiet and unspoiled Phuket. Flying domestic is kind of cheap in Thailand, but imagine the luxury of leaving the resort at your own pace, making so many discoveries along the way and see Thailand in a totally different way.

Lush green drive to Phuket

Sydney – Gold Coast, Australia

We undertook the 850 kms+ drive from Sydney to Gold Coast and it was an experience of a lifetime! We stopped over at Coffs Harbor, a quiet resort town which we would have missed otherwise. It was beautiful, untamed and so peaceful. There were places where we left the highway to take an alternate scenic route which showed us the gorgeous coastline and sweeping views of the ocean. We passed picturesque farms, quiet towns, horses grazing in paddocks, fields peppered with robust cattle - all that made our Australian experience complete. Again, except for the local residents, I am yet to come across someone who’s explored that side of Australia.

Idyllic pastures

Wild and Windy-Coffs Harbor

Malaga, Spain

We hired a car to go around to nearby spots like Ronda and Tarifa. That added a whole new visual feast for us. From pretty water falls to wind farms, a perfect golf course nestled in the valley to stunning views of the Rock of Gibraltar we just couldn’t get enough. The long drives along the coastline were gorgeous - they made Malaga so much more that what we had thought it would be.

Driving along the Mediterranean Sea

Breathtaking wind farms

Pretty as a picture - lovely waterfalls along the road

The Rock of Gibraltar

Kadmat Island, Lakshwadeep

This 8 km long, half km wide island was the main stop over for the Star Cruise when it used to sail in India. The passengers were taken to this island for half a day, to scuba dive or generally explore the waters. Us being who we are,we hired a bike from a local fisherman to explore Kadmat far from the crowd. And we were rewarded in good measure -  stunning beaches, empty except for us with turquoise water and white froth on endless golden sands. It is a sight most passengers missed because they stuck to the cove where the boats had dropped us.

Pristine beaches

Havelock Island, Andaman & Nicobar Islands

There is more to Havelock than the famous Radhanagar Beach. We hired a bike that took us to places seldom touched by Indian tourists. Interesting cafes that catered to foreigners, gorgeous green villages, absolutely empty beaches. All of that added more to our Andaman’s experience than anyone else’s.

Kanha, Madhya Pradesh

We undertook the drive from Delhi to Kanha - a crazy 1050 kms long drive on some pretty bad roads and crowded areas. Once we cleared Babina (Jhansi District) we got on to the NH 26 which was pure pleasure. Absolutely smooth, with stunning views and hardly any traffic, this highway didn’t feel as if we were in India. I didn’t even know that India had such a great highway - we’ve only heard about the much publicised Mumbai Sea Link or the Taj Expressway. And of course, having our own vehicle made exploring Kanha a lot of fun – it is more than just a National Park.

The absolutely perfect NH 26

   Beautiful drives around the Kanha National Park

 To get that extra something, a touch of the local culture & flavor, to discover what your research didn’t tell you or your travel itinerary didn’t include, take a chance the next time you travel. Forget the fastest route and let the journey take over for the joy is in the journey and not the destination alone. And for everyone out there counting their pennies (or rupees rather), you won’t be disappointed either - get your money’s worth by seeing not only what the world has seen, but also experiencing things that no-one else could experience  or tell you about.


Chetna – who has written posts on WAH Blog.