by Melissa Arulappan of TravellingTrunks.com
My earliest memories of holidays were associated with long train journeys as we travelled days from
the North of India to the South where my grandmother lived. The journeys were holidays by
themselves. I remember meals of roast chicken and caramel custard, relaxed afternoons on the top
berth with an Enid Blyton, gazing out of the windows at landscapes that changed textures and
colours. As I went into high school and college, my life was consumed by sports and with that came
more train travel across the length and breadth of India. My romance with travelling had begun.
Today I travel solo, with my family, with friends and the reasons why I travel and how varies with
who I go with. The lure of a holiday to popular ‘big city’ destinations subsided for me many years ago
– almost as soon as it started. If there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that big cities are not on my
‘must visit’ list much like star hotels or hotel chains are not on my ‘places to stay’ list. There’s a kind
of a predictiveness to both which takes away from the real experience of a destination. A Sydney is a
New York is a London is a Paris. A Hilton is a Hilton is a Hilton wherever you go.
My solo trips are guided by two key tenets – I go to places where no one I know has been to before
and to places where I know no one who lives in either. What this does is strips away any familiarity
or expectations one may have of a place, allowing me to travel unbiased and uninfluenced and with
no fallbacks. It allows me to ‘solo travel’ in the truest sense of the word. And then I look for the
experiences. So Myanmar because it was in a state of transition, just opening up and waiting to be
discovered. Armenia because of my fascination with its history, tradition and culture. It was also the
first country in the world to declare itself Christian and I wanted to understand what that meant in a
region that had been through so much of political turmoil and struggle. Morocco because every
article I had read told me how unsafe it was for single women and I wanted to test myself and the
country (we both passed with flying colours). So it has been with all the other countries I have
travelled solo to – any country that sounds intriguing and exotic in an unfamiliar way is on my list of
There are other fascinations. For some reason, studying Nevil Shute’s A Town like Alice as part of my
English course left a huge impression on me and so, on my first trip to Australia, Alice Springs it was.
The book came alive and it was such an amazing experience although I am sure the little town would
probably would have little or no impact on those who have not read the book.
With my husband, we travelled to places we thought would be ‘nice and interesting and different’
until we discovered Eastern and Central Europe and fell in love. Since then, our trips have been a
relentless pursuit of discovering all that Eastern Europe has to offer – from Romania and Bulgaria to
Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and so on. The people, the
food, the culture have captivated us and we have had some of the loveliest holiday experiences in
As our children have grown older, we have been expanding the boundaries with them and moving
beyond seaside holidays, trying to do combination trips that give them a sense of the unique and
unusual as well as the more familiar. So trips to the UK have been combined with a trip to Poland or
a trip to Germany has been combined with a trip to Croatia/Montenegro/Bosnia and Herzegovina.
And so different influences are at play when I travel.
Follow Melissa’s journey: