When you write for a living, typing away in your free time is not exactly a great idea to unwind, or so it seemed for a long time. But today feels different. It wasn’t exactly a good day at work – I got pulled up for missing too many stories. Yet my mood bounced back faster than usual and I believe my recent trip to Boston and New York is responsible for this.

I haven’t updated my blog in a long time, about two years to be precise. It was mostly because life seemed to go too fast and there was so much to do. Also, I felt like I had nothing much to write about. Though today, bang in the middle of the night, I wanted to write for myself.

It was the desire to tell the story of how travel has changed me as a person over the years.

It started small. Little treks here and there that became possible only after massive fights at home. But before I knew it, the resistance ceased and the trips got frequent. The first major travel that stands out in my memory is the trek to Sandakphu in West Bengal in 2015. It was my gift to myself for having been admitted to Columbia University for an MA in Science Journalism as well as getting 75% scholarship. I did not end up going to Columbia though, but travel stayed put in my life.

Over the past two years, my travel partners have changed often. I’ve travelled for work and pleasure. With friends and alone. Somewhere along the road, I changed. I became more confident as a person and less pessimistic. I learnt to worry less and be more spontaneous.

I learnt to love and let go, to heal and to let my guards down again.

The trips have ranged from mountain tops to amusement parks, from a fellowship to the US to one that took me to the tribal areas of Melghat.

I don’t think I would have seen the endless possibilities to life had I not taken to travel. I had my life mapped out – I would have a stable career and an arranged marriage. Then bit by bit things changed. I saw the potential in living a life to its fullest and learnt to go with the flow. I bargained for time with my parents and pushed my boundaries in my career only to live the kind of life I never imagined was within my reach.

This time last week I was in Boston, attending the world’s largest science conference on a fellowship and writing stories for my newspaper from there. It felt surreal. I felt lucky. But I know it was more than just luck. It was also about taking the leap of faith and believing in myself irrespective of what others thought.

I walked down one morning from the hotel where I was staying to the frozen Charles River in Boston. It was -4 degree celsius and I was panting with each step but there was a smile on my face that didn’t leave for hours. I wasn’t familiar with the roads, just knew the general direction of the river and that it was roughly 20 minutes away from my starting point. On my walk back I wandered info a cafe and ordered hot chocolate for myself. I relished being alone.

A few days later I found myself in New York alone, crisscrossing the subway network to reach Columbia, walking through the entire Central Park and then making an unplanned trip to New Jersey. All the while I relied solely on my instinct and continued with the confidence that nothing could possibly go wrong. There was also Google Maps that I updated on the occasions when I got access to free Wi-Fi.

I work as a Health Reporter now, something I always wanted to do, yet feared to grab it earlier. I was mostly fighting my own mental battles, nervous to step out of my protective comfort zone. But a few months back I took the leap of faith and it worked!

If I had to look back at the past few years and point out the one thing that allowed me to live my choice of life that would be my decision to choose to travel more. It has touched every aspect of my life and changed me for the better, in ways I didn’t even believe was possible. It’s a Disha I didn’t visualize as a 10-year-old. I only wanted to be a grown up wearing a white coat and long hair then. The white coat didn’t materialize but the long hair and a much more colourful life did.

The Himalayan trek. That was the beginning of it all that I will remain forever grateful to for more reasons than I can explain in words.