Hodophile- being bitten by the travel bug?

Satyakam Ray

Leading a non-happening mundane corporate life, stuck in the exams or bored by the usual daily events in households- once in a while everybody needs the quintessential road trip. Not only the body, but the soul also needs rest and rejuvenation. An unplanned road trip is a must for all purposes, the zeal to lead a hedonist lifestyle or precisely kick-starting the already-sleeping curiosity within to explore life. Hodophile means who love traveling by road. The hodophile is general curiosity-driven by nature and makes life exciting and worth living by constant traveling.

Whether it’s a solo or group road trip, it requires a certain level of adventure-seeking. According to the famous author Paulo Coelho, if you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal. Very apt considering how the soul is burned slowly in the process of pursuing a normal 9 to 5 money-making job. The instinct to globe-trotting or master storytelling all starts with the advent of hodophile.

Traveler, legendary historian Ibn Battuta agrees to the argument when he says, “traveling -it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” 

The countryside road trip depicts the warmth of friendly people, the natural sceneries, the general lifestyle of rural people, and many unforgettable encounters with strangers which makes the traveler’s subconscious more receptive to new ideas and fills up the heart with gratitude, love, and inspiration.

Not surprisingly, many Bollywood and Hollywood movies are based on road trips. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which was shot along a road trip in Spain, subtly captures the true essence of hodophile. 

Being homesick for an unknown place one has never been being called fernweh (a German word). Similarly, the Swedish term Resfeber refers to the restlessness a traveler feels before the journey begins. Whether the traveler is feeling fernweh or Resfeber, basically he’s got bitten by the travel bug or pangs of hodophile. 

The hodophile often involves the unplanned hasty destination or itinerary selection, the mode of transport (bike or car), and arrangement of necessary travel items like clothing, food, etc. Road trips with friends make the experience worth memorable. Roadside tea stalls, highway dhabas, and small makeshift hotels allure the weary, exhausted travelers like the light attracts the moths. Here the travelers spend some refreshing break time to energize their zeal to explore more further road ahead. The hodophile often takes the unknown route and breaks away from the set touristic itinerary. Most of the time, it results in seeing many exciting florae, the fauna of the jungle, or meeting unassuming people in remote locations of the world. One should be careful also as it exposes the hodophile to the uncertainty of getting harmed. 

In developed countries, hodophile plays a significant role in the lifestyle of citizens. The weekends are spent on the vagary road trips around natural ecosystems or famous trails. In the US, in the year 2019, traveler spending totaled $1.1 trillion: $278.9B for food services, $242.3B for lodging, $210.8B for public transportation, $169.7B for auto transportation, $117.8B for recreation, and $107.3B for retail- according to US Travel Association. Most of the households look forward to spending quality time with family or friends during these road trips. Demographically speaking, the baby boomers (aged 55+) spend more on such road trips as compared to millennials or gen-z. The eagerness to live a shackle-free life often makes the boomers more carefree in the US.

Whereas in India, the road trips are limited only to the young mass- college-going kids or carefree corporate honchos. Still, some senior people are coming forward nowadays to relive the charm of life when they were younger. The trio- Robin Nakai, his wife Amrita, and their friend Usha, who are in their 60s- in March 2021 traveled around 4500 kilometers by road trip during the angst of the pandemic! Quite exciting, isn’t it? Riddley Scott’s classic Thelma & Louise has a great line that goes like this, “sometimes all you need is a great friend and a tank of gas.” The trio took the line very seriously. Hodophile is not limited in the genre of young only as shown in the Tata Mahindra ad we live young, we live free”- catchy lines though – but it gives the message to remain young in heart.

These solo traveling or closed group rides make the tourism boost in rural areas. These eccentric travelers discover even previously unknown trails who love to break rules to follow their hearts. Small hotels, beverage shops, general store shops emerge in small locations, and local people get employment in the form of transport service providers, lodge owners, and tourist guides. All most all the Himalayan scenic places got many such tourist guides or taxi drivers from the local community. The traveling bug-bitten wanderlusts are privileged to seek and get help from these nicest and humble people. Many adventure-seeking platforms have sprouted up on the internet that provides service in the form of hiking, trekking, night stays in the safaris, and so on to the adrenaline seekers. But the fun of being a hodophile surpasses the excitement of all other activities-many argue. 

The female solo travelers often get mixed responses from the family, friends, and strangers at the advent of the journey. But in the end, the journey matters most than the destination. Of course, the safety angle should be given more priority and a freelance travel writer/documentary maker can be a hodophile for a living. Award-winning blogger Shivya Nath is such an example of a new trending career choice. Indian households should learn the importance of road trips and should go on such trips once in a while. 

The essence of hodophile lies in the fact that to seek happiness and solitude amongst the chaos we live in today. Be it driving along the marine drive in Mumbai, spotting tiger trails in Odisha, or driving around aimlessly with many friends, all the events are inspired by hodophiles. Once in a while, let loose and be wanderlust. What else can go wrong or who gonna judge you? Just pack your bags, keep the tank full and drive!

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