The story of travel freak Uma Roy is unbelievable but true. This 21-year-old Thrissur girl from Kerala hitchhiked to various places without a penny in her pocket. It was the inspiring words of American author Helen Keller that kept her going: "Life is a daring adventure or nothing."
When Uma hit the road after packing just the essentials, a new world was being thrown open to this audacious girl. "There are many beautiful sights out there along with many experiences and challenges." When Uma stepped out of the comfort of her home with the intention of travelling by getting lifts from passing vehicles, the motivating words of Helen Keller were ringing in her mind.
Uma embarked on her taxing journey on September 3, 2019, after putting to rest concerns about where to travel, where to stay, and the risk involved in travelling alone. She traversed eight states, two union territories and covered close to 5,000 km. Uma, who is in Assam right now, has taken a break from her busy travelling schedule for a while. Let’s take a walk through the daring travel experience of Uma to get a ringside view of how she accomplished this daring task.
Money not a prerequisite for travelling
Uma loved travelling even when she was a child. After completing her graduation in journalism from Rajagiri College in Kochi, Uma’s dream was to go on a solo trip but she didn’t have money to foot her tour bills. Uma’s quest for how to travel without money took her to hitchhike.
“I don’t know if any girl from Kerala has travelled hitchhiking. My only concern was whether anyone would give a free lift. As I was sure that my parents, who hail from Bangladesh, won’t allow me to travel hitchhiking, I never told them about my plans. As I used to go on short trips after taking loans from friends, my parents won't worry about my absence at home. My parents give all freedom to me and my younger sister,” Uma notes.
Uma started her journey from Thrissur, and every tour has three main components – food, stay and transportation. “Everyone decides to visit places when they are free and have a hefty bank balance. I can’ wait that long to realize my travel dreams and had hit the road,” she adds.
Hitchhiking may sound simple but it is quite difficult. Uma moved on after getting lifts from passing trucks, autos and two-wheelers. “One needs a lot of patience while hitchhiking. Some people may talk rudely and others may not give a lift. Later I got familiar with the tricks of hitchhiking,” she adds. Uma never plans her trips and makes it a point to find accommodation before dusk falls.
“I will knock at any house and request whether they will accommodate me for a night. I will explain to them the nature of my journey. Some will offer food and space to stay and others will show the door,” she says.
Later, Uma used to stay in temples, places of worship and railway stations. Sometimes she had to face bitter experience, but the avid traveller sees everything as part of the game.
While travelling around Kerala Uma had an interesting experience. On a trip to Idukki, she got down at Thodupuzha in the evening and started searching for a place to stay. But unfortunately, everyone turned her away. Sad and disappointed Uma sat before a dilapidated small building for a while and later she started her hunt for accommodation but in vain. The local residents informed the police about Uma and when the police came to know about her unique expedition, she was taken to a nearby hostel. A policeman paid for her overnight stay at the hostel and this incident motivated Uma to take her journey forward.
Food is equally important like a safe place to stay. Some days Uma had to sleep on an empty stomach and on other days she may have food only once. To a question on why Uma undertook such a risky trip, she has only one answer. “I want to live life to the fullest. When we live in all luxury we get a feeling that we are leading a complete life. This trip taught me that we just need food, accommodation and clothes.”
Preparation for solo travel
Uma’s travel route is an interesting read and it goes like this: Thrissur-Kollam-Madurai-Rameshwaram-Puducherry-Chennai-Bengaluru-Chikmagalur-Sakleshpur-Mahe-Kozhikode-Coimbatore-Mysuru-Penukonda-Hyderabad-Telangana-Warangal-Vishakaptnam-Vjayawada-Araku (where Andhra-Telangana region ends)-Palva village in Odisha-Puri-Konark-Bhubaneswar-Assam-Nagaland-Assam.
"The travel route is extensive as there was no planning. I never thought that I could travel these many kilometres hitchhiking. As travelling is a kind of intoxication and there are no obstacles while visiting various places," she adds.