I was returning from a wedding at Hyderabad to Mumbai via Coorg including a stopover at Bangalore where I happened to catch up with a Yatri friend over lunch. Since I quit my job like around 2 months, I have been moving around India a bit from Ladakh to Lavasa to Coorg in a span of 30 days. So she sprang a question to me, ‘Why do I travel?’
And I had no answer. Like why do I enjoy travelling? What fascinates me? I probably don’t have an answer yet or probably I know and still I don’t exactly know. It is so similar to the question that gets popped up to me several times on what do I look for in a partner and my answer was ‘with someone whom I can have conversations all my life’ though not really sure what exactly that is supposed to mean but let’s not even discuss my marriage plans; this is not about that.
No, I do not get an orgasm on reaching a mesmerizing locale. I enjoy the beauty and the view, click a few photos, spend some time in solitude and move on. I do not happen to get absorbed in nature. I stop myself and put forth a few questions to myself, but that’s about it. My life will not stop if I stop travelling. But I know a lot of people who get high on nature. I love nature in its true form be it a flowing river or the forests all around but I still get high only on alcohol.
On a recent trekking trip I happened to meet a friends ex. I did not have much clue of what conspired between them but there several metres above sea level by the noise of the waterfall we got talking. She had managed to step outside the (dis)comfort of her home and office after a 6 month long period into the open arms of nature on a rather medium level trek as it included rappelling down the waterfall. And as the day passed, she grew more comfortable to the nature and the new set of friends and did she have fun, Oh Boy, I am sure she did. But more importantly she was out there to redeem her lost self. She had a reason to travel. Not sure if I had any. Then there was another person who was not sure why she was pursuing the career she was but continuing it with just because she had started it and was there for a break.
A few months back I became friends with a few folks on a trek and then we met recently on this trek and we started off with where we left last time. The jokes, the sarcasm, the fun, the leg pulling – nothing had changed. Such bonding can be like travel buddies (just like you have drinking buddies) – you do not meet in the interim, hardly interact apart from the social media likes but you are always off to a rolling start when you meet on another trip.
And then on the trek was a Gujju group celebrating friendship with all the khakra, dhokla and thepla. They were happy amongst themselves with all the name pulling and inside jokes. They were carefree on what the other people on the trek thought about them. Generally, we as people try to be cautious to set a good first impression on new people we meet. But that meant nothing to them. They did not care what others thought about them. We need to be comfortable in our own skin. That reminds me of another blog I wrote earlier.
I remember talking to myself while rappelling down that waterfall. It seemed exciting at first when we climbed that hill but when the descend started it did get scarier. It was at a reasonably good height and initially rather steep and slippery thanks to all the algae that gets formed around. Once on the descend, I had no option but to keep going ignoring all the muscle pain, there was no way I could give up midway. I had a similar experience when I bunjee jumped earlier this year. I was excited to get there and the only one on the group who wanted to do it but when I saw down, I developed cold feet and took steps back only to gather courage all over again to do that jump and mind it, I loved the stunt though I am not sure if it would be any easier to do it again. Adventure sports again don’t give me a high but I like the thrill of doing it – the plethora of emotions one goes through from start to end and the sense of accomplishment at the end when at a point you almost thought you would not make it – and ofcourse the tick on the bucket list.
It also draws me back to the Jagriti Yatra I did in 2014 where I was on a train travel with 450+ strangers and living in a sleeper train compartment for 15 days at a stretch. That was like our home those 2 odd weeks. The friends I made over breakfast, lunch and dinner rolled over to something I still cherish. These are people who live in different parts of India and we occasionally meet, but once we do just like the Hyderabad – Coorg – Bangalore segment – it is a helluva trip. Or probably the solo trip I took to Germany where I completed a 4 hour journey in around 12+ hours with the intention of saving money and ended up paying way more and then reaching my destination at 1:30 am with no roof booked in an unknown territory. I was mindfucked at that time and cursed myself for being so unplanned and taking that damn trip.
Now, I do not remember the names of all those beautiful European architecture I had seen in Germany. But I remember small things like how a fellow German dropped me to my hostel in a new city at midnight or how a stranger taught me to hold the golf (which is not like the cricket bat) or the girl in the train or the costa rica father son duo in the hostel room I shared.
In hindsight I have stories to share and strike conversations today with fellow travelers and laugh at ourselves. These trips made me believe in myself that you can come out of even a dead end tunnel.
And let’s not forget the antakshari sessions during long bus travels, the teen patti evenings, the binge drinking nights and the long gossip and bitching sessions with your office colleagues. You can never have enough of these. Can you?
Does travel get me closer to nature? I don’t know. Do I enjoy local cuisine everywhere I go. Nope. I prefer my regular taste buds. Just cannot accommodate to a differently tasting paneer butter masala. Do I spend time living the local way. Generally not. Though I respect the local culture and mannerisms, I prefer being a traveler to that city than a local. But I love chatting up with them and hearing their stories and know more about their life only to realise we have so much more to be content with. I would even skip an excursion to have chai pe charcha with them.
Most of my trips have been group travels and its fun. And yes, I would not mind doing a solo trip again as I have grown accustomed to my own company and nothing like exploring a city with a physical map and no cellular network with a 15kg backpack.
And as I write this blog, I realise what I love about my travel. The stories, the conversations, the fuck ups and the dares. This seems like it for now unless my next travel throws up some new surprises. It tests your patience and temperament at different levels and how you react to the same and handle yourself in such situations. Probably I would put my future partner through a travel test as well.
What is your travel story?