There are some stories that I promised myself I would never write. Like the time I fell into an open drain in Rajasthan. Or when I was convinced a leopard was going to eat me alive. Or a painful trip to a hospital in ‘paradise’. In the crevices of my mind, I’ve been hiding away such memories. But it’s time to pen them, for these are the moments that keep travel real, and have gradually become good stories or memorable lessons:
This is officially the longest I’ve been on the road. I’ve lived out of my backpack for four months. And while I don’t long to have a home to go back to, the romance of being location independent is slowly wearing away.
In the quaint French quarters of Pondicherry, I reflect on the first quarter of my life, reading what I penned almost two years ago: 25 things I’d tell the 25-year-old me. While I still have many layers to climb on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I’d like to think that I’ve already braced and beaten my quarter life crisis. It has been one and a half years since I took the plunge to quit my corporate job in Singapore in pursuit of all things travel; I’ve been on a roller coaster ride since, and looking back on how the dots in my life have slowly connected, I feel both grateful and humbled for where I am now – closer to that illusive feeling of happiness than I’ve ever been before.
The events of the last few weeks in Delhi have left us feeling angry, disappointed and helpless. We have raised questions in our heads, on Twitter and Facebook, and on the streets, about safety in Delhi and on a larger level, asked if India is safe (anymore) for women. We have spoken the unspeakable truth about rape in India, we have tried long and hard to look at our values as a society, we have spoken up about the dark, silent nights of India, we have confessed that the safety protests in Delhi might not have gone right, and we continue to hope against hope that strict measures will be taken to punish the guilty and prevent such brutality in the future.
I must admit I was a tad disappointed when the NASA video on “Why the world didn’t end yesterday” got out. No, I’m not a doomsday planner; I haven’t been waiting for 2012 all my life. Nor have I have checked everything off my bucket list in anticipation of the d-day. But while I’ve laughed at jokes about the end of the world, a small part of me wishes that the world would indeed, end in two days.
A cold wave swept across Spain in the last two weeks and temperatures dipped dramatically. I was travelling in Almeria and Jaen in southern Spain, which are supposed to be among Europe’s warmest regions in winter. It rained incessantly. The skies frowned with dark clouds. My summer wear went deep into my backpack. Many cafes remained shut. Many people remained indoors. It was still beautiful, but in a dull, gloomy way. So two days ago when I arrived in Cordoba and saw uninterrupted sunshine for the first time in what felt like eons, I knew I had to share what that brief stretch of freak winter had taught me!
This is the 4th post of my Travel Secrets series. It is a common assumption that someone who travels as much and as often as I do, is a backpacker. And that as per the conventional definition of a backpacker, I carry only a backpack when I travel, I get by with the lowest possible budget, I stay in hostels, I spend a large amount of my time interacting with fellow backpackers, and I swear by a guidebook (most likely the lonely planet). While I have nothing against such a style of travelling, and in fact have a certain sense of admiration for people who travel that way, I have a confession to make: I’m not a backpacker.
Only a day remains before I must board a flight back to Mauritius, and leave the island of Rodrigues behind forever. I came knowing or expecting nothing from this tiny little dot in the Indian Ocean, and I found everything. I fell in love with its stunning coastline, the volcanic landscapes of its interiors, the smiles forever pasted on the faces of its residents, the casual pace at which life moves here, the handful of cafes… I fell in love with it all. And just as I thought I could live here forever, time has come for me to move on. I feel my heart crumbling to pieces, and like a lovelorn soul, I walk into the Rodrigues tourism office to ask if foreigners like myself can buy land in this little paradise. Who am I kidding, right? I’ll never afford it in a thousand years, and even if I do, my itchy feet won’t let me stay for too long. Rodrigues and I part with a heavy heart.
If you’ve been following my travel adventures on Facebook or Twitter, you probably know by now which island country I’m heading to end of the month (oh yeah!). Incase you missed it, I’ll give it away with a hint: this island nation in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Africa, has the reputation of being stunningly beautiful. Got it? In a discussion with a travel provider last week, I was told that if I intend to write about said island country for the Indian audience, I must follow an itinerary that would appeal to Indians. This itinerary, I was told, included a visit to a massive Shiva statue to “do pooja”, and this itinerary, I was told, would ditch skydiving because that’s just as good as sitting by the window seat as your flight lands along the azure blue seas, and twenty minutes of floating in mid air are not worth the money.