As a child, I always dreamt of being a writer. While my friends fantasized about being astronauts and detectives, I wished I could weave stories that would give wings to the imaginations of those who read them. I wrote often, but mostly for myself or on the many blogs I started before this one. It was only after I quit my job and moved back to India in 2011 that the dream of seeing my words in print revisited me. At that point, I only knew that I wanted to write for travel magazines and newspapers; it wasn’t about the money, and I wasn’t looking at options for bank accounts to calculate my earnings from travel writing. I had no contacts in the publishing industry, knew no editors personally, and had no friends who were freelance travel writers. I was starting with a blank slate. Fast forward almost two years, and my travel stories have appeared on BBC Travel, Lonely Planet, National Geographic Traveller, and India’s top three dailies. I’m a Forbes Travel Guide Correspondent …
Earlier this week, we boarded the blue train from Kandy towards Ella, hoping for some respite from the rain that had enveloped Kandy. Little did I know then that thanks to the rain, we were going to witness one of the most spectacular train journeys I’ve done in all of Asia. We chugged up the hill country of Sri Lanka, winding along tea plantations, forests, waterfalls, streams, rivers, sleepy villages, and mountain tunnels.
I sit on the terrace of a little budget hotel in Heel Oya, near Ella, penning this. The mountains stretch before me, the surrounding forests are lush green after the light drizzle this afternoon, and the constant chirping of birds has lent a sweet melody to the evening. Three days ago, when we landed on the shores of Sri Lanka, I expected to be swept away by its natural beauty. The cool mountain breeze has done that literally, and as the sun peaks from behind the passing grey clouds, I find myself wondering why I’ve travelled halfway across the globe, but never before visited this pretty little island a stone’s throw away from India.
It’s been five months since my trip to Bahrain, but so many memories still linger on. Every time I’m at an airport and hear of a flight leaving for Bahrain, I am overcome by the urge to run and catch it. The warmth of its people was the kind that could get me through a cold night. I remember it as the land of a thousand friends.
Just over a week ago, I was a starry-eyed travel blogger on my way to my first TBEX, “the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, and new media content creators”. When they said largest, I didn’t realize I’ll be one among 1,000+ travel bloggers, albiet the only one travelling from India! Among them were renowned bloggers, some of who have inspired my own journey. Then there were those who have recently found their blogging legs, like myself. And the newbies. It was a mix, that over the course of the weekend, gave me a whole new perspective on travel blogging.
I can feel the breeze caressing my face and blowing through my hair as I lean my body back, 1168 feet above Toronto! My mind says I should trust my harness and let go off the rope I’m clutching, but my heart maybe thinking otherwise in its rapid beats. Let go off those hands, our walker calls out. And slowly, I do. Only the front part of my feet are in contact with solid ground now, the rest of me floats in the air. I close my eyes for just a second, and feel like I’m flying far far above the earth.
Back in early 2011, I remember sitting at my cubicle on just another day at work in Singapore. I had pictures of Spiti open before me, while all my pending work lurked away in other tabs. After spending so much money, time and effort on obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a subject I really couldn’t care less about, graduating in the middle of a recession that people wouldn’t stop talking about, and spending the first six months of corporate life in a role involving spreadsheets that made me absolutely miserable, I was finally doing work I actually liked.
The clouds engulf the white coat of the Rocky mountains, as though protecting them from the incessant rain. With only my umbrella to protect me and my boots miserably wet, I walk, somewhat reluctantly, to the bus that would take us to Spirit Island. My original plan was to hole up in a cosy cafe with a hot cup of tea, as befits a rainy day anywhere. But then came news that for the first time in a decade or so, the snow has been cleared off Maligne Lake in the month of May itself. And we’d be the first people to make it there this year. How could I resist?