I have good set of contacts on Facebook; those include few of my peers. Some of them are meeting me after a couple of years. I am to discuss with them on important projects and the next steps. Instead; what we ended up talking is about my travel sojourns. I am told "Oh! are you wondering why I am not bringing in work related talks? Don't worry, we talk about it all the time. We can chat over phone as well. But this one! I want to hear from you" I was prodded "Oh tell me more about it". An array of questions and exclamations...
The places you go are unusual.
Don't you get scared?
How do you choose them?
Do you travel alone or groups?
But isn't travelling expensive?
Do you like architecture?
What kind of places do you like to visit?
Whats the best place you've been to?
Please share the snaps....
Folks are in awe and they exclaim how they want to be like me. And hearing me, they feel what are they doing sitting in an office and going back home day to day. They feel that I am the chosen one! that awe that surrounds me when I speak about my travels. They feel its not something everybody can do. It does make me feel blessed; to be having that mad guts to go extremes and plunge into traveling the way others could only dream of.
If you ask me; this is no big deal. You just have to start. I tell them how its not expensive. They have their opinions which I agree. In our Indian culture; travel has never been considered an educational experience. Its been luxurious indulgence - the best king side bed, princely breakfast, chauffeur driven vehicles and selective places to sight see with that familiar set of people whom you have been comfortable with. Always on the guard, not talking to any other unknown folks, not wanting to tread the unknown - be it the food, exploring a city or talking to locals. A colleague mentioned an interesting phrase for that kind of tours which I refrain from mentioning here since it could be racial. I've met young kids who take 6 to an year break; go travel and earn their own money doing odd jobs to fund travel before they get to university. Isn't that the greatest experience in life? Well, we haven't been brought up that way. We are supposed to be preparing for IITs and JEEs and SATs. Thats what gives us bread and butter; not this damn travel.
And when I start telling about my travel styles and why I do it that way; people think I am crazy ; they exclaim "Something is unusual". I smile. But I know they just want to do that - what I do but can't gather that guts. Then finally, the veil drops - like the way a bride's would. They admit they just want to do my way but for some reason they couldn't.
Financial burden - one says. I say traveling is not expensive. Another says its not safe to travel the way you do - local transport; unplanned, unreliable. I say thats how I get to feel the place, interact with locals and hear their views. What use to get shielded in a cozy limo and watch things behind a glass curtain? What use eating the familiar idly-vada and looking at things the way a horse is masked?
Isn't it unsafe? How about the language? Don't you get scared? I say - just leave it to the world; and the world will take care of you. That curtains drop once you talk to people. You realise they are just like you; they want to talk to you and help you as much as you want to talk to them. Seek help. To me - being helpless in a foreign land - be it with transport, food, language - makes me seek out. That makes me realise how trivial I am. It humbles me and shows how insignificant I am and what use the knowledge I have? It tears my ego apart. Its a spiritual experience - an addiction.
The world is vast, you know none. And yet how much we feel great about ourselves? Looking at those eons old architecural wonders makes me realise how intelligent and far more superior folks were before our time. Yet; most can only see dirt and rocks. Seeing those mountains, volcanoes, forests, deserts, seas - how powerful nature is. Yet how foolish we try to "conquer" it. What is so tough in living in harmony with nature; because man can never ever win over the all powerful nature. I do feel funny with those organisations with good noble intentions. "Save the world", "Go Green". Man! how proud are you! How very egoistic are you. You go save yourself man! The world knows how to save and sustain itself. Its you who came much later and will be wiped out sooner. Earth knows to sustain, to destroy you when you abuse her and to reclaim her rightful spot.
My favourite question that I can't find answer to - "Which is your favourite place?" Oh! what should I say? I have only traveled so little compared to you Sir! and I don't have a favourite. Each one is unique and beautiful. I will be foolish to compare one to another and in the process undermine the experience and learning I gained. Doesn't it make you feel awesome? It does - to me. I feel blessed. I feel wonderful. I feel so blessed not because I have the financial capability but because I can take that path - road less traveled.
I feel blessed because I have been accepted by that place, by the ecosystem, by those tiny creatures, trees, people, birds..They have let me share their home, their environment, their best with me. They have let me earn experience
After hearing all this - few admit their defeat. They can't do what I do. Few go with a hope that they could do what I do at least once in their lifetime. Few request me to let them know when I travel next; but thats that. A colleague whom I've known from my previous company pinged me and said thus
Hi Bindu, how are you doing? Just saw your posts on Facebook. And wanted to check if you are in Sunnyvale
Fall colors in Raleigh?.. I think you are a month early.
Enjoy your trip.
Hum.. I shouldn't have said that. You do live your life to the fullest. I am happy for you.
:-) Made my day. Now when did I learn this and what triggered me to discover the joys of exploration? I don't know. I do know that life is limited and there are lot of good things here one could just miss if you don't pause