Monday, August 24, 2015

Why Travel?

Travel is adventure; it is a chance to get away from every day and normal. It forces you to go beyond your comfort zone and expand your perspectives. It teaches you to respect other lives, places & cultures and makes you more open minded. Even without making any conscious effort, you end up absorbing some of the things you come across; they become a part of you.

To sit in a vehicle (Bus, Car, Train or plane!) and go from one place to another is to transport yourself into a different reality. Or to suspend your reality and enter a different world for a short while.  A new place or even an old place that you have visited many times earlier or sometimes a place where you lived for some time a while ago, feels different in many ways. It looks different of course, but it also smells and sounds different.  Those sights, smells and sounds become part of you.  

I love to travel. I love the journey from one place to another and I love to go and experience different places. I love to travel to nearby places and be surprised by the differences in landscape, language and people’s perspectives. And I love to plan and visit distant, foreign places and be surprised sometimes by many similarities that I can find with people there and people back home.

In London, I want to take the tube, ride the London buses and taxis and I want to walk! Walk by the Thames, looking at the Big Ben and walk even in the small suburb of Hammersmith, where you will come across pubs that are more than 100 years old. Go into those pubs and have beer with fish and chips; oh and even CTM (Chiken Tikka Masala) – I was completely surprised by CTM the first time. I want to go to the theatre and watch a play/show. I want to walk into different book stores and just browse, and be surprised by the knowledge of the attendants. I want to ride the train and go to Oxford and learn about the different colleges there. 

In a small village near Blackburn, I visited a farm and saw a typical English barn. I saw these big, fat, pigs and sows and revised the image I had in my mind of Empress of Blandings. The BBC TV show I had watched had not made me do that. Seeing things on TV or even on big screen are no match to seeing things live. When you see it on the farm, you walk in the typical English weather and you smell the farm, it’s a combined smell of the wet greens and the animals. You can see how the animal walks across slowly, almost awkwardly.  I always enjoyed reading the Blandings books and like most PGW fans, found Lord Emsworth to be this bumbling and yet lovable character, but looking at those big, fat pigs gave me a different perspective. I find Lord Emsworth’s obsession over Empress funnier now; I can almost see her!

Visiting small villages in Provence, I understood the fascination I had come across in literature and movies about regions such as Provence and Tuscany. I could feel the romance of these places. The old houses, narrow, cobbled streets, small bistros and ice cream shops and village markets  – all very well maintained but not showy. I couldn’t help marveling at how things are very modern, yet so traditional and simple.

Closer home and still far away from Pune, in Assam, on the Majauli island, visiting different Satras and trying to understand the lifestyle there, to visit the local artists, see their creations and end the day by watching a dance performance in one of the Satras before retiring to our rooms in another Satra, is a day that will forever be part of me. A cherished memory.

Trekking in Himalayas, surrounded by majestic mountains, you can find out how life moves at a different pace there. You learn firsthand that the people of the mountain are a sturdy lot; they are cheerful in face of the inherent risks and challenges of their lives. The mountains give you a sense of freedom and at the same time make you understand the importance of discipline. They can be the most beautiful, most magnanimous presence one moment and the most furious and scary the next! 

In presence of the humongous mountain ranges; sometimes intimidating, yet sometimes almost soothing, you understand your insignificance in the big picture of the nature. It does not make you feel bad about your insignificance though. In fact, you feel an acceptance and a sense of peace. 

So many places, so many experiences and so many memories! Each journey and each trip makes me richer and a better version of myself!