I just can’t seem to shake off thoughts of travel now that I have started thinking about it. Maybe it’s a sign. Maybe the universe is telling me that I will be granted my wish sooner than I think. Or maybe it’s just my wicked mind playing games with me and sending me into a deeper spiral of unfulfilled dreams. Either way now that I am thinking about it, the thoughts don’t seem to stop.
Travel is such a living in the moment activity. I know when I travel I am more awake than I am back in Mumbai. In Mumbai I am paradoxically both breathless & somnolent from doing frightfully mundane things at a frenetic pace. Have you noticed that when you travel there’s no space for boredom? Even if you are lying on a beach doing precisely nothing you still aren’t bored.
Beaches.. What can one say about beaches and the colors and the moods of the ocean. Or the coolness of the mountains and mystery of forests. Or the dwarfing unimaginable vastness that is the Savannah. Nature is so hard to describe. Humbling, awe inspiring, spectacular are some of the many words used by people and while they are all true, I think they still fall short. It’s a feeling that only you know and that’s what makes it so unique and almost indescribable. It means different things to different people at different times. The same place revisited takes on a new or different sheen every time you see it.
Then we have cities or towns that are like mysteries we have to unravel. You have your clues in the form of guide books & google maps but you soon realize that they are just the simple clues to the simple mystery. To decipher the real mystery, the complex one, is way more challenging. For that you need to walk the streets, sit on the sidewalks & park benches, browse at the local grocery stores, wander away from your google maps, put away your guide book, breathe in the air and energy of a monument to try and connect with the secrets it keeps. Sometimes the whole experience feels like doing a giant jigsaw. So many pieces to put together. Often you leave a place with just some of the jigsaw completed, excited that you can see part of the picture. Promising yourself as you fly away that you will come back someday to complete the picture.
Travel to me is all encompassing. The beauty, the natural and the man made, they are all parts of that whole that we call travel. Every part of it is an experience that you see, absorb and tuck away under your skin & in the deepest corners of your mind, so that over a period of time your very being changes color. It makes you whole in ways you can’t imagine and you suddenly realize that you didn’t even know that you were incomplete, until you aren’t.
Traveling through a place for the first time has got to be one of life’s most exhilarating moments. Your eyes feel like a cup that’s filling up faster than you can drink it and it’s spilling all over. You don’t know where to look and you so wish you had eyes in the back of your head! The unique smell of a hotel room or an Airbnb, the coffee maker that you spend hours fiddling over, flopping down after a long flight on freshly washed sheets on a comfy bed, too tired to even mind the unfamiliarity of the mattress. Then heading out to see things you haven’t seen before and last but not least of course the new and exciting food.
Food, food, food.. I have noticed that for some it’s the most difficult part of travel but for me it’s the most intrinsic and almost always the most delicious & memorable part of travel. Food tells a story of a place almost as much as it’s monuments & vistas. The closest you will ever feel to being local is when you eat local. If the traveller listens carefully he realizes that cuisine can often be a historical & cultural narrative. It’s a story of a culture that you absorb in the most time tested way, you literally taste it.
True travel is so much more than just seeing and ticking off some boxes on a list. It’s seeing with not just your eyes but with your mind & most importantly your heart. You learn to be brave and not fear the unknown. You learn that new & wonderful experiences are worth their weight in gold. You learn that you are just such an insignificant part of this gigantic universe. It’s humbling, it’s exhilarating, it’s a learning like no other.
I say to the universe.. Give me a magic carpet anytime.