Thursday, November 14, 2013

The accidental traveller

Let me be honest. All those times in my early childhood when I would sit in a happy corner of my home flipping through cartoon magazines from Belgium or Russia (Thanks to the over-indulgent father who claims to have encouraged me to getting into the habit of reading and developing a world perspective. I firmly suspect his motives. For all that I know, that could have been his easy way out to tame a kid who talks non-stop whenever she's not bugging him with curious questions), or those times in my early adulthood when I would read adventure books and fall in love with historical fiction, I never really believed that I could see these places for myself.

My father has done quite a bit of traveling during his early days, and my grand father (whom I never got a chance to meet) was a world traveller, thanks to his brief stint in the army during the WWII as a translator. I've grown up hearing many interesting travel stories. I used to enjoy all those happy trips with family, but I wasn't a great fan of road-trips, thanks to my motion sickness. I've always been the most delicate one in the family. With a petite body frame, the frequency with which I swoon or my tendency to throw up within 10 minutes of boarding a long distance bus (unless I fall asleep), the fuss I used to make about food while on the road, I was a nightmare to travel with. But I liked to see places as much as I used to hate covering the distance from point A to point B, whichever mode of travel it might be. I would read up about exotic places, I would watch videos of historic cities, and I'd make plans in my head. I wasn't very sure about the execution part, though. I could think of a 101 reasons why it's not my cup of tea. Horrible stories of adventure-trips-gone-wrong in the news, the thought of thriving on food I have no idea about for days together, what if I get sick? what if I get bored? what if I get mugged? and endless other what-ifs.. and to top it all, I was (/am) a control freak for a good measure. In short, I was all that does not make a natural traveler. Period.

That was until a couple of years back. Things changed since then. I changed since then. Maybe it had to do with some life choices I made, some career decisions I made, and some seemingly unimportant trivia where I took the plunge without counting the possibilities of things going wrong. So the control freak in me did a lot of analysis, but somewhere my reckless alter ego took over the reins. For good. A lot of things went wrong / did not turn out the way I would have liked it to. And when plans fell flat on their pitiful noses, I made a quick plan B or plan C, and got going. Some other times, I just rolled with the punch, like that dreadful boat ride from Chumpohn to Koh Tao during a high tide. I should have known better not to brave it out and eat a spicy Pad Thai loaded with those nasty Thai chillies right before boarding a boat into the rough seas. I kept throwing up non-stop into polythene bags, with those revengeful chillies burning my throat and nostrils while I was being tossed to the floor and hoping to pass out, at the least to save myself from more agony. The trip lasted an hour and a half. The longest hour and a half of my life. I avoided those chillies like the plague for the rest of the trip, but the next day when I woke up to a beautiful morning and a peaceful sea in that lovely little island in the south of Thailand, it all seemed OK. Things got easier when I could laugh at my misadventures, rather than holding myself responsible for bad planning.

And then, about an year back, I opted for a student exchange program in Germany. It had to do more with my urge to get away from my school for a semester, than my interest in visiting Europe. But the closer I got to joining school there, the more keen I was to travel across Europe. This time, the plans in my head had to do more with logistics. Travel passes, hostel bookings, route plans. The works.

I had a bunch of old and new friends there who were keen to go with me. But I soon figured that they weren't as driven about it as I was. All of them where at different levels of 'what if', 'if only' and 'but then', just like I had been. And so, the decision was made. I am going solo. It was a heady thought. It also meant more stress during the planning phase. Many a snowy day was spent nursing a nasty cold and multi-tasking in front of the laptop with a bunch of windows opened. Lecture schedules, Exam schedules, Assignments from the Home University with unreasonable deadlines, Google map of Europe, Travel review websites, Deutsche Bahn website. I have never juggled so much ever. All that while sipping on copious amounts of cough syrup.

As I made my bookings for Amsterdam the day after, it hit me that my Euro-trip was finally taking off. I was excited, and I was also a bundle of nerves as I packed for my trip. Over the course, I have been to 10 countries, and 20 cities/ towns across Europe. Some sleepy, some happy, some like a big party, some fairy tale-ish and some like a scene right out of a horror movie. There were some happy accidents and some creepy ones. As I walked around in my running shoes, carrying my puny little frame around with an over-sized back pack, and a big happy smile on my face, I learnt so much I haven't been lucky enough to experience in my sheltered life. And it seems so silly now to think that all I had to do, was just pack my bags and leave. I had to make a beginning somewhere. A humble one. A practical one, to test the waters. To find out whether I can indeed do it on my own, and to find out what it would mean to me. I plan to get it rolling and to go to places I have never thought I could go to.

I intend to share more about it here, mostly for the benefit of friends who are there where I have been for a very long time. Friends, who could use a bit of encouragement to get started, and more details and reality-checks for the control freaks like me who are just never convinced that they have all the info that they need to book that flight.


  1. Hi! Do you feature guest postings? Thanks and have a great day!

  2. Sage, this blog is primarily a personal blog. But if your blog post is in the same vein as this one (Travel Blogging), then I would be more than happy to include a link here.

    Happy blogging!