On why I love travelling…

I come from a family which was “middle class” in the true sense of the word. Yes, I know, these days everyone is called “middle class” right from the software engineer who earns a six figure salary to the call center dude to the government employee who barely makes do.   But back then in the days when my parents were called middle class, we had “enough and a little more” as my father would say. But I digress, as usual.
 
The point I actually wanted to convey was that we were very middle class in our thinking as well. Money was there – but for a “solid” education, a long awaited home, a second hand Premier Padmini, and a rainy day. But, money for travel?  – never occurred to any of us. Vacations meant the annual month-long trip to Kerala, and if you got excited about the three day train journey, or poetic about the scenery, it was attributed to mallu blood running through your veins. Perhaps, it was – I am not sure. As like any bookworm, I loved to read descriptions of different places in all the books I read -right from Kirrin Island in the Famous Five, to the old English countryside in Jane Austen’s England, to the hills described by Ruskin Bond. I did fantasize about being marooned on a beautiful island, or kidnapped to an exotic rainforest with a beautiful waterfall, but I would be lying if I said I wanted to..or desired to visit a “real” locale. Fantasized – yes. Desired – no. Tried – no. It was always an unreal world – people who did wonderful things but who were very different from me. So, if the Famous Five took their bikes and went camping, it was so awesome and wonderful – but it never occurred to me that I could too. Yeah, of course, I did the pretend stuff – using a sheet as a tent and making “chakka puzhukku” with cousins, but a real trip? Hell, no!!
 
My maternal uncle was considered the “hip” one in the family. Every year, he would plan a “family vacation” with his wife and kids; maybe with his wife’s extended family too. They would hire an Ambassador and visit places like Kodaikanal, Ooty, and Mysore, and when they went, my folks would act as caretakers of the house. And every year, I would watch them leave, happy to have the huge house to myself, but also quite envious about the adventures I was sure they were having. One year, I think my uncle caught the faint wistfulness (or envy!) in my eyes, and suggested that I come along with them. This time it was a religious trip to Parani with a stop over at Peechi dam – but religious or not, I was thrilled. When my father nodded his consent, I could hardly believe my ears – I knew I was going to have so many adventures. And I did! Well, every single thing seemed like such an adventure to me. The cramped journey in the Ambassador, the stops at “chaya kadas”, eating lunch in the shade of huge trees on the road side, staying at a small lodge with the entire family fighting to get the most comfortable beds, the climb up to the top of the temple, even fighting the rush to get darshan at the temple. I do not remember too much of the places, but I do remember the excitement, the spirit of freedom, and the feeling that I was exploring something, away from my comfort zone.
 
Years later when I came to Bangalore, the world was changing. People had started talking of travel as a passion, as a hobby, as a noun. I was amused. How can that be a passion, or for that matter, a hobby? But then I dismissed it – after all, tennis is an expensive sport, and I supposed rich people do play it. People continued to write ‘travel’ as a hobby in online forum – I continued to ignore it. I was now living as a paying guest with four other girls, and we were slowly getting to know each other. One boring afternoon we had just each other for company, and nothing to do and one of them piped up with “Let’s do a trip together!” It started with Coorg..and went and back and forth…and landed, guess where? New Zealand. I just hadn’t expected that, and that’s when I first met (in the real sense) the two most influential people in my life – RG and LB. Both of them very different people but with one common desire – to see all the beautiful places in the world. I was amused, but I was beginning to understand that these people were actually passionate about “travel” and I really didn’t have to be scornful about it. They were serious – how could anyone doubt it, when they were ready to spend 70k on a week long trip? (These were the days when we earned 6 k and barely had enough money for a Coorg trip). I passed. As excited as I was, I had grand plans of studying abroad and every penny saved made a huge difference. They went and came, and I duly admired the pictures. But I didn’t really feel too upset about missing out on the trip.
 
Then started a period when weekend holidays became the fashion, and I was surprised by how much I started liking these. Goa, Ooty, Karwar, Wayanad. I had started to make lot of new friends, and before I knew it, we had a gang. One holiday happened..and then another..and then another. It was no longer surprising that as one ended we were planning for the next one. I guess I was perverse to very end, because I always insisted that I was having fun because I enjoyed the company of friends and not because I enjoyed traveling as such. It gave me great pleasure to say that the place didn’t really matter, just the company did. To some extent, I still think that’s true.:-)
 
And then Australia happened. One day LB and RG suggested that we go to Australia. I agreed, without even thinking. RG wanted to see the rainforests, and LB wanted to see the beaches, and I wanted to ..hold your breath.. “travel!”. Yes, I really didn’t care about which place I was going to – but it was an exciting idea, going to a foreign location. I wanted to sit in a plane, drink coffee in an airport lounge, take pictures out of a train, talk to different people, eat different cuisines and yes, see a lot of different places. Me, who had scorned the idea of people spending money to see places,…wanted to, and wanted to badly.
 
Sadly, Australia was not what we had expected – or rather what they had expected. The rainforests were brown, the waterfalls didn’t have water, and while the beaches were awesome, they did not compensate for a barren landscape. And yet..and and yet, it was beautiful to me. Oh, not because RG and LB were with me (that too), but because it was an experience. An enriching one. Each moment – new, different (I have learnt to respect this word!), and liberating. They added up to small experiences, each one of which I savoured with greed, but hid with a pretence of sophistication. Walking along the crowded streets of Sydney watching formally dressed people hurry by; or drooling at the hunks surfing in Gold Coast; or checking out an old deserted cabin in the Blue Mountains, shop in the deserted streets of Cairns; or the best one ( a hunky cabin crew member took my hand and took me on a tour on a cruise;-)); or walking hungry in Sydney and sharing an apple with LB because we didn’t have any money (okay, that wasn’t really such a pleasant one) – I cherish every memory. That’s what I meant when I said I didn’t really care about the place. I do to a certain extent, but beyond that, I have learned to cherish each and every moment, out of the ordinary.
Of course the journey had just started. Then followed quite a few trips – within the country and out of the country. The US a number of times, and finally Europe of course. Europe is the most beautiful place I have been to, but my favorite travel location? The US. The US was my first solo trip, and where I totally learnt to appreciate traveling. I had expected to be lonely, really lonely. I was right – well, to a certain extent. But I also enjoyed myself thoroughly. Suddenly there was a whole world around me, and there was so much to do. Small things, but it’s a huge deal for someone like me – someone who had never really taken the offbeat path, and worse, never really wanted to. The possibilities were endless, and I was totally overwhelmed by them. Whether it was going to jazz concerts, or camping at an Indian settlement, or eating bison (yeah, yeah, I know!), or trekking up the Georgia mountains, or going for architectural tours – I hadn’t done any of that, and definitely not alone, and it was such a high, I couldn’t understand it myself. I found myself getting excited about traveling by the Subway, about learning a smattering of Cuban because my cab driver was Cuban, about shopping in Macy’s, about attending a church service, about everything.
 
And yes, I have learned to appreciate beautiful places too 🙂 It wasn’t that difficult. It doesn’t surprise me these days when I hold my breath when I see the mist waft pass a mountain to reveal a glorious sun rise. It doesn’t surprise me when I listen to the sound of my boots crunch on the snow, and think it’s the most beautiful sound in the world. It doesn’t surprise me when I look into total darkness overlooking a Coorg farmhouse, and feel totally at peace with myself. It’s not rare that I huff and puff and curse on a five hour trek and then have conversations with the stars as I lie under them. In fact, it seems perfectly natural to walk along a beach and feel the waves lap at my feet, and think that I want to do this (read that as travel!) all my life.
 
I have come a long way. Traveling. 🙂 The journey and the destination both turned out quite different from what I expected. I guess that’s what traveling has given me – a belief that I could change my beliefs and that it was okay for me to do so. Its given me lots more too – new friends, new ideas, new possibilities, new hope. Yes, hope. When you see so much beauty around you – how can you give up on hope?
 
Am I passionate about travel? I don’t know – I don’t think so. I don’t think I will ever be a “vagabond” at heart, as RG is; I love my roots, and am quite anchored by them. But I do confess that it is nice for me to swing on those roots to some neighboring lands. 🙂 And…that is that. Quite a rambling traveling travelogue ha?:-)

55 comments for “On why I love travelling…

  1. January 10, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Megha,

    This is a lovely post. As I started reading it, I thought I’d thank you for reminding me of good ol’ Famous Five but now that I am done reading it, there was so much more in the post, almost like you were taking the reader on a journey with you and helping them discover something.From a very academic point of view, this is interesting in that it charts the change that the meaning of
    vacation/travelling/holiday has undergone, especially in the ‘middle class’, especially in our generation!

    Also like the fact that this post had no LJ-cut!

    • January 11, 2007 at 6:27 am

      Thank you Sthira. 🙂

      Yeahh, writing it was like a new journey too. I wasnt sure what I wanted to convey as I started, and it did take a rambling route:-)

  2. January 10, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Ha!!

    here I come to post a comment, and who is the sole other comment??

    Its my kind of writing – mine as in my kind of topic, written in my way..
    Its beautiful.

    • January 11, 2007 at 6:32 am

      Re: Ha!!

      Thank you.

      Considering how well you write, I will take that as a huge, huge compliment.:-)

  3. January 10, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    aanddd…..

    if I am middle class, and sthira is middle class, then I guess she would be the middle-class-that-vacations-in-malasyia
    :))

    • January 10, 2007 at 6:42 pm

      Re: aanddd…..

      Ahem, but where did I claim to be ‘middle class’?Put your glasses on and read carefully now!

    • January 11, 2007 at 7:00 am

      Re: aanddd…..

      Told you..Perceptions of “middle class” are very different these days!!!:-)

  4. January 10, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    and third para from the bottom – waft I’m sure

    • January 11, 2007 at 11:41 am

      *sheepish grin* corrected.

  5. January 10, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    beautifully written megha. kudos to you.
    as you recounted your own ‘journey’ I couldn’t help but think of my own.

    I love travelling, not as much for the vistas, but for all the fabulous people I get to meet and the memories I carry with me. that which makes me feel so much richer … and more fortunate!

    Yes, we too are penny pinchers – so we can spend more on travel! 🙂
    And perhaps its time to do that NZ trip! We are planning a visit there in June and you (and anyone else too) are welcome to join in.

    • January 11, 2007 at 7:02 am

      Thank You Arun. And yes, I know you love travelling – it reflects in your posts, and I have liked each one of them.:-)

  6. January 10, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Kya post hai! Really enjoyed reading it.

    I too have a similar history of not travelling much as a kid, rather mostly travelling to wherever family was. In recent years i’ve done a bit of travelling, within Europe at any rate.

    May you always have the means and energy to follow your urges 🙂

    • January 11, 2007 at 7:02 am

      Thank you Rileen. And wish you the same:-)

  7. January 11, 2007 at 4:28 am

    … I loved to read descriptions of different places in all the books I read -right from Kirrin Island in the Famous Five
    Absolutely! Better still were her descriptions of the food they ate on their trips to Kirrin Island – with buttered scones, home-made biscuits, tomato-and-cucumber sandwiches and lemonade (always cooled by the little stream they had running) … oooh, I’m drooling already.

    Lovely post, btw. You’ve got a great narrative style. Really enjoyed reading it 🙂

    • January 11, 2007 at 7:04 am

      You know I did start to write about the food descriptions, but then decided that it would be too much of a deviation, and left it out:-) And yes, food was such an important part of Enid Blyton!

      And, thank you:-)

  8. Anonymous
    January 11, 2007 at 4:45 am

    You’re right

    I do understand what you mean.

    But, for me, it was different in that I always wanted to travel. Ever since little one-day drives up into the hills with my parents as a kid. And of course, ever since Famous Five. Oh yes, I always dreamt of seeing the world… on a yacht, on a motorcycle, on a train, or a caravan, or…

    Oh, and always on a shoestring…:-)

    Still have a long way to go! But the journey is sooooooooooo worth it!

    -Mika

    • January 11, 2007 at 7:07 am

      Re: You’re right

      You have been a big big inspiration. With travel,especially.:-)

  9. January 11, 2007 at 7:03 am

    Awesome post girl! I love traveling too…though in my case I think I’ve been doing it since I was born! Totally agree about the US bit…roaming around there all alone…it’s scary at first but so much fun too! Plus when the company is paying a per diem it’s cool! 😉

    • January 11, 2007 at 7:20 am

      I know!!! We should do a trip together, some time!:-D

  10. January 11, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Very nice 🙂

    I am more of the Accidental Tourist, but I do like to travel – so long as one doesn’t have to deal with all the crowds 🙂 Will wait for some day when I am not quite middle-class. I really want to get out on a cruise – hoping this March!

    • January 11, 2007 at 9:17 am

      Thank ya:-)

      And what’s happening with the home pics???

      • January 11, 2007 at 9:27 am

        Am putting them up one at a time on my Orkut page!

  11. January 12, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Wow you are lucky to have traveled to so many palces! Enjoyed reading your post.

    • January 15, 2007 at 8:42 am

      Thank you:-) and yes, I consider myself fortunate.

  12. January 13, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    This sounds so familiar !

    Part of being “Middle Class” is that every one has similar stories …

    • January 15, 2007 at 8:43 am

      Yeah..the great Indian middle class story…

      • August 8, 2007 at 5:33 pm

        wow …I noticed it after 8 months .. how stupid !

  13. January 14, 2007 at 3:13 am

    A very nice post indeed.

    Now u have forced me remember all my trips starting from the first which is very much same as yours, the same old ambassodor and small hotel and a religious trip but to tirupathi 🙂

    • January 15, 2007 at 8:44 am

      Nice to have jogged a few sweet memories 🙂

  14. January 15, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    very picturesque writing… makes an even better read coz it looks like everybody’s story i.e. no travel during growing up times (as the old middle class story u mentioned)… including mine as well… i remember till I was 16 only travels that I could make were the annual durga-pooja festival to my village which was some funny 60 kms outside my city 🙂

  15. Anonymous
    February 6, 2007 at 1:10 am

    your thoughts and experience out of the travel,

    more than your travel experience (which is nothing less than enchanting), are a real delight to read. You have shared both side-by-side which is interesting and provides some glimpse of you which is quite appreciative 🙂

    Keep it up!

    • February 6, 2007 at 3:58 am

      Re: your thoughts and experience out of the travel,

      Well, thank you 🙂

      but do I know you?

      • Anonymous
        February 7, 2007 at 12:10 am

        Re: your thoughts and experience out of the travel,

        No.

        I chanced to read a few of your posts. I like a lot (the wit and the expereince or maturity, whatever you call it, at your age) of what I get to gather from your words.

        Would definitely check back what you have to say and maybe know more if you want to…

  16. Anonymous
    March 6, 2007 at 8:45 am

    Awesome….

    Hey Meghana,

    I just randomly stumbled on your post. I connected to it at all levels….famous five…envying the adventures of my cousins…traveling by the subway …only EXCEPTION being …I am “RG & LB” most of the time for my friends.

    Loved your post. ENVY your writing.

    – Shravan.

    • March 7, 2007 at 10:17 am

      Re: Awesome….

      Thank you Shravan. 🙂

  17. March 12, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    I read with great relish you lucid prose on middle class sensibilities and values.

    The lack of the “travel gene” and its acquisition thereafter.

    Makes great reading to understand the ethos of the “true” Middle Class Indian.

    I never did have the travelling issue ever as I started travelling alone at 9 – 10 years age, on rather long journeys on trains between Banglaore and Dehradun. I see weekend travel as a great relief from the stifling concrete and pavements of places that I stayed over the last few years. Places like Bangalore, Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta. If one did not slip away once in a fortnight to some place, far or near, then it was like a slow stressful climb to madness.

    Kerala blessedly is a different experience. Maybe it is the absence of the stifling atmosphere of the bigger cities, that has seen to a temporary halt to travel.

    More later,
    got to go

    • March 14, 2007 at 12:31 pm

      I know what you mean about Kerala.

      btw – travel from Bangalore to dehradun? would you know about places in Uttaranchal and Sikkin. Planning a trip there..

      • March 14, 2007 at 7:09 pm

        Dehradun and Uttarachal are like home to me though I have not travelled to the deep interiors. If you are not averse to sights of abject poverty then Rishikesh, Haridwar, Nainital, Dehradun- Mussoorie are beautiful.

        If you want exotic lands with pristine purity and no blight of poverty to spike your guilty spending of money , then Sikkim is the place.

        You can do North Sikkim,– Lachung- a quaint Bhutia valley village,ii) the Rhododendron Reserve which blooms in a multicolored orgasm once a year and iii)Yumathang valley with its sheer mountains rising up (and it beats Switzerland hollow..)) It is cold and beautiful and a little low in accommodation terms and Army is the best organisation to look after you.;-))) In the alternative you can do a high altitude route to Gurudongmar Lake and you can over see the Tibet plateau in the rainshadow of the Himalayas.

        Or you can do west Sikkim with Pelling as the beauty point and see the Pemayangtse monastery and the Khechopari lake and there is a tough trek to Yuksom that I can remember.

        From Gangtok you can always do a touristy border visit to the Chinese frontier at Nathu La. ( Army help and contacts will get you royal treatment at the border)

        You can always do a lazy river rafting run on the Teesta on your way back.

        Jeez,,,do I sound like the Director of Tourism of Sikkim…;-))

        Let me know if you need any input or any kind of help.

        • March 26, 2007 at 2:11 pm

          Wowww. Thanks a ton for all that info. Yes yes yess..i need more inputs. Am making an iteranary. Is it possible to travel from sikkim to uttaranchal? enough time. I have two whole weeks – so around 7 weeks in each place. Good idea?

          Also, was planning some time around Sep. Weather will be good? Also – safety concerns. I am not sure if my friends will accompany me this time. Okay for a solo trip?

          sorry to bombard you with so many questions – but I really dont know where to start! 🙂

          • March 26, 2007 at 2:50 pm

            Sounds good…

            2 weeks will not be enough to do two vastly different tracts of Himalayan mountains separated by about 2000 kms of customary and lingual diversity.

            A single woman is kinda not advisable if you are going to use the public method of transport and stay. If your budget suits a better transportation medium while in the hills then it is a plausible scenario, of course with the afrementioned “help” from the people out there.

            It is better if you please to send email. The flickr works plus I guess the LJ profiel may contain the details.

  18. March 13, 2007 at 6:13 am

    Beautiful! I connect with every word of this blog. You should get this published.

    • March 14, 2007 at 12:27 pm

      Thank you! As I had mentioned, I enjoyed all your travel pieces. Now you know why.. 🙂

  19. March 13, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    matured and cool narating.

  20. Anonymous
    March 20, 2007 at 6:30 am

    hullooooooooooooo?

    I keep coming back here to see if you’ve posted anything new. Why don’t you????

    -Mika

  21. August 8, 2007 at 8:12 am

    Advance one day b’day wishes 😉

    • August 10, 2007 at 1:27 am

      hey thanks a lot! 🙂

  22. August 8, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Wish you a non-advanced still wonderful birthday !

  23. December 17, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    almost a year now without a post!

  24. Anonymous
    August 22, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    my friends are still the sweetest people. Its just that ‘things’ have changed. Its very difficult to see a rollicking gang dwindle away and be reduced to sad figures.

    Hmmm, u know why this? Actually wedding ring is the smallest handcuff – yep!

  25. October 21, 2008 at 1:53 am

    megha is my diary’s name :))))))
    its my favourite name too..
    oh wait, is that ur real name, or just ur username?
    aahh i dont care, i was dying to meet a megha (the name might be common, but i havent met a megha my whole life) yay

    LOL.. !!
    how come i’ve never seen you anywhere??
    hmm, and … add me?

    • October 21, 2008 at 2:46 pm

      🙂

      Naah..megha is my diary’s name…well, its kinda like my pet name too 🙂 And nice to meet you too.

      Adding you. I should warn you that I havent written on LJ for a long while though. 😀

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