“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
In the interest of the “travel freaks” out there who jump at the opportunity of going on a trip, The Fifth Estate brings the “Travel Series” to capture the interesting traveling experience of insti junta and also to help you make a perfect trip. In this first article of the series, Sofia puts together her list of do’s and dont’s to weave out a perfect travel experience.
There are only two kinds of travelers in the world: The ones who, after some wandering, gather beautiful memories and experiences that add up to their personal growth. And the ones who get sick.
“Truthfully, I am not the best traveler in the world.
I know this because I have met travelers who are so physically sturdy that they could drink a shoe box of water from a Calcutta gutter and never get sick. People who can pick up new languages where others might only pick up infectious diseases. People who are the right height and complexion that they kind of look halfway normal wherever they go- in Turkey they might be Turks, in Mexico they are suddenly Mexican…. ”
These are the words of Elizabeth Gilbert from the best-seller Eat Pray Love. If Gilbert herself admits that she’s not the best traveler, it gives hope to many of us. You are a traveler, if you travel. There is no ideal traveler.
Here let’s see how to weave out a perfect travel experience. About perfection, here perfect doesn’t mean flawless. Perfect means that there could not have been a better alternative to your decisions. It’s your trip, your decision and your experiences. This is a list of things you might want to know before you get ready for your, probably unforgettable, travel experience.
- THE IDEA
This is obviously the first and major leap in a successful travel experience-that moment when the idea strikes. Maybe your desire to travel springs up from a Google search or during an afternoon lecture. Now that you have an idea, there are two ‘P’ things that you shouldn’t ideally do. Plan and Postpone. Why? We’ll deal it one by one.
Plan: The universally acknowledged truth about plans is that they don’t work. Mentally running a video of how you’ll book tickets, pack your stuff and leave in the 8 pm bus is just too utopian for a human being. Also refrain from any bouts of daydreaming. Do not imagine yourself sipping on a cup of roast coffee staring into the Sahyadris. This is where Shakespeare comes into play. Expectation is the root of all headaches. Expectations can lead you to misery because one formula to happiness is,
Happiness = Reality> Expectations.
Now, if your expectations of having a coffee staring into Sahaydris, doesn’t materialise in reality, you are surely destined to feel that the entire trip was incomplete. This is why daydreaming is an evil idea. Just let fate, karma or some divine force plan what you’ll do in the Sahyadris.
Postpone: Postponing your travel idea to sometime later come with many unimagined hindrances. Imagine yourself planning a trip to Mediterranean to be executed two years later, or perhaps a couple of months later. There are two possibilities that can manifest. The first one is that, you’ll change. Your desire to walk the streets of Alexandria could be toppled by some other dream in the next two years. The second and the most irreparable one is that, the world will change. There could be a changing political environment in the Mediterranean, visa restrictions or some other unforeseen natural causes. I sympathise with all those people who had an unending desire to visit Palmyra. And also the ones who think cruising down the Nile is as easy as it was a decade back. Or grave digging in the Great Pyramid for the win!
- THE PREPARATION
Once you decide to get your dreams into action, Google a bit about the place. Try to learn about the weather and the travel options. Stuff your wallet (never forget ID cards), water bottles, power bank, headphones, tickets, hand sanitizers, extra pairs of clothing, medicines (if any) and some food into your backpack. If you are travelling within India, going ethnic is probably a good idea. Many religious-cum-heritage sites forbid people in revealing clothing.
And embark on your journey.
Travel Tip: Never ever take the general compartment in trains at night. Better to sell your soul to devil than to sit in front of stinking toilets with rats and cockroaches roaming around you.
- FORGET YOUR PAST
In many ways, traveling is an escape from the day-to-day life. Once you have started your bon voyage, you cease to a student, a hosteler or a mess-food-obsessed-ideal-person. Cut off all links to your past even if it means plastering the mouth of that travel companion who says “I have a feminism presentation on Monday!” Also, you did not come all the way to be constantly bugged by notifications and e-mails. Turn of your mobile data and you’ll know how much of a Buddha you are.
- MELTING INTO THE CROWD
Ever wondered why foreigners who visit India wear kalamkari printed shirts and kurtas? That is in part an effort to what I call ‘melt into the crowd’. No traveler would like to be a foreigner in a destination, at least most travelers wouldn’t. When in Rome, be a Roman.
When you visit a new place, you are entering a new world. How successful you are as a traveller, or ideally, a citizen of the world, depends upon how much you are able to be a part of each place. You cannot be a part of Tamil Nadu unless you buy some malli poov, get your ‘fortune’ revealed by a kuri solravan, or start your conversation to strangers with ‘Anna’ or ‘Akka’.
If you ever thought that language is an impediment to traveling to an unknown place, I am going to rephrase that statement with a pinch of optimism. Not knowing a language is an incentive to explore more. It helps you to get lost in some strange and quaint setting, so far alien to you. Completely alien that you’ll see how your survival instincts work. Fortunately (or unfortunately), a globalising world has forced most natives to learn new languages. An auto driver I met in Kanchipuram spoke Tamil, Telugu and Kannada! Thankfully not Malayalam, thereby saving my dose of ‘alienness’.
Travel tip: You could explore the entire Tamil Nadu with the words’ enke’ (where?) and ‘evolum’ (how much?).
- TASTING THE FLAVOUR OF THE LAND
The flavour of a place is not essentially its cuisine. Well, cuisine does matter, because after all food is, before anyone else. Relish on the hot vadais that the street vendor takes form the cauldron of boiling oil. Never miss having coffee, especially if it is South India. The real flavour of a place is without doubt, its street food. For people who are perennially suffering from OCD and hygiene concerns, I think ‘What’s the worst that can happen? A couple of delicious hot vadais wouldn’t kill you!’ should help.
Other ways of tasting the flavour of the city is by taking its public transport. Get into a crowded bus and immerse among its people. Public transport is a visual guide into how people of a particular place carry on with their lives. Auto rides, standing in long queues to get into ancient temples and asking directions to random people in your own version of the native language, can add more spice to the flavour.
- KNOWING THE ‘NESS’
The ‘ness’ is what you should be going for in a travel destination. Simply, this is a suffix to your destination’s name. Udipi-ness, Shimla-ness, Vegas-ness, Montreal-ness. It is impossible to describe the ness of a place. An extra pinch of cardamom in tea, a different style of pleating hair or a unique method of wearing a veshti can all add up to this. For instance the sea breeze, the French styled villas and peanut sellers in the beach can be called the Pondicherry-ness of Pondicherry. Personally, I’d say that a travel is never complete as long as you understand and immerse in the ‘ness’ of a place.
Of course, travel comes with its shots of weirdness as well. You might witness things and have experiences which might be, on a scale of 0-10, amount to be as high as a 9.7! Looking at the half filled glass, they are all just experiences. Occasionally, life-changing!
Here is a list of things you should definitely do every time you travel:
- Keep aside all maps and turn off the GPS
- Walk a neighbourhood
- Keep a travel diary (A tiny notepad would do!)
- Talk to a native
- Enter into a crowded street.
- Get a souvenir, but not from a gift shop
Since brainstorming myself for the perfect ending to the article didn’t yield any satisfying results, I’ll just conclude with ‘There is no ideal traveller. Just pack your bags as long as you are not under any house arrest!’