This is not one of those articles where I suggest you to leave everything and travel and quote Robert Frost that the road less traveled is the one I took.
Why do so many people change their careers and lifestyles to travel? Sometimes even indefinitely?
Do they travel to see new places and eat different food? Or to fill their passports with stamps? Or to be able to say at their deathbed that they have seen the world?
Could be. But it is more than that.
Let me take you through what travel has taught me.
Thailand was my first completely solo trip.
I pre-landed in Bangkok at 5 AM. In the on-arrival visa line, a friendly attendant helped me skip the line and processed my visa faster. The airport was far out of the city and having decided that I would take a public transport, I climbed into an about-to-crumble bus to go into the city.
In the three-hour-long bus ride, as long as the flight from Bengaluru to Bangkok, a lady passenger helped to hold my bag and told me that I was beautiful as I managed to not-faint in the crowded aisle. The bus crawled a kilometer in almost an hour. Due to my skepticism of being able to explain the situation to the angry and rude lady ticket collector and the bus driver, I didn’t leave the bus to hop into a taxi. She kept buying weird looking dumplings for him from the street while I craved and my stomach growled.
The bus ride wasn’t enough torture that I had to climb four levels of steep, dingy stairs with my suitcase to reach my just-enough, single, air-conditioned room.
Tired, hungry, and lonely, I went down for food and ate a mediocre Pad Thai. Having grabbed a few cold water bottles from the fridge downstairs, I climbed back up again. Sudden rudeness and a hint of racism coupled with the sleep deprivation and loneliness made me sleep for almost 5 hours.
It wasn’t just that.
As promised in the photo diary of the bustling street life and delicious food of Vietnam, I am back with a photo album of lush green Vietnam and its temples.
Certain days at work, when I sit in a room and work from my desk for hours at a stretch, these photos make me feel that I am out in the green, running with the water stream, or bathing in the sunshine, or singing with the rain, or listening to the tall waterfall falling over the stones, or fine-tuning with the birds that flew above my head under the vast blue sky of those foreign lands.
Do you also long for a place that you visited in the past when you look at your travel photos? Do you still feel connected to that place?
Vietnam was alive.
With blue skies and bustling streets.
With bowls full of colorful noodle soup in which greens and mushrooms dived in.
With ladies serving soup on the street side and road junctions while sitting on the smallest stools you could ever imagine.
With the Bánh Mì sandwiches that erupted into my taste buds and the beautiful blend of the Vietnamese coffee served with condensed milk.
With the death that lingered in the war museums that crushed me to the core and I took days to recover.
With the long-curvy rides in the toiletless buses to reach one city from another.
With the streets crowded with millions of red, blue, green scooters that must have looked like crawling painted ants when seen from the top.
Thailand — my first solo international trip.
It was my first window into the world of traveling and backpackers and hostels and not knowing where would I sleep the next day.
Thailand was absolutely beautiful, marvelously racist at times, but enriching with delicious food.
I met some amazing people, ran away from obnoxious ones, visited some beautiful temples, found the most beautiful stones in the most beautiful night markets, visited the biggest national park of Thailand, had some beautiful seafood, lived the hostel life for the first time, saw the red light areas and the pole dances on the street side in the most popular restaurants, drowned in the pool with my friend and beer, and happily but unknowingly overstayed my stay.
Going to South America was one of the best decisions that I ever took. And the nine months I spent there is the shining skyline of my chaotic life.
As I returned back and tried to stand straight on Indian grounds again, someone told me about a writing competition which was looking for entries from women who had traveled solo to South America.
Yes, I was one of those women.
Everyone asks me why do I travel, where did I go, what did I do, what did I see, how did I feel, how did I manage such long travels, and how did my family react?
They say that I am lucky that I get to travel so much.
I smile. Sometimes, I lecture that everyone can travel. Why don’t you take a sabbatical and go?
People laugh. They shake their heads as if I had asked them to do the impossible. They say it is not easy. What would their parents say? Office won’t allow. Their partner is settled here. It would be too expensive.
They think these are unique problems.