“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
I don’t believe in travelling to get away. Yes, there have been times when the city has thrown so much more than I thought I could handle, that I just wanted to pack up leave. But I believe that planning a holiday just to make sure you’re away from the city life is much like a man running away from an unknown terror, constantly looking over his shoulder, and missing out on what he’s running so frantically through. A holiday, whether it’s 300 km away from the city, or just a couple of stations away, is never meant to be rushed through. Even if you’re driving on a road with empty fields on either side, the memories are made when you stop the car and take some time to absorb the surroundings, rather than when you enter your hotel room and fall down weary on the bed. This is perhaps why I find it difficult to sleep at a stretch during long journeys; I dread the thought of missing out on something on the way.
In keeping with that thought, here are 10 of my most memorable travel moments.
1. A rewarding end to a deathly ride
It’s true that the most precious moments of a holiday are those when things don’t go according to plan. On our way back from Manali, we were to catch a flight from Chandigarh to Bombay. Being in the midst of winter, Chandigarh airport shut down and no flights were taking off from there for the next 3 days. While the idea of work didn’t appeal to us, after spending 10 days in the mountains, we knew we had to get back. The only flight to Bombay with 5 empty seats was early the next morning- *phew* – Unfortunately, it was from Delhi, about 250 km away! What ensued was the most terrifying, near-death drive of my life. As memorable as that was, the cherry on the cake was delivered to us when we reached Delhi airport a couple of hours ahead of schedule (after all, we had been driving with a man on a suicide mission!) and to our amazement, found 4 feet massagers, lying unused in the boarding lounge. Just what we needed. *pure bliss*
2. You see the best sights when you’re silent
I feel almost ashamed to reveal that I hadn’t seen a shooting star for more than 24 years! I’m not oblivious to the starry night sky, and even know of a couple of common constellations, but I had never seen a shooting star. After an extremely long first day in Goa, I lay down at the entrance of our hotel, together with two of my best friends. While there was complete silence (the comfortable kind) between us, we were thankful to be meeting together after so many months. Moments later, we erupted in excitement – we had all seen it – there among the dandruff-like stars, a little trail of bright light had made my year.
3. When the going gets tough, just wait a while
It isn’t every day that I decide to pack up my bags, and attempt to trek 13km up a mountain. But after hearing about my friend’s trekking adventures for way too long, I decided to tag along. If I thought that I was physically fit, I realised just how much I needed to work on myself to reach anywhere even close to that level. The uphill trek seemed to have drained all the energy I had ever stored in my 23 years of existence. The stops for nimbu paani and Maggi proved to be a good rest, but getting back to the trek after that was even more challenging. But if ever I had to be encouraged to take that next step, the sights from that height did the trick. The view of the Lakshman Ganga river and the towering mountains left me spellbound, and made the pain ever so manageable. Read more about the trek here.
4. Dancing in the waves
It was December 2011, and we were reuniting with our college mates after a couple of years. After several discussions and arguments over where to bring in 2012, we landed up on Anjuna beach, right at the same shack we had spent the entire day. After all, they had offered us the best cocktails at the best prices. As it neared the midnight hour, the shack started increasing their cocktail prices. Having the freedom of having chosen to party on the beach, we moved around to the nearby shacks to take advantage of the cheapest deals available. While the beach provided the regular start to a new year, with fireworks and music, the highlight of that night was standing in the water, with the waves hitting our ankles, and dancing to the music at the shacks. Unimaginably brilliant!
5. Sunrise from 32,000 feet above
It’s no often that you get the chance to take off just before sunrise and enjoy the sights from 32,000 feet above the ground. We had taken off when all of Goa was asleep, and the only lights in sight were those that dotted the highway. With a window seat facing the east, I watched as the sky turned from black, to dark purple, to orange and finally a light blue. It was a short flight, with just about 30 minutes flying time, but the time seemed to have passed by in mere seconds. As the sun peeked over the horizon to wish this side of the world a Good Morning, I was more than amazed. I had just witnessed the most remarkable sight, with the view of Gods. Read more about my experience here.
6. Being happily disconnected
We’ve become too attached to our mobile phones, too attached to the people we know, and in constant need to communicate with these select few. On my trip to the Valley of Flowers, what enticed about the National Park, other than its outstanding beauty, was that there was absolutely no network coverage! It allowed us to devote all our attention to Mother Nature who had put on a wonderful show. Without the ringing phones, we could hear the wind as it breezed past the mountains and the birds, calling out to us for attention. Without the blinking notification light, we opened our eyes to see the towering trees, misty mountains and gushing rivers. Read more about my journey here.
7. The perfect morning sight
When you’re cuddled up in your blanket, and the temperature is about 5 degrees outside, what can be better than a hot cup of coffee brought right to your bed? The smell would take over your senses, and the coffee would warm you up inside. While that does sound extremely tempting and delightful, for me, there is something better. While in Manali, we had rented a small cottage and woke up to the perfect sight the first morning there. As my cousin walked around the room, she drew the curtains in the hope that a little sunlight would warm us up. But what awaited us was the breathtaking view either of us had ever witnessed. The sun was out, and was struggling to have its warm rays penetrate through the cold chilly winter morning. What proved to be a delight to my senses was the unevenly snow capped mountains that peeked through the window as the curtains were drawn. There they stood, in all it’s beauty, calling out to me, and I realised that the reason I made the trip was fulfilled. I was perfectly warm and content.
8. Waiting for sunshine
If you’ve visited Agra in January, you’ll know that waking up at 7am is not the most appealing. Having travelled from Delhi the previous day, the incessant traffic and lack of signs, forced us to miss the deadline to see the Taj Mahal. Not wanting to leave Agra without visiting the structure, we vowed to wake up early the next morning and catch this monument in all its morning glory. Covered in jackets and wrapped in scarves, we reached the entrance of the Taj. While listening to our guide talk about the structure, and the significance of each of its elements, we couldn’t help but hear our teeth chattering too. We walked past the gate and through to the path leading right up to the Taj. After ogling at its beauty, we couldn’t help but run for a patch of sun shining down its shiny marble surface. We stood there, and even prolonged our time under the sun’s ray by clicking pictures.