Some are unmissable….encounters. I am not a solo traveler, a backpacker, an environmentalist or an adventure seeker. I’m basically a traveller, catching flights to cross over to places where children are settled, stopping en route at pre-selected destinations or visiting for relatives, friends for brief stays, places that interest us.
During teen years it was parental and sibling discretion and we travelled to hill stations, a British legacy, from our city, Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. In the 1960’s air travel was still a luxury so we were constantly booking train tickets to anywhere in first or second class compartments. There were close encounters of the savoury and unsavoury types. Once, year 1974, at Mumbai’s Victoria Terminus (now Chatrapati Shivaji station), a woman started to converse with me asking about what we plan to do in Mumbai, where will we stay etc. My mother listening from the washroom came out as fast as she could because she was aware of children being lured away/drugged/kidnapped in Mumbai. She made me promise not to talk with strangers in future especially in other cities. At that time I was amused by my mother’s paranoid reaction but later having kids of my own I realised her protective instincts.
Well, who remembers the dictate and years later while walking the New York neighbourhoods, Californian streets, Canadian streets,China backyards, Japanese cities, Sydney, Canberra, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Cyprus..the streets were my lifeline. We , my husband and me, would prefer moving in the local markets talking with locals, eating street fast foods. If someone asked me if we had Wined/dined at so and so five-star eatery it would draw a blank from me. Driving in fancy cars and dining at five-star hotels should be left for home towns and not when you are in some corner of the world. In Sanya, China, we were staying at Sheraton but the walk in the crowded market was much more interesting and less touristy. In Hakone Japan, my early morning stroll near our hotel, watched the sunrise from amidst autumn scenery, gave a sense of fulfilment than city sightseeing.
There were other experiences, some hilarious, some rude, some friendly but then we took them in our stride considering we have individual compulsions. We learnt how to empathise, to care and share. We travel because we want to see the world, to experience livelihoods and people. If we want luxury then it is best to stay at home.
I have slowed down a bit but given an opportunity would readily pack my bags and go where my attitude takes me.