As American author John Green declares, “I am in love with cities I have never been to,” travelling evokes in me, too, a hunger to explore, a passion to seek, and a burning desire to experience the strange and the new.
I read about the ‘Travelling chaiwala’ in Hindustan Times recently. A simple tea-stall owner in Kochi, he is a passionate traveller and a compulsive wanderer, having managed to visit an extraordinary number of countries on his meagre income, by taking bank loans and then, paying them back painstakingly, all the while planning his next trip. I could empathise with him immediately because I am also, notoriously, a vagabond at heart. My feet begin to itch after a few months and I am raring to go someplace.
My excitement is palpable and makes my husband peer at me warily over the newspaper at breakfast when, animatedly, I break the news of the latest destination I have discovered. I can hear him groan under his breath, “Here she goes again,” but good naturedly, resigned to the fact that he married a gypsy, he is always game.
A set of 20 beautifully bound volumes called the Library of Nations are the pride of my book collection and I can spend hours poring over them. They describe in stunning detail, with the help of gorgeous photographs, the continents, countries, and people of the world. My imagination goes into overdrive as I drool over exotic Warsaw, picturesque St Petersburg, romantic Rome, and scenic Seoul. I envision myself roaming the foreign streets and stepping into the fascinating history of each. My planning, which is as exciting if not more than the actual trip, starts months in advance of the holiday season, as I scour the internet, make scores of phone calls, and sign up avidly on every available travel group and blog for information.
The culture, the architecture, the food, and the way of life of people around the globe are so varied and engrossing that I feel a lifetime is not enough to see and explore. Yes, we have faced crisis occasionally with misplaced passports and lost baggage at airports. We have also experienced some ghastly lodgings, tasted abominable food, and been short-changed and fleeced by crooked cab drivers and foxy travel agents. Yet the zeal to travel and see the world is still intact and unbroken.
I am fond of quoting an anonymous writer who pronounced succinctly: “All I really want to do is spend my life travelling the world, reading books that take my breath away, drinking all kinds of teas, and occasionally write something. I mean, is that too much to ask?”
The writer is a Jalandhar-based freelance contributor.