Travel · Uncategorized

Confessions of a Non-Traveler, as per Popular Opinion

Hear it from someone not out on the roads everyday!

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“How’s the hangover of the trip?”

I can’t possibly give a fitting answer to that question yet.

When I was asked to share my experiences of the trip, I did mention that my brain is finding it hard to register what happened because I’m so ecstatic.

I remember saying the same to my fellow travellers as well.

When you are an avid traveller, you tend to make sense of what’s happening to you as it happens. But, for me, who was incessantly lectured about travelling than being roped in for a trip, it was a novel experience. And hence, my way of looking at it is extremely child-like.

 

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That Debut

I’m not gonna give you a list of things we saw or did in Bhutan; the internet already helps you with that. However, seeing is actually believing. Whether it was the hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, the most revered place in Bhutan, or the Dochula Pass which, despite its ability to freeze you, is one of the most beautiful places to explore. Your eyes got to do the talking.

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Eyes are the mirror to your soul. And the experiences that you capture in your soul is solely your own. Don’t let people’s opinions shape it.

Here’s a video of it I shot.

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Travel needs money (I’m quoting our trip organiser here).

It needs your interest and a willingness to come out of your comfort zone.

If your friends or family do not travel unless absolutely necessary, you will have to keep your travel desires wrapped up. I chose to unwrap it even when I was not in my best financial situation.

It’s difficult to manage finances when you are a freelancer in a tier 2 city. Somehow, I chose not to over-think and follow my gut. I knew I wanted to go and then, tried to pull in resources to fund myself.

I didn’t consider the hows and the whys or rely on the assumption that I’ll get such opportunities in future.

For an over-thinker who indulges in over analysis over the smallest of things, this came surprisingly naturally.

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However.

The night before we were supposed to leave, I developed cold feet.

  • I don’t know anybody except one. How am I gonna mingle with them?
  • I haven’t made friends since college, I guess. And these people are from varied backgrounds. How will we proceed as a singular group?
  • Will I like the same things they do?
  • Should I back out? I did prepare for the trip for over a month and I was so excited. So was my mother who pulled in her resources too.
  • But I am nervous.
  • And most of all, what if somebody puts a bomb in my backpack and I get caught at the check-in??? Who’ll believe me? Why do we have to travel in an airplane? It’s so chaotic!

Now that I keep looking at the videos from the trip, of everyone dancing, singing, enjoying themselves, indulging in pranks, I understand why I am always advised to refrain from over-thinking.

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This was my chance to travel on my own and I wished to have fun. Other things could go down the drain. Once you get that in your head, it’s all uphill.

 


The morning after we reached Phuntsholing (the border town), I woke up early and began picking stuff to wear, deciding on how I should reassemble my clothes and more. I had watched mom do it whenever we would go anywhere.

I didn’t think much and chose what I thought was best. There was no desire to make things perfect. It was indeed an open mind. No wonder I was the most ecstatic when it all ended.

The thing is I hardly travel.

In the 26 years of my existence, there hasn’t been any occasion when I travelled without a purpose or without my family. When you are born in a family of ‘travel only under compulsion’, you long to experience the stuff they show in movies – protagonists finding themselves, finding a soul-mate, getting to understand the person they hated initially or simply to unwind and rewind.

An Imtiaz Ali fan, I had this wanderlust in me and wanted to see if, like almost everything else, movies dupe us with their own version of travelling and its benefits. But, I can say those are not entirely wrong.

You learn to listen to your instinct, do what comes to your mind and just savor whatever good or bad happens.

While I was the odd one out in the group of frequent travelers, I was the only one who looked at the smallest of experiences from an entirely different point of view. For example, hearing the sound of your own heartbeat in a huge, beautiful room at Thimphu (the capital of Bhutan) because it is so quiet and you are alone!

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Or jumping into ice-cold water from the raft in spite of not knowing swimming.

Or walking around the city centre without warm clothes in biting cold.

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Or changing your clothes in the bus!

A lot of things were ticked off from the bucket list I had in my mind.

And I never knew watching so many re-runs of F.R.I.E.N.D.S would come in handy some day!

Check this out!

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From opening the super hard lock of the hotel room on the first night to packing my bags in 10 minutes on the last day, there were the smallest of things which I always thought I wouldn’t be able to do.

Mom was right, “Once you are on your own, you do whatever you can without a prompt.”

Of course, she wasn’t talking about getting shit drunk and then sleeping with the bedspread instead of the blanket!

 

Bhutan, you Teacher!

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For people preferring to travel to Europe, visiting our neighbouring countries is like visiting Esplanade (soon to open in Bhubaneswar).

But, there is a reason why Asian culture gets a certain kind of reverence unmatched anywhere in the world. That is what compelled Michael Jackson to make India a part of his world tour back in 1996 when most international stars would give it a miss!

Unfortunately, there’s an important aspect of the “Art of Living” which we Indians have missed with materialism and capitalism coming in. That small country Bhutan has formed its culture on those same aspects –

  • Contentment
  • Need above Greed.
  • Valuing what you have.

 

Add to that their physical fitness and the food they eat made of natural ingredients. I have written an entire Bhutan Special on the food culture.

Happiness means Datshi! Bhutan Special

 

No Competition

Unlike India, they do not aspire to compete with the western world. They are – what each human being should also possess – secure.

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Bhutan ranks first among Asia’s happiest countries because they do not seek to “be the best as per western standards”. When I read blogs on Bhutan as a preparation for the trip, I encountered most western travellers labelling it an under-developed country. I wonder why!

Because for an Indian, a country with spotless roads, stringent traffic rules and people waving “hello” or “goodbye” to tourists is a sign of real progress and development.

And for a feminist, the very sight of women managing businesses, carrying their babies on their backs to work and walking alone on lonely roads is heaven!!

 

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I understand the economy and the dynamics of the two countries are different. And India is a sub-continent in no comparison to Bhutan which has a population of 7 lakhs. (We have more people coming to our weddings!)

However, it’ll be wrong to rank or label or ‘judge’ Bhutan on the basis of the number of malls and multiplexes.

Just like the definition of success and happiness is subjective, the tag of “development” is also subjective. Trust me, if you are an introvert like me and wish to retreat somewhere, you will love the country. It will exceed your expectations.

The Land of Happiness

When I was in the fifth grade, I won an elocution competition the topic of which was – How to be Happy?

My landlord helped me with the write-up and I remember saying clearly –

Contentment is the key to happiness.

I understood the above truth 15 years later.

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The biggest cause of our suffering has always been insecurity. That makes you jealous, needlessly competitive and greedy. When you are insecure, ego finds it easy to creep in. And you tend to compare your real life with other people’s reel lives.

I have felt like a loser for so long since I wasn’t adept at many things others were. People would pressurize my mom to train me in stuff. All this bickering would get to me and I’d presume I was good-for-nothing. It continued for the longest time!

Insecurity makes you look at yourself from other people’s perspective. You don’t need that!

That’s the biggest thing that small Himalayan kingdom taught me!

And one of the key lessons I learnt – You won’t know what you are capable of unless you attempt.

Whether it’s mingling with a couple of strangers, ensuring none of your stuff (even a handkerchief) gets lost, trusting your own gut (I stuck to taking my backpack for hike to the Tiger’s Nest in spite of everyone advising me against it! The bag turned out to be a saviour for my photographer mates).

The only thing I regret is missing on the night at the pub in Paro because I chose to sleep after the hike to the Tiger’s Nest while the dudes went to “get food” and got so much in return!

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As they say – “Let’s travel as much as we can. We are gonna sleep in our graves anyway.”

And remember, that “as much” is also subjective, like success and happiness. Don’t let others define it.

And value those friends who are willing to include you in trips rather than the ones who make snarky comments on you. Actions speak louder than words, you see!

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So, who’s up for the next trip?

 

(Photo Credits – Bireswar Pati/, Sandeep Das)

 

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