Traveler not a tourist

I suffer from perpetual fernweh

I am not sure if it can be understood, but I find myself at home in the strangest of lands among strangers with whom I might share not more than just a conversation and never see them again. The beauty, the laughter and the solitude experienced during travels comfort me like nothing else. I am not a fussy traveler. I don’t carry loads of luggage. I don’t dress up. I don’t meticulously plan out all details. I don’t worry when things go wrong. It’s like I’m a totally different person when I travel. I love that ‘me’ and continue to travel often in an attempt to bring over the person who I am from that side to the reality of everyday. Someday we will unite and there will be no turning back. But until that day, here’s a bird’s-eye view of the places that I want to travel to in India.

I want to start out from home with a backpack containing warm and cool clothes, trekking and regular footwear, and medicines and books. I will board a train to Mysore and revisit all places I went to as a child. I will then take the scenic train journey to Mangalore where I will beach-hop and try some amazing vegetarian food. With a trek group I’d walk up to Kudremukh and Tadiandamol in the Western Ghats. I absolutely love mountains. The solidarity with which they stand intimidatingly is enough to make me let go off all worries and be one with the strength and peace they emanate.

I will then travel through Gokarna to Goa, chilling by the unexplored beaches and catching up with friends. I want to camp out on the Paradise beach in Gokarna and wake up on a hammock to a beautiful morning after a lovely bonfire night. At Goa I want to spend my time at the upper most beaches discovering myself and trying out Yoga on the beach in the mornings. Exploring the beaches upward, I will reach Maharashtra. I want to spend another ten days of my life meditating at Igatpuri. I will then travel to Lonawala and Mahabaleshwar and be one with the mountains again. Afterwards, I will head to Mumbai and do all touristy things. I’ll catch up with friends, visit Instagram worthy cafes and click fabulous pictures, drive all night and bar-hop, shop for some cheap Bollywood kind of clothes and shoes, travel in the local train and pretend to rush around just like everyone else just for cheap thrills. Once again I’ll pack my bags and head to Gujarat and go to Rann of Kutch. With a few friends from Gujarat, I’ll probably head to Daman and Diu and chill.

One of the places I really want to visit is Rajasthan. I’ll visit those haunted havelis promoted on Facebook, taste some amazing dal-bhati-churma, kachori and the other things I don’t know about. I’ll go to the desert and probably feel bad about how camels are treated. Nevertheless, I’ll feel at peace in the vast expanse of brown I’m sure. I love trees with no leaves, it somehow gives me a sense of confidence and screams ‘impermanence’ bringing me back to reality, whatever state of mind I’m in. I equally love green trees that symbolize renewing life, energy and strength. I love both the lifeless, dead trees and the evergreen, lively trees.

Next, I’ll travel to Kashmir and trek the Great Lakes. I’m sure I would absolutely love that. I’ll bike ride to Ladakh and feel the free spirit in me soar as I take in the ever changing scenery. I’ll probably stop and have Maggi on the way and drink the tea (without milk) that I’ll carry with me. I’ll do all the off-beat things in Ladakh and spend time volunteering with the locals. I’ll learn how to make a pashmina stole and spend time playing with the sheep and dogs. Oh! The dogs up in the northern hills are so gorgeous. They look like bears and their fur is thick and they’re warm and cuddly. I wish I could trek the Mount Everest itself, but I’ll settle for the Mount Everest Base Camp (being realistic, have you seen me and my dietary and lifestyle habits lately?!). However, that’s a life goal which I will definitely accomplish someday.

I will travel to Sikkim and spend a good time doing nothing. I’ll watch the sun rise and cast its golden glow on the snowy white mountains. I’ll also do the Manasa Sarovar trip where I will listen to stories about Lord Shiva and eat less and walk more. I’ll then travel to the Eastern part of India. Due to all the restricted areas and permission issues, I’ll take all the permits and plan this part of my travel in advance. I want to float on that clear lake (I don’t remember the name) and go to the place with the hanging root bridge. I’ll learn how to cook the vegetarian local cuisine and try my hand at managing a restaurant/cafe. I’ll go back to Himachal, my love, once again and to Bir Billing where I’ll paraglide and look upon the world at my feet. I’ll ski in Auli and head to Delhi. I’ll eat the roadside chat and catch up with friends and let them show me the beautiful place.

I’ll head to the architectural marvels at Madhya Pradesh and visit Indore’s Sarafa Bazaar’s night street food market. I’ll go on long safaris and live in jungles in the hope of spotting wildlife. I’ll volunteer with some organizations that work with elephants. I recently read somewhere that elephants look at humans the way humans look at puppies — they think we are cute! Next, I’ll head to Vizag, Araku and Orissa to visit Chilika lake. I’ll head to the God’s own country, go to Valaparai, Munnar, Kochi, Varkala and Alapuzha where I’ll treat myself to ayurvedic treatments and go for a retreat in Kodaikanal. Upon rejuvenation, I’ll head out for another trek in Kerala and chill in the backwaters. I’ll head to Pondicherry and spend some days living in Auroville amidst all that peace and calmness before I head to Andaman. I’ll take the permits and visit Barren islands for sure. I’ve always wanted to do that since I read about it in school geography text books. I’ll scuba dive and explore the sea life up and close. I’ll spend days together sprawled on the beach reading and take a ship back to Chennai from where I’ll catch a train back to Bangalore.

I’m sure there are many places I have missed that are coming back to me now. I’ll however not include them here but they’re in my mind when I actually pack my bags for this epic Indian trip. We are all travelling on our own journeys, some go out to escape and some go out to find themselves.

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