The empty glass sits on the creaking table, a flickering bulb disturbs the silence, the barely-functioning fan sends the smoke around the room and I sit on a desolate chair with a filled diary and a pen gone dry. I don’t want to write. I just want to cry. But, then I refill the empty glass. The creaking table makes noise as more weight is poured on it. I spent last night in an unnamed train station. The night before, a freezing bus shed. Today, I am here. Tomorrow, I will be gone.
Nowadays, I ask myself, “Why do it?”
I don’t seek adventure. I seek knowledge. But at what price?
Lost friendships, unhappy family members and no love on the horizon.
Where art thou home?
A very good friend, Sreshti, gifted a book 'Trekking in the Himalayas' and wrote on the first page, "There are many many trails and routes in this book. One might end, only to make way for the other. I hope, you too, find as many roads and trails in life as possible, only to find that the final and most beautiful one is the one to home."
Sure, waking up in a new city every day has an element of romance to it. But, it can be physically and mentally taxing. We all need a place of refuge. A place we can recede to when the going gets tough. Where do you go when there is no place to call home?
How to find home on the road?
Travel slow! Take your time exploring places. Stay longer in cities, towns and villages that you like. Find your favourite restaurants, cafes, bakeries and bars and frequent them. Volunteering also helps you create a base at a place. It also helps you know the place better.
Family - Folks you left behind
I discovered the love for family and the art of expressing it thanks to travelling. In some ways, travelling brought me closer to my family than ever before. But, the road also keeps me away from them. I miss them dearly. There are four reasons I keep going home - mom, grandpa, dad and my dogs. Besides missing their love and care, I am genuinely worried about my grandpa. He is 75 and going strong yet I often think "What if?"
How to stay in touch with family while travelling?
My grandpa hates cell phones. Yet, whenever I am travelling he makes it a point to call me on Sundays. He showed me how I can travel and still be in touch with family. I speak with them at least once a week. Technology has made it easier to stay connected. But, sending letters and postcards will make you feel much better.
Friends - People you lost with time and distance
With time, the experiences, stories, memories and passport stamps went up. What I didn't realise was that all this came at a great cost. I went home after some 12 months of continuous travelling and found out that I had lost many friends. I just wasn't there for them in the time of need and celebration, therefore, they had moved on. To add to that, I had experienced half the world and was a different person but they were still the same. I had trouble holding conversations with them the disconnect was clearly visible.
What to do?
Well, I have learned to live without friends. But, staying connected helps. Call them on their big days, drop messages, share photos and experiences. I also want to say, make friends on the road. But, personally speaking, those friendships hardly survive the trials of time. I am not in touch with anyone I met in the past 3.5 years of travelling.
Festivals - A time to celebrate nothing
Even the toughest long-term traveller must be missing home when the firecrackers lit the night, kites take to the sky and colours fly in the air. This past Diwali I was in Mizoram, the state that doesn't lit a single diya and I missed home terribly. In the last 10 years, I have hardly celebrated 7-8 festivals at home. I miss the colours, crackers and cacophony. But, what I miss the most is the energy and enthusiasm of festivals and the happiness that is clearly visible on the faces of people.
How to be festive in a foreign land?
I flew kites with kids in Puerto Rico, participated in Dussehra puja in Ecuador and taught dandiya to a couple of Danes in Galapagos. Try to infuse the festive aroma wherever you are. Tell fellow travellers and locals about the festival and get them to celebrate it with you. My dear friend, Kamakshi, shared a great idea, "Wherever you are in the world, just cook your favourite meal on the festival day and rekindle the spirit of the festival."
No love at the end of the tunnel
I have been up and down the Americas from Acadia National Park in Maine to Torres Del Paine in Chile. I have traversed the road from Kutch to Kohima. And, despite all this, I am still a solo traveller. Every now and then, I desire company. The kind of presence that friends and family can't fulfil. I crave for such company, even more, since I spend most of my time in unknown lands surrounded by new faces. The absence of love brings a feeling of emptiness.
Where to look for love while travelling?
I don't know.
Witnessing the wonders of the world turns you into an idealist and a dreamer. You perceive only the positives of the world. And, even when you are not travelling, you see the world around you with rose-tinted glasses. But, this is not the case with your friends and family members. They see things differently. You can't explain your ideologies to them and you can't digest their understanding of the world. This could lead to toxic conversations and awkward situations.
How to deal with the differences
Avoid potentially controversial topics. Explain your experiences once. If they understand then good, if not, then let them be.
Solo travelling the world, you will gather a wealth of knowledge and very little money. You'll stretch the rupee. You'll tread down the highway and stick the thumb out. You'll make a bedroom out of a sky full of stars and a lonely half-crescent moon. The moon! You are a lot like him. Today you are full in bloom. Tomorrow, in the depths of darkness.
You will go to the remote village beyond the three hills or visit the isolated island far from a few seas. You will come back with stories and knowledge to share. They will be hardly appreciated. You know you are walking the fine line between struggle and failure. But, you can't give up. You didn't give up when no car or truck stopped to give you a ride on that nondescript patch of Patagonia. You know you have an immense pool of patience and perseverance. But, despite all that, you will wonder, is it better to just give up?
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