by Avi Gopani
Through my childhood, I have travelled to countless fictional worlds and lived in different stories through the allure of words, while never physically having to move from my corner of the world. Over time, the sense of reverie has turned into an appreciation for humans and their stories. Every time I look at a crowd of people in the streets, a sense of sonder sinks in along with a want to explore everyone’s unique realities. This emotion translates into my love for travelling, to explore the history of the people who used to live contrasted with the tales of those currently living there. I feel most like myself while travelling, in fact, for those few days I feel beyond myself being the happiest version of me that feels free- free from herself and free from the world.
While I always come back from my travels as a person slightly changed, slightly enhanced and with some of the best memories, I lived the magic of how a new culture can change one after my trip to Spain in May 2019. I noticed the subtle lifestyle traits- the siesta time, the beaches being full by evening after work- people laughing, playing, relaxing- something I could contrast with the workaholic life in India where most working people are too tired and miserable after their overworked shifts. Craving to learn more, my conversations with local tour guides, local baristas or anyone I met introduced me to a feeling of happiness, an awe for their country and a love for their life. My early morning walks filled me with peace of the empty streets, the city just waking up at 7 am- barely anyone on the streets but I could smell the coffee in the houses as I walked past them, seeing little kids going for breakfast from their windows. My late night walks always saw people, 11pm- the streetside cafes full with young friends chatting over some food, couples walking the streets hand in hand, friends laughing as they left the cinema hall. The place beamed of happiness, of life- of people who weren’t just surviving on early morning shifts, late night work with no time to enjoy life with friends and family. My initial reaction was to feel sad about how I dont have this, i dont have the idea of a fun future or the culture to go to cafes with my friends late at night. But soon I realised a small secret- I can. It gave me hope, it made me realise that the adult life I dread does not have to turn out that way, I can be happy too. I can make this my life too.
It wasn’t easy, it was a lot of convincing my family to let me have nights outside in India but I knew I could have this life. Soon, my life was impromptu plans to go and sit in the outside Starbucks 15 minutes away from home with my friends, to go on late night drives and sit by the seaside taking in the beauty of my city. I learnt that my city can also make me feel the awe that foriegn cities always have- I learnt that I never really knew my own city. I explored my life- I went on tours of Bombay like I was exploring a new place, soon- I took up the job as a tour guide to share my city with foreigners- a balance between sharing my life with theirs, a way to travel without actually travelling. I made my city mine, I made my life mine- I traveled and I found more about myself.
Maybe that’s why people travel- to not only explore new places but to explore yourself, to take bits and pieces and enhance your life.