I am sure every one of us has fallen in love once in our lives- the kind of love that overwhelms you, that puts us in a dilemma whether to laugh or cry with joy, the kind that makes us believe that we have been completely filled, like the fingers of our hands fill each others gaps when clasped together. Well, this is how i feel about traveling. Yes, it is about exploring places, yes it is about getting to know people and definitely about gaining wisdom through the experiences. However, for me these are like the side salads and french fries of a more important and delicious main course, which always seems to come at the end of the travel.
This main course is the sum total of all the experiences, moments of crisis (like when you lose your money or forgot where you kept that map which was supposed to be your solo guide), moments of happiness when you realize you have things common with complete strangers more than your close friends or moments when you want to give a big victorious shout because you could reach the supposedly difficult-to-overcome hilltop! As travelers, we have all been there (and some more). If we remove even one piece of these moments, it will never be the same as it is now and at the end, when you reach that much dreaded last night among your new found kindred spirits, you get flashbacks of the extraordinary past few days. Then when you look around yourself, at the people and the places that have become so familiar to your eyes, you realize you are not the same person who arrived at this foreign land few days or weeks or months ago. The result of these experiences and reflections is change, but the good kind, the sort that brings out the best in you. To your delightful amazement, you realize that you have anew love for everything around you. Maybe you hated that old dingy phone of yours before but now you are somehow loving its haggard face because you both have had some beautiful moments together- or maybe you never thought you could love an insignificant looking piece of paper as much as you love the ticket that got you an entry to one of the most wonderful cultural architecture of the place or the bus ticket which got you here on the first place. You are filled with love, not just for others but for yourself, so much that you want to hug the person staring back at you in the mirror. You learn to laugh at trouble and unhappiness just like you did at the end of your travel when you remembered how you had lost your way, believing this was going to be your last day on Earth or the time when you left your very expensive camera in a shop and thought you will never see it again in your life (but you do). These "moments of impact" are, what I feel, the journey itself and the destination does not really count as long as we experience these moments.
The first time I experienced this extraordinary feeling is when I embarked on my first solo travel to Udaipur. I had heard of its beauty before, but good thing I went there myself because this was a trip that has very much changed me. I had been to many trips before Udaipur but it was only when I went solo that i realized I am a loner- not the brooding, depressed kind, but one who values independence more than anything else. There was no one that I had to plan the itinerary with- I could go where I want, wake up in the morning however late, skip meals and go to a place twice if it fascinated me enough. The narrow streets of Udaipur, with donkeys and cows roaming the streets like they owned the place, the people greeting you and trying to talk to you even when you are in a hurry and the cafes by the lake- all of Udaipur fascinated me and I fell in love with it. The amazing moments i had there beckoned for yet another round. So I went there again, a year later, this time with a friend. I figured I could give up a little of my independence, in order to share the beautiful happiness that I had felt, with her. As expected, Udaipur did not disappoint us. It was full of new surprises and new experiences. It was the same place for me but the experiences were even better. It was then that I realized that it was not the place but more the balance it shared on a metaphorical seesaw with those "moments of impact". Living in one of the most notorious cities in the world (Delhi) makes one skeptical of everything. Even the nicest gesture can make you question the intentions of the other person but in those two trips, I learned to switch off my skeptical button and simply let go of all inhibitions. Oh, and what a relief I did that because it led me to some really good people with beautiful hearts and I was able to create yet another amazing story in my life.
I think no amount of happiness is ever enough for us. Its like a jar inside our body that every time it is filled it spreads throughout our body and then we need to fill that jar of happiness again. For me travel is as essential to creating happiness as breathing is for living and I aspire to keep filling that jar of happiness inside me all my life, never letting it empty itself and spread happiness to everything around me!