I’ve done it. I’ve managed to reach the grand old age of thirty by failing at every societal standard laid before me – my index finger is ringless, my hair is fashionably grey, my uterus is rotting to the sound of my spinsterhood and I have dared to have a good time nonetheless. Who would’ve thought that being a disgrace would be such an adventure? They should’ve made it less exciting, and catered it to my attraction to procrastination.
5. I got to hug my baby niece and spend 2 whole weeks being bullied by her (it was the best feeling in the world!)
5. I got to see 15 new places in Thailand. Not to mention the great towns we got to explore in Kerala, India, over Christmas.
2017 is my 30th year and I intend to go after adventure and happiness with the same (if not slightly more exaggerated) vigour! After all, I read some potty graffiti recently that said “Do more of what you love!”. If that’s not a sign, then I don’t know what is.
I had a bizarre dream last night. It started of as a stress dream about work. I was sent out on an errand. While wandering the streets, I saw an old Caucasian man sipping a cup of chai (the elixir of life). I felt a sudden and unconquerable urge to buy myself a cuppa. I asked him where it was. He pointed me to a scene that made my chest constrict and my eyes tear up.
Unfortunately, I had to get to work so I had to peel my eyes off, wipe off my drool and slowly walk away. While attending to boring work details, I suddenly hit upon a thought that work didn’t really care about me, so why should I care about them? It was an idea put into my head thanks to a lovely cup of chai. And so I left work and went in search of the chai wallah.
I couldn’t find him.
Someone bumped into me and I found myself holding a key to a dilapidated old staircase. I decided I might as well climb it and see what was above. After a long “I’m going to die”climb, I reached the top. Opened the creaky door at the end of the claustrophobia inducing tunnel.
What I saw next blew my mind. Instead of blue sky, the earth was filled with green, misty mountains and rivers. So when I looked up, I could see mountains instead of stars and the sky was where the rivers were supposed to flow. I was on a tiny ledge on a cliff. It had a tiny wall around it to stop people from accidentally falling off, I guess.
And there on the corner of the ledge was the hot kettle of masala chai.
I am a great advocate of packing light and making do with bare necessities because let’s face it, if you wanted to travel to another country to experience all the things you love at home (re: McDonalds), then you might as well stay home. To be fair, I make it a point to try the local KFC meal just because. This is what it looks like in Bangkok.
Jokes aside (but seriously, the word ‘Spicy’ in a meal is a warning, not a description!), there are somethings that you should carry with you no matter how large or small your luggage space is. It has helped turn travels into journeys into unforgettable adventures and the best part of it all is that they are ABSOLUTELY FREE!
In no particular order, I give you my packing essential list.
Packing Essential #1 – An Open Mind
Right alongside your handy travel adapter (even though being phoneless can have great perks!), bring an open mind. There will be times when you are called on to drink cocktails from shady bars in buckets, there will be times you will have to drive on the other side of the road, times when out of sheer hunger you will say yes to the man selling roasted scorpions. These make great icebreakers when you’re on your next adventure but mostly you will remember having the time of your life!
Packing Essential #2 – Patience
If you don’t have an annoying sibling, find an annoying friend or go stand in the queue at Nilgiris (a supermarket that just can’t bill your products without also making you wait for 500 hours) in India. It will help you develop this great thing called Patience which is also free but you won’t believe the things it will help teach you. That delayed sky-train ride, those long hours being lost in translation, those cancelled flights, those times a terminal becomes your second home – these are things that help you live a realistic day-to-day life in a foreign country. It could lead you to holidays you never planned for – like an island trip to Zanzibar or breath-taking views because walking through dangerous hills was your only chance out. When you aren’t trying to follow in Bill Murray’s footsteps, life happens to you.
Packing Essential #3 – Greetings 101
I have always been the kind who doesn’t read much about the place or its culture till I am actually smack in the middle of living it. It is not always a good idea. There’s always a chance that somebody speaks English and will help you out, but it could just as easily go the other way. If you are like me, just observe the words that are being said in greetings. Saying hello is a big deal in all cultures and even if you speak no more than the word for ‘whats up?’, you will find your journey that much more easy because of it. It gives off the impression that you are trying (which, of course you are) and it helps you make friends with the locals which can lead to even more moments you won’t soon forget. Find a way to bond and if you can get them to smile (or laugh) back at you, you are set!
Packing Essential #4 – Manners
While not all rituals seem logical to you, when in a foreign country, it is good to practice your manners. They do things different two streets down from where my parents stay and yet, when I’m in their neighbourhood, I respect their way. As a guest, it is your duty to be mindful of what goes and what doesn’t. Keep your eyes open and read body language where you can. Take your shoes off where you need to, cover up where it is expected, and stand up for the anthem even if it is in the cinema. At the end of the day, good manners will take you where your money won’t go.
Packing Essential #5 – Curiosity
This great characteristic to develop is deadly to cats, or so I hear, but great for us humans. Wanting to know what that particular shrine is, or what is down that colourful street is a great way to discover things that aren’t on a Lonely Planet Guide or on Trip Advisor. Yes, you can see and do and all touristy things that your heart desire, but there is something appealing about finding a canal and pointing and ordering the greatest dish you have ever tasted. Forget the taxi and get on that rickety boat. You never know what treasure you will find on the other side!
I got obsessed with looking at photos of old Bangalore – it’s one of those things that happens when one research topic leads to the googling of another and then another and then … you know where it ends, if it ever ends. It made me nostalgic for the kind of Bangalore I grew up in. Ones where we’d build a makeshift tent in the backyard in the summer, where the roads were full of cycling teenagers and intense games of street cricket. Sometimes I forget that in all this 21st century pollution and greyness and smog and traffic (Oh god, the traffic!), that Bangalore is still green and it still has pockets of magic just waiting to blow your mind if you know where to look at it.
I knew this without a shadow of a doubt as I was rushing home after work and you could just see the monsoon storm clouds rolling in. You know what Bangalore is when you can run with a bag on your head to chai aunty and ask for a hot cuppa. You know when you’re sitting on the old swing on someone’s old Bangalore house and you see the trees that are centuries old, that were once parts of woods – they have seen and will see everything.
You know Bangalore is beautiful when you look at views like these!
I haven’t hosted Adam here before, but he is THE BOY that I keep talking about. Show him some love.
Time stretches back in the form of memories, highlights, edited collections of things we choose to retain. If you had just 500 words to talk about about the last 5 years what would you choose to include, what would you omit, what would you not even be able to recall? How do we select what memories are worthy?
I’d remember first and foremost meeting you, I’d recall with film like quality the first time our eyes met, our first conversation about the beer you were drinking. I’d remember shutting ourselves in as a storm raged outside, the tranquility we’d feel in shutting the world out. I’d remember following Stephen down remote coastal paths, as if on a voyage of discovery. I’d remember our first place together and how hard it was to get here to this point, sitting here now thinking of the last 5 years. I’d remember falling in love.
If I had to pick one unifying factor that encapsulated the last five years it would be travel and expanding horizons. When I went to Cyprus in 2010 I hadn’t been abroad for 10 years, since then I have been on a 3,000 mile European road trip that took in 9 countries, visited my sister when she worked in Germany, been to Spain twice, to Slovakia for my brothers stag do, spent a week in Bangkok and visited India twice before eventually relocating here in 2014. I always thought I had an adventurous spirit buried inside me that wanted to get out and see the world, and now here I am living in India, 5 years ago i’d have found that impossible to imagine.
My family has changed a lot over the last 5 years. The older generation, who were the rocks for so long have found themselves more reliant on the support of the young as time inevitably began to take its toll. In 2011 my Granddad died, I don’t use the words lightly but he was a great man, constantly supportive, always kind, always putting himself second to our needs. I draw inspiration from his memory as I try to make my way in what can sometimes be a vastly confusing world.
In July 2014 my younger brother got married. I think i’ll look back on the memories of that time as some of my fondest. Everyone important to me in one place, wonderful weather and true happiness, something that shouldn’t be underestimated in life, something that can be all too fleeting.
I’d look back to the 2010 version of me and tell him not to give up, that there are new experiences and unimaginable things ahead, that what perhaps seemed like a dreary existence wasn’t going to last forever. I’ve never been one for 5 year plans or planning the minutiae of my life, sometimes I have thought it has been to my detriment. But as I look back across the last 5 years i’m glad I just allowed things to happen, because allowing things to happen can take you to places you never imagined.