Although I tend to look at people who talk about the transformative nature of travel with a hint of cynicism, I feel like I’ve myself been transformed considerably by the freewheeling life I’ve been leading over the past several years. And I’m not sure if it’s always been a good thing.
The positive aspects are many – the repository of incidents, people, places, landscapes, experiences is so huge that I feel like I’ve lived many lives already and even if I don’t do a single thing from today, I’ll most likely not have any regrets. I’ve been writing vigorously over the past several days, poring over my notes, recounting and remembering people and events, feeling utterly nostalgic, about Ladakh, Vietnam, Laos, Nagaland, Darjeeling, Sri Lanka, Hampi and I feel enormously fortunate for having been able to travel so freely and for so long. There are bad days on the road, lonely, depressing days, but it’s never difficult to overcome them because with every new place, you surround yourself with new people and a new setting to refresh yourself. I’ve never been stuck for very long during my travels and if I have been in one place for too long, it’s only because I wanted to.
But having traveled for as long and as relentlessly as I have, it’s becoming more difficult with each journey to come back home. Nowadays, I just go into a shell when I’m in Mumbai or Chennai. While earlier, when I was working in Mumbai, I used to be enthusiastic to go hang out with friends, binge on movie marathons in Fort and Colaba, eat and drink out at every available opportunity, now it’s all about conserving money for the next trip because money is a necessity and the next trip can’t come soon enough. So life here is an oppressive kind of monotony where I feel like I’m the antagonist to the character that I am when I’m traveling. There’s also little that I find that I can connect to here and the distance and the effort it takes to commute around the city takes a toll on me that it doesn’t in other places. Even on those rare social interactions, a sort of listlessness or boredom takes over. Sometimes, it’s because I feel the pressure to live up to the “traveler” tag which means I’m supposed to come up with a funny story at the drop of a hat and other times, it’s the retread of the same conversation a group of us might have had innumerable times. There was a time I used to take pleasure in these things but it just doesn’t feel good enough anymore.
Travel, at least for me, has an exciting journalistic aspect to it. You ask a lot of questions, try to find out about new places, hear out new stories and points of view, take a lot of pictures and I’m sure that can be done at home as well. But along with people who live in a place, you mingle with many of the travelers passing through. I guess, even though I bitch about their ways very often, I miss those interactions with people who tell you where they’ve been, what they’ve been doing and the things they’ve seen while you tell them about yourself. There’s an openness, warmth and unpredictability to these conversations that I miss dearly when I’m back home. Long term travel is addictive because people like myself can never have enough of it and once you’re used to it, you feel like a very strange person in a static, workaday world when you’re back home.