As I walked down the ramp outside my college gate, I had no idea I was in for something different. I was on travelling on budget- with a few hundred rupees to take me almost 200 km from college to home. To add to this excitement, was the fact that I was travelling alone.
I was going back to the place I call home after three months. After one long walk, with two huge pieces of luggage and three buses packed with people, I found myself at the inter-city bus stand in Bangalore. As I had about half an hour to go for my bus to depart, I began to observe things around. It was fascinating to see people from all over the state and some from different parts of the country. I realised that when I observed keenly enough, they all acted differently too.
On the bus to Mysore, I had a one-of-a-kind experience. I met a total stranger and we got to talking. We spoke about random things for the next three hours and got to know a lot about what the other did, where they were from and of general opinions about things. I realised that it is not a prerequisite to know somebody before and only then get to talking. We developed this strange connect, as even when we parted ways, we didn’t know each other’s names. A general thing about strangers that I happened to notice all through this trip was their honesty- they don’t second-guess when they tell you something. This was something I noticed in myself too- there is a very low possibility of meeting them later on and there is no question of judgement; so why not open up to them?
They say that there is no place like home. A seemingly obvious aspect of travel is the destination- nothing better than when that is home. Mysore is world famous for its spectacular Dasara procession and I was eager to witness it. However, as fate would have it, rain played spoilsport and as a result of this, neither could I see the procession well nor the fireworks. This unpredictability associated with travel is why in my opinion, we should travel devoid of expectations. However, all was not lost. I went around Mysore and saw the spectacular lighting across the city and the palace lights.
Having lived in this city for 12 years of my life has made me know it in and out. I walked across the city, occasionally taking an auto or two, to see the remarkable lighting and the palace. In my opinion, it is only when you actually walk across a place, will you take in the atmosphere and appreciate what all the place has to offer. All throughout this ‘hike,’ I learned a lot by asking people questions right from issues like the Kaveri crisis to cricket and to the festival season. 12 years in Mysore has also taught me a good deal of Kannada and I noticed that the locals were much more responsive and amiable when I spoke in Kannada rather than in some other language. I now think that travel is not just the physical act of travelling, but also about travelling across peoples, trying to see different places through their eyes, for it is them who transform a space into a place.
Mysore Dasara 2016 Procession – (Credits: Anu James – http://www.ibtimes.co.in/mysore-dasara-mysuru-dussehra-where-watch-celebration-procession-online-live-streaming-info-651604)
Gloomy skies over Mysore during Dasara – (Credits: Siddharth Bhatnagar)
Soon it was time to bid farewell to Mysore. I was to catch a bus to Coimbatore to visit my grandparents. The journey to Coimbatore was a picturesque one. Changing terrains brought in changing people. Changing people brought in a change in language, ideas, thinking and food. As an outsider to this state and to its language, I felt that to hear people speak a language alien to you is a part and parcel of long-distance travel! I have to admit that on reaching there, I found that not knowing the language was a barrier, but I made up my mind to overcome it. I started to talk to people using the few words of Tamil I knew. Seeing that I was making an effort to talk in their language, made them converse with me in English and themselves teach me a few sentences of Tamil. As I mentioned before, I think this can be generalised to all places- locals being more responsive and amiable when you try and speak in their language. Slowly I began to understand simple sentences, but still had a pronunciation problem. Anyhow, it was a wonderful experience all in all, as I did learn something new. The point that I have been trying to get to is that the change in people, which comes about because of travel, brings about this whole new change of things, which I feel, fuels our wanderlust- add to that, the change it brings in you. In my opinion, all this really appeals to you to the fullest only when you are travelling alone, as you have the time and space to think about these things.
On the way to Coimbatore – (Credits: Siddharth Bhatnagar)
It is not just unknown people that one might meet during travel; I have always been in anticipation of meeting my grandparents. Be it them talking to me about almost anything under the sun, teaching me a cooking recipe or me teaching them the ABC’s of today’s gadgets, it is always a very treasurable experience. Curiosity is something all of us are born with and it is not limited to finding out about things or people who are total strangers. It is true that you get to learn something new from people new to you, but that does not mean you don’t learn new things from people known to you. The very sense of being together, with people you care about and love, is a huge reason to travel in itself.
Sunset from my grandparents’ house on the outskirts of Coimbatore – (Credits: Siddharth Bhatnagar)
Travel- when you truly understand what all it encompasses, it opens up a whole new world in front of you. The trip that I’ve talked about, made me realise that travel is not merely the act of going from one place to another, but also about exploring rather inconspicuous aspects of it.
Travelling on budget and alone, I have realised, has its own perks and in the words of Calvin’s father, from one of my favourite comics, “Calvin and Hobbes,” “builds character.” In my opinion, budget travel allows you to see the world as it is; to appreciate and catch more than just a glimpse of what is really out there. The kind of people you meet play a huge role in this. Travelling alone too, is quite the adventure in itself. I noticed that I engaged with strangers much more than what I would, if I was travelling with someone I knew. In addition to this, as opposed to travelling with someone you know, travelling alone gives you the mind-space to introspect and to analyse things that are happening around you with much greater ease.
On the bus back to Bangalore from Coimbatore, I took in all that had happened the past ten days. It had been an invigorating, yet insightful holiday for me. When people normally think about travel, they associate it with going to ‘exotic’ places. I think that it is not the place that makes this entire experience of travel exotic, but rather, the experience that you have when you go to any place and what you do during it that makes it memorable and striking. Be it learning a new language, exploring your own city, meeting and talking with people you love and care about or those that are complete strangers to you- all these are but just a few facets in the ever dynamic world of a traveller. I had no idea that this would be a trip from which I would gain so much insight. This very emotion- of having no idea what is going to happen and loving that- that is my philosophy of travel.
– Siddharth Bhatnagar