My travel timeline of 2017, as vibrant as my phone gallery. Travel that leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller,
A millennial kid, as they say, is spoilt for choices. There is always so much to look at. A lot of us appear to be confused too; so much media to consume, so many career choices to explore and so much of thoughts & feelings to deal with, all at the same time. There is so much of glocalization happening that the fear of missing out is only obvious to happen. But one thing that stands true for all of us; there are so many places that we want to travel to. I am a millennial too and I have been bitten by the travel bug too. Twenty seventeen proved to be the tipping point of my years of addiction with travel and I patted my back as I literally lived my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Make a Plan, was my most often used expression in the last year. I pledged to travel at length, more than what I had already been doing. Make a plan, put it on top of the to-do list and see it happen. While I did not have a definite list of places I wanted to visit, I was sure that I wanted to do at least one new check-in every month on facebook and from as many different parts of the world. Seems like a fancy new-year resolution, seems so unlikely to keep up, but I believe I did it with just the right amount of grace and glow!
In #January, I took a train to Ajmer and Chittorgarh to celebrate one year of knowing my doppelganger, who I met at a lit fest in pink city of India. Though we are not sure, if we still manage to pull that look, we do end up doing similar things every now & then. And so, I boarded the Yoga Express to explore another heritage fort in Rajasthan.
#February arrived and took me to forests of Central India. A safari trip to Kanha National Park & a boat ride in between the white marble rocks of Bedaghat made the valentine month beautiful. The colossal white marble rocks shone under the sun and river Narmada kept the breeze cool as the oarsmen sang the tales of folklore to make this day one of its kind.
Soon #March made its way. I was starting to become the Yes Man of travel opportunities. I revisited my alma mater in Pune, throwback moment to the good old carefree days. Lesser wisdom but also lesser things to take care of, high on emotions but low on errands, I fondly think of that honeymoon period in life. I could sit by that window in my hostel room overlooking the golf course which had the best view of the rainbow during monsoon evenings or probably walk till the helipad and let my voice echo towards Pune city lights. Exploring my way further into Maharashtra, this year, I reached Baramati, a small town, only 100 kilometers away from Pune & walked through some green and growing vineyards. Ample farmland, good roads to ride the car and never ending supply of sugarcane juice on the way made it a perfect weekend getaway from the city. Rural India promises some exciting & authentic road trips.
Road trips continued in #April. Folks from Pune decided to accompany me to North and we were back to Delhi with a plan. The Golden Triangle, as it is popularly known, we took a road trip to Jaipur via Agra. What kicked off as a road experience on Taj Expressway, ended with a game of Uno with global citizens in Jaipur. Zostel took precedence in decision making & we were making plans on the way. Not what I usually do, because I plan my trip sitting on the couch at home, detour on the highway was a pleasant surprise for me as well. We booked our dormitory beds at the click of a button and zapped through the smooth roads of Rajasthan like the gypsies.
#May happened. While it’s the onset of monsoons in the south, it is also the peak of summers up in the North. The best month to trek in the Himalayas. Also the best month for indulging in mango savories. I found my way once again to a village in the mango capital of India, Uttar Pradesh. This time, it was for a research project. However, I made time to visit Lucknow and witness the combination of old world charm with the Nawabi grandeur. Bada Imambara and the rickshaw pullers encircling it, lucknowi chaat and lucknowi chicken and not to forget the tundey kababi, I experienced it all on one hot weekend of May.
By #June, I needed some chilly weather. The one where cotton like clouds are hanging in the backdrop a bright blue sky. A place where days are bright, and the nights are dark, but the air is always chilly. These places also usually have wooden cottages, roads that are not straight, birds chirping, rivers flowing, and flowers spreading out so wide that we can’t see the bed till the end. Basically, I was craving for some Himalayas. I found my spot to find all of it in a package by trekking to the Rupin Pass in Himachal Pradesh. I set myself at a new high by climbing 15,380 ft, I was overjoyed. With the trail, the view, the new bonds & the crew.
Half of the year was over, and it was only beginning to get exciting. I was able to keep up with my new year resolution till this far and I was hopeful for the rest. #July was different kind of travel. I moved cities. I got back to my corporate stint with new opportunities in Bangalore. Break was over. But nothing disrupted me from planning new trips. I looked forward to exploring south of India once again. The best thing about July was not just the independent living but the perennially pleasant weather that seemed unbelievable from a distance. I never felt the need of a fan or an AC and even the monsoon was for real. I was overwhelmed that Kerala is only at an overnight distance from me and that there were unexplored weekend getaways only at a stone’s throw distance from me. I was happy.
By #August, I was again irking for a hike. I took the forest route from Munnar to Kodaikanal on one of the long weekend. It was a 30 kilometers hike, first downward and then climbing upwards. On a sunny day, it did add to the level of difficulty. Thankfully, we had added two days of chilling in kodai, after the trek. Unfortunately, couldn’t get to try the infamous kodai shrooms. But we did enjoy the mist from a distance, whiling away an unusual Monday morning at the aptly named Cloud Street Café.
I had no plans to take an off in #September. There weren’t any long weekends either. I felt like I am not going to have any travel plan this month. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. A research project at work took me to Indore on a Friday. I decided to use the weekend for my advantage. After finishing my work in Ujjain, I visited the old ruined town of Mandu, 95 kilometers from Indore. The local guide shared interesting romantic folklore from a long gone era and the day was spent in the rocky forts. The road from Indore to Mandu is a smooth ride that makes it a wholesome day trip. Speaking of day trips, the weekends of September were never short of it. I also took a self-drive trip to a sleepy quaint town in Karnataka, Agumbe. Only 350 kilometers away from Bangalore, I drove only to enjoy the road and the rains, something I used to miss a lot while in Delhi.
The onset of #October had set in the festive mood a bit sooner this time. Everyone was already eyeing on the Dussehra long weekend in the beginning of the month. I too was kicked about the Mysore Dussehra, its popularity had already begun to gain momentum. I made an early booking at the only hostel in Mysore city, The Mansion, 1907. An old house converted into a hostel, it was at a walkable distance from Mysore City palace. While I didn’t enjoy the procession because of the crowd, the lighting at the palace and the walking tour of the city did make it an eventful trip for me. The month of October gave me a lot more options to travel. My parents traveled down south during the Diwali break and we took a unique trip to Yercaud and Pondicherry. It was our only trip in which we experienced both, the hills & the sea. While it was still hot in Pondy, the cafes in White town and a day at Auroville made it quite a pleasant trip for us. But that is not where traveling in October ended. My brother, my Kerala buddy and I were still excited about the self-drive trip to Ooty. The Zostel experience at Lovedale was nothing short of romantic. The toy train ride from Lovedale to Coonoor, the location of the hostel amdist the tea gardens and the memories of our cycling trip, we made the most of the trip on the road.
#November was my last month in Bangalore. I was nearing the completion of my tenure in the South. There is never an enough time-period to be living in South India. I was feeling sad about still not visiting Kerala. In the last week of November, I took a solo trip to Fort Kochi. It was my personal yoga retreat with one of my teachers from the Ashram. I practiced yoga & meditation on a weekend, walked the streets of Mattancherry and enjoyed all the appam and fish that I could. From there on, the plan was to reach Goa via Konkan railways. The rail journey was green & gorgeous. The next few days were spent chilling & riding in Goa, in the true goan style. There was enough fish, beer & vitamin sea on the platter.
#December brought me back to Delhi. The winters were only beginning to set in. I was looking forward to my first winter trekking experience. This was also going to be the third trek of the year, something that I pulled off with not much effort. I went to Dayara Bugyal and spent sleepless nights in the yellow tents. Washing dishes at high altitude made me realize what negative temperatures would feel like, I expressed all my gratitude to the sun. The Zostel at Rishikesh was a perfect place to relax after week-long hardships.
The end of the year was a perfect time to reflect on my journeys. Its hard to say which one was my favorite, because all of them brought with them the feeling of Joy. They were all very different from one another and made my 2017 one of the best I could ever ask for. While the year was getting over, my plans were not.
January 2018 was my last month in India. I celebrated my birthday at the Golden Temple with friends, family and a lot of ritualistic phone calls. My last travel in India happened with my dad. A perfect one to bid goodbye to this country for a short while now, we went to Kolkata & Sunderbans; the home to the royal Bengal tigers and world’s largest delta. I have had the time of my life, striking off these before thirty goals and gladly adding new ones to my list.
On a sunny morning at a public library in Toronto, I sit back and recollect all these wonderful memories from back home, which only makes me miss my home.
But for some time now, Canada is home for this traveler.