Thursday, March 31, 2016

Traveling is educational

I met some amazing strangers during a recent Scandinavian-Baltic trip, the kind of people who inspire me to travel more. An English teacher from Lincoln (England) who has been teaching in Korea and Poland, and has even been to Varanasi and the Kalighat temple in Kolkata (where he refused to get coerced into paying anything to the priest). We joked about having lived in the same city in two different countries, and he even suggested me some really nice hiking destinations around Latvia (which I did). A woman who gave me this amazing idea of making a day trip to Lithuania, because she did the same last night. A German student starting his masters, and an English teacher from Plymouth, England, who spent a day with me taking the train and going to a nearby town to hike. I spent a good eight hours with them, hiked, talked for hours, but cannot even remember their names right now. One of them asked me about the difference between Karma and Korma. I said, Korma is instant gratification, while the effects of Karma can take a while to kick in. And more travelers from Korea, China, Australia, and Lithuania, who are touring the world. I always make it a point to stay in hostels, because of the lively ambiance and the different kinds of people you can meet. Here, we have a living room where we cook together, play board games, eat breakfast, and share interesting information about what all we should see. We even take off our shoes and walk barefoot in the hostel. Interestingly, I have never seen a fellow Indian living in a hostel.

Of particular note is a quiet woman I met today, who is from Taiwan. I often watched her stick tickets and maps in her diary. Every day she went some place, she nicely used a pair of scissors and tape, and glued her memorabilia in her diary. We started talking, and she told me that she is on a 3-month long trip around the world, all the way from Taiwan to Iceland, mainland Europe, and ending in New Zealand. And just when you would assume that she is a millionaire to be able to afford this kind of a vacation, she told me two profound things. She is a nanny, who helps parents take care of children, one family at a time. So she works with a family until the kid turns three, travels in between, and then switches to the next family. To the person who recently wrote a caustic post about how traveling around the world is American privilege (because an American passport offers visa-free travel to many countries), I say that people who love to travel do so, without finding excuses in their passport. I don't know how much this Taiwanese lady earns, but I would not think that nannies are minting money in Taiwan. She travels with a teeny-tiny carry-on bag that has everything she needs for three months, because she does not want to spend money checking in bags. Back to the two profound things she told me,

Me: How do you save so much money to afford a three-month long trip around the world every year?

Taiwanese lady: I save all my money for the one thing I love. I have no other expensive interests like makeup, designer clothes, buying cars, and so on. 

And true to her words, she seemed very simple, and amicable to talk to.

Me: And how are you able to take off three months?

Taiwanese lady: It's my life. I get to decide how much time I need off, not my employer.

You know, it's okay if you are not a traveler, and like to stay at home and watch television. Your choice. But for someone like me who loves traveling, these people are my inspiration. A few days out of home, and I am already thinking of the long list of chores that await me when I get home. Grant writing, reviewing proposals, laundry, grocery, and other random assortments. I am already feeling a little homesick, missing the familiarity of my bed. I truly admire these people who are able to travel alone for months, and not necessarily tied to the idea of a job that offers little flexibility with traveling. They plan their jobs around their travels and personal life, and not the other way around.


1 comment:

Padmanabhan said...


You're really living the life as it should be.. I can't help but think that even though you didn't plan on moving to Germany and work where you work, even if you had planned it all one couldn't have come up with a better plan than what you are up to now.. I even envy people who have travelled and experienced the popular tourist destinations in Europe. But some days in Tallinn and some in Riga? That's not hitting it out of the park, that's hitting it to the moon! Given the Indian mentality, it is very refreshing to see someone traveling with genuine curiosity and awe as opposed to traveling for the sole purpose of taking photos and posting them on Facebook. Kudos!