Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Why traveling is a pain?

Please share widely any post you like or identify with because:

1. I am trying to increase my reader-base.

2. I will be launching my first book (It is a travel memoir and I am the editor, more details later) by the end of the year. I could use my blog to spread the word.

3. Remember the short survey you filled out on the right side of this page (you did not?)? A primary data analysis shows that my reader population is very homogenous. All Indians from India/Europe/US between ages 30-40 who never share my posts. I was hoping to have an international readers' base, people from lesser known (or not so lesser known) countries, but none. Not even a German, although I write a lot about Germany. I wish my readership had more diversity.

Now back to today's post-

Traveling is a human experience, and it has a darker side I seldom write about. I am backpacking for the rest of the week, and it's only been two days. Every day is different- there are good days and there are bad days. I'll just tell you things from this trip.

Traveling alone means being constantly alert about your passport, camera, and valuables, mentally calculating the number of things you have with you all the time.

Traveling means having to figure out maps and directions. Without a car, GPS, or even a phone and relying solely on maps and human beings, especially humans who do not speak your language can be challenging and exhausting. The lady at the ticket counter just told me she understands no English and I just explained to her, solely by drawing and acting, that I need to take the night train to Poland tomorrow and I need a sleeper reservation. Any one information in this gone wrong (Poland, tomorrow, night, sleeper, reservation) can mean trouble.

Traveling means not eating at times, since you are running to catch a train or there is nothing edible in sight. I could eat cardboard right now, I am so hungry, yet too tired to get off my hostel bed and venture out. I am craving meat and carbs, but I am munching on an apple instead.

Traveling means constantly keeping track of changing time zones, currencies, and languages. Keeping track of the Hungarian forint and the Polish zloty and how they compare with the Euro. 1 euro = 320 forints = 4.45 zloty. I've been constantly doing unitary method mental math for the last 2 days now.

Traveling means sometimes getting extremely homesick. When it happens immediately after a Kolkata trip, you don't even know if you are actually missing Kolkata or Germany. It can be pretty confusing. I will never do a yearlong backpacking trip. Homesickness will kill me. Two weeks on the road is my limit.

Traveling alone means going to the bathroom, lugging all your stuff.

Traveling means waking up and taking the trains at odd hours. Or not sleeping at all.

And being wary of cab drivers who fleece you. Or entering the wrong side of the metro with a heavy bag and having to take the stairs all the way again since many old stations have no elevators. The more tired I am, the more I make bad decisions. Under stress, even figuring out your east and west in a new city can be daunting. Not to mention the amount of walking I am doing in the summery heat every day. The sweat, the calluses in the feet, and the constant body pain that comes from waling and carrying heavy bags. Or sleeping in humid rooms since most of Europe does not use air conditioning. When you tell your hostel that you forgot to pack a towel and they charge you a euro, you go like, "really?"

Yet traveling is educational. It needs to happen. Just like getting an education is hard but one cannot escape it, traveling is that way too for me. It imbibes confidence. It builds character. It teaches you to be patient and learn to wait. I was all set to take the 8 am train from Budapest to Bratislava this morning, but my hostel never told me that their reception does not open until 9 am (they had some refundable deposit to return). So I waited, and missed the train, and took the 11:30 am train instead that was jam packed, and now I am all late. Sure, I could lose my temper and spoil the rest of my day. Or just move on.

I was dead tired from exhaustion by the time I reached Bratislava. But when the person at the reception told me that if I can get on a particular bridge, I can see the windmills of Austria at a distance standing on the Slovak side, it filled me with childlike excitement. I do not know why seeing the Austrian windmills should excite me. It just does. Just the way when I discover a random word meaning something totally different (and usually bad) in other languages, I get all excited and pause to take a picture of it.

Traveling under duress is hard. Traveling under time and monetary constraints is extremely stressful. But traveling must happen. For it keeps the brain active, the mind open, the heart loving, and the body fit.


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