I once chanced upon a post where the blogger had taken a 2 month trip travelling halfway across the globe in the clothes that he was wearing. Except for an extra undergarment his rucksack contained money & documents, phone, music, camera, medicine & basic toiletries. His self imposed rule was neither to borrow nor buy clothes along the way. That was also his challenge
I threw in the gauntlet – with amends. Well, he was a guy & I was not. He was a kid & I was not. I would permit myself the luxury of 2 extra sets of clothing beside what I was wearing. Everything else would be ditto, for a fortnight of travel to an equatorial country first, then onwards to a tropical one. The rule was to look presentable at all times. And that was my challenge.
Friends laughed it away. ‘Not possible’, said they. The American may have done it but no Indian can ever travel this way.
( I had a bright colourful stole that doubled up as sarong /scarf/bedsheet/ tank top/ what have you. It was my single most important piece of clothing.)
So here were my 2 rucksacks, which I carried as hand baggage, weighing less than 6 Kg in toto. Simply loved the idea as did the airline that looked on benignly.
There is a certain thrill in the unknown. Of landing & walking on distant shores. A whole new world opens up for you to embrace & to explore. Even for a first time solo traveler nothing is intimidating. Look at the myriad faces, rootless souls all making their way to the same backpacker den or thereabouts, a place that is almost always walking distance from the sights & sounds of town. The butterfly in the stomach occasionally flutters but that is mostly during pre take off stage when travel plans are being fueled & ignited. One shrugs off that feeling with what the heck. Can’t let it happen. There is the added realization that it could well mean the beginning of the end of any future solo travel plans. The remedy is to have Dutch courage. Muster up plenty of it.
Could I ever forget the first time I ventured forth alone?
I look back now and wonder at the sheer audacity of it. Did I actually embark on a voyage to 5 different countries with nothing but school geography as guide? A walking atlas inside the head assisted by such all time legends as The Lonely Planet & Lets Go. Backpacker Bibles both. Those were the days – pre internet days – when ignorance was bliss. To have traveled like that sans credit card or insurance & to be none the wiser. O, the horror of it all!
Budget travel has evolved & backpacker joints have metamorphosed over time. Place to place people appear to interact less & less. It has a lot to do with Wi-Fi, mobiles, tablets & laptops. The result being each person immersed in his own. The old bonhomie hasn’t completely disappeared but the long friendly chats over breakfast or travel tales at the end of day are passé.
Miss you Gary of bread & jam fame – 75 Damareus Street Athens, 1997. A true backpacker young Gary traveled the earth in search of a wife. Bread & jam was his staple & he moved from hostel to hostel as he disliked the idea of spending each night under the same one roof.
Cafes & Bars continue to beckon, entice, entertain & enthrall. They add to the experience. Nothing quite like the local & traditional – food, drink, people – to round off the plot.
At the ‘Geographers Cafe’, Malacca, over a pot of Cameron Highland tea & scones I watch life go by on busy Jonker street. There are crowds, music, banter & laughter
And an entry password to the golden Loo
“Eh Eh, tri tri “ pipes the attendant
“Eh Eh Tree Tree’’ he repeats
Oh 8833 ?
(Turns out to be a squat toilet in the end. But who cares when it is for free.)
As everyone knows the only way to explore a place is to do it on foot. Just walk, walk, walk. And if you meet a lost kindred spirit from a far away land take time to talk, talk & talk.
Smile. Walk. Talk. Walk the talk. Three simple golden rules.
Remember conversation never did kill anyone. And not everyone is Jack the Ripper.