Mar 13, 2014

The Best Days of My Life !

I was introduced to Sakshi’s Blog 'Between Write and Wrong' by a friend. To be honest, I opened it in a very bored and desultory manner not really knowing what to expect. I read the first few lines of her post and the next instant I was sitting up in sheer delight. For finally, finally here was a blogger who wasn't blogging simply for the sake of it. Sakshi writes, truly writes and uses her language masterfully to create utterly captivating works of art.

What also amazes me is how prolific she is. She can make you laugh out loud with her sparkling wit and then turn around and very casually, very effortlessly churn out a post that will astound you with its deep perception.

The love of travel is something Sakshi and I have in common. So when she asked me to write a travel post for her I wanted it to be something special. I went through a whole lot of travel destinations in my mind choosing and then discarding the places I wanted to write about. Finally I chose to write a memoir on Kobe, not a well-known tourist spot but a place that is very close to my heart. Somehow it seemed very appropriate for her blog! 

I do hope you enjoy reading it! 

I have spent many happy years in the Land of the Rising Sun and have lived in almost all its major cities, but the place that remains the closest to my heart is a quaint little city called Kobe. 

Kobe lies on the southernmost tip of Japan. It’s almost at the other end from Tokyo, but what separates the two cities is not only the physical distance but also their two totally different characters. Tokyo is all about big corporates, high rises and technology. Kobe on the other hand is quiet, laid back with an old world charm. If we were to assume that these two cities are people, Tokyo to me would be an aggressive Businessman but Kobe would be a graceful and elegant lady dressed in a Kimono.

Read the rest on Sakshi's blog using the link below.

Mar 7, 2014

When Two's a Crowd !

The normal, saner members of our society usually travel with family or friends. The more daring ones travel with strangers and then there are some wanderers like me, who at times prefer their own company over the company of others.

My first solo trip was out of necessity. I was in Japan and wanted to go to Kyoto to see the Shinto Shrines in their autumn splendor. None of my friends had any inclination to “spend our time shivering in the cold watching the leaves turn red” as they put it and so I just decided to go on my own.

That trip was a revelation. I was amazed to discover how much I enjoyed being by myself.

Perhaps out of anxiety because I was traveling alone, I had planned my Kyoto trip meticulously – right from where I wanted to stay to exactly what Shrines I wanted to see. But for some reason, as soon as I got off the train, I decided to throw caution to the winds and just follow my whim. I wandered all over the city on foot, stopping where I wanted for as long as I wanted. I whizzed past the more popular and crowded temples that were on my itinerary and instead spent hours walking through smaller lesser known temples deep in the woods where the beauty of the autumn colors had to be seen to be believed. I ate at odd times at the small kiosks selling traditional Japanese food without having to worry about the food choices of anyone else.

 It was an exhilarating experience.

Usually when we travel in a group we tend to fit ourselves into the company we keep. We mould ourselves to adjust to the likes and dislikes and wants of others. And I suppose this is how it should be when you travel in a group. But at times, I also like to “revel in my selfishness” .

Traveling alone gives you an incredible sense of freedom. Stay in a hotel or a quaint B&B. Walk when you want, or take the train. Skip a museum or spend your whole day wandering in them or simply sit in a café watching the world go by. Indulge in fine dining or eat the local food off the street. Get up at five in the morning to catch the sunrise or sleep till midday. It’s all up to You!

The biggest myth about traveling solo is that you will feel lonely and get bored. No you won’t. There is a great difference in being alone and being lonely. I have spent many perfect hours simply being with myself but not feeling lonely even for an instant. And no one who has a soul of a wanderer can ever get bored in a new place.

Traveling by yourself is a chance to step away from our daily life, away from the people we usually interact with. When you travel alone it is not just a journey to a new place, it is a journey within yourself. You will discover things about you, you never thought existed. Being on your own changes you, makes you a different and I dare say a better person. It gives you that sense of space so lacking in our lives.

You also become more aware of your surroundings, more observant. I really believe true appreciation of nature needs solitude. I have seen wonderful things while on holidays with others but the sights and sounds that have stayed with me the most are the ones I saw alone.

I went to Ladakh with a group of people but decided to steal a few hours to walk around Pangong Lake on my own. The time I spent there in utter solitude just watching the play of sun and clouds over the water will stay with me forever.

When you are on your own, you learn to savor the moments, discover your own piece of happiness. At the very crowded Toronto harbor, I found happiness by sitting on a bench eating fresh cherries and simply watching the boats.

I left behind the crowded Stonehenge and found a greater delight in walking through the woods alone, reveling in the sunny day that is as rare in UK as unicorns ! 

When you travel with others, it is not truly travel, It is simply a holiday. 
To wander about a new place with just your thoughts for company, with no compulsion to follow a plan, to conform or adapt to anything - Now that is travel!

Pic curtsy Indian Home Maker 

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