When I shifted to Kolkata by virtue of marriage, I was bombarded with questions about how I was able to cope with the slow life if the City of Joy. Everyone knew that before marriage I had studied and worked in the fast paced city of Mumbai. Thus everyone expected me to have a wry opinion of the laid back lifestyle that people lived in Kolkata and complain about absolute absence of night life as compared to Mumbai.
What they did not know is that in a span of 8 years preceding my marriage I had lived in 6 different cities for work and study. These excluded my native city where I completed my graduation. Of these cities two were fast paced metro cities of Delhi and Mumbai, while others were nice friendly ones (Lucknow, Pune, Mysore) that enabled me to decided my own pace and live a more comfortable life.
So yes, let me come back to the question that every family member seemed to have for me. After the first few instances I was so bored of explaining to them why the cities’ culture did not bother me and that instead I love the city as much as I loved my previous city, I coined a new term as my standard answer. I told them that I was ‘Geography Neutral’. And I really enjoyed the startled look they gave in response.
But I realized the true meaning of being geography neutral last year when I took our first overseas trip with my husband. As a matter of fact, my husband too has had a similar life to that of mine, as far as the concept of being ‘Geography Neutral’ is concerned. Our experiences of living alone in various cities and frequent domestic travelling for work, family and leisure culminated into travelling lessons that I had garnered. These lessons helped us in numerous ways and made our holiday more fun. Here are snippets from our travel experiences that made us realize that traveling and exploring more helps one #SayYesToTheWorld
Finding the Way
Finding ones way to various destinations within cities wasn’t as easy 15 years back because GPS wasn’t as accessible. Yet I have managed to learn by heart the routes to all important destinations, in all the cities that I have lived. To an extent that when we were in Paris for three days, we decided to give our GPS a break and traversed across the city only with the help of maps. It was like two kids playing treasure hunt with the real world. And I must tell you it was real fun.
Using the Local Transport
When we initially moved out of our home cities as students, we were generally on tight budgets and thus could not afford the luxury of private taxies or even 2 tier train tickets. I most preferred to take the fastest moving public transport of the cities i.e. the local passenger trains. Somehow I found these inter-city journeys spiritually exhilarating. The agility to change platforms, hop on to the just about to leave trains and rush to the next destination within limited time are some skills that came accrued. Oh! And whoever has travelled abroad will vouch for the fact that these skills can be vital when in a foreign land.
Using the Bus No. Eleven
While in hostel, when we did not get an auto-rikshaw to reach the station, we took to walk the way and jovially consoled each other for taking the Bus No. Eleven (that’s the two legs on which we stand and walk). Somehow, in India we undermine the importance and need to walk and take offence on being forced to walk. A research says that we Indians are the laziest walkers in the world ( the ones who dwell in the cities that is). I was completely oblivious of this fact until I had to walk during my time in Paris and Nice. We walked an average of 4 km every day. Once back, I have been trying to walk atleast over a kilometer everyday. The prior average was 400-500 mts. It isn’t a news that walking has its benefits!
Prior to our travel we were advised by friends who had already been to Switzerland about the best restaurants to have ‘Indian Home Style’ food in all the major cities. We politely accepted the recommendations that were forwarded to us, but sighed at each other with a knowing look. What’s the use of travelling so far and pine for Indian home style food? I understand that many people especially vegetarians find it difficult to get any culinary satisfaction when travelling to far off places where the food culture is very different. Yet both of us are adventurous enough to survive on whatever is available on the local platter. We really enjoyed the local street food and desserts throughout our trip.
Open Up to Mankind
As a habit whenever I deal with any shopkeepers or a cab or auto driver, I strike a conversation with him/her to know more about the city or his experiences in the city. If you have never tried talking to a stranger, you may not be able to appreciate the light heartedness it brings to you, even if you are having a tough time in a new place. The habit remained with me and I made the most of my opportunity to talk to my tour driver who took us to Monacco and Monte Carlo. We figured that he was an Italian. He told us about his life in Italy and why he chose to work in France. When I told him that all that I know about Italy is its fame for Pizza and Mafia, he told us his families experiences with the Italian Mafia, which I would say were very intriguing. Although, entertaining guests with true or made up stories might be his profession, I may never be able to forget the good time we spent in his company.
Restore your Faith in Mankind
At this juncture I recall an incident from our time in Bern, Switzerland. We had hired two bicycles to ride through the city and mindlessly rode downhill (the thrill of speed was just irresistible). Once at the bottom of the city valley, we realized that we had a humungous task now to walk uphill that too along with the bicycles. Just then, a local resident came across and asked us if we were worried about reaching the top. Our solemn faces gave him the answer. He smiled at us and told us that there is a monorail lift that will take us to the top. We sighed in relief and asked for directions. He showed us by pointing his finger, the direction where the lift station was and told us to follow him. Once at the pick-up point he enquired if we had our travel passes. When we answered in affirmative, he went to the ticket vending machine and came back to us with two tickets. We looked up at him in confusion. He told us that we needed two tickets for the bicycles too. I pulled out the ticket change and handed it out to him, which he refused to take. We insisted, but he listened none of it. He wished us luck for the rest of our trip and took leave. Disbelieving, we looked at each other and our faith in mankind was restored.
Well, these are just few of the memorable things that travelling has brought unto my life. If I were to spend some more time thinking, I could easily double up this post with a sequel. Yet, I would like to thank Lufthansa for making our travel to and fro the far off lands comfortable and memorable. I really wish for every person to find joy in travelling and explore the beautiful world that exists.