(Image: The Main Market Place at Leh; Image Credit: Author’s Own)
When we were young and we used to fill up those slam books for friends in school, I remember whenever it asked a question about three of my wishes, one of my wish would invariably be ‘I want to travel the world.’
I hardly traveled as a child. Traveling was a luxury for my single mother who had to concentrate on her job and the education and upbringing of her children. I remember going to Haridwar by train with my maternal grandparents when I was around 7-8 years old. The trip by train took 2.5 days and I suffered from fever throughout the journey and also during my stay there. The only thing I remember (mostly because my grandparents kept repeating it since the trip) was that I was cured on the last day when they made me take a bath in The Ganges. Well, I don’t think parents these days would let their small children take a bath in one of the most polluted water bodies in the country, but those were simpler times (and yes, sometimes faith makes you believe in bizarre shit)! For a long time, even I was convinced that the ‘magical’ waters of The Ganges cured me!
Anyway, another memory of childhood travel that I have is from a photo of a two-year old me standing in my underpants on a beach in Puri, Odisha. My hands rest on my round tummy while I have the smile of utter satisfaction as the waves wash the shore in the background.
Those are the only two memories I have of travel during childhood and that too prompted by stories from my grandparents and a faded black and white photo that still sits in the showcase of my Kolkata residence.
I started traveling in 2012 since meeting my husband (then boyfriend). When we first became friends, I stalked him on Facebook and found that he’d been to 36 cities. This very fact was so unbelievable to me that I was convinced it was some Facebook game he had played (like people play monopoly with fake money so I felt maybe there’s a game where you virtually travel in cities!). When we got closer in our relationship, I asked him one day and he said, he had indeed traveled to those many cities. In reaction to that my eyes went so big that it might have put any self-respecting saucer to shame!
‘Really, you did?’
‘Yeah, I’ve lived in three countries so far, plus I’ve traveled since childhood with my parents.’
‘Wow, you privileged kid!’ This part of my dialogue remained unspoken.
So, since the time we met, we’d traveled a lot. Starting from The Sunderbans, the world-famous mangrove in West Bengal, to Darjeeling-one of my favorite hill-stations where we’ve traveled several times (oh! and as the story goes apparently my mother was pregnant with me when my dad and she went to Darjeeling, maybe, that’s the reason I’m so fond of the place), to Jaipur, Agra, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand, and further away to Sri Lanka, Thailand, UAE, and Italy.
D is equally passionate about travels and the fact that he wants to show me places he’d already been to and he also, wishes to discover new places with me, are things that make him the perfect partner I’d have wished for with respect to my travel goals.
However, once I started traveling, the idea of experiencing solo travel started germinating in my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love traveling with D more than anything else, but I’ve heard how solo travel builds perspective. Also, it would make me more responsible and organized, I felt, two qualities that I can safely ignore when I have a meticulous husband planning even the smallest details of our trips. Trust me, I’m not exaggerating. I’ve shared our travel itineraries with a few friends who’d asked for the same and every time they’ve been like, ‘You’re so damn organized, Kasturi.’ I break that spell every time with an embarrassed smile and the words, uttered almost apologetically, ‘D has planned the whole thing, I am not much of a planner.’
So, when I finally got an opportunity for solo travel, I felt the time has come to rise up to a new challenge. I traveled to Leh (which according to Wikipedia is ‘a high-desert city in the Himalayas and is the capital of the Leh region in northern India’s Jammu and Kashmir state.’) between August 22nd to August 26th this year.
Why did I choose Leh?
- Because it has direct flights and I wouldn’t have to spend most of my short journey traveling to and from the destination.
- Because I’m in love with mountains and feel at peace amidst them.
- Because Leh and Ladakh have always been on my travel wishlist.
- Because I wanted to be in a place of peace and quiet reflection-a place where I could spend hours reading and writing and not feel distracted by a surging crowd.
- Because of my love for monasteries.
- Because a place like Leh was a safe option during monsoons where it didn’t rain so much (it didn’t rain at all during my stay there).
(Image: Leh Palace; Image Credit: Author’s Own)
So, these were a few of my reasons for choosing my destination. I do plan on staying for a longer duration in Leh and Ladakh with D, because there’s really a lot to see in the region but this time I went with a simple intention: to enjoy the moment and take in the essence of the place. And did I succeed in that?
Well, I’ll talk about all that in my next few posts.
(Image: Kashmiri Kahwa, a tea that is popular in Kashmir; Image Credit: Author’s Own)
Update: I’d mentioned that D has traveled to 36 countries, so far. That was a mistake. It was 36 cities. I have corrected it now.