Open the Lonely Planet. Stare at the map. Fancy a location. Flip the pages. Read about it. Like it. Buy a bus ticket.
I travelled like that once.
The first time I didn’t have a Lonely Planet, so it was more a map in my head, and a place I thought I wanted to love.
The second time the book was the reason I reached Granada & Seville.
The third time, the book was just a metaphor.
Of all my travels, these three trips were my favourite. Adventures can’t happen when you plan them. Sure, there will be fun and excitement in surgically planned escapes, but to me it all seems a bit pointless if there is no adventure.
I’ve slept in a church, a loft, a garden, a terrace.
Lost my wallet. Again and again.
Missed my train.
Got delayed because of a forest fire.
Never made it to San Sebastian.
Never made it to Figueres.
Met a crack addict hand puppet called Pedro.
Reached Kanyakumari by accident.
Lost my backpack.
Found my backpack.
Got a heatstroke.
Fell in love with Auroville.
Got shooting stars inked on my ankle.
Made a best friend.
Carried my toothbrush in my pocket.
Danced for 19 hours.
Walked for 8.
Pitched a tent for 7 days and slept outside it.
Met lone dancers outside ATM machines, and nasal pen swallowers (Don’t ask)
Hitched a ride with bikers who took me to the top of the world. Almost.
All because I didn’t have a plan.
It’s been…. fun.
Things go wrong. But that’s just part of the ride. Like eating radioactive glowing jalebis from a village fair, getting food poisoning and being sick for the rest of the trip. Or reaching some place and not falling in love with it, or being terribly tired and not being able to find a place to stay because I didn’t pre-book.
In spite of all this, the thrill outweighs the sickness, the non-accommodation, the sheer boredom of knowing my next step.
I read Moby Dick when I was 13 and I knew that it was going to be a favourite forever. It reeked of wanderlust. From it’s first line to it’s last.
Herman Melville, the author of the book said “I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts”. And he did. He sailed forbidden seas, abandoned his ship, lived on an island amongst natives, fell in love, sailed some more and lead an incredibly intrepid life.
Not everyone can have that. We live in much easier times. Hitching a ride on a ship is out of the question, and barbaric coasts just don’t exist anymore. It would be very difficult to get lost. The world has gotten smaller and every known map resides within our phones.
But the trick lies in seeing a sunset worth chasing, getting off the highway, watching the sky explode with orange, finding an Argentinian restaurant down a slope and staying the night at a place you haven’t bothered finding the name of. Because…. you can.
Because it ends up making for a great story. And an even better memory.
To quote my favourite book –
“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
Time to hitch rides on big boats and live with cannibals!