My trip to India started with the usual sort of awkward sense of anticipation like all ventures into the unexpected. As normal for someone who spent the better part of the year reading and watching “Wild” and similar books about transformational journeys, everything got far more significance than warranted: a sweaty smelly taxi driver in Belgrade was a portent of sweaty smelly days to come, a friend’s Facebook status about not worrying and letting go – a reminder not to worry and let go, and ultimately, my chocking on a bit of filtered water from my water bottle – a proof of my utter inability to survive outside my dear cushy comfort zone of the West and the much-maligned zone of Westernisation, in which I have existed and moved around since my last trip to Indonesia, 19 years ago.
So why India? Well, 19 years ago it was a place where I wanted to explore. Admittedly I knew little about India, but I wanted to see the place of Indiana-Jones-esque adventures, the setting of the Jungle Book, brimming with scenic vistas, exotic animals and exciting peoples. In the course of 19 years, India became more appealing as I’ve made Indian friends in the UK and got hooked on its (doubtlessly de-fanged and approximated) cuisine. However as I became older and much more rigid, in my mind it seemed a bit of a hassle to get to and get around. Those who visited were somewhat polarised: everybody found it fascinating, yet there are those who would return there at a drop of a hat, and the others who shrug and remember the hassles (one friend spent her entire trip in hospital).
Having quit my job, moved from London, and decided to try doing things I wanted, that my rigidity (and lack of time) barred me from, in the days around my big break from the corporate life, India came to symbolise what I expected my future is to hold: variety, unpredictability and, ultimately, different, wider view of the world (and potentially: poverty). A friend once told me that the best way to enjoy India is to just go with it, and not judge nor fear – precisely the attitude I wanted to espouse.
My enthusiasm for long distance long duration travel, however, shrunk somewhat after my trip to the US. Three weeks there were fun, eventful, yet ultimately tiring. The US did not hold such a symbolic place in my imagination (doubtlessly, because I knew more about it and have been there before), yet it proved that even in my post-quitting life same old rules apply: things can be tiring, mundane, annoying and life can seem as meaningless and occasionally unsatisfying as it did while I was working.
Still, having found out that a great, globetrotting, adventure-seeking friend is going to Kerala, I could not but tag along… so off I go to Kochin, via Doha. Kerala, at least according to the few people I’ve spoken to should be a but of India-lite. Kochin served as a an entry point to European traders (and colonisers) into India and boasts long and exciting history. There are backwaters, about which I have heard in my favourite South Indian (former) local in Rasa. Then there is Munnar, mountains, surrounded by lush tea plantations. Finally there are lovely beaches and Trivandrum, along with numerous temples and ashrams. The land is socialist and, from what I’ve heard, one of the best educated and cleanest.
The time that I am going is symbolic as well: September, between the two monsoons, is the time for healing in Ayurveda. Maybe I shed some of the fat that I unsuccesfully tried shedding. Maybe it rekindles my passion for travel. Or maybe it all perishes in series of food poisonings… I guess I can always go back home again.