This year I planned a long standing solo travel and a hard earned break to celebrate my birthday with myself. When my father and brother came to know of my plan, their first reaction was – take Aai along. For a while, I was that grumpy child not wanting to share my toys with anyone. And she would be the other child waiting to put her shoes finding the smallest opportunity to go out.
Few days later Aai & I boarded an early morning bus to Nashik. My solo holiday break was now going to be shared with her, and my dream of going on a solo trip continues. We enjoyed wine tasting & tour, a lazy lunch, bought some farm fresh vegetables and most importantly relaxed!
This was probably our 4th or 5th
holiday together, just me and her. The first time we travelled alone was to
Nainital, almost 10 years ago. Remembering all our holidays, I realized we both
have agreed or are comfortable on a certain pattern and enjoy it:
- Non-touristy holiday – Either travel off-season or visit a place that is not very crowded
- Homestay over hotel – I introduced her to homestays, and now she prefers it over hotel. A
good farmhouse / nature stay and home cooked food!
- Local food –
At restaurant I was thinking of ordering some Paneer starter. She quickly said
order Misal, eat local food we keep eating Paneer all the time. My memory jogged to our Coorg holiday where I
took her to a Tibetian restaurant, a first for me too
- Comfortable travel – Bus, train, flight, car; mode of transport does not matter. It has to
be comfortable and flexible to travel
- Relax or enjoy some activity – While I was busy acknowledging birthday
wishes, she enters the room and says “they have so many books. I picked up
books on travel, philosophy and wildlife”. The wintry mornings meant we woke up
late, bathed in the morning sun followed by a hearty breakfast. Realized it was
a luxury for both of us
On our way back home she mentioned she trip has
given her the confidence of travelling again, eyes have regained some
strengthen to look far, sun is not hurting much.. She was finding a new ray of
hope amidst her journey of recovering from a major illness.
A different birthday present I gifted myself…
Over the last few years Ladakh has become the biking capital of India. Come June, social media timelines are buzzing with people going for their Ladakh adventure – exploring the hilly terrain and getting mesmerised by its natural beauty. So did I – but by chance.
I was planning a trip with a friend when I read an advertisement of a Ladakh tour package. From that moment I decided Ladakh it is. I started planning a family trip to Ladakh – not a group package but an individual itinerary. The first pit stop was to understand if my parents can manage – most importantly when we are not opting for a group tour. My mother had completed Chardham Yatra many years back, but father had never travelled to the hills. Preparations were in full swing of finding the relevant information, medical precautions to be taken, knowing Dos and Don’ts, etc. My brother was so inspired that he planned his long cherished dream of a bike tour the following year. Hence my second chance of visiting Ladakh came exactly a year later – this time accompanying my brother in a support car.
While we city dwellers are awed by the chilly hill tops, gigantic passes, changing nature, for me the visit to Ladakh is that of grit and determination. Completing the journey requires psychological and physical good health. My parents enjoyed the trip, but I took a little time to acclimatise to the climate. Travelling through the narrow passes, seeing army posts, workers paving the roads, observing the local life gives you a glimpse of what grit must be required to survive in this region. More so, during the winter.
This belief was more strengthened during our second trip. Another lesson on how weather gods are so crucial in the region. Once we crossed Jispa, one of the last points in Himachal, it was rainy and weather started changing fast. As if we were trying to race with the nature to reach Leh in time. Indeed we were lucky. Another group reserved at the same hotel did not reach Leh and returned to Manali. Seeing my brother and his friends cross the icy streams on the bike, sometimes dodging the fiery winds was another proof of strong determination required to navigate through.
This essence was visible in many subtle ways like listening to the tales of our driver, understanding how they cope with the harsh climate and circumstances, striving to protecting the topography and witnessing many labourers working along the way to keep the roads in good condition. What I took back from Ladakh was the people’s will and determination to withstand natural and other calamities and forge ahead steadfastly in their lives.