In my previous post, I had mentioned how sometimes it is our own internal wiring that leaves us with afflicted with the something-must-happen disorder while we travel.
But isn’t it also true that sometimes places do not move us to words?
|Do places move you? Always? | Photo: Langza, Himachal Pradesh (India)|
I’ve maintained that I travel to experience and explore places beyond the obvious. Yes, I’ll walk around the occasional monument or two but only to bring some remnant of my history textbook back to life. Although, in almost every instance these visits have left me wistfully wondering why we were never taken to the fort or historical site in question for our school excursions!
|Lost in time at Nalanda. Why didn’t I get here earlier? | Photo: Nalanda, Bihar (India)|
But it is not the history as much it is ‘something else’ that makes travel a gratifying experience for me. Know what I adore most about places?
When they lend themselves to you walking around, exploring them by-lane by by-lane on foot. It is almost as if this is how and where they reveal their secrets to you. That is how they let you in.
I have found that I would much rather soak in a place being able to absorb it in at my own pace. Something only walking permits me to.
You may see cows jaywalking about just as you may run into a group of lads standing hand-over-shoulder of each other.
You may also notice that they both shoot the same quizzical look your way!
You may see graffiti or murals on its walls in just the same way you may see tiny billboards outside the shops that line the streets.
You may notice that they both tell you more than its people would admit to your face!
And you may see its people in their most natural setting – through the colours they wear, the common spaces they occupy, the layout of the homes they build.
|Streets have their own stories. | Photo: Leh, Jammu and Kashmir (India)|
|A colour scheme of its own | Photo: Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu (India)|
Speaking of homes, another way of taking in places is when you stumble upon a homestay and almost instantaneously feel welcomed. Not just by the family but even the physical environment around you. Because that’s how homestays are. It’s the next best thing to having a second home someplace else!
But what happens when places are not designed the same way you love to seek them?
In my travels here in India, I have sometimes found myself in places that feel less welcoming than others. In other words, their streets are not designed for walking (or so it has seemed).
This, of course, is besides the part where I am that solo traveller who by default is drawing attention towards herself! And I am aware that there’s that thin line between drawing the kind of attention that arises out of their curiosity versus one that stems from judgement! It’s the latter that can not only be bothersome but also guilt-inducing.
In either case, you almost don’t want to step outside another time. To be honest, I have found these to limit my experience – and I am not even alluding to walking the streets post sundown.
|Does anything beat walking amidst nature? | Photo: Dehena, Maharashtra (India)|
‘Walker’ friendly places have always left me with a feeling that while I have not have been able to immerse myself completely, I was at least able to get my feet wet a little. What such places seem to have in common are cafes or gardens – tiny yet comfortable spaces suited for a stopover but also for a less confronting environment! These do not have to be metros like Kolkata or Mumbai but even places like Udaipur, Bhubaneswar, Kanyakumari among others have felt quite welcoming.
In the same vein, homestay experiences that haven’t worked out quite well have also sometimes left me wanting for more – and it’s not the quality of service that I am referring to; it’s the absence of feeling at home. In fact there has seldom, if ever, been any shortfall in the quality.
The reason I opt-in for a homestay is to make less alien the places I visit as well as to feel like I can belong. After all where is the charm of experiencing a place when you stay at a hotel? But in more than once instance, I have felt as disconnected to a place at a homestay just as I would have in a hotel.
I don’t mean that all homestay hosts need to be great conversationalists but it helps to have someone you can engage with directly.
|It couldn’t get warmer than this | Photo: Hyderabad, Telangana (India)|
My fondest memory of a homestay is from Kutch – my third solo trip – for which I had only booked my train tickets. It was the only prep I had undertaken. And yet, the experiences I have had were because of my host who helped me out with almost everything from recommending places I might be interested in seeing to helping me out with local transport (i.e. explaining the route to the drivers and directing me on the state transport buses I could take). Another similar experience was Orchha.
|Living the good life | Photo: Bhuj, Gujarat (India)|
I am still seeking answers for myself on what draws me towards a place and what leaves me feeling unsettled about a place. What about a place sometimes just does not move me enough to words?
Are places as one dimensional as this?
Or is it the way we are wired causes us to view places as one-dimensional?
Ever felt this way about the places you’ve been to?
What warms you towards it?
What turns you away from it?
You can read a little bit about my Kutch BnB host on this Guardian Travel article