March 29, 2009

Who took the fun out of travelling?

A week or two, max. And then it's vacation time in Mumbai.

The burdensome Board exams wind up and so do the other less-dreaded end-of-year ones in each school and college. Time for kids to throw their books away. My son is planning a bonfire.
"Wait," I screech," let's see your results first! "
Who cares! that's another month or two away. In the meantime, it's time to wipe off the worry lines and ... holiday!

"Why don't you go to foreign?" suggests the travel agent. "Best time. Recession, hai na ? Everything's going empty. Very cheap!"
Hmmm... that is very tempting. The kids are grown up enough not to need their hands held every minute. And we're not so old that we need to pack walking sticks too. Yeah, maybe it is the perfect time.

So the process starts. Where do we go?
"Europe," booms hubby. "Let the kids see another culture." Er... that's what they do see every other day in the movies they watch and the Archie comics they devour. Not to mention the fast-food they reach for every time we go out.
"Can we go somewhere cold," pleads my daughter, wilting in the summer heat.
"Ha!" smirks my son, "who nearly passed out on Rohtang Pass? " snigger, snigger, snigger
But I'm fine with Europe too. We developed a soft corner for the European countryside ever since we holidayed there on our honeymoon eons ago (no, we didnt sing on the slopes of Switzerland) . Heck, I'm fine with anything, just so long as we're going somewhere !

Okay, visa time and back to the travel guy.
"Hmmm... problem hai, sir. Do you have relatives in the countries you're going to? Or friends?"
Say what???
"See, you have to give letters from someone living there. Or you have to have a confirmed hotel booking. If you want, I can book. We have peoples in all countries. No problem."

Yes, problem. Yes, very big problem! Britain is the only place where we have relatives who can vouch for us just passing through with no intentions of hanging on.
What about Bavaria or that beautiful little b&b cottage in the Swiss Alps where I had set my heart on staying?
And the Romantic Road! I've been dying to travel down that road ever since I heard its name.
And Salzburg and Munich and Paris !

"Mey-dom, see, I told you. No problem, just book hotel now. I will do it for you. Or go on group tour ..."
Noooo ! I don't want to stick to any schedules and routes and dates. I'm on holiday!
I want to travel as the fancy takes me. Pick up my bags and set off when my traveller's legs start to itch. Put them down and vegetate when my mood says so...
If I book rooms and tickets, then where is the fun of travelling?
I want to travel down intriguing roads, stop when I see a beautiful landscape, wait to talk to the locals... not rush to the next dot on the map just because I've a confirmed booking there.

So, it looks like Europe is out. And my worry lines are back in.
As an afterthought, though, I just realised that at least the cancelled plans have saved us another worry ... how we're going to pay for this grand holiday!

But ... does this mean there's no place "foreign" which is okay with our kind of travel? Where you don't need to know where you're going to be the next day?
How sad! I wonder what Marco Polo would've thought of that !

(The image of the poster is from the collection of David Levine . He's got a fantastic collection of travel posters. Go check it out! )


  1. I am torn... on one side is my OCD urging me that the only way to travel is with hotel bookings, scratch that , bookings of every sort and on the other side, I am tempted by stopping at any place that takes my fancy. Truly, I am torn.

  2. You're absolutely right - all the paper work just takes the joy and excitement out of travel!

  3. Hi Sunita, You write well .. my best read today so far !
    All the best on your vacation plans :)

  4. Aditi, an OCD is a nasty travel companion... leave it at home! ;D If your kids are small, I suppose it does make life much easier to have everything booked and sewn up tight. Otherwise, go for the booking-free life !

  5. Flowergirl, don't remind me ! I'm still mourning the holiday that got away from me :(

  6. Hi Aswathy! Thanks. Hmmm... I think I have more plans cooking and brewing. Tell you when its finalised, okay?

  7. completely true...what happened to all those dreamy vacations they promise are possible?? i feel most of them never work out...**sigh**, hoping you better luck with your plans, and may your summer stay enjoyable!

  8. Isn't it a pity that developed countries have an over-developed tourist-phobia ?
    Imagine if Mr. Columbus had to apply for visas and passports and show proof of hotel bookings before trying to sail to India !
    Dreamy is right, Lakshmi ! But all those bookings and schedules and dates can change any dream vacation into a nightmare.

  9. "I want to travel down intriguing roads, stop when I see a beautiful landscape, wait to talk to the locals... not rush to the next dot on the map just because I've a confirmed booking there."
    This is exactly my idea of a holiday :))

    There is no doubt Mr Columbus and Mr Marco polo were luckier :)

  10. IHM, there has to be a market for travellers like us, don't you think ?
    Do you think if we go to Davos and hold up some boards and chant slogans, they'll finally work towards global Free Travel? (at least we'll get to go to Davos, if nothing else! ;D )

  11. Couple of years back we had the most profound conversation with a British gentleman here. His name was Ron,and was ( still is) a total stranger. He had SAILED on his own small yacht all the way from Britain to India in the pre-independence days( then to Ausralia and from there to SFO ,where his yacht broke down ). He talked of how he used enjoy his tea from the local stalls in India and how he picked up some Hindi from the people there.He was a vivacious being and brought more inspiration to us to see the world than all the travels ads put together.

  12. Aswathy, I love it when people do that! I suppose things must've been very different in the pre-1947 days, though. In fact things were different in the '90s too. I wish we had those days back when a traveller could still be a free-spirit !

  13. With all the technical advances, communication facilities,planning a Holiday is tough? How it was possible for Columbus to find out new lands?

  14. Hey Sunita ,
    ahh haa... funny man ... travel guy ... joy killers them all ... but I have to say ... Aswathy ... if your stranger Mr. Ron ever hit SFO shores now ... he's sure to pick up some Hindi out there too ...

  15. Sundar, it's just getting tougher. Not to plan the holiday... that's easy and enjoyable. But getting the nod of approval for our style of booking-free travel. Unfortunately it appears that to get a visa to the European countries you either need a letter from a citizen of that place or a confirmed hotel booking to show you have arranged for a place to park yourself.
    At least that's what our travel agent tells us.

  16. Hi Rajee! I think you can pick up hindi just about anywhere in the world now :)
    Haven't you heard that old, old joke about Neil Armstrong landing on the moon and meeting an Indian there? :)

  17. It is not just travel .. even day to day life takes so much of planning now .. Everything has to go by that list on the refrigerator !Doing things on a whim sounds such a romantic notion !
    I would like to think, it is just a phase of life. I hope a time will come (again!)when we get to slow down and enjoy things at our own pace " on a whim"!

    And Rajee, LOL! on ur comment. Thats absolutely true .. Ron might even wonder if he got all the way back to India !

  18. Yes, these days one needs a vacation to recover from a vacation and its attendant hassles!
    Hope things work out fine and that you and your family have a great holiday. Do keep us posted!

  19. What happened to the holiday? Or are you already on an 'intriguing' road?

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  21. Aswathy, we've mechanised so many things around us that we've started doing the same to ourselves too. Isn't that the most ghastly thing?
    Phase of life?... maybe. But I wish the slow-down-and-enjoy time would come around while we still have the energy and faculties to enjoy it.

  22. Kamini that is a really funny thought ! :D
    Actually I think I may need a holiday to get over the hassles I had with the travel guy for the original holiday plans!

    Aditi, the holiday plans are still on. We are just looking at the other side of the world now. Maybe Malaysia? The rain forest there is definitely intriguing. I would love to go trekking there. And the beaches! OMG, they look fantastic! Definitely not cold but I think if we want cold on our terms, we have to look at Kullu-Manali again. We love that place but unseen destinations have a definite charm of their own, dont they?
    Plus, I'm drooling over the gorgeous local crafts . Yes, Mallaysia is a definite possibility. But then, so are Indonesia and Cambodia and ...

  23. Yes, the whole world is your oyster. Cambodia is amazing (but hot!).

  24. That "but hot" makes a lot of difference, Kamini. I'd love to visit all these places some day even if it doesn't work out now. Till then I'll just keep planning :)

  25. Hi Sunita,
    That Indian out there was a Sardar.... he tho moved there right after the partition :)
    By they way folks I am a Sardarni ... so I do have legal rights to crack up about my community.;D ... cringe not ...and as moon struck as I am, would sure have made it there...only had the shuttle service not been this infrequent and the undercarriage so darn hot ...
    And did you know in California they gave me the option to take the written test to get driving license in Punjabi ;)...

  26. Aaah... so that's it! :D
    Rajee, I've heard Punjabis swear it was a sardar offering to tune up Armstrong's vehicle. And Keralites swear it was a mallu with a big smile offering to sell him tea. While Bengalis claim it was actually a poetry-spouting Bong ... the list does seem to go on and on. Every community had their foot on the moon, it seems ;D

  27. Rajee, I missed that last line.I'm really stuck for words on that one ! :O

  28. OOoh ... I hate to leave out the details ... won't bother you after this one...but you see ... he was infact a sardar ... a bong convert married to a mallu ... now you get it... see all confusion cleared ... o.k lets just leave on the note ,that... the world don't know... our moon mission happened while they were still monkeying around ;)... there ... all happy.

  29. Silly Sunita! You've always got a spot to stay here! Just say the word and I'll send you a letter to satisfy the bureaucrats! Even if the house is an utter disaster at present while I'm trying to get the taxes and the outside done.

  30. Rajee, that really makes my mind boggle! I'm still trying to picture all those communities squeezed into one :P
    :D :D :D

  31. Lisa, you're the most wonderful friend to offer us a place to set our bags down and that all-important letter .
    But I wish we didnt have to provide a letter like that in the first place. It is so restricting .

  32. Sunita! I love your new blog. I espicially couldn't stop laughing at "Mey-dom" hehehe.

  33. Thanks, Shaheen!:D
    That guy was such a character! I still cant decide whether he amused me or annoyed me :P