I am not sure when and why the travel bug bit me – and once bitten, it causes a chronic and smouldering condition with no known cure! As a child, travel was infrequent – neither was it easy nor affordable! I remember a few day trips to Agra and on overnight one to Jaipur in the late 50s. And in 1960, my father borrowed a car (a Fiat Millicento) and driver and we did a tour of the South, from Chennai via Bangalore, Mysore, Ooty, Coimbatore, Trivandrum, Cape, Madurai and back to Chennai ( more of that in another post). But my father was a an avid reader and I had unrestricted access to his large library. This opened up the world, which I wanted to see… the bug had bit.
My first opportunity to see the world was the year I spent in London in the mid-60s – where as a teenager, I was thrilled to see the sights that were so familiar from all the books I had read. So, with the family over the week ends I visited the Tower of London, Kew Gardens, Windsor Castle etc. I also trudged around central London to visit Wimpole Street (of Browning fame), Baker Street (of Sherlock Holmes fame), Bond Street (a constant in Gerogette Heyer), Hyde Park…. But for many years thereafter, it was college, marriage, baby etc and no travel at all.
Then I spent a couple of years in the US, where I took every opportunity that finances allowed to see the local sites. I lived in the Washington area, so visited the sorrounding sites, New York and had a chance to attend a conference in Los Angeles and thus to Disneyland! Subhash and I also made a road trip from Maryland to Detroit – mostly visiting friends on the way. I remember going to Toronto and a ride up the CN tower with its awesome view of the Lake Ontario. In those days, the finances apart, I did not have the confidence or drive to travel alone and that restricted the places I got to.
In the couple of decades after that, as Mukta grew older, we travelled at every opportunity – usually by sleeper class using Government guest houses for stay. I was always the initiator and planner (not so easy in the pre-cell phone/internet era) – trudging to State Government Tourism offices and railway booking offices and using the snail-mail which was slow but efficient! We even made a few car trip Maruti 800 (no air conditioning!) to Kuamon, Rajasthan and Indore. Along with these were also the official trips – both within India and abroad – where I always took time off to take in the local sites. Thus, I saw California, Toronto, Japan, UK, Germany, Venezuela, Brazil, Netherlands and many parts of the US I had not visited during my 2 year stay there. Of course, the financial handicap continued on a Govt salary and nothing very exotic could be planned.
It has been only in the last decade or so that some of the handicaps fell away – things looked more affordable, I lost the inhibitions to travel alone – and in the last few years after retirement, time too became an easier commodity. The highlight of the eased circumstances was the 4 week (not so cheap) trek to Kailash Mansarover last year.
But all good things have to end, they say! While I continue to be fit and active and every talk or article of travel destinations perks me up, I am at this point in circumstances that may make travel more infrequent and complex to organize. If a friend calls and asks me to join a 2 week tour to China (one of my must-do destinations) – it will probably be difficult to say yes. So since there is no permanent cure for the bite of the travel bug, except to keep traveling, I am learning to adjust to the discomfort of denial!! And in time, I hope other interests will struggle to push the itch to the background.