I’m a blender; I blend in with the crowds, blend in with the city. No, this blog is not about carrying your latest read everywhere (even though I do). I am not an expert on being a traveller, but I have 22 years of experience as an introvert. I do not claim to be an expert. And, I have dabbled in the extrovert lifestyle here and there. But, curling up in bed on a Saturday night is so much more fun than, well, anything else. It can be terrifying to ask a stranger for directions and it’s easy to feel like you don’t belong. I refuse to carry my DSLR when I travel because nobody should know that I don’t see their sunrise and that I don’t feel agitated when the metro has delays.
The first thing I like to do when I arrive at a new place is go for a walk. There’s something familiar about walking on unfamiliar paths. It sounds extremely cheesy, but knowing that I am walking a path that thousands of people mindlessly walk everyday while commuting to work, school, or nowhere in particular, is comforting. It feels grand to step into the shoes (or the path) of the people who call the city, home. Like being a part of the big picture, the world as a whole, and not just being a visitor amongst a million others. I have had someone ask me if I was okay in Copenhagen because my face was unusually red, I have discussed philosophy with a man for twenty minutes in Florence (after which the conversation took an awkward turn), and have sat down on the bridge to the Vatican with an old woman. These are the moments I remember more fondly than I remember how perfect the architecture in a place was.
I do this thing where I take one day – just one – to see all the ‘must-see’ tourist spots in a new city. You cannot go to Paris and not look at the Eiffel Tower, it just seems criminal. The next day, however, I go to random cafes. I am a hot chocolate fanatic – so my Google searches often read ‘Best Hot Chocolate in _______’. Sure, I want to see the world. But more than that, I want to see how the world sees the world.
Then, more often than not, I look for a lake or a park. Is that random? I’m perpetually looking for something – figuratively, of course! Most people in the world are. Nature gives us clarity, no? So, I go looking where the young flower boy in Baden Baden or the old lady in Kochi go to seek their answers. Oh, and I always carry a notebook because I always find something to scribble about: stories that I may never know and reflections of the stories that I do.
The decision of whether I say “goodbye” or “see you soon,” is made the same way I do with humans. How much more can they add to your life, or have they finished playing their role? On the flight or train ride back, I have this ritual. A new page in my journal, titled “Things I Discovered on This Trip.” I have found pieces of myself across the world, and in the same places, I leave parts of me.
Artwork by – John Samuel