Every travel or journey where I have used what I’d like to call a ‘Slow Mode’ of transport has been richer in textures, in experiences and in details that I end up remembering it for long. As we walked through the lanes of Bangkok to reach the river, we saw cafes and tiny shops that we would have otherwise bypassed. I bought a lovely cotton bag that says ‘Owl’ in Thai with an image and this was much before the owl became such a popular fashion icon in India.
Walking, trekking… just keeping my body physically active at times gives me much needed silences. It doesn’t mean my brain is not still in overdrive and jumping on thought-trees like a monkey with severe ADHD. But, there are still several silences and spaces interspersed with breathlessness and panting. Everyday, my mind is squeezed dry at work but physically, my body does nothing. On holidays, I enjoy turning that on its head. I like to stuff each day with things to do. At the same time, I’m not someone for those quick adrenaline rushes. I like to arrive at an emotion, whether its joy mingled with exhaustion, I like to take the long way… I like when emotions linger.
I see walking as an analogy for life. Life isn’t a 100 metre dash is it? But a lengthy and tiring marathon, in which you dip low at times, and surge with energy at others, but you plod on… and on… till you reach the end. Winning is in overcoming the ups and downs and not so much about the speed but simply about completion. The trek to the Saurkundi Pass in the Pir Panjal Range seemed impossible on paper. We were to climb from 4000 feet above sea level to almost 14000 feet and in just 4 to 5 days. I sat at the base camp and looked up at the hills that towered over; it was a foregone conclusion…. it was impossible for me to do. Broken up into days, further into pre-lunch and post-lunch sessions and then into bursts of an hour, and even more minutely, into each and every step… it was easy and I got there without incident. That’s the way I wish I could approach my dreams too, break them up into smaller goals and take it all, one step at a time. It might make me suffer less anguish, and I may not be disheartened ever so often and so quickly.
Taking the slower route to a destination helps me discover. It makes me even more curious as I am in that moment, and I feel more alive. Once done and back home, those memories linger, those emotions resurface easily and the itch to travel is back… just to hoard more stories, to stack more experiences, and to live… some more!
The reason for all this meandering? Active Holidays invited me to participate in a contest that could help me win a trip to Thailand. Who would let go of that chance? All I needed to do was go through their offerings and choose the one I would like to do. I agreed immediately. Little did I know that the choice would be immense, and I would spends days just wondering which one I wanted to do. It got so confusing at one point because I wanted to do everything! Then I stepped back and asked myself one simple question.
What do I like when I travel? It boiled down to two things: heritage/culture and activity. I don’t like to relax on a holiday, but love to pack my days (Yes, I might not be your ideal travel companion). I thought about the choices of trips and realised I couldn’t decided between the east and the west; I’m always torn. I am a child of the east & terribly attracted to all things from this part of the world but there is this great curiosity about the developed splendour of the west. Yet another factor to consider, while I love walking, it can’t get you too far… you discover less. And I am a greedy traveller. Finally, like I mentioned before, I have a very short attention span, so I love a new experience; love that excitement of the unfamiliar.
All things considered, I chose the 12-day Hike, Bike, Kayak Trip to Turkey. The trips offers everything I would want to do: culture and heritage, modern cities and rural villages, food and relaxation, familiar and new and a lot of ‘doing’.
Istanbul has called itself the “Coolest City in Europe” for years. It marries the old-world, history-textbook charm of Constantinople with 21st century modernity. It is the bridge between the east and the west; literally.
Turkey seems to be a country of contradictions, a country charting its own course and navigating its version of traditional modernity. But, I don’t know if that is actually so. What I know of Turkey is hearsay, textbooks and googlopedia knowledge. This trip offers me a way to discover Istanbul and Turkey for myself. To explore the city and the countryside through a mix of activities. It is physically challenging, at the same time, stuffed to the brim with the cultural experience I seek. It has it all: a cultural trail through the city, exploring Roman ruins, visits to remote villages and diving deep into the past. I will cycle, walk, snorkel, go kayaking (which I have never done) and even relax in a traditional hamam. Turkey has been on my cards for a while and this would be a great way to get going. Anyone else wants to join?