Reporting from the comforts of my home. With over twelve hours of sleep under my belt, three cups of filter coffee, an entire meal with dal and veggies included cooked by me, two loads of laundry done and the extreme luxury of a bum-spray in the loo. I am truly home now.
It was a whirlwind of a trip, to be honest. Not our usual laid-back, unwind kind of beach holiday. We’ve clocked some crazy kilometres on our feet, seen every sunrise and sunset, and used every mode of public transport available in these cities (ferries included!) over these past 12 days. Such a far, far cry from our usual beach holidays. It wasn’t just the walking that I’ve mentioned so many times before. There was something very different about the energy on this holiday — the keenness to get out and explore, to see things, to push ourselves rather than settle for the usual wind down, find a spot on the beach/on an island and not move till the end of the holiday.
It’s also the holiday we pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones. Took buses instead of flights. Chose hostels instead of hotels. Did things I thought I was done doing — sharing a room and loo with complete strangers. But it all worked out, and I’m a bit chuffed at how it did. This has clearly been a time for discovering unexpected things about ourselves. Yet again.
As a result, it’s also been a bit emotional. I’ve had a world of feelings surface. From overwhelming excitement, incredible wonder at little things I observed about city life and people in Europe, to touch of regret about how little of it we see back home, a realisation that I have quite a bit of harboured shame about being Indian, and a rekindled urge to live overseas. Some more regret about not having chased that dream sooner too. And a heart burst open with the realisation that it’s not too late to do it over now.
However, the overarching emotion has been a lot of love and gratitude. And nothing sealed this more for me, than coming home after a 12 hours (with over 24 hours of no sleep), when I could have been very crabby and cranky, but I returned happy and content. Not all holidays end this way, you know.
There’s always the usual blues I feel even just coming back from Goa. But to have a full heart and to actually look forward to being home again, said a lot about how fulfilling the holiday has been. I feel like I had the best time I could have possibly had. I got a lot from this holiday — expected and unexpected. And it was just so satisfying.
We ended up staying with S in Paris for one night. It wasn’t even remotely part of our plan. And then J flew in from Hamburg to surprise us. And suddenly our time in Paris changed dramatically, unexpectedly becoming a reunion that stoked a warm fire of forgotten memories as we conversed endlessly, laughed and gossiped. There was also so much wandering wherever our feet wanted to take us, picnicking in parks, lounging on street corners, eating wherever and whenever we pleased, some pub hopping and LOTS of wine.
I had a moment when I realised that I’ve known these boys for almost a decade now. There are few people I think of reconnecting with the way I do with these fellows. In the years since they left Goa, and we did too, we’ve all gone wildly different ways. They’re not people I actively stay in touch with. No social media means I have to make the effort, and I haven’t been very good at all with that these past few years. I might send the occasional text, J relentlessly sends me postcards from his travels, but that’s about it. We’re not clued in on the little ins and outs of each other’s lives anymore like we used to be. But it always happily surprises me when time and time again we manage to snatch chances to catch up. It’s nearly not as frequent as we’d like it to be. But we do manage it, and when we do, time rolls back and slips effortlessly right back to the way things used to be. Distances diminish, boundaries collapse, timezones melt down and we’re the same four bodies drinking and eating and listening to good music and having a laugh all over again. In fact, this was the fourth continent that I have caught up with S in. Over our third bottle of wine and an elaborate snack plate at S’s on our last evening there, I actually told them this — there’s not a lot of people I have the liberty and good fortune of doing this with, but with them I know it will always go back to being easy like we know it, and that’s what makes me want to do it again and again.
I ponder over friendship a lot. I have a lot of different kinds of it in my life at the moment — a whole varied assortment of friends — but even so I am a bit raw about recent experiences in this respect. And this realisation — of what we have with J and S — was soothing like balm. That afternoon, I might have healed a long sore wound and filled up a little emptiness in me.
VC is easily my best travel mate for a range of reasons, but mostly because of his keen sense of curiosity and ability to go all out to get what he wants. It means if he sets his mind on something — a spot for his evening shot, or a particular cuisine we feel like eating, or finding the most uncommercial things to do — he will go all out to make it happen. This compliments my low-key, go-with-the-flow attitude completely.
The rest of the trip had VC going a bit batshit with the photography. You can see his pictures from the trip on his Instagram page. All the aimless wandering certainly helped, and if it weren’t for him and his obsessive commitment to getting all the good pictures, I might not have explored these cities the way I did with him. Ever so grateful for that. Ticking off museums and sights wasn’t on our agenda, so we just took every day as it came, deciding in the morning what we felt like doing, which direction we wanted to wander in, with no real fixed agenda.
It was my second time in Brugges too, so things felt a bit familiar up until them. Amsterdam, on the other hand, was a whole other story. A massive cultural onslaught that smacked me in the face. I thoroughly enjoyed, for obvious reasons bahaha, even though it felt like an odd mix of Bombay and Goa at times which disoriented me in the beginning.
Of course, I’ve left a piece of my heart each in Paris, Brugges and Amsterdam. But I am also feeling so content. I’m so full of love for the experiences, gratitude for how everything worked out despite minimal planning, and I am most thankful for how much the holiday has triggered in my mind, pushing me to get out of my head, and the amount of fodder it’s given me to move ahead from here on.
Two years ago: Day 274: For every down, there is an up