And so it’s done

Came to Goa feeling quite like this three weeks ago.

Bright, spiffy and sunshine-y. Sparkly. Ready to cool off.

Njoyed lyk nething. And then some.

This has been one of the most memorable few weeks here in a long, long time, for VC and I. We set up a new home. We reconnected with old friends, in our old stomping grounds. We cooked together, laughed together, watched a lot of TV and movies together. And I developed an irrational interest in watching him play PUBG — another thing we did together. We barbecued for two to bring in the new year. We painted furniture. We ran away to stay at the beach for a weekend. We ate out so much.

Embarked on a new year. New life.

Finally, this party’s over. And it’s time to go home.

One year ago: Happier: perpetual WIP
Two years ago: A hazy shade of winter

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Day 353: We got soul food in the house

Within mere hours of reaching Goa, I came down with a massive cold. A combination of the drastic spike in temperatures between Bangalore and here, and spending upwards of an hour stuck in a non air-conditioned bus and then plane, breathing a cocktail of germs while we got through the inordinate delay in taking off from Bangalore international airport.

The dust from the carpentry work at home hasn’t helped. It’s day 3, and today, finally it settled. After a chilled beer, beef fry and a bigass mackerel fry.

Day 352: I kinda feel like I saw the light

Hi, Goa.

It’s nice to be here with with a palpable absence of the anxiety and cold feet that I’ve had on the last few trips I have made.

There’s many things about this trip that ought to have sent me into a tizzy. But far fewer things are. And the tizzy is only just a small flutter.

I am looking forward to the downtime with VC, despite carpenters crawling around my home with no place for me to even sit.

As with every consecutive trip I make to Goa, my heart breaks a little bit more to see things changing so rapidly. I’m not coming from an idealistic place of believing nothing should ever change. But I do feel the price we’re paying for all of these changes is far too high. And I feel like not too many people seem to be seeing it that way.

Day 351: Love in a thousand different flavours

Weekending.

I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday pretty much like this. In front of my laptop, either working, watching Netflix or “studying”.

On Friday night, in a completely wild occurrence, VC and I chatted on the phone for two whole hours. I haven’t done that in aaaages. And with VC, never. But it was nice, chatting while we each fixed ourselves a drink and solo dinner. (So what of I had breakfast for dinner?)

On Saturday, Amma left for Nagpur and I was suddenly overcome with the thought that I was all alone. Except one never really is, and I’m learning to remember that and reach out (rather than wait to be reached out to) to others when I feel that longing for connection. So I invited myself to join R and S for dinner in what is becoming a welcome and regular occurrence with us.

Sunday morning has a new weekly ritual. A long walk. For four consecutive weekends now D and I have caught up to do this. And it baffles me how I struggle to wake up before 7.30 on a weekday but waking up at 6 on a Sunday seems to come quite easily. I joked about not having put in so much focus or dedication into much this year, as I seem to be doing for the Sunday morning walk. Except, I wasn’t joking. Perhaps it helps that we top the walk off with a single-idli-vada and a tall, strong coffee each.

The rest of my Sunday was mostly spent cleaning the house, doing some cooking — another full meal — and a visit to the in laws. Beer at lunchtime almost always means a long nap will follow. But I also binged on You Me Her and finally finished the show.

S came over for dinner then, in what should be frequent occurrence with us, but for various reasons just hasn’t been. It was a delightfully chill time. Whisky, chicken 65, rasam and rice with pretty much non stop easy, heartfelt conversation.

I ended last week feeling quite raw about my realisations about loneliness and almost immediately, almost in anticipation of the downward spiral that it could have caused, I was forced to see how much opportunity for connection there is. Should I choose to see and have it.

Today, I’ve been in a bit of a daze. Cramps + procrastinating with packing meant I had left everything down to the wire. As usual. I got all my stuff together in the last two hours before I left for the airport.

I’m off to Goa in a bit. To spend Christmas, New Years Eve and VCs birthday with him, only to return in the new year when I will not be posting as frequently. I’m looking forward to the next 2.5 weeks.

It’s time to catch up with VC, spending time with him since I have been missing it so, S is coming down from Paris, I’ll get to hang with D and the puppies, I’ll get to spend time at home that’s slowly coming together.

It’s all kinds of emotional to think I’m ending the year in a Goa that is one half of where home is. This feels interesting and like it means something and I’m excited to see where we go from here.

Two years ago: Day 351: Misty mountain hop

Day 325: Discover some new truth that was always wrapped around you

[Goddamit, WordPress has gone and changed something around and everything looks different. WHY?! Why do you have an issue with things that work well staying the way they are?!]

With that out of the way, and while I try and figure out how to insert pictures *eyeroll* let me tell you about Auroville (and I’m going to quickly run through this).

All the non-stop running around since 1 September had really left me feeling very exhausted and in need of some deliberate, organised downtime. Outside my own home, removed from the urge to potter around and tidy up and generally keep myself needlessly busy. I have been longing for some time to just sit, be, slow down, empty my head, breathe easy. I wanted to go away somewhere — not fancy where I’d be tempted to sightsee — where I could wander aimlessly, or choose to sit with a book (or two, or three!) uninterrupted. Some likeminded company would have been good, I thought. In a wild, wild coincidence I happened to discuss the idea and the sudden urge to eat at the Solar Kitchen (in Auroville) with A, exactly when she was plotting to go over there on the weekend, by herself. So of course I just tagged along, in what she called our separate “alone trips”. But not without some overthinking of the fact that I would only just be back from Goa less than 48 hours before taking off again, that I have been feeling travelled out and should probably chill. But really, it took a split second to realise two days wasn’t going to change much. So I quit the overthinking and just went. With the express intention of accompanying A to eat at the Solar Kitchen. 

As much as I like elaborate holidays that require planning yada yada, I am oh so very happy with this kind of quick escape, with absolutely no plan whatsoever. We picked a spot to stay within walking distance of the Solar Kitchen. Because, priorities. And allowed the rest of the nonexistent plan to work itself out around that. Which it did, organically, spontaneously and rather beautifully for our liking.

What ensued was two days of mostly wandering around on foot, interspersed with lots of reading and eating. Yeah, basically just that.

The cyclone scare meant the weather while humid and sweaty, wasn’t exactly blistering and painfully hot as it could have been. We had pleasant-ish weather most of the way, which encouraged us to get out a little. We walked a total of 11 kms on day 1, despite spending most of it sitting around reading or eating. We hit the Solar Kitchen, the Auroville Library (which is oh-my-god delightful, and an ideal place to spend many uninterrupted hours, if you enjoy books and silence) and neither spots kicked us out in a rush. So there was much lounging, pulling out our books wherever we were plonked, and proceeding to lose ourselves.

Then we took a loooong one-hour walk to the beach to catch the sunset, making stops at the Auroville Bakery and Farm Fresh to stock up on Auroville goodies, followed by a super-early pizza at Tanto’s before heading back home. 

The great thing about eating at sunset means one still has a couple of hours before bedtime, which we of course spent, surprise surprise, reading, and still slept early enough to rise just after sunrise the next day. We walked upto the MatriMandir, which wasn’t too far off from our guesthouse, but of course we weren’t let in. No amount of referring to the sweet security dude as “uncle” seemed to help. The rest of the morning, post an excellent breakfast of muesli and yogurt with fruit and hot chai, was spent lazing in bed, you guessed right, reading. At lunch time we headed back to Solar Kitchen and hit the Visitor’s Centre to shop for some more goodies before walking back home again. When the sun went down a bit, we hit the beach again — earlier this time — to take in the evening sights and the sunset. A chai stopover later, we were back home to catch yet another dinner and lots of bedtime reading again.

You get the drift right? We were very, very focused on the eating and the reading, strategically planning all our wandering based on where we wanted to stop to eat and the moment we settled in a quiet spot for longer than five minutes, we’d whip out our books and ignore each other. Somewhere in between all this we chatted too, somehow. Lots and lots of chatting, some gossiping, lots of giggling. It was just the weekend I needed, and it couldn’t have panned out better.

We meant to book ourselves tatkal tickets to return on Sunday night, but a slow Internet connection, a two minute delay in catching the window and a large dose of not caring too much meant we missed our chance. And so we ended up staying an extra night only to leave on Monday. Which actually worked out excellently because it meant I got to finish three entire books, have an extra breakfast at the guesthouse and I always prefer leaving fresh on a new day than spend a whole day in anticipation of leaving at sunset (which is always so FOMO-inducing).

Things I enjoyed the most:

  • A train ride after yonks! And unreal excitement about cooking and packing dinner to eat enroute. Train journeys are all about the food for me.
  • Walking, walking, walking. I’ve been feeling the need to move, and walking specifically, has been calling out to me. Ever since I had to make the hard decision to skip the next OXFAM trail-walk (because I’m woefully underprepared this year and in absolutely no shape to wing it) I’ve been feeling the urge to start walking in preparation for next year. Wandering on foot has been such a great way to get a hang of the areas I’ve travelled to, and creates a very different kind of connect with the space that I’ve loved and hadn’t tasted in ages
  • All the reading. To be able to read in silence, as much as yak nonstop is special thing to share with a friend. I’m happy to add another person with whom I can share this with, to my list. 
  • The sense of community at AV. While there’s a confusing slightly disorienting strain to wandering around a hot and sweaty area in Tamil Nadu surrounded by white people who seem to be more in tune with the land than most of us visiting there like outsiders, it definitely triggered a yearning for community living in me. One of the things that’s really come to the fore thanks to living in Bangalore is how isolating and insulating city life can be. In sharp contrast to my life in Goa where I’ve just had the luxury of camping out at a friends for three weeks, where everything is slower and harder to get done but the process leads to uncanny conversations and surprising connections and dependencies always gives me a sense of community and connection that I miss in Bangalore where there’s a palpable dog-eat-dog energy and everyone just fends for themselves and asking for help is so difficult. It warms my heart to see people come together, in whatever form, to nourish and nurture a common vision and I hope and wish that somewhere in my future, I have the means to experience this more deeply.
  • Watching women cycle around with such ease. In dhoti pants, in sarees, in cycle shorts and all the gear — so was so much cycling it made me think back wistfully to my cycling days in Goa.
  • The ease with which I could get up and go. This was a real thrill, one that I am still savouring slowly two days after I’ve been back. This is new and refreshing for me.
  • The food. The food. The food.
  • A visible, slowly permeating shift in my own ability to connect with people one-on-one. While on the one hand I’ve been talking about and feeling a sense of needing a community, deeper within, I’ve sensed a shift of sorts in my own personal connection with people. My “groups” seem to be dwindling fast, and it’s putting me in a very different space, forging healthier, more stable, and most importantly hassle-free equations with many of those same people, as individuals. It has come with a fair amount of anxiety about something very deep and innate about me changing, the resistance to let the comforts of an old and stable pattern go, but it has also been oddly liberating and that has encouraged me to push thru, let down my guard and not worry too much about the old ghosts that rear their heads so often. 
  • The sea. I realise I visit the beach so little in Goa, that going to the beach elsewhere is still a treat. I made a mental note to make the effort to go to the sea more often when I’m back in Goa, because it’s a luxury I don’t want to take for granted.

Day 323: So we want to stay, but we can’t find peace while sitting

Back from a weekend away at Auroville with A. I’m feeling enriched and energised. It was the kind of getaway where we meant to be away for one night but ended up staying two. And even with the extra time, spent 70% of our time with our noses stuck deeply in our respective books, stopping for nothing but meals, wandering in search of meals and chatting about past and future meals for the remaining 30% of our time, all the while contorting our lazing bodies into shapes conducive for uninterrupted reading but that gave one of us a crick in the neck and another to finish three books over the weekend.

A has been telling me about the poetry of Jeet Thayil for a while now. I’m not too big on poetry but sometimes something so apt comes my way and makes me wonder if it’s time to venture into these unexplored territories. In an unexpected coincidence while hunting for what to read next, I stumbled on this absolute piece of perfection, which I have just discovered is in his recent collection.

Home

Give me a home 
that isn’t mine,
where I can slip in and out of rooms 
without a trace, 
never worrying 
about the plumbing,
the colour of the curtains,
the cacophony of books by the bedside. 
A home that I can wear lightly,
where the rooms aren’t clogged
with yesterday’s conversations,
where the self doesn’t bloat
to fill in the crevices.

A home, like this body,
so alien when I try to belong,
so hospitable
when I decide I’m just visiting.

Arundhati Subramaniam

Of course the collection has made it to my TBR list, immediately. But it’s also worked itself I to my newly content heart where I will allow it to germinate, unfurl slowly, watching closely as this idea of home takes new form in my head yet again.

Such a joy to be home, to travel, to have this sense in two places, and yet feel anchored within too.

Two years ago: Day 323: Holiday reading

Day 322: Set the controls for the heart of the sun

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.

Remembering Maria’s excellent advice from a few years ago, that never gets old and that I like to revisit at least twice every single year.

Two years ago: Day 322: One night in Bangkok

Day 320: Do you need me before I fade away?

Today was such a good day. It started with meeting N for breakfast at CTR and then a big fat loaf on Commercial Street. I don’t realise it as often, or admit it often enough even when I do realise it, but there is a deep connection with this city that is rekindled every time that I have an experience that feels le a throwback to the good days. Commercial Street remains largely unchanged and walking through it always feels like going back in time. Hitting the send haunts — Vashis, Suryanarayana, Woodys, Bhagatram, Mysore Saree Udyog — ways takes me back to a familiar and warm headspace, and gives me a big dose of nostalgia that seems to dull the ache of being in the city and the parts of that trouble me.

I’m grateful for the extra time we got to hang out today. We yakked pretty much non stop and I’m lucky we always make the time for that. This is an ease that I don’t have with too many folks in my life and it is a good place to be.

It was such a good Bangalore winter day! I caught a long nap before I packed up to leave. It’s been a while since I made a trip so spontaneous, so short that I need nothing more than a small backpack. The lightness of it is palpable.

And now, Im on a train after almost three years! So excited that I made a production of the dinner I packed for us and I’m unnecessarily happy about this side berth I’m on.

I’m so looking forward to two days off the grid.

See you on the other side of the weekend.

Two years ago: Day 320: One day in Bangkok (or day one in Bangkok)

Day 299: Kind of morning that lasts all afternoon

We’re home. More on the journey and other miscellaneous thoughts, soon.

See pictures of this same spot taken on previous journeys, here and here.

One year ago: More Goa postcards: blue
Two years ago: Day 299: Book quandary

Day 298: Getaway, you know it’s now or never

The last time I drove long distance mostly by myself, was when the boys cycled to Wayanad and I tagged along in the “support car” with all their supplies. Today, I drove halfway to Goa mostly by myself. I say mostly because I was in the car, all alone, but I was driving alongside (not literally) VC who is riding his bike to Goa.

With a car stuffed to the gills, and a bike strapped to the back, it really felt like a fugitive-on-the–run kind of scene this morning as we set off. And yet, it just doesn’t feel like goodbye. It’s the strangest, strangest mixed-up, turnaround of emotions that I just did not anticipate.

Few things make me feel like my father’s daughter like long drives and road-trips do. Today, all by myself, I felt it even more so. Maybe it’s so deep in me, this ease to get on the road and get going, we’ve done this so much growing up that I don’t give it much thought. I just agreed when VC asked if we could split the driving. 24 hours ago though, I was suddenly not so hot on the idea. A massive resistance to pack and get going came over me. I put it down to everything — PMS, the very full moon and even just the strangeness that has been this entire month. But it was too late to back out anyway.

So here we are. Thankfully, I had a really good drive. It was punishingly hot and dry, there was an inordinate amount of traffic getting out of Bangalore, but even so, once the road opened out and my playlists kicked in, I felt like I had slipped out of the funk and into a new energy.

Skimming the road, keeping an eye on VC either in front of me or like a dot in my rearview mirror, I enjoyed my music and solitude, the frequent chai breaks, the oranges I ate peeling them with one hand. It was a long and exhausting drive today. Strange, considering it’s only half the journey, and we usually do the whole 670 kms in one shot. I’m super glad we decided to break our journey, and so I get to post this from the comforts of my hotel room, where I am under the covers as I munch on pakodas and chugging a Coke, waiting for room service to arrive.

Driving alone means you usually have just your thoughts for company. And I had plenty today. Music-related thoughts, Bangalore thoughts, and thoughts about the twists and turns life has made this past year. Maybe some of them will make their way into subsequent posts. Maybe, maybe.

I’m determined to slow down the hectic energy that has consumed me in October, reminding myself to just keep flowing, just keep flowing. If today — it took us twice as long as it usually does to finish this leg of the journey — is anything to go by, things are on track to slowing down for sure.

One year ago: Postcards form Pondicherry
Two years ago: Day 298: Weekend snippets

Day 284: September

Heaven, let your light shine down

I’ve thought long and hard about how I can sum up September. I’ve written, re-written and written again, this post collating all that happened in the month, and yet the right way to put it together has eluded me. Continues to elude me. It’s odd because so much happened in September. I was busy, the days were long, I was out and about, and then I went away on what can easily be called one of the best holidays of the last decade for me. Somehow, I’ve been lost for words.

This morning, I realised that perhaps it’s okay. That perhaps I must post this anyway, without neatly tying everything up with a bow. September was over-stimulating. September was snappy and brisk. And yet, September has left me silent. September has made me sit down and be still again.

For far too long now I have been seeking this stillness within. The sort of stillness that steadies me even in the midst of bustling action. Suddenly I realise, September was all about that kind of stillness deep within. Stillness that anchors, steadiness that fills a space. Somewhere, unbeknownst to me, that steadiness has crept in making space for a quiet assuredness that makes it possible to rest without my fingers fidgeting to hold something, to flow from one thing to the next without always knowing how or what or why, to be busy on the outside and calm within all at once, and to let go of the answers knowing that I can sit still with the questions swimming within.

Uncertainty, quietude, surrender, unsettling — there has never been a time in my life that I have enjoyed any of this. And somehow, here I am today doing exactly that. So here goes.

***

I had a shit ton of work last month, and the added pressure of finishing it all before I went away. And in classic fashion, I procrastinated a helluva lot before I eventually got it done.

Despite that, there’s been that stillness I mentioned. Peaceful, easy days with emotions running high, thoughts astir.
I feel a deep sense of contentment for where I am right now and all that life has brought for me, especially this past year.
I pondered about inclusion and what it means to evolve and think back wistfully, to older versions of myself.
On distraction and my relationship with screens.
Thoughts on social media, as a result of unrestricted screen-time I had.
Writing every single day this year has been not just exceedingly joyful, but also beneficial.
I’ve also found a new dimension of friendship that fuels me.

HAPPY days of love in September included the Supreme Court decriminalizing homosexuality in India. And our tenth wedding anniversary.

I spent a large chunk of the month in Europe and I posted every single day. Sometimes with words, sometimes without.
Enroute: Day 0
Paris: Day 1: Hello Paris, day 2: walking about, day 3: more aimless wandering, day 4: in love with the city of love
Brugges: Day 5: rainy welcome, day 6: all is forgiven, day 7: lessons in uncertainty
Amsterdam: Day 8: sensory overload, day 9: catching sunrise and sunset, day 10: last day reflections

Gratitude, as always.
For choosing the slow, flexible life that supports my inner being.
For the abundance that has come my way in recent times.
For love: in strong friendship that has grown unexpectedly, for family that comes through against all odds.
For friendship across continents, timezones and life spaces.

img_6730

***

One month ago: Day 246: August
Two months ago: Day 219: July
Three months ago: Day 184: June

Four months ago: Day 152: May
Five months ago: Day 134: April
Six months ago: Day 92: March
Seven months ago: Day 60: February
Eight months ago: Day 32: January

One year ago: Things change
Two years ago: Day 284: Escape

Day 274: Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity

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

Day 272: Say, say, say, hey, hey now baby

Amsterdam. Day 3.

It’s been ten whole days since we left India and finally I’m craving a good hot frothy sugarless filter coffee. Even though the frothy hot chocolate I’ve been having everyday (sometimes twice!) Has been excellent. I could also do with some veggies that are not lettuce and tomatoes. The food has been stupendous on this trip. We’ve had everything from local favourites wherever we stayed to fancy Italian and picnics in the park, overstuffed cheese platters, Lebanese, Asian and even so much dessert! I can’t think of a single meal that disappointed me, honestly. And that’s not just my easily-satisfied side speaking. Even so, it’s time for some veggies, I think. And some cold home-set dahi. Those are the basics. And I guess I’m that person who will in cliche fashion want those basics after ten days in a continent that loves white flour.

***

Im most surprised at not getting any reading done. I knew this was going to be a high activity, lots of getting out kind of trip. Even with all the walking, I’d assumed there’d be lots of lazy spaces and pockets of time — a day in the park, some hours ago a coffee shop, an evening by the sidewalk — where I could read. You see, that’s typically what I do on holiday. But this one has been so dramatically different. And in such a refreshingly new way — to be out and about in three different countries in such a short time — I’ve observed, internalised and learned so much just from watching. And like I said before, I’ve been so full with the experiences that I haven’t felt the urge to reach out or need a change of pace.

***

We have walked so, so much. That was a given when we planned this trip. Even so, the amount of traversing we finally have done has been overwhelming. We bought day passes for the trains, buses and trams everywhere and virtually took no cabs. This is a first for us.

The other thing I’ve watched with amazement is how we’ve so easily skipped one me everyday. Either breakfast or lunch depending on how we’ve felt at the start of the day. This was done for no other reason than that all things edible here come in such generous portions, the meals we have eaten have been large and sumptuous. Even with all the walking about we’ve eaten two big meals a day and felt completely fine.

***

This trip has really rekindled the explorer variety of travel that I thought I was done with. I was definitely in a space where all holidays were about winding down and relaxing, but this time I outside my own expectations of myself by exploring every place we went to. Doing it on foot probably added to the experience, because there’s something about getting a grasp of the place on foot that’s unparalleled.

This has also meant a lot of wistful longing for my 20s. Seeing my friends in Europe, with the life and opportunity for so much we can never dream of in India made me really think about how I might do my 20s over if I had the chance. Seeing them reminded me of dreams I’ve let go of and just pass me by as inaccessible because of the way life has come to me.

I have a deep longing to fulfill some of those forgotten dreams of travel and living. But on the other hand, getting out like this without a plan and seeing how easy it has been to navigate the place On my own has also infused me with a new excitement that maybe I will make up for lost time in my 30s.

This is movement for me. And it really made me warm and fuzzy with new eye and virgin excitement, like the world is my oyster right now. The months ahead literally have so many options open. VC has been throwing very tempting life plans at me, planting multiple seeds of possibility and I’m stunned at how longing for lost time quickly becomes excitement for the time I have. This is definitely a movement towards a healthier space.

Two years ago: Day 272: I am eager

Day 271: Walk with me for a while

Amsterdam. Day 2.

Amsterdam Blues. And how. The good weather streak is back.

At first hit, Amsterdam Centraal felt like a mildly sophisticated Bombay. The inner lanes we wound or way through felt like Baga. And then we went down to China Town and had a noodle lunch. Listening to the restaurant staff chat away in what sounded to my ignorant ears like Chinese gave me a proper mind-bending WTF-am-I feeling, because suddenly I felt like it could have been Bangkok or Singapore.

Or it was just that Amsterdam air kicking in good and solid.

I’m amazed by these buildings, the incessant cyclists and how is the prevalent form of transport here.

I’ve been on VCs holiday schedule these last few days, which is to catch the sunrise and sunset everyday and work everything else we want to do around that. It’s settled into a nice rhythm and I realise there’s no other way I’d probably ever wake up this early on holiday and walk about a new city so much on my own. This has been a fun new thing to do. And a great way to explore the non essential sights.

And when the city and skies look this good, it’s worth it.

One year ago: On letting go of what is meant-to-be and enjoying what-is
Two years ago: Day 271: Control issues, part 2

Day 270: One night to speed up the truth

Amsterdam. Day 1.

We’ve gone from great blistery weather to impossibly cold weather back to really toasty crisp weather again.

I’m really getting used to this layering business and find myself illogically drawn to staring at people’s extremely cool sneakers and catch myself daydreaming about building my own collection.

Riding the metro in, I realised that this wasn’t part of the plan, but happily so, we’ve experienced three wildly different cities with wildly different cultures and entirely fresh vibe each.

I didn’t anticipate how freeing this mingling with people would be. It’s been a proper sensory overload and my brain hasn’t been able to do much else.

My loaded up Kindle lies untouched, my notebook has 2.5 entries. My days are going by in a haze of thoughts, contemplation and happiness. And lots of walking and wandering.

Okay, Amsterdam. Let’s do this.

Two years ago: Day 270: Control issues