Greetings from Kolkata. The city experiences a mild winter compared to the north of India. Day time temperatures are mild. 20 deg. C at the moment. The whole city is bathed in this beautiful mellow light. It is a wonderful time to be visiting this part of the world.
Kolkata is a city with which I have a strong connection. I grew up here from the age of 9 till 17. Since I left, I have visited many times through the years. Visiting here is a timeline of my life. I’ve been visiting a few old haunts. Bit of time travel. I’ve been trying to take it easy. Spending some time at home. The jet lag has been messing with my sleep patterns. I’ve been up a few nights. Thoughts crawl into my head and I can’t go to sleep. I’ve tried to be productive and get some work done. Some nights I’ve been looking back at the past year. Some nights I have been jumping into my time capsule. Remembering, all the moments spent here in this house where I grew up. The places I visited. The friends I met. Relatives. Some who are still part of my life, some of whom have disappeared with the tide of life. Coming here reminds me of the person I was and the person I have become. I am grateful and happy to be here with my family. I also realise that I am struggling, dealing with the nostalgia of a life I once knew. The Times they are A-Changin. Christmas and New Year can be such a bittersweet time of the year.
The year in itself has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Visiting Argentina over the last 2 weeks was an amazing experience. Loved the madness, frenetic energy of Buenos Aires. Loved Patagonia. The larger than life landscapes feels like you’ve been escorted to a different world. However, the constant travelling and busy workload have left me kind of drained recently. I really couldn’t enjoy myself during certain moments of the trip. A life of travel, as magical as it sounds, can sometimes take a toll on you.
Work wise , winning the blogger of the year at the recent National Geographic Traveller awards was a defining highlight of what was my busiest year in travel. I visited over 35 cities for the new edition of the Luxury Hostels of Europe guidebook. It was a lot of hard work and effort on my part, plus some key contributions from other people to whom I am eternally grateful to. Some sacrifices were made. In the end, I am really pleased with the final product. What did you think of the book? I’d love to hear your feedback, good and bad. Btw. If you were looking to purchase a print edition of the book, am excited to announce that the book is now on sale at Amazon and a few other online outlets.
2017? Not sure what the year holds for me. If 2016 is anything to go by, it should be another epic ride.
In terms of personal goals, I hope to be happier and more grateful. Less stressed and worried about what the future holds for me and the blog. Just like this blog, my life is still a work in progress. My life of travel in this context is such a gift, such a truly amazing ‘job’ to have. A tool for personal development, a window to the world. In a world where everything is changing so quickly, it is an ever present constant. Perspective is what we need. Travel gives me that and for that I am grateful.
I’ve met some wonderful people thanks to this life of travel. Each person has left its mark on me. Taught me something about this world.
I think the message of travel and how it is our greatest weapon against ignorance, bigotry, racism, hatred is more relevant than ever. Especially in the light of what is happening in Aleppo now. Berlin this week. Paris. Brussels. Istanbul. Not forgetting Trump and Brexit. I feel we are at huge turning point in our lives. The world we live in is more complex than ever before. Everything is hidden. Emotions remain buried. Even though we have more mediums, platforms to express and share our emotions, oddly we seem to be drifting apart more as human beings. A war is being fought on our doorstep. We can’t ignore it anymore. A mere ten nations on the planet this year were not at war and completely free from conflict. Only Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, Mauritius, Panama, Qatar, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam are free from conflict. (According to the Global Peace Index 2016 ) Right wing extremist forces are on the rise. How did Xenophobia, racism, sexism, Islamaphobia become acceptable? A new subversive movement, the ‘alt-right’ has been borne from decades of ignorance. The impoverished, disgruntled masses who have been left behind are now making the voice heard. How can we turn these people around and make them understand better? I don’t have the answers. Can travel help?
I’m not sure. For many people, a life of travel is often seen as a luxury. Some form of escapism. People who travel are somehow running away from the truth. The day to day responsibility of living. I disagree. The rare few who choose to undertake this unconventional life of travel are choosing not the easy way but a very difficult path. Leaving behind the comfort and security of an everyday life, bed, family, friends, loved ones… your community can be the hardest decision a person can take. Life on the road can be brutally uncompromising. Relationships are tested. You are completely out of your comfort zone. Plus when you travel solo and take your work on the road, life can be challenging. Somedays performing the simplest of tasks can become an epic struggle. You have some time to think. Analyse yourself. See what is working and what isn’t. You have to face up to your inner demons, your imperfections on a daily basis.
That said, with all its struggles, a life of travel offers amazing gifts. Taste, smell, sight, sound : travel is one of the few things which truly engages all my senses. I am truly alive, present in the moment when I am on the road. I’ve met some amazing people. I’ve experienced emotions, good and bad that I never thought existed. I’ve had some amazing conversations with people that have shaped my perspective of the world. Travel has definitely made me a better person.
For better or for worse, the way you see the world is never the same once you have travelled the world. It is a privilege. For that I am grateful. It is a gift that I hope you truly embrace in 2017 and the years to come. The message of travel, in these dark times is more relevant than ever before.
So please keep travelling. Take time out for yourself, for your loved ones for a weekend, a week or a month. Whatever your travel plans are for 2017, I hope it a great year of travel for us all. My travel plans are not firmed up and up in the air at the moment. A trip to Finland is on the cards early January. Skiing for the first time in the French Alps early February. Which I am terrified of and also weirdly excited about. Other than that, nothing is confirmed. Love to go back to New York and spend some more time there. Georgia is on my mind too after a random conversation with an Uber driver last week in London. Where else should I go? What travel stories are out there that need to be told? Love to hear where you are travelling to in 2017.
On that note, I wish you all you wonderful people, a very merry Xmas and New Year. Thanks for reading and caring. I’m taking a mini break from the blog but will be back in the New Year with more inspiration and ideas for 2017. Till then, take care.