Confessions of a travel writer

Long immigration queues, noisy passengers, strange food... How does a travel-writer survive it all?

Ask yourself this very pertinent question. “To what lengths am I willing to go to, to pursue a dream?” When I asked myself that very same, seemingly simple, yet heavily loaded question exactly a decade ago, the answer I came up with shocked me silent. And being silent is a virtue that has been bestowed upon me rather sparingly!“I’m prepared to do just about anything—legal or otherwise... ” was what I heard myself repeat on a loop. On the threshold of an exciting new career as a travel writer, I knew that I was staring down a deep, bottomless abyss of unknown and unfathomable possibilities. On one hand, they seemed deliciously exotic, while on the other—utterly terrifying.But over the years, I have come to realise that going against the grain, attempting to explore the unexplored and just living out one day at a time is the credo that works best for me. With that priceless and heavily addictive drug called wanderlust surging through my every cell, I’ve thrown caution to the wind and let my heart triumph in its battle with my mind, sucker-punching the living daylights out of it at times.

Be it conquering claustrophobia, ‘trapped’ in a wee submarine vessel to ogle shamelessly at the corals and sea anemones that make up Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Or be it chowing down on a plate of grilled sow’s uterus skewers at a local Tokyo izakaya—I’ve let nothing daunt me in my quest. A search for the bizarre. A search for the unknown [and often, the uncool!]. A search into the very depths of my being to find the all-important answer to a question that perpetually haunts me—what is my ultimate purpose?

But I’m not going to make this a ‘whine fest’ moping about coming nowhere close to deciphering my raison d’être. I’m enjoying every nanosecond of the process. How else can you rationalise the fact that for the last four years, I’ve some way or the other found myself travelling on a plane, or traipsing about some foreign land on my birthdays. The first people to wish me being immigration officers and front office staff at hotels once they scan through my dog-eared and travel-weary little passport. I’ve shared a modest little birthday cake and measured glugs of bubbly with strangers sitting next to me in an A380 aircraft when the cabin crew surprised me with their thoughtful little edible [and yes, drinkable!] gifts along with rather tuneless renditions of the happy birthday song.

Airports around the world have taken on the title of quasi homes to me, as I navigate my way through their labyrinthine concourses. Stopping here for my favourite sushi platter I never miss out on having, or there for some podiacal pampering at the Thai foot spa. Some of my most favourite travel stories have been conceived and executed at airports as I’ve assaulted my notebook’s keypad going all militant on it, churning out piece after deadline-bound piece.

The surge of humanity at such places is beyond inspirational, as the little old lady sitting diagonally opposite me in the waiting lounge morphs into a character for one of my fictional essays. The boderline psychotic rants of the irate man in front of me at the check in counter lay the foundation for a story on airport etiquette. All these—and countless more—instances of how imagination coupled with a visceral sense of curiosity are a travel writer’s best allies.

But with allies come opponents. And one of the biggest challenges I face in both my professional life as a travel writer and thus collaterally in my personal life, is something that I call ‘erratica’. I have no fixed schedules for anything thanks to my spur of the moment, pack and go travel jaunts. Like a cloud floating languorously in the sky, I am everywhere yet nowhere. For me a journey is a destination and a destination, a journey. With a life runneth over with oxymorons, I chart my course along a rich tapestry interwoven with interesting people, off-the-beaten-track paces, surreal experiences and unbridled emotions.

Who knows what the future holds? Certainly not me! And I don’t want to either...

This was first published in the August 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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