Musings

Category

She goes alone

Is the world an infinitely more dangerous place for a solo female traveller? Yes and no. There is no succinct answer. Much of that depends on the places you decide to visit, the precautions you take and the force of a charming personality that can actually overcome some obstacles that an otherwise surly person wouldn’t. Thus far, I’ve kept my travels to countries that have been relatively ‘safe’, but I’m never more painfully aware that the definition of this particular word differs from person to person. I’ve not taken any self-defense classes (though I wish I did); neither do I really carry mace or pepper spray or god forbid, a knife around....

Solo travel

I’ve gotten many reactions when I tell people that I roam the globe alone. But there is resistance all around. I’ve been called all the adjectives that lie between brave and foolish and there is of course, the constant nagging from the family that safety is of utmost importance. Not forgetting cost, because single travellers pay much more, for room, food and transport. Going solo isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I had a taste of it while spending some study time in Germany many years ago and found that being alone gave me a freedom that I couldn’t explore outside the quotidian confines of daily life....

Facing fears

On a recent abseiling course, there was a moment of awkwardness when we were all asked to introduce ourselves and why we wanted to learn how to abseil. When it came to my turn, I couldn’t even plead insanity, only that I was interested in adventure and that I was tentatively taking baby steps to wade into doing things that I’d only recently begun to crave. Then people started talking, and it amazed me how many of them actually signed up to abseil to conquer their fear of heights. In essence, it was to do the very thing they were afraid of, in a controlled environment where there was a...

Around the ring road

Barely five months after last year’s adventures in the north, I find myself packing my bags again and heading towards Copenhagen and then onto Iceland to conquer the deep-seated fear of driving on the other side of the road. Apart from wanting to savour the elemental beauty of Iceland, of course, this time armed with a smattering of Icelandic vocabulary and grammar and an unsatiated hunger for seafood (and Icelandic Fish and Chips). With the memories of Svalbard and the arctic still in technicolor, it’s hard not to be gripped with the sheer excitement of returning to snow and ice and well, extreme living – except that I’m looking at...

Shifts and re-thinks

The first days after returning are always hard (I got back a few days ago after spending an abysmal time in the plane); perhaps it’s what many people jokingly mean when they talk about having a holiday to recover from their holiday. It’s more than physical tiredness; it’s a narrative of my own life that I’ve always needed to revise each time. I’ve noticed some sort of cognitive shift that always happens each time I return after some time away; there’s always a sense of overwhelming tiredness and jet-lag (that could be combated using Melatonin). More than time difference, there’s also a cultural re-think and reshaping that the mind’s got to...

Going north and taking stock

Amidst visions of grandeur of volunteering in remote places like the Arctic Fox Station in Iceland and getting carried away with potential archaeological excavations in Scandinavia or Israel, I think I should consider myself incredibly fortunate that I can even make such trips up north a reality. For a while, dominating my thoughts were the wilderness of British Columbia, or the French part of Canada – certainly a handy way of practicing my elementary French – until the flight times and prices caused this detour to Europe once again. Taking stock, much has changed since my first foray into pre-Euro Europe in 2001; my subsequent jaunts there are at best a...

Impulse

For years now, I’ve talked about Japan as my personal fetish, the last, unexplored frontier that I don’t quite dare broach for reasons that were never quite so articulated. I knew that I’d be lost in translation, despite the successful trips that millions of non-Japanese have pulled off without knowing the language and the highly regulated etiquette that earn most gaijin -foreigners – the term “barbarians”. Tokyo itself sounds intimidating and the names of cities just sound the same to me, but I swore that I would plan for myself an ambitious, north-south tour of epic proportions that stretched from the national parks of Hokkaido to the memorial sites of...

Archaeological digs and travel

I always thought that, in the distant future when I make millions, the funds could be used for silly and idling activities at spas and shopping trips befitting some grand old dame. And then, I thought perhaps I could use that money to study again – be it for a PhD, or another postgraduate degree (though heaven knows just what), or do a complete turnaround and get into the bio-sciences like an overgrown child. Or, as I recently found out, dedicate time and money to archaeological digs (though it’s not as though I’ve already stashed away millions in secret offshore account), a long-forgotten teenage dream spurred on by the romanticism of...

The Road Out

A fond farewell in the form of sugared strawberries to the host signals that it is time for me to leave Hamburg. But not before I took a ride around the neighbourhood in that bicycle that’s been the most solid thing I’ve ever ridden. There is much I am going to miss in this place – the bewildering slower pace of life that I’ve been leading for the past month, the fretful weather (though gorgeous when the air is cold and the skies are blue), the beautiful scenery and its varied suburban areas. Learning a foreign tongue for so long and for so intensive a period here has momentarily left...