This is my first post based on my experiences of my Sri Lanka backpacking trip (Google Maps Link). In this post, I want to talk about two fellow travelers with whom I shared a beer or dinner or a bus ride or room in a guest house. (To respect their privacy, I am using fictional names).
L from Canada
Leaving the house at the age of 20, traveling around the world working as a teacher for four years and hitch hiking home through three continents. That’s L from Canada. We met at Anuradhapura. We were staying in the same home stay.
I was thinking to myself. At the age of 20, I was stressed about what I would do after college. I was mugging up word lists and practicing maths for the CAT. Once my B.Sc exams were done and I was through, it was 2 years of IIM. After that placements. And then the daily humdrum of work for the next 15 years. Traveling for me was meant a two week trip. Traveling for L was a 4 year journey of discovery, experiencing different cultures, widening his perspective, becoming more aware of the lives of people around the world.
How are our lives so different that at the same age, two people in two different worlds can make two different choices. I am not saying which one is a better choice – every choice is valid. What makes me curious is that the thought of just leaving home and traveling around the world for four years never even crossed my mind. How does that happen?
B from Germany
Working in a media research firm, B was, in his own words, not happy. It was not fulfilling or satisfying for him. There was money, there was a steady rise in designation. But it was not work that he saw himself doing for the rest of his life. So he quit. And is taking a three year sabbatical of which he has already spent a year traveling in a bus in Europe, learning Buddhism in Nepal, spending two months in solitude in Gokarna and now a month in Sri Lanka.
Both of us were in the same age group. He comes from Berlin, I from Bombay – two cities which are highly cosmopolitan at the top but hard and often cruel under the surface. That gave us many common topics of interest – social structures in India, history of Europeans in Asia, inter-cultural relations.
At the end, we exchanged many thoughts and ideas and information. But what I really got was an example of the value of giving yourself time to engage and go deep with anything before deciding on whether you like it or not. But then, time is something none of us have. Our lives are constructed along imaginary lines which are always demanding us to run around, make quick decisions, get to the bottomline, etc. In fact, both of us discussed the “Get to the point” nature of our times where complex issues and choices are generalised to such simplistic levels as to make them trivial.
There were many other people with whom I had extremely valuable conversations. In days to come, I shall try and write about them as well.