My travel bug is constant. Reminds me constantly how I should rather be travelling. It frustrates me that I am not. It creates this constant urge, a desire that draws me towards starting an unknown journey. I can proudly declare that I am in love with the unknown. And I have this thirst, this hunger to see as much of the unknown as I can. For one of my greatest fears is that life and health and responsibilities will consume my life so much that I will miss out on exploring the unknown.
Life is a constant journey, and in that we discover so many things. I often like to dwell upon the journey of self discovery and travel is one of the ways to get to know yourself. I am not sure exactly when I developed this yearning for travel. I do remember however when I first recognized it. My medical school hostel in Nepal overlooked these gorgeous Himalayan mountains and valleys: lush, green, dense, inviting, constantly calling me towards it. On days after rainfall, cleaner air would make it possible to appreciate its beauty better. And I would find myself lost..staring at the mountains dreamily, in the hope that one day I will pack my bags and set foot on a journey. I didn’t really have a destination in mind, but I knew I had to travel. Around the same point in time I was reading a book called- Into Thin Air- which recounts one of the worst Mt. Everest ascent disasters, killing a record 30-40 people including owners of adventure companies such Mountain madness and Adventure Consultants. The book had gripped my imagination and by the time I finished reading it, I was this restless soul who could find no peace till I started a journey of my own.
It made perfect sense to start in Nepal, because that book was based in Nepal which was also the country of my residence at that time. A journey to the Everest sanctuary was completely out of budget for me, so instead, i opted to do a cheaper version of it. Annapurna Base Camp. But there were several things to be first figured out.
Money: I was poor, I had no money. I was doing my medicine internship that year and recieved a monthly stipend of Rs 1700, roughly 20-25 dollars. Most of that money went towards food. I didn’t have anyone to possibly finance my journey except for my parents, which was out of question as our family was particularly hard hit by financial tragedy around that time. Anyhow, I started saving. Saving was tough because I used to donate to a local orphanage monthly. Anyway, I started putting aside a small fund to finance this madness that had overcome me.
Company: I knew I couldnt do this alone, because it is generally unsafe for women to travel alone in that part of the world. Or so we believed. I asked my friends if they wanted to climb the Himalayas with me. This particular friend who I adore said- ek toh pahad chadho, upar se paise bhi do! Agar koi mujhe paise de aur bole ki pahad chado tab toh me soch sakta hai. Paise dekar pahad chadna toh chutiyapa hai!- I will translate that some other day.
I did the Annapurna Base Camp in September 2008. It was an 11 day journey, traveled on foot. We roughly traversed 8 mountains to reach a small town Sanuali from where we made the final ascent to the base camp. Its been 7 years since, and I have traveled to so many different countries, but that trip continues to be The Epic Journey. It also started this new phase of travel in my life and now that passion for travel burns even stronger. I am not sure I will be able to fully recount those 11 days of my life- some details are lost to time, some have become blurry. But it awakened something inside me which almost defines my life now.
I am 30 years old, married, in the middle of my medicine resdiency which allows me only three weeks of vacation. My visa situation limits me currently from traveling outside of the United States. These limitations frustrate me and I feel trapped under circumstances of responsibility. But that fire for travel burns and I cannot wait till I can start exploring again.
There are so many places that I want to go to, which makes it particularly hard to decide on where to start and which destinations to pursue first. So I think I have found a solution. I have decided to organize destinations into three general categories. Destinations before becoming a parent. Destinations I can go to as a parent with kids/ family destinations. Destinations after I retire. Now most places that come to mind can easily fit in all categories. Like Paris. One can go to Paris in all phases of life, so pretty much most detinations can be crossed over into atleast 2 if not three categories. Nevertheless, I think this categorization although imperfect, so far is the only perfect solution. And hopefully I will go to Paris in each phase of my life.
Destinations before I become a parent:
- Ascend Mount Kilimanjaro coupled with a wildlife safari. In the past several years of my life, i have thought about Kilimanjaro every single day. I have looked at various iterinaries on the internet, costs etc. It plagues my mind. And the thought of not being able to do it haunts me day and night. The reason why Kilimanjaro is on the top of my list is because I certainly know- I cannot ascend Kilimajaro while I am pregnant, a mother of a toddler or in the later decades of my life.
- Patagonia: Chile and Argentina. Same reason. I want to push my phycial capabilities while they can be pushed. Not when I have osteoarthritis of my hips.
- Niger (country of my favorite artist in the world: Bombino)
- Mongolia, Tibet, South China
- India: Northeast (Meghalaya, nagalnd, arunachal), North: Laddakh, Zanskar Valley, Central and West: Rajasthan, South: Kerala, Goa, Andaman and Nicobar Islands
- China (countryside), Tibet
Destinations on top of my husband’s list:
- Europe in general
- Peru/ macchu Picchu
- Australia and New Zealand
- Any country with a food scene (my husbands priorities are his taste buds. He has the alter ego of Anthony Bourdain)
Destinations most feasible with my current visa situation:
US and US territory and some more countires: Hawaii, US virgin Islands, PR, Canada, Mexico
Destinations as parents:
- Travel within United States and Canada.
- National Parks
Destinations after retirement
All time Destination
- Tanzania: Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar
- India & Nepal
- Spain and Portugal
- Italy and South France
- Turkey, Morocco
Destinations within United States
- Yosemite: Climb Half Dome
- Grand Canyon
- Glacier National Park
- The Burning Man
The list is young, disorganized. It will we grow as we grow. But its atleast something. And those problems I was referring to before the Annapurna Base camp trek. While the problem of company is solved because my husband has an equally itching travel bug and we both are always ready to travel, we still need to save up. And part of the reason why we dont have savings is because we traveled atleast 2-3 times each year for the past 5 years. But we will figure it out. Hopefully.