Can we heal through travel? Does travel turn us into a better person, a better version of ourselves? I used to think so. Others, more experienced travelers and writers, more evolved human beings who seem to have it all figured out think so.
But does that still apply when traveling is your constant, your permanent state of being? I think I wanted to be full-time traveler so it would be but the last six months have taught me differently. Now I am about to go on my first trip after two months of standing still, of having a normal life whatever that may mean and I am about to find out. I do want to claim my life back, find joy again or as my friend, Nikki said ‘have an epiphany in front of the freakin’ Taj Mahal’.
I am sitting at Cape Town International airport deep into the first of a few G&Ts. After all, water is short these days, so I am doing my part.
The airport in Cape Town was the first airport I felt connected to, it felt like my home base. Not so much because of the actual time I have spent here or the G&T and blog post that have become somewhat of a ritual before each departure but more because of its arrival hall, I have the fondest memories of this place.
My cousin first fetching me when I moved to Cape Town almost ten years ago, me fetching various friends and family members over the years, and last year the man who I thought would become the love of my life.
He is also a reason why I am so hesitant to board a plane for the first time in forever and at the same time the reason I desperately will the magic of traveling to work once again. I am returning to India and while the reason is so incredibly exciting, last time I walked the streets of Fort Kochi, Jaipur, and finally looked up at the marvelous Taj Mahal I was incredibly unhappy. No epiphany whatsoever. India couldn't save me, its beautiful chaos did nothing to touch my soul, neither in a good nor in a bad way. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it and isn’t that the saddest feeling with really anything in life?!
Maybe soul touching is too much to ask of a country, but I was still disappointed when it didn't happen, when I just stayed indifferent and sad and unappreciative of this amazing life I have. I know it wasn't India's fault and all the places I saw immediately took a special place in my heart but at the same time are, hopefully not forever but for now, connected to this person. It makes me a bit more nervous to return to India than I would usually be. In fact, if it wasn't for the memories I wouldn't be nervous at all, packing took all but 20 minutes and I only took some wet wipes and a box of Compral.
But here is the good news. In a way, I think he is also the reason I am returning to India. If you see the video below, you will know what I mean.
First things first: in December I heard about a trip called the Great Indian Blog Trip, a journey for 60 travel bloggers spread on four of India's most glamorous luxury trains. I applied without high hopes especially after reading that one was supposed to submit a video. If we have learned anything, I am no videographer, my camera seems to add 20 pounds instead of the usual 10, and I hate to hear my own voice making any sort of editing an extremely painful exercise.
So no, I wasn't hopeful when I made this little clip but I guess my story must have charmed them enough because I got selected to be one of the participants. Hurrah me!
What is even more exciting than traveling for a week throughout India in utter style (check out my train, the Maharajas Express, here) so many people that I like are coming with me.
Press trips can be exhausting, especially for an introvert like myself. However, I was lucky enough over the past two years to meet some incredibly nice people and a lot of them seem to be on my train. There shall be a fancy black tie reunion with Nikki from Pin the Map Project (her and I will be roomies and be bringing a cat because we are the cat ladies of the group!), Amelia from xAmeliax, lovely Brent from The Good Things Guy, Jayne from Girl Tweets World as well as some new people I am excited to finally meet.
The Great Indian Blog Train - Maharajas Express
If you are keen to follow along, you can do so here on my Instagram account. If you are like my mother you can follow my journey on the map:
Delhi - Jaipur - Ranthambore (fingers crossed for all the tigers!) - Agra - Khajuraho - Varanasi - Lucknow - Delhi
While I have been to a couple of the destinations, namely Jaipur and the Taj Mahal, I am genuinely excited to see them again. With different eyes, with an open heart, and surrounded by friends.
I always thought India and I were meant to get along and I can't wait to finally make that happen.
And that thought made me realize that sometimes it is okay to step into the world a bit hesitantly. For travel not to make you immediately happy or fulfilled. Whether you fear Delhi Belly or being reminded of a broken heart, hesitant to pursue a new dream or to finally let go of that nightmare that has been haunting you. Travel doesn't always change your life and a place isn't meant to heal you - the great affair is simply to move.*
*Adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson