I have been away for a really long time now, and i truly am sorry. I busy with a few examinations and this trip. But here's the post; I hope it makes up for those I skipped :)
This summer I flew 6831 kilometers to be with Juultje Raaijmakers, who lives in Reusel, The Netherlands, for a week, as a part of my EUmIND exchange programme. And I can assure you, it couldn't have been a better trip.
I’m going to start by mentioning some of the activities that I did there, that I just can’t do here:
• Sleep under the stars.
Yes, I can sleep under the stars here too. But whether its owing to the geographical position or the clearer skies, I have never seen a prettier night sky before. It feels amazing and completely out of yourself to be lost while viewing something as simple as “a black ceiling with tiny bright spots” or something as vast as “stars that more than a hundred times larger than our home planet. Stars, the atoms of which reside in our bodies, in our surroundings, in everything we see”; pick whichever you may.
• Jump on a trampoline.
It is a little heartbreaking to admit that I never really found a trampoline within reach to jump on. And then juultje says that she has one in her backyard. *wait wait wait. She is still recovering from the adrenaline burst and the sudden rush of excitement* There’s a very peculiar beauty in jumping on a trampoline, not many people love it, but there is. Maybe it is about those few seconds that you spend suspended in air or maybe it’s about the uncertainty of the rubber sheet that is going to receive you in a while or maybe it’s the ‘hair flying in the air’ or maybe the knot that forms in your stomach or maybe it’s just the one job that the trampoline does perfectly well, becoming your time machine to those childhood days.
• Walk out of the house and find a field or forest where I can lose myself for a while.
I have a garden, followed by a playground right behind my house. I also have a road on the other side, howling with honks all day long. Not saying that I don’t appreciate it, I have learnt to live this way. So when I go to a place where I am surrounded by fields that stretch till the end of the horizon and where the silence at night pierces through my ears, I am surprised but more than that I am euphoric. To have a place where you can lose yourself for a while, it isn’t much of a task; here at home, I have my own hideouts. Back there, it felt more amazing than ever to have found some without even looking for them.
The concept of part time jobs isn’t very suggestible in India and it hadn’t intrigued me even a bit. But then, I worked with Juul for a day. And I have to say, that day is one the most memorable memories I’ve made on this beautiful trip. We cycled around a quarter of the town and delivered a weekly magazine. We covered normal houses, homes for the aged and the locality for the families with toddlers. What leaves a mark is the conversation we had – culture, opinions, superstitions, death, dreams, pressure, life, unconventionality – everything that a teenaged mind thinks, but speaks only after careful inspection.
• Cycle to another country
Where I live, the concepts of borders, security and defense are paramount; no ones to blame but nothing can be done. And so when you’re told that the task for the weekend is to assemble together, hire tandems (cycles for two riders) and cycle to the neighbouring country, a little (maybe too much) enthusiasm goes without saying. We cycled to Belgium; just like that. We crossed forests and parks and villages and highways and suddenly, we’re there.
Juultje says that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She wants to make a difference.
I want to become an astronaut. I want to explore; I want to find answers.
Clearly she and I have very different ideologies. But does that stop us from being friends? No. Does that stop us from inspiring each other? Not one bit.
All I can say is, you breathe their air. You to listen to their music. You walk on their streets. You sleep under their stars. You see their passions. You see their compassion. You catch a glimpse of their life. You eat with them. And its peculiar, how through all the differences, you realize they're the same as you.
My trip may not be that fascinating. People go on vacations all the time. Here’s what I have learnt about travel from my recent trips – travelling isn’t about living in the best hotels or eating from the most prestigious restaurant or commuting the most comfortable vehicles. Travel is not knowing where or how you’ll be living. It’s going for the essence of the new town or village or city. It is exploring the life of common people. It is having the deepest conversations with strangers. It’s about falling in love with a new town but still missing your home with every heartbeat. It is about watching new sights but swearing to return to the spot with the ones you love. It’s about being alone but not lonely.
So, go out. Take that weekend trek. Meet new people. Talk about your problems with a stranger. Surprise your family, surprise yourself. Reach out, explore, find yourself.
I'll add a few photographs in a few days :)