Thursday, January 17, 2008

Near and Far

As I write this, the snow storm outside is covering the landscape with a shimmering blanket. Big snowflakes floating in the air uncertain of where to go; eventually pulled by gravity, almost unwillingly, falling gently to the ground beneath. Like a million cursed angels. I better not think about the commute. But today’s post is not about snow or about commute. Far from it.

Every year in January as the festivities fade away in the year past, my feet begin to itch. The desire for solitude or whatever its redefinition is, in a spousal and a parental context, creeps in. A yearning to escape cluttered thoughts and the monotonous dreary of the everyday. To look at something new in the silly hope that when I eventually get back to my chosen life, my point of view, will somehow be magically altered, if only briefly. But constraints impede: time and money. As much I would like to, I cannot escape into verdant forests in the mountains or dive into the cerulean blues of the seas on a whim.


A very long time ago I dreamed on hopping on the trans-Siberian Railroad. Timetables were gathered, flights checked. Seasons debated. A three week journey through snow filled Russia or a more welcoming July? How about making it a honeymoon adventure? The thrill of it although intense, was not very long lived. It would cost an arm and leg and was carefully swept aside and promptly put on a list of things to do when we have the money.

Then a few months later, Alaska. The surreal tundra landscape took my breath away when I looked it up. The pictures of the soaring mountain peaks, the fragile wildflowers. The Tundra. The Taiga. I was living elementary school geography and immensely enjoying it this time around. It is the closest I will come to being in outer space, I told myself. BigGeek concurred. The plan did not come to fruition for two years and then it did. We drove and hiked in Alaska for 10 glorious days. Standing on a mountain drinking in the vast, ethereal, almost eerie wilderness of Denali. Watching in amazement as the strange, silt-ridden glacial rivers of the land braided and twisted themselves again and again, changing course every season, never knowing where they will be next spring. Witnessing a glacier thunder and rumble and then suddenly calve and burst into a million icy shards a few feet away. Sights like these bring profound changes and they coerce you to realize, yet again, your utter insignificance in the larger scheme of things.

Although we traveled in subsequent years to many places and saw many sights, it was not the same. There was something missing. We went to Boston and South California. Nevada and the Grand Canyon. Hawaii and Florida. Beaches in Virginia and mountains in West Virginia. We went “sight seeing” with mighty expectations. And, not unsurprisingly, all those places failed to give me that elusive sense of wonder. I slowly realized why. We simply did not meander. We went with a set goal in mind and that sort of voided the thrill of travel. We were inches away from being one of those ubiquitous tour groups that take you to fifteen European cities in 2 weeks. It was physical travel. Not a journey.

With monetary and time limitations firmly in place that show no signs of budging, I do what every pauper in my place must do. Become not an armchair traveler, but a slightly more modern desk traveler. So, on dull afternoons and uninspired evenings I plan trips. Adventures to far away lands. When time and money casts a deep shadow, the imagination soars. And with my little desktop PC I have been to many places. I have visited the sands of Mongolia and lived in kurts under the starry sky. I have visited the islands of Japan with their exotic manners and baffling ways. I have climbed to legendary Manasarover and seen a lake that defies linguistic description. I have kayaked in the Amazon and cruised on the Nile. I have battled giant mosquitoes in the mysterious African rainforests. I have seen the fjords of Norway and have crossed the Arctic Circle. I have driven deep into Patagonia and hiked to an ice shelf with only penguins for company. I hope to do all of this one day. Some day. And I hope that with every mile I travel outside, I also travel a mile on the inside.

37 comments:

I love Lucy said...

What a wonderful post!You just echoed my thoughts there,DM!!
M and I find ourselves in similar quandary ever so often.And you drove home a point there when you talk about doing all the "touristy" things when on a trip rather than take time off and soak in the sights.We were just discussing about how our next trip(whenever that comes about) should be about us...without having to get up at unearthly hours to reach some place on time or having to rush from one place to another just to make sure we haven't missed a sight..you know what I am talking about don't you!

DotMom said...

lucy: thanks... it would just be fun to travel without any concrete plans, no?

rayshma said...

u really have a way with words... loved this post! :)

Preethi said...

Hey Dotmom.. in you I have found my twin... :) I have such big travel dreams.. and live in my imaginations/ research... of far away places!!! I also love to travel without an agenda.. and we continue to endeavor to do that .. but like you say the past couple of years has been bad!! I will be back in action when I go on a road trip (read rv and camping) next year in Florida... That is on the agenda and hope it works out!!

The TAAMommy said...

I used to travel a lot, even without knowing i loved doing it, singly and marriedly. But after 3 wee kids under 4, its like i've lost all ability to love travel. After done it a couple of times with all, the minute TAADad suggests something, i am like 'home is vacation, might as well do home improvement with the money', etc, i come up with all sorts of excuses. The desire has been totally sucked out of me, to travel anywhere, home is comfort where the bed is, where the medicine chest is, where the clothes and diapers and food are readily available where they need to be. Just cant think of uprooting my life even for a single day. Sigh.. Your post inspired made me and i became all wideeyed and wondrous about the bygone days. Probably when the TAAs grow up, i might be ready again.

dipali said...

Lovely post. I am all for armchair and desktop travel! I've realised that I'm not a happy long distance traveller at all. But a good travel read- wonderful. Do read Ganju's hilarious travel posts ( His url is http://inbetweenlives.blogspot.com/).

Moppet's Mom said...

Meander out to the far east too, won't you? :-)

Lovely post.

Gauri said...

Oh Dottie - I think you're in the process of collecting a lot of soul twins on this one :-)
I do it too - a lot.
And like you said, someday .... I do hope that someday ..... those vivid imaginations of travelling - be it to far off and remote places - or hustling bustling cities - do fructify.

SUR NOTES said...

a post close to my heart. i could just close my eyes and escape.

we try, to meander...and in india journeys demand it from you!

but the trans siberian train journey- i have imagined it many times over.

DotMom said...

rayshma: why, thanks for the compliments, hon!

preethi: I think through our travel we try to be children again. So much of our life is in watertight compartments.

taamommy: And I am complaining with just one :) I otta shut up :) But I know EXACTLY what you mean. When we went to Hawaii Chip was 10mo old and the whole trip just ended up about diapers and baby food. It was exhausting. But, leave TAA with the daddy and you take off for a week. I'll join you :)

dipali: No? WHy, o why? I thought you would be the travelling types. Thanks for the link. Will totally check it out.

moppet's mom: I have, I have. To Cambodia :) When I visit India, I plan to take all asssorted family and take everybody on a vacation to Cambodia and Thailand and Malaysia!

gauri: We are all such loosers. All bark, no bite :) Why do we feel so guilty on going on vacation with just a bunch of girlfriends. For just a week.

sur: You do, you do? Let's see if they will give us a group discount :)

Ananva said...

It's Morocco for me right now! I have book marked several blogs, and if someone were to put me on a plane tomorrow, I'll know exactly what to do when I get there, cause I have already been there virtually! But wait, I can't go there just yet, not with a 11 month old baby. So I am waiting patiently, cause I know patience pays.
I was obsessed about Oxaca like that and when I got there it was pure bliss! I am glad I am not the only one who dreams of visiting these places!!

noon said...

I want to travel all over North India first. I have never been up north in India and it really upsets me - every India trip we have to spend time at home - so no time for travel. Now sadly because my dad and B's mom are not around - the home base is gone - but now we have two kids - we really can't travel freely. Just this morning I was telling B that we should have gone on a trip up north soon after our wedding. He just smiled and said this will be your eternal regret isn't it?!
Loved your last line...

DotMom said...

ananva: My co-worker went to Oaxaca and she fell completely in love with it! I AM glad to know I am not the only wierd one :)

noon: I travelled N.India as a kid. Would love to travel again, though!

Moppet's Mom said...

Badge for you over at my place.

Vinita said...

Best vacation we ever had was in Estes Park Colorado. The best place to stay there is at YMCA. No TV, no internet, no phones no AC.

That was heaven. We would run into Moose or deer family at a gas station or just driving by and ofcourse they have the right of way.

Vinita

Deepa said...

This post was mind blowing. I just hungrily pore thru my collection of issues of National Geographic and go into travel orgasms:-) But truly this post was so lovely. And so beautifully written.

Parul said...

What a lovely, evocative piece that was....amen to all your plans, dotmom...specially the Taiga one for which I too have some fondness :)

dipali said...

I think I'd like to take a break in a place near the sea where I can swim in lovely buoyant salt water, or near a river, with good walks, places to sit under trees and doze off reading!
Lots of good places like that in India I guess! ( But I do dream of para-jumping in this janam.)
Guess I want relaxing chuttis in my old age:)

Hiba's mom said...

that was an awesome post!

Mona said...

gorgeous post.
and i loved the closing sentence.

i love traveling too. my dream holiday pre-baby, was a week in prague, just being, and enjoying and learning.

you don't want to know what my dream holiday post-baby is, do you? haha.

Poppins said...

What a beautiful post DotMom. I've always wanted to go to Alaska though and am so envious you did it already :) I feel the same way about travel, I hate tours, I hate too much planning. I love trips that take their own shape.

My own favourite is a roadtrip we took through Sierra Nevada, via Yosemite, the Mojave and finally ended up in Vegas. We had no plans no hotel reservations, just did it on the fly.

Now with poppin ofcourse such trips are sadly out of the question, but then kids bring their own pace and sense of magic to the trip don't you think?

Anonymous said...

this is EXACTLY what I have been feeling the last few days! the desire to just let go and travel...you have put it down so well here! loved this post!

--Gypsy

DotMom said...

moppet's mom: thanks sooo much!

vinita: haven't been to colorado.. i have heard its very beautiful!

deepa: hahahahaha. your description is hilarious :) thanks mucho!

parul: everybody here has a thing for tropics.. guess the grass IS greener on the other side, right?

dipali: gotta hand it to you. I don't have the stomach for para jumping. hope you do it and then post pictures I can look in utter awe :)

hiba's mom: thanks!

mona: I wanna go to prague too! I can totally imahine how life must be post baby!

poppins: I remember driving through bits of Mojave. Its eerie austerity is mind blowing. I was so nervous. I almost thought we would see skeletons of people trying to cross the mojave. I LOVED Yosemite. The redwoods defy any description!

anon(gypsy): What are you waiting for? just go and take a vacation :)

Neera said...

What a lovely post!! During all stressful times, I used to be famous for oft repeating 'All I want to do right now is to run to the Himalayas', away from all the din and mad rush, where nature is in its full bounty and very few humans abide; alone with my thoughts, basking in the unparalleled pleasure. Huh!! Someday!! Somehow it never struck me that I could travel so much virtually! Will do that for sure now.

choxbox said...

lovely post dotmom.

Shobana said...

It is always fun to travel without any plans....unfortunately it doesn't happen in our house...we plan and it falls flat on our face when we get there.

It would be loads of fun to just travel...it is my dream to go on a trip by myself...no husband, no child to attend to ....but myself. Oh my...sounds good to even think about it.

Orchid said...

"As much I would like to, I cannot escape into verdant forests in the mountains or dive into the cerulean blues of the seas on a whim"...were you reading my mind??
:) honestly, what a well written post! and posts like these are what brings me back to the blog world each time

The TAAMommy said...

did you go to alaska on a cruise. I think an entire post on alaska would be great cuz many of us, who havent gone there yet, always have wanted to go there. Also which month did you pick to go to Alaska.
We did the Jawaii thing in January for 15 days and spent all of it in Maui. I am the kind of person, actually WAS the kind of person who has to everything mentioned in the guidebook. So we did every single thing in Maui. And most of the ones mentioned in the book was great. TAADad on the hand, would actually like to relax on a vacation :) which i finally agreed to this time over, when we went to Aruba with the kids, all three of them and we never ever left the resort. Well, my son actually never wanted to leave the pool. They were just happy being fed and swamm. Back the guidebook thing, TAADad always to this day, chides(teases) me that i must be the only one who visited the Liberace Museum in Vegas. Is that true ?:)
Happy armchair travelling Dotmom !!

DotMom said...

neera: hahaha. you stole words from my mouth. Arm chair travelling can be so much fun. Do you read travelouges?

chox: thanks, hon!

shobana: me too me too. that's a TRUE vacation, right?

orchid: you flatter me so and this means a lot, especially coming from a talented writer like you!

taamommy: no.. we drove everywhere. Alaska cruises are more senior citizen friendly (or thats the impression I got whil researching). We chose end of May. The prices were not throught the roof. Post memorial day, things get twice as more expensive. The only down side was a part of denali was closed (It opens only in June) but since Denali is the size f Massacheusetts, it didn't matter so much. But, be warned. Alaska IS VERY EXPENSIVE. A dinner for two at an Olive Garden type restaurant will cost upward of $60.00. Even hole in the wall places were not cheap.

About the liberache museum, I awnt edot go, but nobosy else wanted to pay $10 or whatever it was to go see bling bling.

The TAAMommy said...

Hi DM : Thanks for the info on Alaska. And i guess cannot stop talking about travelling. But honestly i love Vegas. Would love going there atleast once a year :) Not sure why !!. But my best ever was the day i spent in Everglades. Probably cuz it is more recent in my memory , before kids, that is. We went in 2001. When the rest of the east was in winter. that day in Florida with sun seeping through the tall sawgrass and following the guide's words through the national park and the lazy animals basking in the sun, the speed boat which takes you through the swamp and the sunset over the florida bay was just beautiful. We spent one whole day in the Everglades and i would like to go back there too. I think i should do my own post on all these reminiscences that this post produced. Thank you !!

DotMom said...

taamommy: I would love to go to the everyglades and the Keys one day. But please do write about your travel adventures. I LOVE a good travelouge.

Neera said...

Dotmom: Well not until now!! Can you recommend some?

DotMom said...

Neera: My favorite is Pico Iyer. and ofcourse Naipaul.

bird's eye view said...

It is tough not planning to the teeth when you are traveling with kids, but A and I are firmly on the wandering side of travel, so last year on vacay, while basics like accomodation and plane tickets were booked in advance, we didn't have any plans once at the destination, and it was so beautiful to take each day as it came...

DotMom said...

bird's eye view: I am with you here.. Apaprt from flights and hotels..it should feel like a vacation not a 9-5 sightseeing job!

Coco Captive said...

This sounds so much like me.
The desire to visit all those exotic places will never go, and I spend all my freetime planning them.. Sometimes Goa, then Thailand, then Sikkim, then the Himalayas... goes on.. :)

Same pinch!

DotMom said...

coco captive: thank god I am not the only insane one here :) welcome to the blog!