And one for the road

JOLLY JOURNEY

And one for the road
A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.

– John Steinbeck

Many a life is spend gawking at travel brochures with fascinating getaways, fancy packages and fancier price tags. Most settle for a bucket of popcorn with a bunch of friends and a three-hour movie that has nothing more to offer than was promised in the trailer. Regretfully, the weekend ends, and the daily rut begins…

“Hit the road,” say experts. Nothing is more intoxicating than being in the midst of nature and nothing gives one a bigger high than going on a road trip, meeting the local people, eating at the roadside dhaba. How much does it cost? Sometimes, much lesser than what one shelled out for that multiplex ticket and the junk one ate in the posh restaurant! If you have watched Piku, the recent crowd-puller at the movies, chances are that what stayed with you – besides the “potty humour”, of course – is the nuances of the road trip. The wait, the tiffs, the idiosyncrasies, the revelations and the self-discoveries, beautifully woven into the story.

Feel the wind

Woe betide anyone who calls a road trip a waste of time or dime. What are the benefits? Ten fingers ain’t enough. To get out of the secure roof we call home, out of our office cubicles to breathe some fresh air, to hear the birds chirp, to bathe in the sun, to chat with complete strangers…these things do work wonders for our psyche. There is an instant recharge.

“We avoid taking the same route each time; we take diversions, head through a village road instead of the highway. There’s nothing stopping us, and that’s the best part of a road trip,” says Siddharth, a travel buff, who has biked on the rocky terrains of Leh and driven umpteen times on the hairpin bends of the Western Ghats.

His wife Avanti loves the ease and convenience of road trips. “There is no hassle of booking travel tickets and planning in advance. You can just get up one weekend and decide you want to go on a trip. You have the flexibility to leave whenever you want,” she explains.

A road trip, whether it is planned orunplanned, does take most travellers by surprise, be it losing one’s way or the vehicle experiencing a breakdown. “I experienced all of it last year while driving from Bengaluru to Wayanad with my family, and the most unnerving part was encountering the wild animals. We were close to a head-on collision,” recollects Krishnaraj. Even so, he enjoyed the regular stops to savour the scenic beauty, picking local fruits, drinking tender coconut water by the roadside and chatting with the locals along the route.

For Frank, who has travelled extensively across the globe over four decades, travelling is akin to elixir. “I enjoy getting on the road every six to eight weeks. The travel is at the most for a week, after that I want to get home. For me, the best part of being on the road is meeting new people and discovering new eating places. I love to experiment with different kinds of food,” he says.

Travel has also helped him understand people better. “I love to start conversations with people. I wasn't always like this - that has come from my travels. I enjoy a good conversation, not just small talk, but on topics like religion, politics, food, travel. I like to see what makes people tick,” he elaborates.

Sometimes the distance you travel is inconsequential. It’s all about the journey, the quest, the experience. More than 15 years ago, Shyam discovered a waterfall right in the middle of the city, as he and a cousin were out on their bicycles exploring the place. “There were no maps, no mobiles; just our bicycles and our inquisitiveness. We met so many people, some guided us, some confused us, but it was nothing less than going on a treasure hunt,” he recalls.

Bond all the way

A family that prays together stays together, they say. So is the case with the family that travels together, often. “I think we pray more while travelling on Indian roads. Given the amount of well-sized pot holes and inter-state buses zooming like Ferraris, we have no other option,” says Daksha, with a smile.

That apart, as Rupa points out, road trips offer a great team-building exercise. “We delegate tasks to every member of the family. My husband takes care of the driving, planning and execution, I manage all the gadgets - iPad, iPod, cameras - and cash, while our two teenagers handle the food and medicine department,” she explains. “We discuss things, which we often don’t get time to discuss at home. Also, reprimanding kids becomes easier, as unlike at home they have nowhere to run to here,” she adds, laughingly.

It is at times better to travel well than to arrive, said Buddha. A profound thought in these pithy lines reinstates the fact that the destination doesn’t really matter, for the learning is in the journey. For many travellers insist that it is not where you travel, but how and with whom you travel, that makes a road trip memorable.

Siddharth and Avanti believe that the trips they have taken so far have helped them know each other better - the food they like, the kind of places they like to visit and how they cope with problems

together. “I’m pretty impatient and she tends to be calmer. But it’s the reverse when we are behind the wheel. So, if there is bad traffic ahead, its better that I’m driving. And she prefers open stretches to winding roads. So we know when to take turns and end the trip on a positive, relaxed and joyful note,” says Siddharth.

Road trips come with their own set of challenges; sometimes you take the wrong route, sometimes the vehicle breaks down, sometimes you have to navigate through bad roads and worse traffic. But these challenges can serve as relationship builders. “These are the times when you really understand the person, and once you are out of the mess together, I feel you come out of it closer and stronger,” he maintains.

So, if you are newly-weds or wanting to know each other better, try the road-trip experience. It’s also worth a try for the already hooked ones trying to ignite the fading marital spark. Actually, you can also go with a bunch of friends, or if you so desire, go solo. The road has something in store for everyone.

Given its many virtues, one wonders why not many of us embark on road trips. Call it lethargy or our perennial fascination with the idiot box with varying screen sizes, it’s high time we hit the road to experience life, smell the countryside and meet the blokes out there, soon before it all disappears in the name of development.

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