I quit my job early this year because it was getting slightly mundane. I had the whole Chinese New Year period to think of what to do with my life. I didn’t want to get back to work so quickly, and I had some savings that would enable me to travel somewhere. My first thought was Australia. I love Australia, went there once for a month and I didn’t mind being there again. It wouldn’t be a vacation though, more like a working holiday. But it was January, and visas would only be given out in June. Second option was Mongolia. Why Mongolia? Just because. I had been thinking of visiting the land of masala, India for a while too but hadn’t gotten around to it. So why not throw that in and do everything by land from India to Mongolia?
That would mean landing in India, going through Nepal , Tibet, China and then Mongolia. Sounded like the perfect plan. Booked a one way ticket to Thrichy and I got going. If I say there was no planning involve, I kid. I don’t normally leave stuff unplanned. Does it take the fun out of the whole backpacking trip? No. People tell you, Just do it, just do it. Yes, but there must still be some form of planning involved. I pinned down the places I would love to go in India. Why? Just because Google Images churned out beautiful pictures of them.
Why India? Everyone asks. First, the culture and people. Second, it is cheap! I landed in the South and worked my way up North West. I skipped a lot of the places I initially planned to visit because I decided to spend more days in a place getting to know the people. Nothing beats having the grocer remembering your face and greeting you every morning. After India, it took me a day or more and a night of being homeless to get to Pokhara, Nepal. It was pitch-black when I arrived in Pokhara. It is a dead town after 12am. I spent the night talking to stray dogs and singing to them (I am sane).
I decided to do the Annapurna Circuit trek with Janica, this other backpacker-cum-good friend I met in Hampi. Why? Just because. Google images provided too many reasons not to miss the trek. Indeed I did not regret spending 3 weeks in the mountains. After making through the highest pass, I asked myself: what is the purpose of trekking this circuit? Was it because of the beauty of the trek, the people or just because I wanted to prove to myself and others that I did the ThorongLa Pass?
There were nights after trekking that I asked myself the reason I had undertaken the trip. What had I learned from the journey? I wondered if I should fake it to say that it was a life-changing experience that everyone should take. Leave your commitments and go! I still don’t know why I did the trip. Do I need a reason to get away for a while, to go into the wilderness of a foreign land? To throw myself into the unknown, and learn new faces again?
It wasn’t life-changing, I did not come back a different person. I did learn that everyone that you meet in life is a teacher. They could teach you something little like how to do a simple stitch on your pants so you’re not airing your crotch out. They can tell you about the plants that grow from worms that are worth a bomb. Also, I learned to take things Shanti Shanti in life. Do I need a purpose to go on the trip again? No.
Oh, I did not make it to Mongolia though. I got too absorbed by Nepal and finally headed home when funds were considerably low. Maybe my next trip, in a few years.
Shanti Shanti means peace, calmness or bliss. In short, chill the fish out.
On that particular trip, Andrew lasted four days without showering, fell three times on his bum walking on ice, and replayed Bon Iver’s For Emma too many times. Nowadays, he’ll tear a lil’ listening to the album after the trip.