Serial Bus

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A Life-Defining Hurrah of An Adventure

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I come across countless stories of adventure all the time however none moved me as much as something that was recently accomplished by my friend, Astrid. She (along with Alex, her brother) recently walked along the Himalayas on a ten-month trek (check out their wonderful blog here). They started their trek at Dharamshala (Himachal Pradesh) and then continued through the arc of Himalayas, passing through Uttarakhand (my home province) and Nepal (the full length from west to east), finally concluding their journey in Sikkim. They did not know the local languages, there is very limited travel infrastructure in this region and good reliable literature is scarce. I really admire the duo’s zest for adventure and their love of the mountains. I also felt a sense of loss as I felt left out of adventure – not theirs but in general.

There was a time in my life, about 6 years back, when my regrets and my dreams regarding adventure were equal to each other. I had just finished my MBA and was all set to start my first job. I regretted never participating in something truly adventurous – something like retracing the Silk Route or crossing the Himalayas or traversing the Appalachians. But, I thought I will. Little did I know that I’d get so very sucked into making ends meet (materially and otherwise) that this dream would remain unrealized. Don’t get me wrong; I have been quite fortunate regarding travel, considering I had a very late start – I flew for the first time when I was 21, I got my passport when I was 22 and I did not fly abroad until I was about 24.¬† Since then, I have touched every continent except Australia – at last count, I had visited 16 countries. But, my burning desire to do something truly adventurous and solo (i.e. without the trappings of organized tourism) never came about.

That I was born into a family that had neither the desire nor means to travel is indisputable. However, even when I came into my own, I remained oblivious of what I was missing. I recall, in 1996, when I was in standard XI, the school offered us a 10-day trek to the Sunderdhunga glacier in the Kumaon Himalayas. It was free of cost and several of my friends opted for it. I let it pass because I thought I need to study for my ‘career-making’ exams. The funny thing is that the exams were 10 months away and standard XI performance never counted towards anything in my career.

My friends who joined the trek came back enthralled and in awe of the Himalayas. Perhaps it was the resulting angst that inspired me to join the Azad Bharat Rail Yatra (a 25-day train journey for students) just 2 months before my actual class XII exams. That experience was more fulfilling than anything else that I could have done in those 25 days.

Then, again the career demons set in for 3 years in college in Delhi and 2 years at B-school. I was forever delirious about using time wisely and postponing my grandiose travel plans for later. Thanks to the experience at ABRY, I did not let go all the opportunities. I traveled to Kerala and Tamil Nadu with my father once. I spent a month in the Dalai Lama monastery at Dharamshala, including a day’s trek to Triund nearby. Around the convocation time in B-School, my friends and I traveled to Kathmandu and Pokhara, including a day’s trek on the Annapurna Trail. I believed at that time that these single-day treks were the launch-pad for something more adventurous, something closer to nature.

I had already registered for the 11-day Chanderkhani trek through Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI) for the summer of 2003. That was a wonderful experience and gave further imagination to my wings. I had begun to dream of fuller-scale adventure involving long treks and Himalayas. I had finally come face-to-face with how stupidly I had missed so opportunities to travel and trek and I wanted to make up for the lost ground in future.

But, things have slid downhill ever since. Six years of a white-collar job have damaged my prospects and my resolve to a great extent. I did steal a few small victories like a climb up the Table Mountain in Capetown in 2005 and a 7-day trek in Goa in 2006. But, nothing on a scale I wished. In 2005, during my stay in Pune, I bought a lot of camping gear including insulated mats – my friend Sandeep and I wanted to go postal with overnight treks and camping across the Western Ghats. Besides some day-long treks, nothing truly adventurous ever happened. I then applied to and got selected for the Kailash-Mansarovar trek organized by the Government of India in 2007 but had to leave for the US.

Since then, any gaps in work-life have been filled up by visits to or with friends, travel to India or our annual big vacation to someplace nice. I have filled my longing for adventure vicariously through internet, books and subscriptions to travel mags. Sometimes, this longing finds a suitable opening like our Inca Trail trek in Peru last year. However, the odds of participating in a life-defining hurrah of an adventure continue to become slimmer, more than ever. Youth is receding, attachments are multiplying and responsibilities continue to go north. The dreams of an Odyssey in this birth appear more and more distant.

Faced with such predicament, I found Astrid’s romp across the Himalayas very inspiring and melancholic at the same time. Perhaps my sense of guilt at leading a perfectly mundane life becomes more acute when I realize how someone I knew actually went on to accomplish their dreams, while I hastened my journey towards a bourgeois existence.

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Written by serialbus

March 29, 2009 at 4:32 pm

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