For some reason which I cannot explain and frankly, I don’t even care enough to find an explanation for it, I have this supreme confidence in myself that things will work out. Never the most confident of persons especially when it came to believing in myself, this is a new experience for me. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that it comes from this wonderful feeling I have inside of me that for the first time, I have got things figured out. To most people, I seem lost. They don’t understand what I am doing and they think I’ve completely lost it. While that used to bother me a lot earlier, somehow, I don’t really care too much anymore.
People keep asking me when I am going to start living in the real world. In my opinion, the world has never seemed more real to me. I have never understood how big it really it is and how much it has to offer- how many opportunities there are and how there is a place for everyone. My 18 year old cousin understands it better than me- he told me that it is a big enough place to accommodate everyone. And that is true.
The second question I get asked very often is why I am throwing away so much of my hard work and the one area I have an expertise in. I believe that I am intelligent enough to carve out a path which is to my liking. While it is true that I spent several years of my life in law school and then working as a lawyer, it is not reason enough for me to ransom the rest of my life to it. I have no regrets about going to law school or spending 2 years working as a lawyer. For starters, law school gave me my 2 best friends in the world. That alone, would make it completely worth it. In addition, it opened my mind to a host of different things and thought processes. It increased my level of confidence and helped me come out of a shell. It really made me a better person. It gave me certain tools which I know will help me with whatever comes my way. So, on that front, I don’t think I am really throwing anything away. I think I am just using all that I have learnt to do something I really want to do.
The third question I get asked is what is my plan for when I am back from my little jaunt around the world. I really have no plan. I have no idea what I will do when I am done travelling (assuming that I am ever done travelling- ). All I know is that there will be a host of opportunities which I will find either along the way or whenever I am back. I have enough confidence in myself to know that whatever happens, I will figure things out as and when. The plan, as of now, is to have no plan.
If I look back at my life, I believe there were several turning points which led to this juncture. If I believed in providence, I would say that everything in my life has been leading to this point in my life. I think the first turning point in my life was when a friend of mine in school suggested to my 16 year old self that we should backpack around Europe once school is over with. At that time, I was obsessed with Paris. My experience with learning French, my love for French perfumes and my desire to see Le Louvre and La Tour Eiffel, amongst other sights of Paris, made me want to do it more than anything else. Over time, my knowledge of Paris has reduced (at one point in time, I really thought I could guide people around Paris despite having never visited the city), most of my French has been forgotten, and my love for French perfumes has been dampened because I own too many now. However, the desire to visit the city still remains, although, it has morphed into something deeper. I am no longer as excited about La Tour Eiffel or Les Champs Elysees or even Notre Dame, I am more interested in checking out the city which Anthony Burgess, Oscar Wilde and Henry Miller thrived in. While I understand that the city has changed significantly since then, I still think there will always be the breeding ground for authors, artists and other ‘weird people’. For me, Paris has always symbolised ‘le noir’ in some ways. It has always seemed like this city with underground dens with high consumption of the green fairy, berets and random artists thriving on the road- it has always been a little bohemian to me. I realise that I may find myself disappointed when I do visit the city but I still believe that if I search hard enough, I will experience all the ‘le noir’ Paris has to offer. And yes, there is always the cheese.
I think this one suggestion set this course for me. The second turning point was reading Danielle Steele’s Wanderlust. I don’t remember much of the book but I do remember it being a lot about travelling. As someone who does not like Danielle Steele’s writing, liking a book by her was weird for me. I remember not finishing the book though because my access to the book was taken away before I could finish it. However, it made me want to sate my own wanderlust.
The third significant turning point was my trip to Gokarna from college with a friend of mine. During that trip, I had a chance to meet several foreigners who were travelling around the world. There was John (32) and his cousin (17) who were driving around India on bikes. A farrier and bricklayer from the Isle of Man, I remember feeling extremely jealous that they were travelling so much. John had already taken several trips biking across the world and had spent a year in Phuket teaching scuba diving by the day and bartending by the night. All four of us chatted till late in the night and did the usual amount of flirting. It was extremely intense and I mentioned my desire to travel and John said I should do it even if I do nothing else. Then, there was a 40 something year old, hash-smoking, British chap we met who was building a house in Ooty and was essentially a journalist who worked from Ooty and made a few trips back to London every year. He had decided to stay in Ooty because he loved the place and invited us to come stay with him whenever we wanted. We also met this American couple who had spent the past year travelling around India. I remember being ashamed that they had seen so much more of India than I had.
The fourth turning point in my life was my trip to Dharamshala with my family. I remember discussing Shantaram with an American lady who had settled down in Brazil and came every year to Dharamshala. We had an intense but brief discussion about the book and how much we both loved it. We also met this other lady with whom we had a discussion regarding George Bush’s re-election. That trip made me realise that I would love to come and live in Dharamshala for a while. I loved the energy and the excitement there.
The fifth turning point in my life and the one which really did it for me was my trip to Bangkok. A much-needed holiday to get me out of this depression I was in gifted by my extremely generous uncle. Bangkok will always hold a special place in my heart because it made me realise how wonderful life can be. I was a different person in Bangkok. I jumped out of the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in eagerly to dine on a delicious breakfast and then, get ready for the day. I dressed well, I wore lenses every single day, wore some funky jewellery and I even put on make-up everyday! People often asked me how old I was and when I told them I was 26, they were shocked. They thought I was 21! A really strange experience for me because in India, people usually take me to be much older than I really am. I suppose part of it was because I couldn’t stop smiling and I could feel myself glowing. I also dressed like myself because I did not have to worry about anyone’s sensibilities. Harem pants, tie-dyed dhoti pants, shorts, tie-dyed loose shifts pretty much summed up my wardrobe there. I had so much energy. Walking around Sukhumvit at night, the Chatuchak Weekend Market, the sex show at Patpong, the wonderful two hour massage- I could go on about Bangkok. There was a new thing to experience every single day. Bangkok showed me that life could be so much more than sitting in an air-conditioned office working insane hours for the security of a paycheck at the end of the day. It showed me that life was all about experiencing new things. It showed me how easily I could be myself when I did not have to worry about ‘other people’. It really showed me what my life could be. I contemplated running away and just sticking around in Bangkok for a while and experiencing more of this life. Instead, I did the sensible thing and cried all the way back into the life I had come to dread- a life which showed no promise of happiness.
What happened next was that I spent month researching travel options, realising that I had no money and that I was being impractical and that I would have to go back to being a lawyer. And then, everything changed.
I am still terrified but not as much as I used to be. I am more hopeful now than I was several months back. I can feel it in my bones that I am on the right track. I do occasionally suffer from bouts of self-doubt but they are less periodic than they used to be. On the whole, I find myself excited, happy and confident. I still have very little money. In terms of assets, I have a tiny amount in my bank account, intelligence, confidence, and a passion. To me, that sounds like a pretty damn good place to start from! And the rest? No idea. I will figure it out as and when I need to.
Fortunately, the world we live in is full of options and opportunities. This is a wonderful time to live in. We don’t realise that there is always another option and that we can choose to do what we want to. I know I didn’t. It took a lot of inspiration from others who lead their kind of life, and an immense amount of work on myself for me to reach this point. I hope to never stray from this path. It brings me unparalleled joy.