I have taken this walk before. The waves crashing against my feet as I walk on the fine white sandy beach, leaving my footprints behind only to see them wiped off by the retreating waves. Yes, I have had this walk before several times. But something about today feels different in a more enriching and fulfilling way. This is a walk that I had started on the evening of 31st March 2016 and a year has passed by since I stepped out of my comfort zone once and for all. A year filled with experiences that surpass the last 30 years of my life. A year, that at times felt like an extension of my worst nightmare when I was confronted with the harsh realities of the life I chose. A year that gave rise to new hopes and dreams. One Year on the Road is a brief story about the highs and lows that I have experienced during this journey.
The Elation of being free
I was not a prisoner in my previous job. I did not hate the usual monotone of the corporate and city life in Singapore that ranged from hectic afternoons to glitzy late nights. On the contrary, I owe a big part of my present life to those eight years of my corporate job. Yet, there was a sense of unmatched elation that overcame the initial sadness of leaving behind the most influential years of my life till then. That elation was because I felt free in my heart. I felt unburdened in my mind. I was free to follow my dreams and do something that I loved more than the convenience of living in a swanky city and financial luxury of working in a corporate institution. I loved talking to people more than chatting on my smartphone. I loved experiencing new places, cultures and cuisines than getting myself immersed in the technical brilliance of cool gadgets. I loved cooling down in the breeze across the ocean than chilling inside an air-conditioned room. I loved to travel and write more than I loved to sit at my desk and type.
The people and a thousand stories
On a hot and humid afternoon in Bali, I was sitting at a warung (restaurant in Indonesian) enjoying a plate of my favorite Nasi Goreng (fried rice). The place was packed with locals with just a couple of foreign faces around. Beyond that wrinkled face, the stoic eyes, the delightful laughter, the intense gaze and the occasionally cute smile, I saw a thousand stories. The kind of stories that had evaded me all my life. That all night chat with Sascha at a cocktail bar in Sihanoukville, the stories of four brothers and their kids who became my family in Palopo, the group of enthusiastic folks attending the English classes in Masamba, the life stories of Fatima and Jamila – the two wonderful ladies in the kitchen at Saraya or that man in Kampot who survived the Khmer Rouge era in Cambodia. There are numerous people and even more stories that are shaping up this journey of mine. It is afterall true, that I Travel For The Stories!!
Pushed to ground zero
Eight years of hard work during my stint at my previous job had ensured that I was financially secure for the next eight years. I could afford to go places whenever I wanted to. I could afford the occasional business class ticket when it would be a long flight for me. I could afford to indulge in myself once in awhile with that amazing infinity pool and a night at the seafront cottage. All that changed over the course of three days in Bangkok. Losing almost my entire savings to a debit card scam was perhaps the second biggest setback during this one year. I went through the apparent nightmare of being stranded in a foreign land without any money. I was broke even as I was on the train to Chiang Mai, having no idea as to how the next few days would pan out. I wasn’t even at ground zero. It felt like a hundred feet beneath ground zero. A helping hand from a friend at least took me out of that metaphorical pit I was in. I had to start all over again or give up and go back.
Pain is the price for Freedom
“Pain is the price you pay for Freedom” – this is a chapter from one of the very few books I had read during my stay in Goa. As I read through the pages, I could see those words performing a synchronized dance infront of my eyes as if to mock me in my face. My mind went back to the day I had left home in October after two months of bickering, arguing and fighting with my own family. I knew that nothing would be the same anymore with them, ever again. Today, my mind goes back to the moment when I decided to move on – from the socially influenced expectations of my family and from the past that I had refused to let go. I moved on as I wanted to be Free from the closed loop of our society. I moved on as I wanted to be free from the past with whom I had chained myself to. Pain is the price I paid for choosing freedom. The pain of soured relationships with my folks and the pain of a scarred friendship.
Finding Love and the Constant
I have been at Saraya, an artistic eco-stay and cafe inspired by the beauty of nature in Goa, for six months now. I have met some amazing people who brought their own light to this wonderful space. Goa itself is more than just a place for me. Goa is a part of me and my life now. Be it the stunning beaches or the quaint and serene bylanes along the paddy fields lined with rows of palm trees on both sides, Goa is a beauty. It would be perfectly befitting for anybody to find love here except, I wasn’t looking for it. I was here to get inspired by the natural landscapes, the people, the food and the culture. And I did find my inspiration in a beautiful soul, a companion and a friend. Somebody who believes in my journey like nobody does and somebody who is now a part of it like nobody ever will be. After a year long of meandering steps, mishaps and moments of ecstatic jubilation, I found love, in Goa. A love that is more than just love. The wheel will keep on turning; people, places and circumstances will keep on changing but someone is going to be a constant presence in my life in some form. I found my constant. A constant who/that will be a part of my future journeys!!