Make Your Own Trip, Please!
Make Your Own Trip. This matter came to my mind after a brief correspondence with a bondhu, and I started to think about my travels and how radically different it has been compared to how many people choose to travel. I have always made my travel arrangements, from the initial research to the final return home. On the other hand, many seem to relinquish the joy of preparing for the travel and submit to companies who do the enjoyable work for them. There are companies that now cater to people who have given up their ability to create their own travels. People who are more interested in the risk-free banality of a controlled existence - where the thrill of getting lost has been traded for the boredom of always being found. This the World of organized vacations. With the return of travel, now that the World has realized that COVID-19 will not be beaten but things will go on as they did, people are starting to travel. This is when companies with names that are variations of the title of this post are finding a docile customer base that want the controlled and curated experience cocooned by the travel specialists that are catering to the lowest common denominator of the travel market. Imagine the alternative. And I simply quote from a blog from some years ago: "The good thing about staying in a place like the Marriott is that they are able to arrange for car rentals and other conveniences at a reasonable cost and the car is delivered to the hotel. This is what was done, and we had a Holden which is an Australian car but made in collaboration with GM. We drove out of Melbourne and headed into Geelong to eventually get on the Great Ocean Road which hugs the Tasman Sea and makes its way all out to Adelaide. We were not going that far. Our first stop was a service area off the main highway (Prince’s Highway), and we had coffee and rolls. We then bypassed Geelong and got on the more winding and country road that took us to a place called Agleside. A small town by the inlet overlooking the sea we found out that the local golf course offered opportunities to see wild kangaroos. This seemed like a great idea and Srijoy drove us to the spot. We parked (unauthorized) at the Golf club and walked in the course (unauthorized) and encountered several kangaroos just running around. This was a much better experience than seeing the drugged animals at the zoo. After a while there, Srijoy took us back on the Ocean Road and after numerous stops to get on the beach and take pictures we eventually reached the Koala area which comes close to a place called Ketterning Bay and before Apollo Bay. We stopped at a tiny café for lunch and then drove up the gravel road into the Ottaway National forest and started to spot the wild Koala bears perched on the eucalyptus trees. They are difficult to spot but they are quite a sight. We spent some time there and then drove back to the Ocean Road and took it all the way through Apollo Bay onto the lookout for the Twelve Apostles – the world-famous rock formations that tower out of the ocean near the beach. We spent some time there and Srijoy and I walked down the cliffside and got some really good pictures before heading further West to a place called Loch and Gorge where we sat by the ocean for a bit before returning to watch the sun set over the Apostles. We then went off the Ocean Road and Srijoy drove us back towards Colac from where I took over driving us back to Melbourne after a short sandwich stop at a KFC. We returned late to the hotel. It is interesting to note that Srijoy learnt to drive a manual car, driving without legal permit in Calcutta with a borrowed car. And his first major long-distance and at-a-stretch driving for an entire day was in Australia without legal permit using a rental car! He actually drove for about 8 hours with stops and a total of nearly four hundred kilometers." Imagine a day like this, the cafes, the stops, the total independence of doing something that we wanted to do. To be lost, to discover and find those moments and places that no travel agency will even know of, let alone include in the journey. That is the thrill that is taken away in a bus load of people who are led to the slaughter of sightseeing on a schedule that they do not own. Years of such travel, from the time I made US Air create a flight number for an aircraft that would have otherwise flown empty to Philadelphia and got 200 people out of Madrid who were stuck there because of flight cancellations caused by the volcano in Iceland, to the complete satisfaction of finally finding the Hanuman Temple deep in the forests outside Jaipur, lives with you. And during the seven trips to India from America during the pandemic I realized that every bit of travel that I had ever done prepared me for travel during COVID-19. For those who would often choose the listlessness of curated travel, I urge you, do it once by yourself. The thrill starts with opening the Website to book the ticket and you realize that you are in control. You will go looking for the places that you want to be in. Imagine getting up in the morning and saying, "It is a sunny day in Tel Aviv today, screw the other plans, let’s just sit at the beach and sip a drink." And we counted the people from different countries on that sunny day by the Mediterranean. This is what Simon and Garfunkel said when they said: "Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike/They've all come to look for America." I went looking for the World and found a wonderful place.