For the past few months, I and my wife, Jyoti had wanted to go to Coorg. A friend was also interested and we fixed this past weekend(a long weekend) for the trip. We were going to ride our motorcycles to the place. Now the thing is, I don’t like planning and arranging my trips in advance, I just sort of decide on a trip, make some quick arrangements and leave. So I, in my typical fashion, didn’t plan anything till 5 days before the trip. Then I looked around on the internet, and called some homestays in Coorg. All of them were booked. It seems everybody was going out on the long weekend. I called more homestays but got the same response.
By Friday afternoon, we had resigned ourselves to 3 days of sitting at home. Then my friend, through some of his acquaintances, found a homestay that was available, at a different place called Coonoor! It is in a different state, Tamil Nadu. This twist added to the sense of adventure and we were all excited booking the place.
1. Hastily decided trips Vs planned trips. I sometimes wonder(especially when I badly want to go but nothing seems to be available) why I do not plan a trip. It is so much more convenient to plan something well in advance.
I attribute it to my bend towards adventure. This is in much the same way as my love for motorcycles, my leaving a secure, ‘convenient’ job to seek adventure in doing something I love.
I have nothing against planned trips. They can be fun. There are times(especially when things are not going well) when I feel I should plan better. But increasingly I see that I love adventure, even at the cost of some discomfort. Unplanned trips provide bigger highs. You have to decide whether you are OK with the equanimity of milder highs and lows, or are you in for bigger highs at the cost of bigger lows. It’s a matter of personal choice. Still, I will add my belief that every heart craves adventure, it is just that people let fear and doubts win more often.
2. Trying too hard Vs flowing with the moment. In the beginning I was trying very hard to find a homestay in Coorg. I felt very negative, low and drained. I think this goes against the spirit of adventure, I was trying to control things. With adventure, you don’t try to control, you try to accept everything with excitement and make the best of it.
I checked myself quickly and decided to let go. I decided that enjoying what is, is more important. When I was not trying, a lead came up. It may not have come up, but since I had let go, I would have enjoyed the 3 days at home anyhow.
3. The Essential List Technique. As soon as we were sure we were going, I started packing things. I tend to get worried I will miss something important. So I resorted to a technique I have come to like a lot, The Essential List Technique. The name says it all, I just think of the most important things I might need on the trip. These are things that cannot be bought or done without. Eg, money and debit card, driving license and other motorcycle papers. Things that are important but can be bought are not included like toothbrush, toothpaste and clothes, including my.. ahem.. you know what.
I just make sure I have these essentials and then look at the others that can be of use. I make a pile of them and then just eliminate what seems less important. I put in whatever I can and then leave it at that. No fuss, no contemplation, no planning. I can’t think of any instance where I have had any big troubles with this strategy.
4. Small shops Vs chain stores. On our way, we ate at different places. Some were the well known international food outlets, while some were the more unassuming local stalls.
When I first got a job, I felt proud to be able to afford branded food products. But, of late, I have felt an inhuman, robot-like touch to these places. People at small stalls are often very welcoming and shower you with attention in comparison. Just like in the case of adventure vs planning, you have a choice between big highs and lows, and the same safe experience all the time. There are times when the local stalls are absent or too unpleasant but apart from these few exceptions, I prefer to connect with the humans in small stalls now.
5. The language problem. India is a land of multiple languages. Often I have heard how Hindi speakers(I am one of them) face problems with local people in certain, non-Hindi speaking states. My experience has been far removed from this. I have found people to be generally helpful.
We are social animals and are inherently friendly in nature. While it is possible that people at a certain place might be unfriendly, I believe the differences are more because of our perception of them. When you believe they exist, they do. When you refuse to except them, you may even turn otherwise hostile people to friends.
6. The long weekend idea. This was a long weekend. Long weekends and festivals are the times when the whole corporate world in Bangalore plans it’s trips. You find people everywhere. You have to plan well in advance and book hotels, flights, trains.. everything. I have long had the tendency to avoid travel at such times. I went this time because I wanted to go with my friend and he was not ready for any other time.
People in the corporate world have very few leaves. They don’t want to ‘waste’ these and wait for long weekends to have fun. I see this as an attitude of scarcity. Going on weekdays, even at the cost of loosing a few days pay, is so much better, easier and more fun than going on long weekends. On long weekends, you have to have a plan in advance, you have to pay more for most services and you have to put up with being in a big herd while enjoying yourself. Compare this with going on a weekday. There is no crowd, things are cheaper and readily available. You can decide on a last moment trip and still find things. And, most important of all, you can have the place almost exclusively to yourself and enjoy with peace.
Why settle for a lesser experience? Do you do this just because everyone else is doing it? Leave this attitude of scarcity, this herd mentality and allow yourself to enjoy fully, with peace.
7. The check-list mentality. We were put up in a beautiful homestay, surrounded by Tea plantations. It was a lovely place to be at. When we woke up the next day, we wanted to get started and visit the places of interest. We left early and made our way with some difficulty, owing to the weekend traffic, to the first place. It was an OK experience. We proceeded to the next destination and were met with more difficult traffic. I was realizing that this was not as enjoyable as just staying at the homestay where there was no crowd. We went back after that and, for the rest of our time in Coonoor, stayed at the homestay.
Often we have this ‘check-list mentality’ that spoils the fun. We want to go to all the usual places of interest. We want to go back and tell our friends that we covered everything that was there to cover. Why?? Why is it important? Why can’t we just stop at a place that we enjoy and then just be there? Get out of the achievement mode and connect with your heart. Let it stay where it sees beauty, let it stay where it finds happiness.
8. Beauty is everywhere. The beauty of Coonoor took me off guard! Since my return from the US last year, I had felt that in India, we don’t maintain our places well. Where ever I went after my return, places were either not kept well, were too crowded, or both.
The owner of the homestay in Coonoor made a remark on an evening walk we had together. She said, “This could be any place in the world.. Scotland, Switzerland, you name it.” I realized that beauty is everywhere, we need to seek it out. If we crib about how bad things are, we may not be wrong, but that leaves us with cribbing about the problem all our lives. We have to get over pointing out flaws and discover the beauty behind the ugliness.