“If I could, I’d go anywhere…”
There’s no point in saying that I love my city. I think every human being loves the city he or she is in. There’s something comfortable in the familiarity of the city you call home. You know the streets, you know how people think, you know the customs, you don’t run the risk of offending anyone, and you mostly feel at home. So do I; in the narrow alleys or the wide boulevards, in open fields or in tiny rooms with smoke clinging to the ceilings and a little window looking out on antennae-adorned roofs. I feel at home during inebriated cab rides along the empty roads at night or the sweaty overcrowded buses that I am often forced to take. It is a mixture of flavours of smells and sensations that make my city home to me. However if I could, I’d pack my bags and leave at this instant. No telling my friends, no telling my family, just pack up and leave. It’s always been the great desire of my life to travel and there’s nothing more appealing than facing the world with my backpack and willpower to get me through. It is so deliciously adventurous that it almost makes me salivate at the thought.
Most people who love to travel will tell you that they wish to see the sunset on the Seine, go skiing in Switzerland, spend the autumn in New York in an apartment overlooking Central Park, spend the 5th of November in London, but not me. Of course I don’t mean to say that I wouldn’t want to do all these. Of course I do and I have done some of them already. What I mean to say is I don’t just want to see all these beautiful places; I want to discover new places and find beauty in them. Call me a hopeless romantic but I guess that’s just the poet in me. I’ve never had quite such a fulfilling moment as to wake up early in a mud hut with a thatched roof to see the sun rise over the stream that flowed by the window at the back of that single-roomed hut. Nor have I been quite as touched to have taken a boat ride in the village stream at night, the river looking like smooth black velvet, the moon adding a subtle yet almost ephemeral glimmer to it. I’ve sailed on the Seine and in front of the Niagara Falls and while all of these experiences have in their own right been beautiful, I think every place is unique, and so is every emotion and every moment when you’re on the road and are faced ahead with new adventures. And I think it’s even more beautiful to find beauty in unconventional places, like the surprised traveller who finds a flower growing underneath a rock in the desert.
Francis Bacon, in his essay ‘Of Travel’ wrote, “TRAVEL, in the younger sort, is a part of education, in the elder, a part of experience.” I am inclined to hold the same views. Travel indeed is educational. Of course it’s not educational in the sense how most of us do it. We make a carefully designed itinerary of things to see and places to visit and, like an army meticulously sticking to invasion plans, we stick to our plan. As a result, we seldom explore a place. Whenever I go to a place, be it a quaint European village in the Black Forest or a bustling city like Manhattan, or an extremely underdeveloped place like Ahmedpur, I walk. Walking is the best way to discover things. One meets new people, gains experiences, and knows places that don’t appear on tourist sites. One truly gains a flavour of the place. I firmly believe that every place has its own unique flavour, quite irreplaceable and inimitable. I’ve seen a million different sunsets and sunrises and they’ve always been different from one another. The places have changed and I’ve changed with them. And I’d love to change even more. There is nothing quite as glorious as the experience gained from travel. It bestows wisdom beyond one’s years upon one. In my limited capacity as a traveller, I’ve met new people and I’ve tried to understand other countries and customs. If nothing else, it has given me a sense that despite globalisation, humans are so diverse, and communities are so different from one another. It changes ever so subtly if we step out of our urban setting and go to a nearby rural place. The customs change; there is a change in attitude.
Ever since I was a child, I remember Frank Sinatra’s ‘Come Fly with Me’ play on our old stereo player. Even when I didn’t quite grasp the meaning of the song, “Come fly with me, let’s fly let’s fly, pack up let’s fly away” appealed to me. I didn’t know why that was, at that time. I didn’t know they had a term for it. Now that I am older I know what they call it, and the word is as beautiful as the act it describes – wanderlust.
Photography By: Shayan Iqbal