The father and the kids do an interesting activity over the weekends. The little boy would close his eyes and point his fingers to the globe while spinning the big globe fast. Whichever place on the globe the little boy’s fingers point to, when the globe halts, will be their subject of travel for a few hours. They watch interesting travel videos about the place, read some history about it from Wikipedia, learn about the cuisines and culture of the place and make a plan to visit the city or country in the near future. Yeah, our travel bucket list is always full and over-flowing, ha!
So we know what the places in our bucket list are all about. But now, what is this blind list?
What if we were to travel to a place without an itinerary,
with no clue of the place – the history or geography of it?
That exactly is the blind list!
Now, as the little boy points his finger to the globe and begins to spin it fast, we’ll be on our journey to one of our blind list places.
1.. 2.. 3.. here we go…!
October 17, 2018 10.00 pm
The captain has been whining about ‘air turbulence’ for a long while now. The older brat has been complaining about some zzzzzz…..happening inside his ears. And I have been thinking what awaits us in Antananarivo. I know we are crossing the Indian Ocean and nothing else about this place. In spite of the captain and the son whining and complaining alternatively, there was a profound feeling of excitement and fear in my nerves. I was imagining, anticipating and a little too anxious about how this place will be like that we are flying to. And partially afraid if we’ll come back alive; I mean it!
Soon I begin to shoot my questionnaire to the husband.
Have we packed the right clothes and essentials?
We have what the minimal is required. The world shall look after the rest.
Okay, but what will we eat?
People, whosoever, living in there would eat some food. So shall we!
Agree, but where will we stay?
Once we land, we can figure that out.
Yes, yes. But what if people in there do not follow English?
Well, we can rub our belly to show we are hungry and do a family pretend play game to say we want to sleep.
Haha! Okay, okay. But, where all are we going?
C’mon! Imagine this beautiful world is ‘on his bended knees’ calling you for a date. Will you say ‘Yes’?
Hmmm…….Why not? But…
Give a break. Park your fears. Unlock your heart. Trust the unknown.
Aha! That is how this trip is to be, isn’t it? Unplanned to the unknown!
October 18, 2018 8.00 am
We are here – at Antananarivo!
We see a mixed population of white-skinned and dark-skinned people all around. The husband proudly announces he could identify some people speaking French. My mind makes a quick visit to The Eiffel Tower and when it comes back, I read ‘Ivato International Airport’. In the meanwhile, the husband has already made a friend. Breathlessly, I walk, in the pace of a run, to over-hear his conversation with the old man. The citizens of Pondicherry can sometimes amaze you in French, you see.
For the first time, I could appreciate H’s French knowledge. Something in someone who we live with, can easily go unnoticed in our everyday life. But, see how helpful it is now, to communicate with a stranger in an unknown land! Sometimes, our experiences with our own people, outside our homes, can help us discover and appreciate in them what we otherwise overlook. Travel, indeed, opens our eyes to what we are usually blind to.
Well, of my 5-minute hard-digging of my ears, only two words seem familiar – one, Antananarivo and the other, Madagascar.
Oh my! Did I tell you, we are in MADAGASCAR?!
October 18, 2018 1.00 pm
It’s Tana! That’s what the locals call Antananarivo as. What a relief from the long (mis)pronounciation! But, in the hindsight, I contemplated how the names of unknown places and people appear strange to us, on the first hearing. It is only a matter of a few times that we get used to the new names and in no time familiarity rings its bell. Getting used to is the key. This is the only thing, I realized, which sets the my place, my people and my culture apart from the rest of the world. And it is only travel that can bridge the gap between what’s strange and what’s familiar around the world.
Let me quickly tell you about Zebu, our first Madagascar cuisine. What is Zebu? Clue: What some sects in India treat as sacred while others are fighting for their rights! (Sorry, can’t help – every other minute here, in an unfamiliar land is like playing crystal maze). Coming to Zebu, yes it was an easy guess – our own cow! We don’t eat cattle in India. But, the husband ordered for ‘anything’ that is unique to Madagascar. And that’s how we got to have Zebu. I was almost collapsing when I saw a piece of the animal’s hump on our plate; and even more getting into coma, when the husband commented it is supposed to be the best meat on earth.
Perhaps, the first lesson I remember learning from international travels is to appreciate food of other cultures. The first time I was traveling in Lufthansa, I was aghast to the taste of the German food. I wondered, how on earth do people eat this stuff? My father having finished his plate with content, replied, “Well, how will a German find Masala Dosa with Sambar?” I felt pity for that guy in my imagination. And I gulped down the German thing without a complaint. Fondness to tastes and food of other cultures, I realized later, is an essential trait to Exploration. When one is set to an Openminded travel, food in fact becomes a Travel inspiration, rather than just a thing of survival
October 18, 2018 5.00 pm
We are on our way South from Tana. The father and the son haven’t stopped discussing about the chameleons and Lemurs we had seen in the Amber Mountain National Park. How and why the chameleons change their colours; who all could have been a lemur’s parent – a monkey, a dog, a cat, a squirrel; where water falls from in a waterfall – the more we travel, the more nature seems unique and peculiar! I wouldn’t have believed there is so much to know about chameleons if this park in Madagascar hadn’t triggered it.
The fauna, the flora and the terrain at different geographical locations can incite profound curiosities in us. The pines, the oaks, the cacti and the neem – they all carry a story of uniqueness – of the climates, of the soil, of the seasons; of the winds and the people. The mountains sing glory; the lakes whisper serenity and the deserts talk tales. Exploring the creation strewn around on earth makes travel an Enriching experience.
October 19, 2018 6.00 am
Nosy Be! Delightful name, isn’t it? But the journey to this place isn’t. Well, should I rather say, ‘the other side of Exploration’? When I was at the Ivato International Airport yesterday, I had envisaged a beautiful, serene trip ahead in Madagascar; sight-seeing lovely greenery and sleeping under comfortable rooftops. An unplanned and unexpected travel like this, however, is not always pleasant.
In order to get into the realistic feel of the kind of travel we are doing, we chose to take a public bus (called taxi-brousse). The vehicle was no different than the local buses of India and the roads were as well no different from our own Indian roads. Bumpy, slow bus ride in a crowded vehicle for sixteen hours was no fun. Yet, there was something warm about this journey.
We could see the real people of Madagascar. We could listen to what life was like in this place. We could giggle to the jokes that kids made. We could eat local food on the way – all of which I don’t think a flight travel could have done well.
The natives, their lives and their stories are an indispensable part of a place. Getting closer to their stories is the only way to get closer to the culture of the place. Abandoning the demands of luxury and comfort in a travel can sometimes be the door to Exploring the world.
October 20, 2018 3.00 pm
The sandy beaches of the Nosy Be islands brought back the warm feeling of our Kerala beaches. The little islands all around and the kids splashing water where ever we went reminded me of our boat ride from Dakshineswar to Belur Math. I began to observe how connected, after all, the far-off places in the world are, to our own places.
There’s an interesting account here.
While I was chiding my son loudly for having wet his clothes, a gruff voice from behind asked, “Tamizha?” (Are you Tamil?) If this impromptu trip had one big surprise, it was this. Who would expect to meet a person who can speak your language in a foreign place, several miles away?! If it were a place like the US or Europe, it wouldn’t have been a surprise. But, Madagascar wasn’t a country where Indians would commonly immigrate to.
He was an old Malagasy of Indian origin and he had some mysterious tales about this place to share with us. He believed in the existence of Kumari Kandam (Lemuria), a continent which was thought to have submerged in the Indian Ocean several centuries before. I have heard this hypothesis is disproved now. Yet, the enthusiasm that filled the dear old man’s voice was contagious. There was a deep excitement in him as he guided our discussion about the excavations he had read about. It was truly one fond moment we would cherish about our last day in Madagascar.
October 20, 2018 11.00 pm
We are at the airport to board our return flight. The kids and the father are dozing on each other’s shoulders. And I smile to myself how more alive I am after having been at a place miles across the Indian Ocean for three days. I remember how doubtful I was during the journey to Antananarivo about returning back alive. Ha!
How would we survive, what would we eat, where would we go? – How trivial it all seems now! I realized, the real essence of traveling isn’t about packing the right things and planning a schedule. Rather, daring to explore the unknown and willing to accept what the world has to offer us, is by far the way a true traveler ought to be. And that’s what, in fact, marks the difference between sight seeing and surviving at a new place. The former can make you a tourist; however, it’s only the latter which can make you a traveler.
Yes, from excitement to discomforts, an unplanned trip to an unfamiliar place can carry mixed experiences. At the end of it, however, we shall bring back with us, some timeless learning about life and living.
”Across the Indian Ocean in 3 Days’ is our mini version of ‘Around the World in 80 Days’. What would be your’s? Do you love the world? Will you Say Yes To The World? Watch the video below; get inspired!