This month I turned 26. I don’t like birthdays. Well, to be clear, I don’t like my birthdays. Your birthday I will gladly celebrate with gusto (does anybody say gusto anymore?) but mine, let’s ignore it like a moment of awkward silence please. Why is getting one year closer to your death such a joyous occasion.
Like every year, the plan was to do nothing on my birthday. But ever since this year began, all I could think about was how I would wake up in the same old bed, in the same old city and be 26. The gloomiest cloud hovered over me every time I thought about it.
So I decided to do something about it. I decided to do the one thing that I will always, always be happy to do – birthday or not. I decided to get on a plane and take off, even if it was just for three days. Now don’t mistake this for an act celebration. No, no. This was an escape plan.
I’d love to say it was all super spontaneous (and that my bank account is so generous and flexible). But it did take a little pre-planning. Firstly, because I have perfectly normal worrywarts for parents and I don’t like causing them discomfort. Secondly, cheaper flight tickets. Thirdly, I needed company – this is more for Mr and Mrs Worrywart than for me. But lastly, how could I not ask my travel buddy. It’s been only over a year since we’ve started travelling together but making a travel plan without her wouldn’t have been right.
Anyway, that’s how I ended up on a plane to Kolkata. And I went without a clue as to what I was going to do there. All I knew was that I was going to land and eat breakfast at Balwant’s (a great decision by the way), and I only planned this because travel buddy reminded me that we were going to land before check-in time and we don’t do too well on empty stomachs.
So there, I guess my trip did have a touch of spontaneity to it. It’s really uncharacteristic of me to go somewhere without my usual list of “where to go, what to do, where to eat, what to eat.” I do it because I love planning, for travel or otherwise. It doesn’t matter if things go according to plan, but planning, like packing, is one of the things I love about travelling outside of the actual travelling.
Regardless, the not planning made my trip an experience I won’t forget. For three days, we were one with Kolkata’s perpetually moving crowd, sometimes without a clue as to where we were going. It was hot and humid and rainy and sweaty all at once. We saw India’s heritage pass us by every day in the old buildings of Kolkata. We visited the world’s largest second-hand book market and came back with only 3 books. We woke up at 6 AM to eat pork buns and fish ball soup for breakfast in Chinatown. We also ate some amazing, amazing local food. I met new people who went out of their way to make our trip memorable, and I learnt something new every day – about the city, about people, about myself.
We didn’t get to do everything we wanted, the way we wanted but we found a way to come home happy, even if not completely satisfied. And isn’t that the perfect excuse to revisit a place? I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do this for real, but I believe every place deserves to be visited at least twice – Once as a stranger, and once as an old friend.
Moreover, because I was without a plan, I reached out to a fellow travel blogger, a new friend if I may, because of whom I was a little less lost during my trip. Can I just say, I love the blogging community! It’s such a wonderful feeling to know that someone you’ve never met is out there to help you, if you need it. Thank you for all your help, Bidisha.
As for the birthday, I almost kind of forgot about it, except during the occasional phone call that brought in birthday wishes, which is exactly what I wanted. Even though I was a little out of my comfort zone (read: won’t ever travel without a plan), I wanted to be somewhere I’d never been before and I did it. It looks like I’ve finally found a birthday tradition I don’t mind following… Until I figure out how to time travel.
Where did you spend your birthday this year? Do you have a birthday travel tradition? You know I want to hear all about it.