Another year has passed. And here we are, reminiscing 2017.
Those who say “It has been a fantastic year” are the sort of people who are intentionally choosing not to crib about the lows of the year. And I genuinely appreciate such souls. It’s not that they choose to be in dark about their low times, but instead see their lows as lessons and turn them into their pathway to a better future. And speeding up their progress in those paths by focusing on the highs a.k.a wonderful memories. Talk about motivation! Isn’t that a fool-proof way to live our extremely short physical time on this planet? It took a while to understand this, but boy does it put all the pieces of jigsaw once you do. We may not be entirely efficient in this but at least once you know it, you always have a choice to consciously come back to it.
Do you guys remember a mobile game called Flappy Bird that had gone viral beyond measurable metrics a few years back (2014 to be precise)? I was so much addicted to that game, competing with friends, colleagues and cousins. I was probably playing it in my sleep as well! Call me a cliché but our life is kinda similar to the Flappy bird game! A sinusoidal wave, that has its own share of ups and downs. You can never choose your highs (except to work towards it) and definitely not your lows. Your only conscious decision can be and SHOULD be – staying alive throughout. Alive and kicking, even through the lows (as much as possible).
Before I get all philosophical, its time to go back in time and reminisce all the fond travel memories of 2017.
Highlights of all our travels of 2017 being:
- Seeing Aurora Borealis a.k.a Northern Lights a.k.a The Dancing Lights in Iceland!
- Trekking in the remote regions of Himalayas
- Spending a week in Dharamsala like a solo hippie traveler
- Spending birthday at the historical Banavasi, the capital of Kadamba dynasty
- Focusing the last leg of the year on relaxing getaways amidst Western Ghats
But other traveling experiences are no less memorable. Let me take you down our memory lane.
January was spent in hazy recaps about the dreamy time spent in Malaysia during the holiday season of December 2016. We drove around Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands and flew to Langkawi, which was as beautiful, tropical and festive as it could have been during a few days prior to Christmas. All the more reason for me to sneak in a picture (or two ) of Malaysia.
February was time to head towards West; Europe was calling me, with all its “snowy” heart. We spent a 3 full weeks in Amsterdam, Netherlands – coupled with a weekend in the dreamy Bruges, Belgium. I ended up exploring Ghent alone for another day, which turned out to be a quieter sibling of Bruges, owing to the lack of weekend crowd. 3 weeks in Amsterdam during winter was a totally new experience. Even Himalayan trek (in Roopkund) hadn’t prepared me for this cold. The winds made sure to keep the “feels” of the nip in the air in the negatives. Walking around the neighborhoods of Amsterdam, clicking photos like a tourist, ending up in unknown streets like a traveler, and somehow making it all work like an explorer – these memories have changed the way I travel solo, forever. I couldn’t have guessed in a million years that the solo exploration experiences in Amsterdam would help me so soon to explore my own country within the year!
From Amsterdam I landed directly in Kochi to attend a close friend’s wedding, bag-less I had to borrow clothes from others, ended up missing the ceremony and could only make it to the reception. But what mattered was, I made it to the event, despite the ordeal! I didn’t even get to explore Kochi. These travel fails only make you plan well for the next!
Next time you are planning a similar thing like me, go prepared with a backup outfit in your cabin bag (don’t forget a toothbrush ).
April had finally made the ever-so-elusive “Goa road trip” a reality. We drove all the way from Bangalore to Goa to spend 5 blissful days at Agonda, South Goa, which turned out to be so relaxing. A 9-hour drive amidst many villages and the lengthy coastal side of Karnataka later, we landed in tranquility. Most of the resorts and restaurants had begun to shut down as the end of the high season was nearing. Thus, we experienced barely-crowded South Goa, which is otherwise usually hardly-crowded! Days were spent reading books, lounging around on the Agonda Beach, wondering how people could take a dip in the water that’s probably at boiling point and then taking a dip ourselves in the evening, and exploring beach-side eateries/restaurants. Though we couldn’t stand the heat and humidity that Goa usually offers in the month of April, we didn’t mind it much as much as we thought we would. Being in a tropical country sort of trains you to handle other tropical places during peak summers
Then came my birthday by the end of the month, which was spent with family at a wedding. And to add on top of that, we visited the historical and magnificent Banavasi, the capital of Kadamba dynasty that ruled the ancient Karnataka kingdom. It’s highly recommended to hire a local guide to throw some light on the glorious history of Kadambas. The sunset from this heritage place, at Madhukeshwara temple, remains etched in my mind till date.
It was July and the monsoon still hadn’t made an appearance in Bengaluru, except for a few cameos. Though our anniversary was spent apart, as Harsha had to be in Germany due to work, I got some work done that was pending for quite a while! Harsha managed to see a couple of places in Berlin over the weekend before heading back to India.
Once he was back, then came two back-to-back road trips. One being Chitradurga with family and the other Agumbe with friends. While Chitradurga was explored to the core, with more than half-a-day being reserved for the picturesque Chitradurga fort (the name indeed translates to being ‘picturesque’) and multitude of places such as temples and small hill stations, Agumbe was a short visit with the highlights being driving around the winding roads of beautiful Western Ghats.
August was a dry month, literally and metaphorically. But the last week was pretty exciting, as I decided to enroll for a trek to the high altitudes of Himalayas in the first week of September! As I had already done a trek in the Uttarakhand to the Roopkund lake, I was aware of what I was getting myself into. This time, Harsha wasn’t joining me and it was kind of intimidating at first. But I knew it would bring a lot of new experiences that were going to make me stronger than ever. And they did! And I would do it all over again. Himalayas bring a lot of sense and peace back, that usually erode because of the rat race that we participate in daily.
September was here and I had my bags packed with the things I thought would help me survive in the Himalayas. A day in Chandigarh roaming around alone with a thick jacket which drew a lot of stares and questions from the locals and other trekkers (“Madam, aap Himachal se aa rahe ho kya?”, “Dude, you too on a Himalayan trek, eh?”), that wouldn’t fit in my damn backpack (which I left in a cloak room) and hippie-kinda-a-day in Manali later, I was climbing the Himalayas to reach Hampta pass (which was at a staggering altitude of 14,000 feet) via the pristine and deciduous forests of Kullu valley. A 6-day feat which had begun with thick forests, ice-cold rivers and grass-is-always-greener-here vibes to dry and rocky landscapes, with steep descents and find-a-grass-I-dare-ya surroundings in the Lahaul valley of Spiti. By the end of the trek, it wasn’t just my achievement but the entire team’s as well. With an emotional goodbye to Spiti, I headed towards the more hippier town of McLeodganj in Dharamsala in the North Eastern side of Himachal Pradesh. I spent a week relaxing, roaming around this Indian-turned-Tibetan (and much recently Israeli) settlement. I even hiked till Dharamkot to meet a fellow traveler friend and saw the “offbeat” side of Dharamsala. How I spent those 2 weeks alone traveling within India, is still a blur. I was extremely skeptical of exploring my own country alone, but this trip had lifted off many layers of assumptions and fears. Otherwise the old-me neither would have walked for 10kms alone in the forests of McLeod nor would have accepted a ride like a hitchhiker from a friendly couple.
We couldn’t even manage to keep our winter wear till the beginning of October in our wardrobes, as we had left for Amsterdam once again. This time, to make it as a base to our extremely exciting trip of the year – ICELAND. A windy week in Amsterdam was much more tolerable, cold-wise, compared to spine-numbing wintery February. Exploring the quaint little windmill villages of Sloten and dining at a Syrian restaurant were the highlights of our stay in Amsterdam. We only wondered how the holiday season (usually from April till June) would look like in Amsterdam.
Iceland blew our minds, literally AND figuratively. This was the most wind we had seen in our entire lives. I mean, our car was threatening to roll over in the winding roads of the barely-explored West fjords. West fjords are similar to the Western Ghats of India, minus the thick forests. There were just panoramic views all around. Where snow-capped mountains and ocean were barely few meters away from each other. The best season to visit Iceland is of course the shoulder season because, along with the options of visiting most of the tourist spots that are still open during the shoulder season i.e., September-October, you have strong chances of witnessing the Northern Lights. The only downside is not having daylight for more than 8-9 hours in a day but I’m GLAD it was that way because we thankfully didn’t stuff our days with hundreds of places with barely any time to SINK in the feeling of being in a wonderland.
We thought that these were it for this year. Though we were totally satiated by our own little travel adventures for this year, we ended up in a homestay for a weekend in November in Sakleshpur. A tranquil weekend in the forests and coffee estates of Mugilu homestay, where thousands of birds and other species pay a visit owing to the thick vegetation, with hundreds of acres of forests, farm lands, coffee estates, green grasslands beside and no connectivity to bother us, we had our own unplanned “digital detox getaway”. With refreshed minds and souls filled with gratitude in the lap of nature, we headed back to our home-city Bangalore to focus on work and more.
By now you would have made an educated guess that if my rant hasn’t ended yet, I won’t leave out December. If you did, you know a little bit of me already! And yes, we ended up going to yet another tranquil part of Karnataka nestled in the mountains of Chikmaglur. We trekked to the Ballarayanadurga fort, following up with a long hike till Bandaaje waterfalls. A long, winding journey of 14kms on foot. Though we had trekked Bandaaje last year (with probably a hundred others in an organized trek), we had the entire place to ourselves. Never have we seen, been and experienced the privacy that mountains of our own state can offer. Imagine, a 14kms hike, with NO soul encountered. Truly satisfied and blessed. Really, truly.
That was a brief (or not-so-brief?) recap of our 2017. I’m so filled with gratitude to have had the opportunity to explore so many of our Planet Earth’s gems this year. From the snow-capped spiritually and physically challenging hikes of Himalayas to the urbane hipster Amsterdam, from the laid back time with family in the historical Banavasi to a solo-exploration of Himalayan towns such as Dharamshala & Dharamkot, from the journey to the extreme side of the world in Iceland to our own Western Ghats in Sakleshpur and Chikmaglur – more than we could have asked for.
We hadn’t planned our 2017 travels and I don’t think we will for 2018 as well. But we might end up in Alaska for all we know. Or Greenland. Or Japan. Or Himalayas again. Or some great place by our backyard only. We don’t know and don’t wanna know anytime soon either We plan to cherish, whatever or wherever it is.
How was your 2017? Where are you planning to travel in 2018? Comment below and share with us. You might inspire us to go somewhere next!
Happy New Year to one and all. Wish you a blissful 2018 year ahead
Love & Cheers,