This is my entry for Indiblogger’s Around The World With Expedia! contest, where the topic is about the interesting people we meet on our journeys. I may travel alone most of the time, but that doesn’t mean I’ve always been alone on my journeys. Be it in India or abroad, there are people whose stories have kept me enthralled or those I could easily label ‘interesting’.
Like Christine, whom I met in Chiang Mai, Thailand…
Unlike me, Christine wasn’t working. But like me, she too had started a personal blog to chronicle her journeys across the world. Despite her age, she wanted to make the most of her life now and see this amazing world. We shared a common dream — but unlike her, young Mithun needed to head back to office to make enough money to continue travelling. Still, people like her only reassured me that the decision I made to start travelling abroad was a good one. I began travelling outside India in late 2009, but I now knew I had many more years left to make up for the countries I couldn’t afford to visit just yet.
You can come across interesting people completely at random as well, like on a walk in Penang…
I know the Japanese are known for their wackiness, so I can’t imagine what awaits me if ever I manage to fly to Japan. *cough*
Of course, I could joke by labeling the random drunk on the street “interesting” too…
But just when you thought a drunk could only be funny (or a nuisance), he ends up being of great help when I wanted to know how to get to San Fernando — like the guy above.
Philippines was the only South East Asian country I experienced this. In Singapore, people on the street were generally shy or wary of getting their photo taken by a stranger. Proof, that no matter how close a nation may look geographically, cultures can still be vastly different.
It wasn’t just the random people on the street that left an impression on me in Philippines.
It’s one of the joys of backpacking — meeting people and sharing experiences. At a conventional star hotel, you really don’t chat with the reception staff or the bell boy, but at most hostels catering to backpackers, the staff are often times the best people you can talk to for just about anything. The lesser you pay for a room, the more a human connection there is, really.
Meeting other backpackers have been another memorable aspect of my travels. I’ll never forget the zany Japanese surfer dude I met in Puerto Princesa who told me about his travels. From picking apples in Canada to make some money for his journey across North America, to spending 3 months in India lazing around, it made me wonder how some people in this world didn’t care about living the ‘normal’ life centered around work and family. As much as I envied them for their freedom, being a person of some responsibility, I knew I could never live that carefree a life. Plus, being Indian and how we’re treated when it comes to international visas, let’s be honest, I know I can’t travel like these people can.
One of the best sources for local information around the world have often been taxi drivers. Since they come across people from all walks of life, they sure do have a lot of stories to tell.
The guy above told me about how one of his regular assignments were to pick up wealthy (& lazy) Emirati children from their homes and then drop them at school. It was part of a UAE government program to educate them so that it can justified when those very same youth are handed plush jobs! (The program was to hand more jobs to locals instead of expat workers)
There have even been the occasional taxi drivers with similar great tastes in music too, like this Malaysian taxi driver we hired in Kuala Lumpur, who turned out to be a huge Radiohead fan!
Then comes age. Given how long they have lived, the elderly have a lot of experiences to share.
Mrs. Selam told us about her ever-changing environment over the years. She spoke of the diminishing population of Jews in Kerala, her neighbourhood becoming a major tourism draw and even pondering over her very own future in Fort Kochi. Despite being an attraction herself, she was only too happy to answer the questions we asked her.
Everybody has a story to tell.
As much as the people above have made my travels memorable, my special moments weren’t always restricted to humans.
Of course, I’ll never forget the once-in-a-lifetime moments of meeting famous people on my travels:
… or one of my best days…
I’m not done with my travels. As mentioned earlier, I still have much more to see in this amazing world. I’m only restricted by money these days (time can be managed). And as I have experienced so far, apart from Planet Earth’s natural beauty, what makes our world even more amazing are the very people who inhabit it. They are as much a part of the experience.
As the old proverb goes: “He who does not travel does not know the value of men”. It’s true.
Contest sponsor: Expedia India
*Okay, so not every Filipino!