One of the most vital lessons I learnt about traveling, that to an extent laid to rest my nagging doubts about travelling, came from the beautiful movie ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ adapted from the brilliant book.
When I began traveling with my college friends, at times while undergoing the normal ‘travelling hardships’ like cramped transport, stretching over hours and hours at times, while seated with a stiff back , I wondered furtively if it was worth anything to put myself through all the inconvenience. Would I rather not be relaxing at home or hanging out with friends at our regular local haunts?
One was supposed to have fun while travelling. While fun did ensue as part of the trip, it required the harvest of a lot of physical and mental effort; especially during the longer trips. While I continued going for trips as nothing was as fun as being with friends, the question still lurked somewhere in the recesses of my mind. At times I wondered, if travelling was even meant for me?
Then one day, I was watching The Motorcycle Diaries in which a young Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara along with his older companion, Alberto Granado, set out to explore South America on their ‘mighty’ bike La Pedrosa in what would be an 8000 km long expedition. During the course of the journey, as they are travelling via a ship, an elderly couple whom they meet asks them about the reason for their travel.
Miner’s Wife: Are you two looking for work?
Ernesto Guevara : No, we aren’t looking for work.
Miner’s Wife: No?… Then why are you traveling?
Ernesto Guevara : We travel just to travel.
Miner’s Wife: Bless you… Blessed be your travels.
“We travel just to travel”. I marveled at the line. It registered somewhere: not for fun. Just for the sole purpose of travelling, that’s it.
While I did not get the import of the statement completely, it stayed with me as did the movie. Later when I then read the book in parts, I found it more so to be a series of unmitigated disasters as their La Pedrosa breaks down umpteen times and they fall into all sorts of trouble. But eventually, during the course of the journey, it makes Che the man he ultimately becomes, after seeing ‘first hand’ the kind of hardships people go through. It shapes his political ideology.
Ernesto Guevara de la Serna: Wandering around our America has changed me more than I thought. I am not me any more. At least I’m not the same me I was.
Somewhere at the back of my mind the issue was resolved. No I was not becoming a revolutionary, although I would not mind my face plastered across umpteen T shirts and armbands. Travelling was not fun. Not only fun. What travelling is, I have come to decide, is a vehicle that takes you out of your comfort zone or I would say, the ‘rut of the daily monotony’.
Anything that takes you away from your comfort zone is not going to be fun. But if you are willing, for some time, to forsake that and move out, open to everything, to screw ups, to long travelling hours, to unsuitable temperatures, to uncomfortable postures, to the lack of clarity about anything, to uncomfortable environs, you, at times without your knowledge, feel alive in the real sense of the term. Travelling shakes you up like very few things do.
There is nothing like travelling to give you a fresh perspective about your life, your family, your city; everything that has so become a part of you and your schedule that you cannot fathom it unless you move out of it. For me, I know I have travelled, when I return to my house and feel a novel touch about the same things. It’s a beautiful feeling.
So when I go out and feel tired, bored and jaded at times; my mind, by force of habit, pops the same question: Why travel? It is such a satisfying feeling to know why, it is still much more important to be out there having sat in the train for 16 hours and wondering how you will spend the other five hours, than watching my favourite sit com (Modern Family comes to mind) in my room with the fan running at the speed I want it to and knowing more or less how my day is panned out.