It was a meaningless obsession to travel abroad that perhaps emanated from my declining partiality to India and the years-long struggle to renew my passport that preceded my eventual maiden international trip last week. I remember saying to myself during my school days how I would prefer to travel to all the then 35 (now 36) states and union territories in India first before venturing out. This when my friends bragged about their trips outside India before I even had my passport issued in 2008. Yet when I finally flew to Male in the Maldives last week, I had visited about only a dozen of those.
Maybe that summarizes my loyalty and political leaning. Or I have figured out that life is truly short and age is catching up. I call it a meaningless obsession because if I were a true traveller, the destination wouldn’t matter. I should have been happy with the back-to-back visits to Goa in August and September, my hallmark fever accompanying me in the second. Yet, there sat the empty passport and bam came the decision of flying outside India. Maybe it was my most impulsive decision ever.
I flew to Male with some close friends on a sunny afternoon and landed in about three hours. It was pleasant and exciting because it was the first time I flew on an international flight, immediately followed by a domestic one. We joked how in a span of 12 hours, we flew, and rode in a bus, motorboat, cab, and a buggy car. We rented bikes only the following day or the ‘types of transport’ joke would have been more quotable.
It was like any other trip for me, with some notable differences. I paid a bomb and had to justify the price for the experience I was getting. The view that the country (Asia’s smallest) provided, coupled with the luxury that our resort (Kandima Maldives) offered satisfied a major chunk of that justification. The direct-to-sea dive entrance from our villas was the second-best feature. Unlimited Mediterranean food, handling of dollar notes that I had only seen in movies, watching dolphins, and spotting baby sharks crowded the rest of the list.
At least on two occasions, I didn’t have my passport on me, which I feel is the most notable difference. I strive to be handsfree and pocket-free all the time, so the passport-on-your-person-always requisite troubled me. Thankfully, the only thing I misplaced, and therefore, lost was my $2 cap. Did I tell you I dealt in dollars?
I observed a lot of other things on the trip. Hearing different accents of English is a special kind of pleasure, hospitality is non-intrusive, and medical care is expensive. Some things that you don’t experience or get to see/hear in India.
The most redeeming quality of the trip was that I never felt lost. Being miles away from home, none of the places I was in felt alien to me. I feel like it was the quality I was looking for all these years. Something that has been sporadic in my domestic trips, especially those to southern India. Is that enough reason to make more such trips? I believe so.