The Travel Year 2008.

Sometimes an year passes by like an unknown stranger in the crowd. You know that it happened, you noticed it, you lived it, but it was like any other stranger in the crowd, just passed by, and life went on. But time and time again, there comes a moment, there comes the stranger, there comes an year that leaves a lasting impression on your mind. So was 2008 for me.

Looking back, I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the impact of events in 2008, on my life. Things moved on many fronts. I know, not all these movements were in the ‘desired’ direction, but I savor ‘experiences’. And thats what these movements were filled with – profound experiences.  One set of experiences I do want to share are the ones acquired during various escapades  in 2008. Never before has an year been filled with so many journies. Some as a traveller, some as a tourist.

Freedom‘ is the word that best captures the essence of the motorcycle trip through the blooming spring deserts of Arizona. If someone shoots me the perplexing question of “what do I want from this life”, an apt answer would be “to explore the world on a motorcycle”. On motorcycle you are captivated only by freedom. Freedom to explore, freedom to see, freedom to breathe. In all 1200 miles, sharing the sense of freedom with Ankit, with a motorcycle breakdown at the end, it was indeed the most exhilerating journey of 2008.

Challenge‘  is the epithet for the next adventure – week long solo bicycling trip trough Alaska. I still see clearly – the moment when, sitting in a gas station at Cantwell, I almost decided to abandon the trip, but derived motivation from the demotivating words of my parents; the moment when riding through the hail I was greeted with an adrenal injecting applause; the fearsome deafening silence of the Worthington glacier. The most impactful of all journies in 2008, this shall be remembered time and time again in years to come.

Next on the corner was the ‘Examining‘ climb of Mount Whitney through the mountaineers route. Still not completely recuperated from the Alaskan exhaustion, the body was put to test climbing mount Whitney –  the highest point of mainland US. Accompanied by Nitin and Aneesh, this trip also marked the highest elevation I have ever been to.

When Himanshu is planning anything, everyone else should take a backseat. He leaves no loose ends in the trip. So meticulously organized was the backpacking trip to Grand Canyon, that it offered a ‘Learning‘ experience. My trips are always random, haphazard prone to mishaps. But Grand Canyon showed me the joys of having a planned trip.

Next two trip were simple ‘Fun‘. Paid by IBM and UCSD, I got a chance to mix work, tourism and socializing together. The first was a trip to New York to attend the IBM workshop on emerging leaders in multimedia. Two days for the workshop and two days meeing old friends from IITK. Living right at Times Square, New York was a unique city experience. Following it was the trip to Vancouver, Canada for a conference on multimedia information retrieval. Again, two days were devoted to the workshop and two for exploring Vancouver with Zia and Gaurav. First time I witnessed the illustrious fall colors.

All the year I did not let the thought of my intended India Trip to come to my mind, as it made me over anxious. My sister got married on 2nd Dec, 2008. I think one apt word for this India trip is ‘Relations‘. Many new relations were made during this trip, several old relations strengthened, but sadly some were also stained. I sincerely hope that as time passes these stains would ultimately help to build a yet stronger bond. Just one month in India, and it overpowered the the eleven month experiences of America.

For me India was the last frontier of 2008. But destiny had some other plans. An ‘Dream‘ visit to London. Roaming the streets of London from 9pm in the night to 4am in the morning, in freezing cold and a jetlagged body, the London experience still seems like a dream. Thanks to the benovelant immigration officier who allowed me a 24 hour transit visa, a surpise that marked a befitting ending to the travel adventures of 2008.