A self-confessed travel junkie, Sudha Mahalingam’s passion for travel has only gotten worse over time. It continues to singe and sear and is now imbued with a sense of urgency. She believes that not only is there so much to see and do while she is not getting any younger, the hydra headed monster called tourism is literally carpet-bombing every square inch of our cowering planet—threatening to reduce her to being a tourist rather than a traveller.
In her book, she provides many travel precautions and tips for the uninitiated in her own humorous, tongue-in-cheek way. Here are a few!
Not all new things you try out when travelling are fun. But what the heck!
“Back home, my family refuses to believe I actually skydived at age sixty-six. Thankfully, Alois remembered to send me the GoPro pics. I have even blown up one of these into a poster and stuck it prominently above the dining table to shut them up. But I know I will not skydive again.
It is just not thrilling enough.”
The time when I regretted not paying much attention to my geography lessons in school.
“This being 2007, Schengen was still an evolving agreement. I hadn’t the foggiest idea as to which countries were part of the European Union, leave alone the subset Schengen. Does Slovakia qualify to be a member of this august agreement? Which countries count as Eastern Europe? Geography had never been my strength, what with all those indecipherable maps and rainfall patterns. I had a vague idea that some countries were already in, while others were waiting to be admitted—whoever paid any attention to these irrelevant bits of information on the international pages of newspapers anyway? Would the adjoining Schengen country be Austria? Or was it Poland?”
‘Exotic’ has other meanings; sometimes it means overpriced and unoccupied.
“When my friend R and I land in Seville late one evening, what we find is a dreary town with uninspiring concrete blocks. The romantic-sounding Guadalquivir is nothing but a foul ditch winding its way through the town’s congested streets. Our little boutique hotel downtown is neither boutique nor a hotel. It is a glorified homestay, grossly overpriced, over-ornate and under-occupied. No, make it unoccupied. We are the only guests here.”
Your journey is never complete without an episode of panic, courtesy the airport immigration and security officials.
“Immigration and security done, we are ambling to our boarding gate when I hear my son’s name mangled beyond recognition on the PA system. We hurry back to the assigned counter, where, without a word, Kapil, all of seventeen is whisked away beyond immigration back into Jordan while I am left standing on this side of the gate, in utter panic. Minutes tick away and there’s still no sign of him. I wring my hands in anxiety, but the woman behind the counter is inscrutable. The security guards look too fierce for me to make a dash back into Jordan.”
Plans always go wrong when travelling. If they do not; know that something is not right.
“Maximilian Alexandrovich—I would learn his name later—the grizzly Russian driver was obviously not expecting any passengers this evening. He stares at me blankly. From the fumes inside the cab, I presume he is in a vodka-induced daze. I wonder if ex-Soviet taxi drivers consider passengers an occasional interruption to their daily schedule of lazing around in their cabs. I also wonder whether it is wise to hire his taxi, but unfortunately, there is no other outside Bishkek airport tonight. I had not planned it this way. I was to arrive in Bishkek by noon, take a cab directly to Lake Issyk-Kul six hours away . . . But my plans went awry when the flight from Tashkent to Bishkek was delayed by six hours. Now I have no hotel bookings, speak no Russian and have to survive by my wits in this strange city.”
Apart from providing various pearls of wisdom, through The Travel Gods Must Be Crazy, Sudha invites readers on an unexpected and altogether memorable tour around the world!