Well, this time I certainly outdid myself. I came back from Europe in May last year, but it wasn’t until today morning that I finished going through all my photos and uploading them to Picasa with captions. True, there more than six hundred of them, but sixteen months is way too much!
Anyway, now that is done, I would also like to capture some thoughts that I couldn’t reasonably do in a photo album. They follow, in no particular order.
- You gotta take the plunge! Yes, for someone who hasn’t done this before, starting on such a long solo adventure isn’t a trivial affair. But look at this way: if you don’t do it now and keep waiting for all the stars to align (right time of your life, right company etc.), do you actually think it is ever going to happen?
- Hostel receptionists are great sources of local knowledge. And are almost always enthusiastic to share it with an attentive listener.
- Walk a lot. It is the (only/best?) way to explore a new place.
- That women are treated as equals is easily visible. For e.g., I saw women driving trams, handling metro ticket counters, managing restaurants, validating passports at airport etc. This is certainly not a norm in India, especially in the public sector.
- I had always felt that a foreign traveler, staying in an Indian city such as Hampi for five days, was experiencing it better than me, who would be there for only a weekend. This, however, changed when I met a guy in Lyon who had been there for almost a week. While I was roaming around the town, this guy was sleeping all the time in hostel. Such a big waste of time, something that I can never do.
- Folks are so well-dressed, even on a usual day, in some cities such as Lisbon and Madrid.
- In Lisbon, car drivers halt for you, even on a green traffic signal, if you show the slightest intention to cross.
- You seldom see anyone in a hurry. On the contrary, you might come across a public garden full of people on a weekday afternoon. Now, are Europeans generally not industrious or do they try hard to find time for themselves, that is a separate question I can’t answer.
- If only India focused more on tourism, there is so much more money that it could make.
- Their pricing strategy of metro trains is stupid- why would I pay a constant amount, irrespective of whether I need to go two stations away or twenty.
- Europeans get easily offended, easier than Indians at least. For e.g., a French woman at a metro ticket counter in Paris asked me why I didn’t greet her first and if this was the norm in my country. I realized I had offended her because she said it out loud. But there might have been other situations where I was behaving normally, as per Indian standards, but not so for the people around me.
- People don’t stare at others, probably because they are too engrossed in their lives (cellphone, music etc.) or with their partners.
All in all, it was an amazing trip, one of many ‘firsts’ and new cultural experiences. I am planning another one, this time to Eastern Europe, in 2016. Fingers crossed!