The World is a book and those who do not travel read only a page. ~St. Augustine.
It was the second month of my duty at the Spanish cruise vessel. I was still trying to identify myself from a strange place and strange people. The new countries and the new people made me disappear in this turbulence. My chief called me through the walkie talkie. I thought that he wanted me to interpret and answer the company mail, which used to be in English. Thanks to the European’s poor English, I had better respect and presence in the ship. Looking at e the chief asked, “you go to pizza?” Without a gap, I replied, “yes Mastura, I like to go to Pisa tower.”
After an hour I found myself seated in the bus at Civitavecchia, Italy on its trip to Pisa tower. It was raining that time, and thankfully I was fully prepared with the requisites. The bus started and soon, my memories as well.
The voyage to Pisa was one of the most memorable journeys of my lifetime. The pleasant climate, beautiful houses, spotless greenery, remarkable architecture, happy people and fabulous gardens. These visions made me get into a trance. I was thinking about those beautiful incidents that had happened during my cruise days which enriched my jelly with wonderful memories.
I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ~Robert Louis Stevenson
The homeport of my cruise vessel was Barcelona, Spain. Spanish had been my favourite language for no particular reasons and also their architecture. Every time we reach our homeport, we have a port stay for two days to get new passengers and bid the old ones.
It was a busy time for all the officers, including me, since it is the only free time when the maintenance works are done at the ship. At Barcelona, I visit shopping malls and the central city; however, I wanted to explore Barcelona to its fullest.
That day the maintenance work was going on, and the ship's chart was getting prepared. Suddenly we got news saying that the port stay will get extended for one more day due to some charterer problem. This break gave a chance for me to realize my wish. My chief gave me a green signal; however, he ordered me to come back in time. I had one entire day with me to explore Barcelona.
Once out of the port, the first thing I did was to get a bus and leave to the famous church in Barcelona. The next thing I did was to get another bus and to move to the renowned mountain fort. I used a cable car for transit between the mountains.
Those were beautiful sceneries, to see the entire Barcelona from the top of the mountain. Then witnessing this magnificent port, I got back to another bus to get into the outskirts of Barcelona. This time I was not sure where I was going. For all that, I believed I wanted to see this beautiful place in its entirety.
I was in the middle of some other central city with beautiful skyscrapers and ancient architecture. I got into a museum where something on ships and titanic kinds of stuff was displayed. It was amazing to see everyone smiling at me at the first instant itself. It was a Monday morning, but still, I could see young working people relaxed with ice creams on their hands.
The roadside restaurant, with its beautiful waitress, in their fabulous costumes, is itself a treat to watch. It was interesting to see the table tennis tables, sports arenas at every corner of the city. I was wondering why this can’t happen in India? What makes people in our towns so busy that they don’t even bother to look at the dead bodies on their way to their office or homes.
Anyways I was pursuing my dream travel to Barcelona city. It was getting dark, and I was still not sure where I was roaming around. It began to rain. I was enjoying it, but I know I have to get back to the ship. Not sure how to proceed with, I started asking people for the routes. Unfortunately, no one understood English.
There was this beautiful lady who started running seeing me approaching her, speaking gibberish in the rain. Now I realized I have just an hour left to reach my ship, and I was too far from my destination. Even then, I was not panicking. Maybe I would have thought even if I don’t make it; I would end up getting lost in a beautiful city, which I don’t mind.
I was racing against time, for all I remembered was this place called “RAMBLA” which meant “the road” which is by far the most famous road in the world for its statue beggars, flower markets, gift shops, street restaurants and great people. I got a cab and said “Rambla”. He got me there. I was at Rambla at midnight in the middle of exiting people, but I just had ten minutes to reach my ship; otherwise, my ship would depart.
A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. ~Lao Tzu.
It was Sunday and lucky for me this time my ship had a new route in its itinerary. It had to reach a new destination, Marseille. Marseille had been one of my dream spots to visit, so I could not resist the temptation to jump out of the ship once I reach the destination.
The ship reached the jetty, and I was one of the first to move out, even before the passengers. The fish market, yacht clubs, Sunday market, special exhibitions, stolen goods market by the African crowd, the climate, everything had been adding on to its beauty.
I boarded the Bus. It is the one which takes you all around Marseille. It was one great trip and surprisingly to me it was all free. The people boarded the Bus at the stops, and the crowd started getting in. I was too far from my original location.
Then only I realized that people once boarding the Bus have one some small white card inserting into a machine at the entrance. Oh my God, it was the ticket. I called my friend on the ship with a phone card which I already had. All I realized later was that I cannot get tickets anywhere in the middle now. I have to keep sitting until I reach my destination. With distance too far to afford a taxi, I had no choice to enjoy the guilt with fear. The Bus stopped at another stop now.
I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself. ~James Baldwin
It was winter at Greece, and my ship had dry-docked at Piraeus port for repairs and maintenance. Since the offshore crew did most of the maintenance, I had sufficient time to explore Greece. The snow season was about to start. I had explored complete Athens, and now it was my turn to go to the magnificent Acropolis. Packing exceptional food, made by my chef friend, I was on my way to Acro.
The first interesting thing I noted about Greece was the oranges. I could see orange everywhere, and in fact, they tasted great. The orange tree was just another tree in Greece. I had enquired one of my Greek friend asking why aren't these oranges exported. The answer I got from was way too strange. He said "We don't like our oranges, they are too sweet. We import oranges from other countries". All I could think at that time was that maybe no one would die of hunger in Greece.
The trip to Acropolis was almost a trek for me. The beautiful architecture on the hillsides, small restaurants on the hills with a musician attracting people was a treat to watch. Looking at Acropolis, all I could think was that I am with history and this was my second wonder time after witnessing colosseum of Rome.
It is interesting to note that the most significant impact of any monument on you is just for a few seconds of the initial glance. However, it had taken a History to create that memory.
After finishing my trip, I was returning to Piraeus. It started to rain. The wind was heavy too. I had reached Piraeus Port, but my ship was still at least half a kilometre far. All of sudden it started to snow in patches. I was not clear if it was snow or hailstones. My feet which were protected by a metal covered safety shoes got numb.
My thinking capacity was dropping slowly. The wind was heavy, and I was trying to walk against it. I was losing my body heat way too fast, thanks to the rain also. For a minute, the ship looked infinitely far, and my world came to a halt. I could not move an inch. And a dog was barking at me.
Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen. ~Benjamin Disraeli
Our company was planning a special cruise. It was named” Cruise Naturalista”. To put it in decent lingo, all the passengers will be in their birthday dresses, indicating that they were a part of nature. Oof. Little I knew that day that I would be spotted in all the major international news channels, running amidst natural passengers to do the Crowd Management. Well, this was not the way I wanted me in the spotlight.
The best part of this cruise was the destinations it had on its itinerary. It included the beautiful islands of Ibiza, Olivia, Malta and places like Valencia and Tunisia. My favourite was Ibiza. It was the first time in my life I had seen real luxury and wealthy people.
Contradictory to my opinion, I came to understand that the wealthiest people in the world were those Russian billionaires. They come here on weekends with their luxury yachts. The hotels in those places were amazing. But my favourite spot was those shallow beeches where I was enjoying the sunset with the wealthiest people in the world. After all, it is same for everyone no matter how rich one was. Later on, I got involved in those campfires and music that I lost track of time.
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.” - Martin Buber
Perhaps the most trips I had ever ventured were in South Africa. This time I was in a Cargo Vessel transporting crude oil. The destination port was Port Harcourt. It is known for its pirates and Sailor kidnappers. Once I reached Port Harcourt, I wanted to explore the place. All I got in reply was warnings. I decided to go ahead with it.
My junior fourth engineer joined me. He spoke with two ladies who came to sell their kinds of stuff at the ship to tour around the place. They agreed to it for a price. Once out of Port Harcourt, I realized this place is too poor. The natural resources this country had were enormous, but the corrupted nation had stripped its people to their last penny. We were looked with surprise and got followed by small kids. I had to get rid of them by giving pennies. We took a taxi and started moving out.
The restaurants there looked as if it belonged to the carnivores. Their menu was too raw like cow’s lungs and cows kidney, monkey’s tail and head, and so on and on. All we ended up having was some refreshing vegetarian drinks.
There was a fast-food centre too. Unfortunately, their menus were not big mac or fries but only rice in different colours. That was their version of chicken and beef fried rice. We bought some food for the ladies who accompanied us. To our amazement, they did not have a single bite. They saved it in their bags for their families.
One of these two people wanted to learn medicine. I tried to help her, so I said buy whatever you want, which you think can help you with your studies and I will sponsor you. But this girl ended up shopping for her family. Well, I could not afford so much so reduced her shopping expense to its fraction but still made her happy with it.
Frankly speaking, it was not one of the best places for a tourist, but yes, it is a great one for a traveller. There are still loads of memories associated with that place which are beyond the scope of this blog.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain
My memories came to an abrupt end when suddenly I was in front of this magnificent structure. The leaning tower of Pisa with the museum structure together told me that I have still much more to experience, and every time it makes a lasting impact and everlasting memory.
All the above incidents in the travel events could have either put me behind bars in a foreign land, put me in a hospital in those foreign lands, made me lost in those foreign lands or even could have done beyond those. But for me, it had given vivid memories within me. I wouldn’t have bothered if those things had happened to be there. It would have taught me something new again and increased my inventory of powerful memories. But unfortunately, nothing terrible happened.
I believe travelling memories should not be digital memories. They are bound to be experienced by closing one’s eyes.
For me, a beach trip is a sunset without worries about the future. Unfortunately, I see people in India still worry about the time when they are at beaches. They think of breakfast and dinner, forgetting what they are losing out in return. They are too lost externally to find their insides.
• For me, Safari and mountain trekking is a chance to disappear in nature.
• For me reaching out to unexplored place is like giving me another chance to explore my other side
• For me, addiction to electronics at travel is enslaving oneself to the unwanted world.
• For me my memory is my travel bag
• For me travel is not just places but also about its people, its heritage and its life
• For me travel is unlimited just like our universe