Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Global Nomads

Another set of interesting people I met in my treks are backpackers. Somehow, I am fascinated by them. I always saw them in cities like Bangkok. I would be dressed in business suit, trying to wade my way through slow moving traffic and I would see backpackers fumbling with their maps, with their heavy backpacks, watching the world go by. I really envied them.

In my trek however, quite a few fellow trekkers were backpackers too. So this was my chance to know more about them. 

I travel too. But mine is all official travel, everything is planned, the flight, the hotel, the taxi, the clothes, every day, every minute, every second. Their travel was completetly opposite. Except for next destination, nothing was planned.

I had to get them talking.

"Travelling is a bug. Once you have it, its hard to stay in once place. In last ten months, I have been to over 30 countries."
"Fascinating. How did you plan this?"
"The basic plan is there was no plan. There are no rules. I took one way ticket to perth. I stayed at a hostel, met like minded people. Then plans kept happening. I met a group who was going to New Zealand, I joined them. After three weeks, I met a group of three girls, who invited me to go to Bali. It was great fun. Later I found this amazing deal on Euro rail so I went to Europe for three months, then China, India, Jorden....." I lost track of his travel.
"So you are always on the move", thats the best way I could summarise it.
"Yes. As a matter of fact, I haven't slept in the same bed for more than 4 days in last 10 months"
"Wow. Don't you get bored with staying at hostels, shared rooms, common toilets?"
"Sometimes I do. So I check-in a five star hotel for a couple of days. Sleep on soft bed, have sumptuous breakfast, hot water baths, go to spa, get pampered."
"Then I get bored with artificial smiles and forced courtesy and start missing my travel buddies. Then I get back to hostels."
"Don't you call home? Aren't they worried?"
"Yes, I do call once in a while. The unwritten rule for travellers is call home just at the right frequency. If you call less, it means you are having too much fun. If you call too often, it means you are in trouble, may be you need money. Family feels worried."
This was counter-intuitive to me. I mom felt reassured if I called her every day.
"So what is the next destination?"
"Well, I am going home after this."
"Nice. Are you missing home?"
"Umm. Not sure all I can say is I am ready to go home."
"So what is more relaxing, travelling or going home."
He smiled. He had never thought about it.
"I will think about it when I feel settled at home." He said.

This simple conversation was enriching in so many ways.

At home, I don't sleep well if I change my pillow. Sleeping in different bed every four days, is simply unimaginable.

The world around us is inherently uncertain. We put a lot of efforts and work hard to make it predictable. That is why life looks like a struggle. When you start enjoying uncertainties of life, world becomes home. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why do we trek? part 2

Learn to keep weight down!


"Porter porter... give way" my guide called out.

I was breathless as I was climbing up the steep slope of Mount Kinabalu. I stopped readily, gave way to the porter. He was a lean man, carrying large sized cargo, walking much faster than me.  I could only watch him in admiration as I was sweating and panting.

I was on my way to Laban Rata, our base camp for Mount Kinabalu, the tallest peak on the island of Sabah. I was carrying my day pack, couple of litres of water, extra jacket and few knick kancks, weighing just about 5 kg. I watched the porter who was carrying about 40 kg, walking twice as fast with admiration. Worst of all he didn't even have proper footware, just floaters. My bathroom floaters were in a better shape than those. He wasn't alone. These porters were carrying our bags, food items that would be cooked to serve us lavish buffet, gas cylinders, clean bedsheets, towels and all those similar items that make our stay luxurious at Laban Rata. This was a common scene in all treks.  No trek was possible without porters. They were lifeline of not just the trekkers but also the villages we passed through. 

While going to Everest Base Camp I saw a porter carrying entire fridge on his back. It was a high altitude trek, most of us very finding it difficult to breathe or walk briskly. But the porters around were carrying cargo that we never thought could be picked up by one human being. They were walking with a speed we could not catch up with even though we didn't carry any weight.

I was astounded, pained and intrigued at the same time. My initial reaction was pity and feeling of guilt. I was there for fun, recreation but porters were their for work. I blamed their plight on myself. I felt its because I want to come and relax here they are made to work like this.

My trek in Ladakh was different. There the cargo was carried by mules.
"Why don't they use animals?" I asked my guide who was walking alongside.
"If they use animals, they won't earn enough."
It was an eye opener for me to see in the age of smartphone and artificial intelligence, some humans still considered animals as a threat to their livelihood.
"Its their money, don't pity them."

They were working hard, so I could enjoy. It filled my heart with gratitude. So I started interacting with them. I talked, laughed, joked with them. I even tried picking up the load they were carrying. They burst into laughter looking at my plight. 

But they appreciated, someone was thinking about them, ready to put himself in their shoes. Talking to them, understanding them opened me up to their wonderful, innocent world that enriched my life.

Usually porter is an entry level position. Most guides start as porters. That's how they were familiar with every turn, every corner, every season. They knew everything. They were also very happy, smiling folks, always ready for fun. They want to sing and dance whenever they get a chance. So I decided to have fun their way. In Mount Rinjani I had an extempore singing and dancing performance with the porters. 

Such inconceivable and enjoyable moments with guides and porters in foreign countries are the heartwarming experiences I will always cherish.

I asked one of them, "How do you manage to stay happy, despite the hardwork."
He said, "No doubt carrying the load is painful. But we learn to forget the pain as soon as we keep the load down and learn to enjoy ourselves."
It was profound!

In our urban lives we carry mental loads, not physical ones. They are invisible hence more dangerous. Seemingly uneducated, fun loving porter unknowingly told me secret of happiness!!

Why do we trek?
To learn to keep weight down and enjoy!!