Travel diaries: A therapy, meditation like no other

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When I travel, I take two of my diaries with me. Their favorite companions, they occupy a central place on the bookshelf. Even though one of them ran out of blank pages, I still made it travel, which of course has a much richer travel history than the second.

During the lockdown months I would often turn to them because they made me travel again and since it has become a ritual to read them every few weeks, especially at bedtime. I may have been diving a lot into their deep waters, but I never got bored, rather with each session, my fascination rises.

Many thanks to them, who recorded so much – my talks, museum visits, itineraries, flights, ideas for travel columns – some posted, some rejected, and most importantly many lessons and ideas, most of which shocked me while walking or leisurely strolling. While I was affixed to the window during road or air travel.

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Some pages make me nostalgic, some make me laugh and some allow me to have conversations with the locals I met. Their emails and social media IDs, written by them, are on many pages, and I’m glad I’m in touch with most of them. When I find coffee signs somewhere, I start to wonder if it’s from some flight or from a coffee shop.

There are pages where I stumble and don’t feel like going any further, which basically carry any flight notes, and I’m impressed with the details, type of plane, airline, meals and drinks served, seat number, opinions, travelers followed by first impressions of places I reached it. One of them, from my first flight to Christchurch on 1 April 2019, says, “I love the views of the Sydney skyline from my seat 5F (Qantas QF 139: Boeing 737) while pushing and enjoying the soothing welcome music.” With skyscrapers drawn beside these words, the note continues: “During a nearly 3-hour flight over the Tasman Sea, my eyes are treated to the best sunset views, holding a cup of coffee in hand.”

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I also landed on pages with stories about unique tours, from the Boeing factory in Seattle to a tour of the cemetery in a small town in Washington. It is a pleasure to be led by these guides again, and to be proud of their feedback. Experience biking around 4am along Lake Michigan in Chicago and hiking to a hilltop in Queenstown, New Zealand, where views of the lake and the Alps left me in awe; are some of my favourites. I sat there, writing profusely, including the manifestations of life that came to mind. Diary guide.

These elephants are a beacon to me, like so many beautiful sayings I have taken up in my diary, the moment I picked them up somewhere. Most inspiring was when I was at Cape Byron Lighthouse in Australia. Her door was displayed this: “Can we be a beacon to the world or to someone?” Within a minute of New York, my pen had printed it on my diary.

When I used one of these notes in my interview with actress Manisha Koirala at the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival a few years ago in Kasauli, there are also pages that make me talk to her whenever I want. With so many answers out there about how she changed her way of thinking after cancer, there is plenty of inspiration for anyone who reads it.

My diary is therapy to me, unparalleled meditation and a huge part of me, always making me count my blessings and how travel has enriched me. Someone rightly said: “We do not travel to escape life, but for the sake of life, do not flee from us.” If we believe St. Augustine, “The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only a page.”

rameshinder.sandhu@gmail.com

The writer is a freelance writer based in Amritsar

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