‘To go and actually make a choice and to gain some awareness of who you are, why you are, what you are, is priceless’
I make a rare pit stop at one of the more luxurious restaurants off the highway that runs through northern India’s dessert state of Rajasthan. Tour companies bring their guests here for lunch breaks as they rush between their destinations in their air-conditioned taxi’s. An iron trellis coated in beautiful flowers and weeds opens up to into a lush garden circumvented with terracotta walls and carvings on their pillars. It had an expensive gift shop at the front and verdant gardens ringed with palm trees attended by straight-backed staff, clean shaven and dressed in pristine white jackets. I sat down and ordered the cheapest thing on the menu.
A mini bus pulled up in the parking area. I got used to easily identifying which vehicles carried tourists, normally white Hyundai’s with polished silver wheel hubs.
Several English people folded out and walked into the gardens, they sat on the table next to me. They wore clean, colorful clothing with hideous floral shirts and crisp-white shorts. They drank cold beer, ate vast amounts of food and talked excitedly about their next destination, one of them was repeatedly informing the others from a guide book. Their driver sipped chai quietly on a separate table.
My shirt was creased and thick with dust off the road and rings of encrusted sweat spread under my pits and down my back in rivulets. I stunk!
After finishing my meal and complaining to the waiter about the price of my coke, which was written on the bottle and yet charged double, I headed over to chat to them, I felt compelled, partly though curiosity, partly through excited ego. There’s definitely an ego involved in big adventures, no matter how humble one may seem, every mountain climber, every long distance explorer, every endurance explorer carries with them a bold ego of personal endeavor and psychological challenge which in turn drives them to pursue such big dreams and actively participate in them.
One of them men from was drilling me with enthusiastic questions, he was in his late forties with a thick Newcastle accent, he had a shaved head and taught wrinkles webbed around his fresh eyes. He spoke softy and upbeat, but I sensed an inner frustration deep down in the nuances of his voice that sunk somewhere deep in my memory. He asked me why I was doing it, how this was shaping up my life so far, where’s next and a few, deep existential questions. The was a moment of silence. I saw the light in his eyes. Eye to eye. He let out a sigh and a shook his head. The clean shirts and sandles seemed lost on him, like he suddenly realized what his essence of travel could have been.
The tone of regret; one of the saddest sounds.
He was suddenly a reflection of the older me that wished he had done something like that when he was younger. I observed a sense of nostalgic regret, the young zealous explorer inside of him, squeezed out by his adult life, the fulltime job, the family, the other commitments. The painfully poignant look in his childlike eyes reminded me of my journey and the grand importance what I was doing with my time. I convinced myself that I wouldn’t get to a stage in life where I regretted the things that I could of done, but didn’t, instead I would make incredible adventure, and pursue this theme tirelessly and relentlessly for as long as I could. All mindful, and heartfelt decisions have wonderful repercussions. This meeting would prove to be one of the most important in this long, endless journey.
I said goodbye and pushed off again into a whirling headwind reuniting with my saw legs and aching wrists on a highway shared by lorry’s, mopeds and camels pulling carts of people that waved as I cycled past. The English group pass in their taxi moments later, waving out of the back of the window and taking photos. It’s nice to think I’m in their life now, and they’re in mine. Maybe a blurry photo of me exists in their photo album, small against the backdrop of the vast, flat landscape, dust kicking over me and huge grimace on my face as I wave them onto their the rest of their journey.
As I lie down in my tent later that evening, I think again of the group of English people I met earlier that day, as they rush from one city to another, missing out on the intricate beauty I felt so lucky to be experiencing. I think the world is a place to roam slowly, piece by piece, moment by moment, if you travel quickly, you miss out on the real rhythm of a place as it unfolds.