[I do not intend to talk about the general phenomenon in this blog; this is only sharing a few experiences which helped me conquer my inherent fear in unknown places. I hope this could encourage people sitting on the fence to move on, and not be paralyzed by the internal fears they cultivate.]
I love working in an uncertain environment – I have realized, it keeps me awake. Yes, when in an uncertain territory it requires us to be alert - possibly the best state anyone could be. May be you do not agree, but being one who loves to learn and finds motivated with the insights gained by these experiences I would say I enjoy uncertainty.
It is not once but numerous times - though my treks and escapades from the city that I have found I enjoy this state of alertness arising out of facing uncertainty. My experiences are not just in the forests where I got lost, but even while in an urban jungle; not just in India also in the unknown country of USA. Though not exhaustive, these I believe definitely are worth sharing.
I prefer public transport to travel during by escapades originating from cities, but on exploratory treks I would prefer either a private vehicle or shared vehicle some last mile exploration. I have already shared quite a few of these trek experiences and wouldn't talk about them here but would suggest the readers check in on these trek blogs.
The escapade from an Indian City - Mumbai to Shirdi:
I feel quite a few of you reading this wouldn’t find it really a escapade, given that there are a lot of buses that travel between these cities. Following is a short narrative which gets me to call this an escapade -
I am a Bangalorean, who possibly has spent most of my life in here itself - a cozy city that makes you fall I love with it! Yes I have spent my childhood here when the city wasn't congested with the traffic and was lot greener. I would reserve the discussion on how the city has changed for the future; and only highlight that I had not grown familiar with any other city!!! Yes my bad - but it is ok to accept it and go ahead that think about it.
It was the first time I had come to Mumbai for my internship at a Start-up. I was staying at the IIT-Powai campus a few minutes from the Vikroli station. I did a quick Google check and decided to plunge on this journey - it wasn't that I had an internal awakening, but during one of the sales calls that I was attempting and traveling through the city locals that I found a couple of co-passengers conversing about the recent trip to Shirdi - a place or religious significance to we Indians.
At the spark of a moment, I decided to trip to this place with the only constraint of using the public transport all through. A few queries to the localities and the Google search got me to realize I could expect buses from Dadar in Mumbai.
I moved on a Friday night to Dadar and caught a late night bus to Shirdi. Before I could wake up I was as at Shirdi in the wee hours of Saturday. I hadn’t booked any guest house or hotels to stay and sneaked into a small hotel backyard and completed my morning chores. I then visited the temple, by 10 am I was out of the temple and didn't want to return to Mumbai the same day - I turned my head and found some small shared taxis shouting they would go to a place called - Shani Singnapur. I decided this would be excited and went along. A couple of hours of journey and I was at the place, visited the temple there too and by 2 pm I had nothing to do again! I decided to take the shared cab back to Shirdi and then take a call. I reached Shirdi and found a few cabs going towards an industrial town called Nasik. I decided to take this and figure out a place where I could spend the night. I reached Nasik around 6pm - here I was in a completely different town with no clue of where to go. I found a government guest house and try my luck there - there were no rooms!!! I asked an employee to suggest if he knew any guest house and instead of guiding me to one - he asked me to wait, and said he would accompany me!
I wasn't quite sure what to expect next - an unknown city, a stranger willing to help; but haven't I read a few newspaper articles that talked about travelers being looted? Lurking I this fear, I followed him ... Around 20 minutes later he took me to a “shady” looking guest house - ensured I had a place/shared room for the night and then said - "come with me I will show you some good shopping spots!". By this time - I has mentally accepted any result and just believed I would get the night through.
I had on an earlier trek lost lulu route and gained crucial insights of the triviality of human life! But this experience was something different... What was I to expect next?
This stranger takes me to a store - a resin vendor store and says. These are Nasik special, take as many as you want before you leave - I need Rs 30 for my drink tonight. It would be a compensation for the help I provided you with. I for some time had all sorts of thoughts running around I my mind and this is how it is to end?
"Life is like a box of cookies, you never know which one you would get" said a learned person - it sounded so true. This experience got me to also realize the importance of trust - Both in people and in GOD.
I moved around the town, checking on the places to visit and the departure time of the buses from the station. I followed this up with dinner, but there I had to spend the night in an unknown guesthouse room with unknown strangers? Well I didn't know if it was "safe", I just decided to sleep and worry about what happens later.
He while day of fatigue got me in no time and I was snoring to glory - willing to accept the reality and not lose sleep over it. And lo I woke up on the alarm at 4 am, completed my daily chores and was ready for another day of exploring the uncertainty of life.
I caught the 6am bus to Triambakeshar - another place of religious significance - This also happens to be the birth place of river Godavari (I didn't know this before I reached there!). I took the trek to the peak close to the temple and returned from there to visit the temple. After the sacred Darshan of the Lord Shiva who is the deity of the temple I decided to get back to Nasik and check out the mythological place of Panchavati. It is believed that the incarnation of Lord Vishnu - Ram, along with his consort Seetha and brother Lakshman had stayed at this village.
After the tour of Panchavati, I decided it was time to get back towards Mumbai and rest the night out before I could get back to work the next day.
While there were a few buses which could take one to Mumbai, none were available around 2 pm when I left the town of Nasik, so I decided to use take the bus that could take me to the last station of the Mumbai local on the central line!
Wow that sounded awesome! Right I go, when I reach the station - I looked at the map and decided to visit another place - Titwada which is famous for its temple of Lord Ganesha. I didn't know if I would have a second chance to do this visit and for what Ever reason and possibility I decided to visit the place - in 45 minutes I was done and ready to get back to Vikroli.
Having reached the Vikroli station at 5:30 PM and took an auto-rickshaw. As I reclined on the couch – I relived this experience. Definitely it was a lovely experience, balancing on the fence of uncertainty and safety. This gave me the confidence in my ability to explore completely unknown locations
Following this, I haven't tried any major escapades per say in India owing to the time bound nature of the work that I do, however I have tried to innovate my travel route to have some adventure with uncertainty yet complete the task taken up in time.
Possibly there was something the first escapade would have been the only one if I hadn’t tried this on the recent travel to Berkeley.
Berkeley to San Jose
"Silicon Valley" the name is almost synonymous to innovation and a highly thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. San Jose is part of this ecosystem and houses a lot of companies working on cutting edge technology.
The valley also has a bay - San Francisco Bay, which opens up into on the Northern side. The mouth of the San Francisco bay has the monumental Golden Gate Bridge, which in itself is a symbol of engineering excellence. Being on the west coast of the USA, the bay opens up into Pacific Ocean.
The Silicon Valley being on the southern side of the San Francisco bay is also called as the South bay area.
Berkeley is a city known for it open culture, in fact there are possibly representations of all cultures here! The University of California, Berkeley is an institute of international repute and attracts the best of the students from across the world.
I was in Berkeley for a brief period of 1 week and didn't want to miss catching up with some of my friends who stayed at San Jose; however commuting to the southern city wouldn't be easy without being able to drive in your own car! I was in here for a short while and the taxis would be costly mode to travel - lo here comes public transport for the saving!
I prefer trains to buses when it comes to traveling in unknown journeys - they reduce the uncertainty and also could give you an option of easy retracting in case you aren't successful; but the complexity increases with the buses and the one ways etc making it chaotic for a newbie like me. Compounding the problem would be me not carrying a cell phone!!!
A frantic Googling attempt gave me a simple clue of how I could reach San Jose from Berkeley using the BART and Caltrain. I was now venturing out on a trip which I knew wasn't very risky, but lack of s constant mode of communication could be crucial.
I took the BART to reach Millbrae and used the attempt to learn a lot about the stations on the way - the cost is extremely reasonable ($4.8 - now don't get in the exchange rate shock in here - this is a completely different economy here!
I exchanged to the Caltrain at the Millbrae station, however given that I has just missed a train - I had to wait for nearly an hour here. There were people who were dressed differently at the station - each almost in a very different style of his/her own - carrying the baggage of imagination and the news that creates stereotypes, to be frank wasn't very comfortable with the variety I saw here.
45 minutes of waiting got me into the train that had its last destination as San Jose - I was remember, I didn't have to change any more buses in here. There was rather not much of an excitement until reached the destination.
Wow! I land up in this station which looks like a film shot from the early 1990's and with very few people! I had to make a call and so looked out for some change - I went to the vendor who I guess spoke Spanish. I asked if could get some change and got a reply which was incomprehensible! She probably was saying - I cannot give you a change unless you purchase something. I decided instead to try my luck with a few denominations and surprisingly, this worked for me.
I met the fee friends at San Jose and returned to Berkeley. There wasn't anything very exciting about this, but this experience gave me a lot more confidence in exploring the unchartered territory of life.
It is not uncommon for us to be trapped in fear. Each one of us is gambling with one fear or the other. Some are frightened of losing their reputation, while others are frightened of taking risk. One could easily look back and realize, each one of us have one fear or the other that we engage with and attempt to outdo.