Monday, October 24, 2005

Back to the front after "Summer of 2005"

Vacation ends and work begins from tomorrow. July 1st was the last day of my internship. After that, July was a month of interviews. I had to appear for two separate interviews, each around 5-6 hours in span of two days. I got accepted from one group towards the end of July. August was mostly spent resting and working on thesis. From Aug 31 to Sept 9, I explored the East Coast - rather North-East America. (and then South-West a month later.) Visited places like Philadelphia, Hershey, New York, Washington, Boston and Niagara Falls and yes, Canada for half an hour. Already, I have seen more places in US than in India - like been to Statue of Liberty but not yet to Taj Mahal, been to Washington DC but not to Delhi and so on.

While flying back from Boston to San Diego, I was scanning through Sky Magazine when I came across an article about the Indian (Native American) Reservations around Four Corner Monument. (It is called thus because four states - Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New mexico come together at one point; the only such place in USA.) I was quite impressed with the article and the photos and noted the names of the places and related information.

Again, after coming home it was resting and rusting for a while. Read some good books, watched some plays and tried some new restaurants. It was back to good old idyllic student life vacation. Getting up late, staying up late in Night either reading a book or surfing on net, having Lunch at 3 pm etc etc. Going to a nearby lake with coffee and a book to read was my favorite activity and the fact that I no longer needed to set alarm in my cellphone for the next day felt great.

I was actually planning a short trip to Seattle and around, and started researching on net accordingly. After a while, I realized that tours to few of the places which I wanted to visit in the surrounding areas like Mount St. Helens were not available. With my paperwork (needed to start to work) expected to arrive in mail any time, and winter setting in I did not have much time.

I was in two minds when I did some initial planning about the Four corners trip. Money and Safety were the two most important considerations. Money because already my three-month stay at home without any job and the trip to East Coast had left my savings a mere shadow of its former self. On top of that, being under 25 does not help while renting a car. Rental companies charge 20 to 30 dollars extra per day. For my 9 day trip, that alone would mean equivalent to a return air ticket to New York or almost anywhere in mainland US. Also since I was travelling alone, gas and lodging expenses won't be shared. In terms of safety, it was bit risky to go the area where cell-phone reception is non-existent in most of the places due to its remoteness and also where temperature varies from 100F/40C during day to 40F/5C at night.

I continued planning and revising my plans for almost a week or so in this state of ambivalence. Planning for trip is fun. It fills me with a strange sort of excitement and pleasure. You have to consider many factors - cheapest hotels to stay, minimum amount of travel involved, avoiding weekends to go to popular destinations. Also, the order in which you visit the places is quite important. That's the reason I decided to visit Grand Canyon at the second-last day of my trip. Had I visited Grand Canyon first, everything else might have paled in comparison. This way, the trip had a nice crescendo throughout. Again, initially I was planning to drive from San Diego to Chinle, Arizona with stop-over at Phoenix and come back via a different route i.e. Grand Canyon - Las Vegas - Palm Springs, California - San Diego. But then comparing the expenses of gas and staying up an extra night at Phoenix amounted as much as air fare to Phoenix with 350 miles less to drive one way. Also thought that going to Las Vegas would be completely out of character with the nature of this trip, and hence dropped the idea.

The argument in favor of the trip (in my mind) was I won't get another chance like this once I start working - the vacation that I can muster will almost entirely be used for India trip (and even though I won't mind taking a vacation without pay and going for a road-trip, my boss most certainly would considering the workload). This was the right moment in terms of money, time and interest. I had to travel alone because those who could afford did not have time and vice versa. Apart from time and money, I don't think going to deserts and Native American Reservations would feature in top spots of spending vacation for many. The argument against it was money and somewhat a feeling that I have not done anything great to treat myself for two back-to-back long vacations.

But then heart won, all the arguments aside and I convinced myself with Mark Twain's words. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

In the end, it was probably the most memorable vacation for me. I was alone for nine days but never lonely. As I said, it is not one of the most favorite tourist destinations (of course, except Grand Canyon) and since I was travelling during the normal weekdays, there were not many tourists around. The rock formations, the seemingly endless desert with no sign of any human life around- often I felt as if I were in the wrong Millenium or on the wrong planet. I will need to borrow words from a poem by Ravindranath Tagore to describe how I felt during the trip. I am quite aware that I cannot possibly imagine and use these lines the way Tagore experienced, but lesser mortals like us can only use the ability to quote which is said to be servicable substitute for wit/genius. (Again a quote :)) So with the risk of sounding pompous and preposterous, I would like to say in my own tiny way -

Jabar diney ei kawthati baley Jena jai- Ja dekhechi, ja peyechi tulana tar Nai

(When I leave let these be my parting words: What my eyes have seen, what my life has received, are incomparable.)


Sudhu said...

Tagore's comment was fascinating. It is comments like those that make you think a lot. On your 'Travelogue' i've already commented through our Yahoo tete-a-tete 's.
Btw, found a blog that also spoke of For whom the bell tolls by Hemingway. You might like to check it -

vb said...

i have no idea how natural is american landscape.wilderness has nothing wild about them.hands of man are every where.yes, even wilderness is manmade.i have a fabulous image, atleast of few spots, of US from reading Henry Thoreau's 'The Walk to Lands End'

vb said...

i must thank sudhu for leading me to u r blog.pleasantly surprised to read about Darkness at Noon and For Whom The Bell Tolls.Arthur Koestler was an eyeopener when i was spending sleepless nights during college days thinking over the possibility of communism as a solution to our problems.Incidently Arthur Koestler fought in spanish civil war.

Nandan said...

Hello Prabhakar,

Thanks for visiting my blog and for the comments. Yes, thanks to Sudhamshu we are having this conversation.

As for the landscapes, a little of human interference ("human touch") is unavoidable; but there is a conscious effort to keep it to minimum.

Great, you read Thoreau. Someone recommended me Walden. Have you read it?

Pooja said...

"I was alone for nine days but never lonely." - Good one.