I wish I was above the number game but I do count the countries that I have visited till date! The number is low, just sixteen excluding India. I say it is low because I actually want to visit well, everywhere!
I was strangely fascinated by foreign lands from an early age. When The Great Gambler was released and I got to see ‘doo lafzon ki hai‘ song, since then I wanted to visit Venice. And yet if anyone would have asked me, “what do you want to become when you grow up” at that age being a traveler was nowhere on the agenda! The first time I went abroad was in 1999 for an academic conference to Singapore.
Of the 16 countries that I have visited there are some clear favorites. I often thought of doing a post on my five best destinations. Today I opened the list (yes I have an excel file, there I said it) and tried to pick up my five favorites but then I gave up after a while. For someone like me, who has every place on her list, picking up favorites was not working. So, I decided to do a series of posts on each destination, instead of picking up favorites. I am doing it in batches of five in chronological order! So beware, i have warned you!
That’s Me in 1999
When I went to Singapore it was the first time I took a flight as well. I still remember the feeling of the plane zooming through the runway before takeoff. I had never experienced anything like that, it gave me such a rush. However I try now, I never get that feeling again before a takeoff.
I remember taking a metro in Singapore, the platform was crowded like anything. Having experienced only India I was very nervous about the crowd. I was with a family friend and she looked quite unconcerned. When i boarded the train, to my utter amazement everyone tiptoed around me with courtsey. I wonder if we’ll ever reach at that stage of civilization in India?
As my purpose was to attend an academic conference, I did not see much in the city apart from malls and Suntech City. But Singapore will always remain special as it was the first country I ever visited.
I visited Greece in 2001 once again to attend an academic conference. I only went to Athens and roamed around a little. This was the first trip abroad where I was completely on my own! If you click on the link above you can read the story in more detail, here is a short excerpt though-
“500 meter ahead, another gentleman asked, “Are you alright?” Now his question got me really anxious, I wondered if I had torn my dress or what? I asked back, “Why do you ask?” He says, “You are frowning.” And before I could realize what was happening, he held my shoulders, and kissed both my cheeks (now I am from India, where apart from my family and a few very close friends, no one would dare to do such a thing). I stood stunned looking and feeling like a complete fool. He brought me back from my stupor and asked, “Can I buy you a drink?” I recollected my wits and said no. It took me some time to reassure him that I really was fine. I walked in a dazed state for a while,”
Oh to be young and foolish and to weigh 12 kds less! One of my biggest regrets is that too few pictures survive from these trips!
I visited Amsterdam and Groningen in Holland in 2002. I was appearing for a post doc interview in Groningen! I had half a day free in Amsterdam while going back to India. It was in Holland I realized that in summer the sun was not setting even at 9.00 pm, there was twilight till 11.00 pm! And then I managed to stumble upon the red light district in Amsterdam without any intentions of ever going there! I mustered all my courage and managed to walk through it in the end, after seeing what a tourist attraction it was. If parents with prams could take a stroll, so could I!
I went to Modena, Italy in 2003 to attend an academic conference! So you see my early travels were more for work! Thank god that I started blogging too! And guess what, Venice is quite close to Modena so I actually visited Venice, my childhood dream destination. I still remember the train pulling into the main station, Venezia Mestre, and all I could see was water around me. Everyone in the coach simply stood up by their windows! I only spent a few hours in Venice but I did go there!
Then came a long gap of 4 years when I struggled with some jobs that I didn’t like one bit. But in 2007 things changed and I went to Oxford for work again! Since then I have been to UK 4 more times, making it 5 in all. UK is my most visited country till date but Thailand is in close competition with total of trips being 4 and I am still counting. So, I have been abroad more than 16 times but visiting the same country again and again unfortunately doesn’t increase the number of countries visited. Since I had started blogging in 2005, I have written a lot about UK on my blog. I have visited London, Lancaster, Windermere and Grasmere, Blackpool and Edinburgh till date. I have thoroughly enjoyed all my trips to UK. I love the fact that it is a walking friendly country. I love Oxford a little more than every other place that I have visited.
So, do you count the number of countries you have visited? If you do, will you share that number with me? I will be back with the next five countries I have visited in a post later. I will also try to dig out the print pictures from the first four trips and post them sometime.