I have always been a fan of slow travel and fast talking. In the beginning years of being on the road, it was cheaper anyway to settle down in one place and get to know it rather than hurtle from place to place like a Paparazzi tourist.
Also there was the hassle of moving from one place to another in India during the days when trains never ran on time and buses were a moving horror feast of indignity and discomfort along roads that breached some human right or another.
I am not a good traveller because I hate to travel. I hate the sense of dislocation and the twilight zone of being between time and space and the gap in regular meals. I am not so great at arrivals either, but my farewells are usually very heartfelt and friendly. Maybe these people are glad to see the back of me but by the time I leave somewhere there is usually some kind of heart connection going on.
This is in fact why I travel, I want to see how people live, what they eat, how they feel about their lives, their philosophy, their rituals, their sense of humour and yes! Their food! I am a nosey old bat and curious as a cat, but in terms of people from distant shores then what other information are you going to exchange? I want to know the stories that weave the tapestry of their history, see what makes them laugh and what inspires them to art or prayer.
I guess in a way I am looking for a way to connect which is fairly typical of your average Kiwi woman, they say that if you put two kiwis in a room for 10 minutes they will find out they are related! And Maori have it down to a fine art, we can often tell by looking at someone where they are from or who they are related to. This drives me to peer into corners and under sofas in pockets all over the world but information is something you need to earn, I reckon. So I stay a while, I try to melt into the rhythm of their daily lives, I participate in the work and the fun and try not to feel so shy and self conscious as I am deep down inside.
For me travel is all about having time to sit down and yarn away the afternoon with a local, exchanging information about our lives and sharing experiences. This happens in the shade of an apple tree in a mountain orchard, at the celebration of some family event or a slow afternoon chai shop. In India there is a general acceptance that life is a journey and everyone we meet on the way has some kind or karmic connection with us.
What a joy to know that as you step out on the road!
Dianne Sharma-Winter is a freelance writer living between India and New Zealand. She writes on travel, culture and humour using India as her muse.