My Best Travel Memories
While it’s been almost three months since I came back from my last adventure, and I am still unsure when I will be able to travel to far-flung destinations; I cannot complain as my heart grows fond with more great memories than I could have ever forecasted.
From having lunch at a Sikh temple in India to feeling at home in Cuba, here are some of my favorite moments after 20 years of travel.
Endless Hospitality While Solo Traveling in India
As much as I love traveling with my significant other, family, and friends; nothing can replace solo travel.
On the other hand, Indian culture has always fascinated me, and it was just a matter of time to fall for the country head over heels. After a first month-long incursion from Kerala to Delhi in 2014, I came back a couple of years ago to explore the Northern provinces of Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh.
TAKING PART IN LANGAR
That’s how I got to share the most nourishing yet simple lunch with thousands of people at Golden Temple’s Langar in Amritsar. Based on donations and run by volunteers, this Sikhism mecca serves the same vegan food to over 100000 people daily, 24/7 in the common canteen within its premises regardless of faith.
It lasted for about 10 minutes - a trifle after the 5 hours I was in the temple. But feeling part of something so superior to yourself is priceless.
MEETING PEOPLE AT INDIAN TRAINS
In this same country, while traveling in the General Compartment of an Agra to Delhi train, I was able to witness the extreme hospitality of Indian people towards foreigners. Tickets for every other class were sold out weeks ago, and with no seat assigned and hardly any room to breathe, chances were I would be standing for the whole ride. How wrong I was.
Among the tangle of people, right after stepping in the train with my heavy backpack, a person kindly offered me a place to rest on a bench. Sitting with my belongings on top of my legs, the journey became much more bearable than I could have anticipated.
During another train journey, I was also able to experience how sharing a compartment with a family is the best thing that can happen to you if you are a solo female traveler. A friendly glance from the mother in a Mumbai to Udaipur train was enough to be invited to sit with them for the majority of the long journey, sharing tales and food throughout it.
LEARNING FROM CHALLENGES IN NEPAL
Everyone knows that happy and perfect tales are plain boring. It is the decisive moments in a person's life that make the difference. While taking their toll, they shape our character and finally, turn into great growth opportunities.
Without being a life-threatening situation, that happened to me the first day I tried my luck trekking around the Annapurnas’ outskirts, in Nepal.
After climbing more steps than in the rest of my life, I realized my fitness level was perhaps not enough to keep up with the group. Five days of hiking up to an altitude of 3300 meters awaited us in the Mohare hill trek and, if the intensity of the first hours - which had me on the verge of fainting - was going to be the dominant trend, I had no choice but to abandon.
A timely withdrawal is a victory, Napoleon would say.
But I toughened up, and after reasoning with the guide I understood that I could follow at my own pace for the rest of the stage that day as the route was well marked. It took a while and lots of sweat, but I did it. And so one of the best weeks of my life began.
I will never forget things like having breakfast with the highest mountains on earth as a background or meeting the fascinating and brave people who live there. Without the possibility of getting around in a vehicle, they have to walk long distances to get supplies or simply teach at school.
It wasn’t all rainbows from then on, don’t misunderstand me. We caught the beginning of the monsoon season and rains brought fresh fun such as slippery terrain and lots of leeches. But how would we feel alive without those life joys?
Blending with Cuba
I stopped counting countries when they surpassed fifty.
Such a number was reached thanks, among other things, to my many jobs as a travel guide taking groups to dream destinations such as Canada, the United States, and the French Alps during my 20s.
I then kept traveling but it wasn't until last February when I decided to lead groups again after 6 years focusing on other endeavors.
And so I got to travel with an amazing group of people through Cuba's Westernmost part.
How do I begin to explain what I felt there?
A culture so close to mine, a language I could speak flawlessly, such special people who are still checking in with me after spending only a couple of days together. It had been a long time since I felt such closeness to a destination, mainly because after gallivanting around Europe I focused on distant and exotic destinations for several years.
I guess it was time to return to my roots.
Thank you, Cuba, for reminding me of who I am and where I come from.
Born and raised in Spain, Inma is the co-founder of the sustainable travel blog, A World to Travel.