I have not published anything new on Medium in the last eighteen days, and I am not very proud of that. After writing every day for a month, I finally got my groove on and can attest to the therapeutic benefits of telling my story more than usual. But there was a rare opportunity for me to travel again, and I just recently ended a relationship. It was a much-needed break from people, work, and yes, even writing, which a colleague facetiously labeled my “Eat Pray Love” moment.
Fine. I’ll take it.
India has been on top of my travel bucket list for years. But it is an ancient civilization I have always deemed more fit for discovering in numbers, not really in solitude for safety reasons, especially for women. I try not to let what I see in the news influence my destination choices, but when cases of violence against women are reported, it is wise to take the necessary precautions. Good thing the whole trip was prompted by an earlier invitation to a traditionally opulent Indian wedding, which rendered much of my initial worry useless.
I took stock of my 9-day voyage by moving away from my usual distractions before the 4-part wedding celebration. I have friends in India but deliberately neglected to inform them of my arrival. I signed up for a travel package that would take me to Agra, Jaipur, and Pushkar, cover all my hotel accommodations and allow me to reflect in silence as my reliable chauffeur Torhit drove me around safely. I wrote by hand in the mornings, taking note of fresh details from my experiences that I would like to expound on in future articles. In transit, I would indulge in the soothing honesty of Patti Smith’s voice as she narrated her book “Just Kids,” which is perhaps one of the most moving pieces of literature I have ever read, or in this case, heard. I hardly kept tabs on the world, and many times, I really did not have much choice, as data roaming is spotty in areas we passed through. I was a stranger in a strange land, and it was a good feeling.
Being briefly removed from my world not only prepared me for the ancient world I was about to discover, but also rewarded me with meaningful solitude. It was in the pitstops, the white marbles of the Taj, and the reception halls of the maharajah that I would recall lost ideas and forgotten people, exclaim secretly at the amazing flavors of local chutney and curry, and suddenly come up with something new. Even though I was traveling alone, it was impossible to feel lonely, what with all the stimuli coming at you at break-neck speed. If anything, I just wanted to stay in some places much longer, so I can wait for the monkeys to position themselves just below the awning that the sun tries to pierce through, and take the perfect shot.
Even though I was traveling alone, it was impossible to feel lonely.
India was my first independent travel abroad as a regular contributor here on Medium, and believe me, the mindset has evolved. From one who just walks, eats and haggles her way through thrift bazaars, I felt myself transform into someone who sits, stares and smells the flowers. I have been traveling solo for a decade, and while I have written about my adventures, I kept them mainly to myself. But as one caters to a growing audience of serious writers, whose preferred topics are becoming more familiar, you tend to care more. You become more generous with your views. You become more observant. You want to give something of value while staying genuine and relevant.
It was there and then that I realized how vital these brief interruptions are to my life as a writer.
Surely there were occasions during the trip that I did attempt to write something, as a way of nurturing my daily writing discipline. But it was adding unnecessary stress. It felt much better to just focus on the moment, embrace the foreign-ness of everything and just write about it later. Riding at the back of a camel is impossible to forget, and neither are your notes about camels. But there are reasons why some experiences are called “once in a lifetime” and why people take pains to try them: they want to take something with them that they cannot stop talking about when they get home. Now imagine that those people are all writers and how their accounts might compare with your notes on camels.
When our ideas and our thinking are being fermented by constant learning, our writing will always be read.
Writing can silo us for days, given the silence and solitude it requires. But perhaps, in the midst of our desire to write the next think piece or book in our long road to greatness, we should also pause and aerate, just like fine wine about to be enjoyed. Greatness cannot be rushed, no matter how hardworking you think you are. But providing value by adding useful wisdom gleaned from travels or from devastating life ordeals is a worthwhile pursuit. When our ideas and our thinking are being fermented by constant learning, our writing will always be read. That is the natural course of life for people who stay fresh, updated and move away from the desk from time to time.