Roshni Sriranga – 30 Countries before turning 30
30 Countries before turning 30 – By Roshni Sriranga
As I sat in a corner of a cafe at McLeodganj, reading “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, I noticed a young girl excitedly patting the cafe owner’s dog. The innocence and the happiness reminded me of my younger self.
My earliest memories are on a train, when I was around 5 years old, with my mother who was running away from her Schizophrenic demons but in fact, running away from home. Somehow, we ended up back home after 3 or 4 such attempts. Since then, I was growing up being the understanding one, the patient one, the one to let go.
Things not in your reach are those that you crave for the most. Travel was one among them for me. I sat like a dog peeping outside, opting for a window seat, amazed at the greens and the blues on those rare occasions we went to a temple outside Bangalore. One day, I would travel a lot, you see, I told myself. My school, my friends, my hopes and my dreams for the future are what kept me sane those days.
Fast forward to my engineering days, I met my sweetheart – someone who understood me and loved me for who I am. Our past learning and our future dreams matched and 8 years later, we were married. Our first trip was to Hong Kong and the Philippines. The blue waters, the white sands, island hopping, snorkeling, finding Nemo while scuba diving, watching thousands of fireflies in the wilderness fascinated us. This was in November, a few days after the worst typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. It was inspiring to see how quickly the people had recovered and were rebuilding the islands! With this started our travel learnings. This was also the beginning of our learning of packing, researching, trip planning and budgeting.
For the coming summer, we planned our first Europe trip to France and Italy. The history, art, architecture and of course, the food blew us away! Climbing up the Eiffel Tower in Paris, strolling around Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, admiring the Oculus of the Pantheon in Rome, mesmerized by the paintings of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, getting lost in the alleys of Venice, relishing the pasta in Bologna, absorbing the art at Ufizzi gallery in Florence, hiking in Cinque Terre, riding on the Bernina route to St. Moritz in Switzerland, devouring the saffron risotto in Milan – this was much more than I had even dreamt about.
We became our favourite travel buddies and travelled as a single unit. Then, there was no stopping us. We continued travelling, grabbing every opportunity – long weekends, low flight fares, birthdays, anniversary and what not. The make-best-use-of-all-leaves travelers that we were. We just needed an excuse to go out and explore. Sometimes, we planned our trips about 10 months in advance and sometimes, we packed in a matter of 10 minutes and left. My sweetheart has his ways of researching and planning and finding the best deals. Every travel was a new experience.
Each place was unique – cities, beaches, mountains, villages, India or abroad – we were equally fascinated by everything. We met the kindest people and had enriching experiences. We must admit travel is what kept us sane from the craziness of our lives.
Not satisfied by our quest, for the next summer, we went to Europe again, but, to places I hadn’t even heard of. Bratislava? Slovenia? We went to the musical city of Vienna, the romantic Prague, the quaint Bratislava, the hilly Buda and the flat Pest. Drove through the Slovenian Alps and the Croatian coasts. Had our relaxed moments at Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj. Experienced wow-moments looking at the Plitvice lakes national park and the waterfall houses in Rastoke. Toured the Game of Thrones locations in Split and Dubrovnik. Soaked in the “Don’t forget ’93” of Mostar and crossed the Bay of Kotor with our car on a ferry.
In a span of 18 months till the beginning of this year, we have travelled somewhere every month, just one month being an exception. We went to the clifftop of Varkala, deserts and forts of Rajasthan, Chandrashila trek in Uttarakhand, islands in Malaysia, homestays in Karnataka and many many more places. My sweetheart had a dream – of covering 30 countries by the time we turned 30. For last year’s summer, we went on our longest trip to U.K. and Ireland – driving from Bath to the northern-most point of our travels in Inverness and to Edinburgh. We saw the cutest villages and the prettiest views. We drove along the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland listening to the Game of Thrones theme song.
2017 was approaching and time was running out as we neared 30. I was born 4 months earlier than him and had lesser time to reach our target or so I thought. He also had 5 countries more than me as he had gone on a Europe trip like a bachelor with his friends within less than a year of our marriage. He promised to take me to all those places for my 30th birthday in May. However, towards the end of January, in a freakish drowning incident in shallow waters, my sweetheart passed away during our trip to Sri Lanka, his 29th country. This shattered me, making me question all the principles of life I believed in and left me devastated.
And there, in McLeoganj, I sat with my book, wondering about life and my 30 years of existence in this universe. At the end of my solo travel, gazing at the Dhauladhar ranges, I made a few promises to myself. I decided to travel for his 30th birthday in September to fulfill our dream of visiting 30 countries.
In August/September, I went to all the places he wanted to take me to. I tried retracing his paths in places he had gone to and visited Rome again.
I, Roshni ended my month long travel in Lisbon on his birthday. Portugal would have been his 30th country according to his plan. It was a painful journey but it taught me a lot about life and death. I read thought-provoking books and met some great people. My next trip, a month later, was on a trek to Rupin pass. It was another amazing experience where I re-learnt to live in the moment. My travels are helping me learn and grow and see the goodness that still exists in life. They are the fuel for the journey of my life…
More than 2 years ago, a dream blossomed in my sweetheart – to start a travelogue. He named it One Foot There, registered the domain, selected the theme, created a logo and left it to me to write. We were so busy creating memories that we didn’t have time to revisit them. OneFootThere is alive with all the memories we haven’t shared and with the ones I am creating in my sweetheart’s name, on Instagram and our blog. On a side note, a write-up about my childhood and grief was featured here.
You see the goodness in life in spite of all the daily struggles you have to go through. And then, within a few minutes, that perfection is taken away from you. Where is the balance in life?
It’s the imbalance that keeps you going. Roshni Sriranga, signing off!
Curated by Ishita Ganguly
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