“Yay, I’m finally going to America. It’s my first holiday abroad. And wow, almost a month!” I was only 9 years old and it was the summer of 1995. Those days it was a big big deal – taking a trip abroad. But my Pops made it happen for me, and it was truly a dream come true!
Pops, yes that’s what I call my father, my lifeline, my everything. Where should I start from? I’ve known him for 32 years and can write pages about him. His first trip abroad was when he was 32, on a job in Mount Senia Hospital, NYC. He took his first International flight with 7 dollars in his pocket and spent 6 dollars of it to see two movies on his journey. The balance 1 dollar was used at a public telephone booth to call the person who came to receive him at the airport. So it’s Friday evening, this man’s first time in New York City, and he has no money in his pocket. I’m talking about 1976 – the age of withdrawing money only from banks, no ATM machines and most importantly no cell phones. Being a weekend the bank was also closed. So what does my Pop do? He’s goes to Bloomingdales, picks up a very fancy suit and pays a heavy price by cheque. Then goes to the return counter, returns the suit and takes back the price in cash. Smart way to survive his first weekend in New York, Eh?
Pops has always been a super smart traveller. He knew exactly how to get his way around in an unknown place. My fondness and love for travel is something I have inherited from him. Pops is a Doctor by profession and his profession has allowed him to travel a lot. Right from attending conferences in Barcelona to setting up Dialysis units in Mauritius to even giving talks in Sri Lanka – he has done it all.
I will never forget this incident from about 9 years ago that completely changed my impression of travel. Pops was travelling to Srilanka and didn’t want to go alone. It was a flying visit of hardly 2 days & 1 night. Nobody in my family wanted to disrupt their routine and appointments for such a short trip. I being the youngest, Pops literally dragged me along. He wanted me to experience life. To literally see the world and not stay in my cocoon in Mumbai. Hesitatingly I agreed. And believe you me, in that so called little time I did a city tour of Colombo, saw some of the famous hotels, went to Odel and did some shopping, drove to Bentota and spent the night there, got a massage and also visited a beautiful Buddha temple, that had a branch taken from the tree where Buddha attained enlightenment. The cherry on the ice-cream was picking up a Noritake cutlery set and a LOT of Dilmah flavoured teas. That really short trip made me realise that when life gives you the opportunity to travel, take it! Even if it’s just a weekend getaway. The sights, sounds, lessons you learn, exposure to different cultures and opinions is not just refreshing but absolutely life changing. It broadens your horizons and your outlook to life.
Little did Pops realise that after that getaway I became a travel addict. I would join him every time he had to travel. He’s always treated both his children equally. His famous dialogue is – “I have 2 eyes and I’m not a squint”. So when my brother went to Canada for studies, I too was sent to California for higher education. Oh that one year of living in the USA changed my life totally!!! All my lessons came from – Travelling like a local, not a tourist!
Unforgettable Travel Tips from Pops:
1. Always travel very light – whether you are travelling for 5 days or 20 – pack just 2 pairs of jeans and many tops. It not just keeps the weight low but it gives you a chance to shop there as well 😉
2. While returning from a country where the time lapse is a lot, take a flight that reaches your city by 7am. Take a power nap for an hour and immediately head to office. This strategy helps to overcome jetlag.
3. On city tours that span the whole day, eat a heavy breakfast in the morning and a heavy, early dinner. Since lunch is on the go – keep it light.
4. If you are travelling solo or as a couple, use public transport to get from the airport to the hotel. If more than two of you are there, hire a cab.
5. Drink a lot of water and take short walks around the airplane. This helps you overcome jet lag as well as deep vein thrombosis.
6. Carry an umbrella/ windcheater always. In most western countries you get the odd drizzle at any point in time. Don’t let rains ruin you travel plans.
7. Start young. You will have time and energy on your side.
8. Always carry a copy of your important documents with you and also leave a copy back home with someone reliable and someone who can be easily accessible. Also carry a softcopy of these documents on your phone or in your email. Password protect the folder.
9. Alert your bank about your travel plans in advance. You wouldn’t want the bank authorities blocking the card assuming that there is suspicious activity when you go around swiping it in a foreign country.
Today Pops celebrates 7 decades on this planet and I want to say, “My love and passion for travel is because you taught me to travel right, travel smart!” So here’s wishing you a very Happy Birthday. May you keep celebrating and keep travelling!