As I was growing up, I frequently shuttled between Chennai and Tirunelveli. I was lucky enough to be exposed to two different cultures – one: that of a conservative big city and second: that of a big town/village (Tirunelveli isn’t a town anymore!).
You drive 100kms south of Tirunelveli and you would be swimming with the sharks in the Indian Ocean. So, we are located pretty close to the southern tip of the subcontinent, blessed with wonderful natural resources. Within a 50 km radius, you have the Eastern Ghats, the Western Ghats, rivers, beaches, waterfalls, historical sites, and many picnic spots. If you love your outdoors, this is an ideal place to be.
Since I was growing up in an era of the pre-dial-up Internet, outdoors were the only option for entertainment. My parents would take me to these picnic spots. We didn’t have blogs to read or Geotags to follow. They chose the locales purely based on what they heard from their friends. Back then, navigating to these spots was an adventure by itself. Our reference points were names of little villages, big trees, temples, bridges or someone’s house. And depending upon the culture of that little village, directions were based on the North-East-West-South combination or the Left-hand-Right-hand combination. One required a skill to remember the directions and visualize them. And once you finally found the spot, it was a hit or a miss. A hit meant more future visits and a miss meant, bad-mouthing the place!
During my high school days, I was lucky enough to own a moped. This “mobility” meant I had the freedom to ride wherever I wanted to and whenever I wanted to (actually, not totally true because my parents were paying for the fuel and I had a deadline!). So on some Sundays, I would tell my parents that I’m going to friend’s house; and along with a bunch of friends, I would ride 50kms or more in one direction or the other, to one of these spots. And if I was unlucky a heavy friend would hop on my moped and we would be hitting a top speed of 30kmph. So, the journeys were longer than they should have been. Don't forget, we never had fancy toll roads or even a suspension on a 50cc moped!
With little money in our hands and a “motorcycle” which was about as powerful as a water pump set, we managed to do our trips simply because we never had other distractions.
Fast forward to the present and today, I ride a large adventure motorcycle with fancy gadgets. GPS, helmet-to-helmet intercoms, blogs, and drone shots have changed the process of knowledge-gathering. Multiple websites are now available to give us options on our stay. And members in different WhatsApp groups give us their feedback and insights into the destination. Weather apps help us determine the type of clothing and medicines to take along. And the list is endless.
In 2014, I managed to find my way to the Himalayas with the help of these gadgets. When we arrived at Leh and Ladakh region, I felt that the tourists had arrived at even the remote locations. It had become too commercial. But thanks to technology and the biking community, I was able to make my way 3000+kms up north. And I have tremendous respect for people who traveled up there before the invasion of modern technology.
Ponder this: we have 52 weekends + 12 “casual leave” days. We have a choice to use it or lose it. I know my answer. I will never stop exploring.
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