#17: Of Maps, Magellan, Whiskey and Wanderlust
Wrote this piece with my friend Nithya! We loved working on it together and piecing it bit by bit :) Check out her writing space here!
When Nithya was ten years old, her grandmother told her that her sister majored in Geography during her years at college. She doesn’t think she knows anyone who has done anything even remotely similar.
When Nithya told me this, we could not help but wonder whether this was because of how mind-numbingly boring the syllabus was when we studied in school.
If we’re being honest, I don’t think either of us were ever interested in memorising something as banal as the types of climate experienced in the European continent. Although theory dominated our syllabus, there used to be a competitive exam conducted every year called the ‘Geography Talent Exam’. This terrifying ordeal tested various practical aspects including our ability to interpret readings on weather instruments like the barometer. Needless to say, we fared poorly consistently because hey! we’re no masters at the meteorological arts.
In hindsight, it seems surprising that there was hardly any information about the locals in any of the places we read about. Geography is as much about people as it is about plains, plateaus and the Prairies, isn’t it?
When I think about what travel might have been like in ancient times, the likes of Marco Polo, Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco Da Gama come to mind. However, they were extraordinary travellers, right? They were globetrotters with a purpose - scientific discovery, exploration or colonisation.
What about ordinary people like you and me?
Travel was probably fuelled by venturing on pilgrimages until people began journeying towards the great unknown in search of opportunities to make their lives holistically better.
Today, with most people we know being scattered around different corners of the globe, travel has also evolved into paying them a visit while simultaneously enjoying the sights and sounds of the place - for pleasure. While both of us have visited London, we realised while talking about it that even though two people may visit the same city, what they do there can be as different as chalk and cheese!
Adithi: I went to the UK in 2017 because my mother was receiving an FRCS degree, and we decided to make a trip out of it!
Nithya: Hey I remember talking about this back then because we had travelled there in the summer of 2016! Which cities and towns did you guys visit?
Adithi: I visited London, Glasgow and Edinburgh! I think you and I saw most of the touristy parts of the city. My cousin who was studying Architecture at the time, accompanied me. We walked around the city, with our heads up, admiring the ever so many skyscrapers and the intricate way one of the old tube stations was built. We were also in hot pursuit of the best bubble wrap waffle in the city. After extensive research, we zeroed in on a restaurant and stood in a never-ending line, anxiously and eagerly waiting. A tall, dreamy guy then approached us, and told us that the same restaurant was present in the parallel street. We blindly followed him (shouldn’t have done that, in hindsight) and wolfed down the best waffles we’ve ever had.
We also sat outside the O2 Arena, just immersing ourselves in our surroundings, while Shawn Mendes was supposed to play there. Scotland took us to a whiskey factory. What came out of it was a hilarious video of me tasting whiskey for the first time - my expression turns sour right when I feel the burn in my throat. We also attended the ceremony for my mother at Glasgow University, it was an entirely different experience altogether!
Nithya: Hahaha, I’m not surprised because the city teems with dreamy dudes with dreamier accents just walking around every street corner or buying groceries; nonchalantly going about their daily chores.
I remember being shaken to my core at a Marks & Spencers’ outlet upon seeing apples and avocados. In India, you’d normally associate the brand with apparel and accessories, right? Being tennis fanatics, we signed up for a tour of Wimbledon topped off with the most delicious bowl of strawberries and cream I’ve ever tasted! London offered many exciting things we could do given our interest in reading, sport and history. Naturally we visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221 B Baker Street, the Globe Theatre, Lords and the hallowed halls of Oxford University amongst other places - wide eyed the entire time.
While whiskey was burning away your throat in Scotland, hot chocolate was doing the same thing to me. The Edinburgh countryside especially was filled with quaint stores on cobbled streets and I think we got our caricatures done by this guy who seemed very fascinated with the many bags and books we were carrying around.
Adithi: Your trip sounds eventful, I was taken aback as well, looking at M&S!
Nithya: Speaking of eventful summers, I’m reminded of this interesting poem called ‘Consolation’ where Billy Collins writes about the little joys of discovering the locale you call home. Check it out when you’ve got the time!
The joy of discovering our home city Chennai is perfectly captured on an Instagram page we love - @Madrasfinds
While its curations feature everything from clothes to trinkets and stationery, food finds a special place on the page.
We love that our city offers so many different cuisines and few things give us more joy than going around devouring them all. Saravana Bhavan, Soy Soi, Little Italy and more; Chennai has them all! Obviously this has developed over time with the help of influences pouring into the city from all across the world.
If only we’d learnt as much about food in our Geography classes as about Fahrenheit and Celsius, I’m sure we would have paid more attention!
Travel is now nearly synonymous with flying. Unfortunately, this produces an immense amount of carbon dioxide. One seat on a flight from New York to Los Angeles effectively adds months’ worth of human-generated carbon emissions to the atmosphere.
Links you’ll love:
Stumbled upon Messynessychic, filled with tidbits about Paris and more.
Have a fulfilling week!