2019 was fulfilling, yet a desolate year. I spent an enormous amount of time alone, coping with life in Cairo, dealing with daily frustrations that arise due to the language barriers and cultural differences. While that resulted in a lot of loneliness, it also made me revive myself again. Dealing with all those solitary moments brought back memories and survival techniques of my first years of solo traveling and I realized that deep down, I could easily live alone. So, 2019 was a kind of home-coming into my soul and the highlight of the year is conquering my paranoia of open water. I finally learned diving, even managed to get my PADI Open Water Certification and it is one of the proudest moments of my life. This year, armed with the confidence of being easily able to live alone, I started traveling solo once more. Though I have traveled less, my trips have been very soul-nurturing and it seems to me like the end of the year is a complete reversal of how 2019 started.
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My New Year started in Kannur in Kerala. We were on our annual India trip as a family and Kannur was the last leg of our journey. On the New Year’s eve, we watched a Theyyam show, canoed past swampy backwaters, and swam in a quiet lagoon. I love the Malabar coast, have a dream to make a homestay there someday, and it felt wonderful that we ushered 2019 in India.
A family emergency drew me back to India in April and that time I traveled alone. Akash was with his father in Cairo and I had ample opportunities to spend quality time with my loved ones. I took care of my parents, spent a lot of time with my closest friends, and came back feeling satisfied with the “me time” in Kolkata.
Tarek, Akash, and I went to Siwa oasis on a long weekend. It was the first time that I saw the marvelous colours of the North Coast and Siwa seemed to me like from another planet. I went there with a lot of expectations and came back with mixed feelings. It is undoubtedly a gorgeous place, but one can plainly see how fast Siwa is changing due to immense pressure from modernization. Winds of change are blowing through Siwa and soon the earth will lose one of its most authentic remote places forever.
DIVING IN MARSA ALAM, EGYPT
Marsa Alam was a belated birthday gift from Tarek. He knew about my hydrophobia and decided it was time I changed it. It turned out to be an excellent gift. Not only did I get a much-needed R&R in Marsa Alam but I also discovered an exquisite side of Egypt. Located on the Red Sea coast, Marsa Alam boasts of clear, warm turquoise water, rich marine life and nothing much else to do other than excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. I did just that and during my week-long stay, proudly earned my Open Water PADI Certification. The underwater world is an addictive place to explore and now that I have overcome my water phobia, I cannot wait to go diving again. What a proud moment that was for me!
I love food and the region around Main River in Germany is known for its exquisite wine-based dishes. The local Reisling is light, crisp, and when paired with a gorgeous city rich in architecture, the combination is irresistible. This summer, I had to travel to Frankfurt for a tiresome task of work of getting some money back from a person. Needless to say, the man kept me on a tentative hook for a couple of days and I suddenly found myself having some extra time on my hands near Frankfurt. It was a hot summer and Frankfurt was ghastly due to the heat and the crowd. So I went further south and travelled all the way to Wurzburg. It was a wonderful short trip. I like nearly all the Romantic Route cities and Wurzburg, which is the northern terminus of this famous circuit is my particular favourite. I have very fond memories of that place and love its opulent, baroque Residenz.
ROTHENBERG ob der TAUBER, GERMANY
Okay, so this German fairytale village is a bit like a theme park, but even then its charm cannot be denied. Famous as one of the most beautiful places in Germany (and probably Europe), Rothenburg ob der Tauber is extremely photogenic. I went there from Wurzburg and the quaint regional train journey was as delightful as the village. Despite the beastly summer heat of this year, I walked around the lovely medieval village, watched the gushing water of the Tauber river, saw deep shadows dapple the cobbled streets, and fell in love with the colourful higgledy-piggledy houses.
WESTERN DESERT RE-VISITED
A work trip took me to the Western Desert and I re-visited the stunning Black and White Deserts of Egypt. This trip included the interesting Bahariya Oasis and it felt wonderful to be back in the surreal lunar-like landscape. The camping in the desert that included sleeping under the canopy of the Milky Way amidst shy foxes was a fantastic experience and a Bedouin music performance topped it up. I love re-visiting my favourite places and was happy to return to the White Desert.
LUXOR and ASWAN
A childhood friend and his wife visited us in Cairo this year. We have been friends since kindergarten and have grown closer as a family over the years. So, when they came over, Tarek, Akash, and I showed proudly showed them around and it was fun re-visiting our favourite place in Egypt. It was my third visit to Aswan, a city I love very much and Luxor was also memorable. We did a road trip, visited the tombs and the temples, sailed down the Nile, and had a jolly good time.
I decided to end 2019 alone this year. It was a difficult decision but one that arose from the need to avoid unpleasant situations. One of the biggest lessons I have learned this year is to cut out the part that bothers me. There is a wise saying that goes like, “What you don’t know, does not bother you” and I have started applying this on life. From the middle of 2019, I have started avoiding things/situations that are complicated, unpleasant and/or painful. The result is a peaceful life and 2019 was more peaceful and stable than the past few years. So, in accordance with that bitter lesson, I decided to get and give space and went to Ethiopia alone. I am writing this post from there; from Aksum, which is supposed to be the capital city of the legendary Queen Sheba. Ethiopia has been very challenging so far and I just returned from the Omo Valley feeling drained out. However, I have not yet given up on this magnificent country and at the rock-cut Lalibela churches, plan to welcome a brand new year.
Things I want to keep in my life and those I want to lose
2019 has been kind to me. After a difficult 3 years hiatus from work due to marriage, changing of country, and a new baby, I have once again grown professionally in 2019. I love my job, enjoy putting in extra efforts, and in return receive a lot of respect and benefits from my organization. This has revived my self-confidence and I once again, feel like a productive self-sustainable human being. This revival has lead to accepting the bitter lesson of letting go of unpleasant situations with more grace and I have learned to be happy being alone again. I have also enjoyed motherhood and my marriage immensely this year and been a happier person in general. One thing that I am going to definitely lose this year is my dependency (emotional or otherwise) on anyone and what I am going to carry forward to 2020 is the newfound work/life/relationship balance.
Have a great new 2019 folks. Wishing you all lots of love, peace, and happiness. See you soon in 2020 and stay tuned for lots of brand new travel experiences. Now you can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your daily dose of exciting travel experiences.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE