I think it's normal that when you travel to a new place for a few days you want to see as much as you can. I used to do that long ago. But I've realized I don't enjoy that. The past several travels, I've never had an itinerary really (except I still obsess a
little lot about restaurants). I like feeling local, and doing regular activities wherever I go: waking up, eating a good breakfast, going for a run, walking the streets, grocery shopping, going to a church, reading up about the history and culture of a place, figuring out the geography of a place. Of course this is not exactly what a local might do, but it's more local than running around finding the next touristy thing to do from your guidebook.
I used to be socially awkward and afraid of talking to people, so I'd avoid them whenever I could. But I turned into someone who loves talking to people: strangers, people close to me — all kind. So that's another thing I indulge in in my travels. People are all kinds of interesting and you learn a lot from them. (When I'm sad, though, I find it really hard to be myself and strike up a conversation with a stranger.)
Some months ago I was having a conversation with my friend Patrick about traveling alone. He travels to Paris often, alone, because he loves the city. At the time, I was going through a lot of personal issues, and really needed to be around people, and so the word "alone" would trigger me easily. I asked him if he wished he had a companion to travel with. He talked about his various experiences traveling to that city, alone. "There is something very beautiful about being in Paris, going to the cafe you always go to, drinking an espresso, reading a book perhaps, and watching the world go by." There indeed is something beautiful about that. The experiences you will have traveling by yourself, you cannot have when traveling with someone. Traveling alone is a more personal experience and can very fulfilling.
I have realized that traveling like this makes me very happy. For someone who's very uncomfortable being alone, some of my recent travels (Barcelona '09, Hong Kong '10, Chennai '10) were more than just fine — I enjoyed them. Another thing that makes my travels interesting for me is running. In Hong Kong, I once ran from Tsuen Wan to Lai Chi Kok: I took the blue line from Tai Koo to Admiralty, and then took the red line toward Kowloon (I know no-one cares about the blue line or red line but talking about it makes me feel local, haha!); I looked at the subway map and decided to get off the last stop: Tsuen Wan. I started running. At one point I was running uphill on Castle Peak Rd. I saw parts of Hong Kong I would've never seen. I was hurting, but it was a lovely experience that's very personal.
My coffee and restaurant obsession has been interesting in many ways too: I have ended up in neighborhoods that I wouldn't have otherwise.
I have been insecure about myself for a while now, but I'll admit I like the way I travel. It makes me happy.
I used to eat out a lot when I lived in Bangalore. Like everyday. I always liked good food, but really I liked eating pretty much anything that tasted remotely good. Even growing up in Bombay I used to eat out a lot. Everyday. I would eat two dinners: first, whatever mommy made; second, after mum and dad went to bed, Vinod and I would order food in. We thought it was our little secret, except mum knew about it but never said anything about it to us and let us believe that it was our little secret.
Some three years ago I moved to San Francisco, and I ate some of the most amazing foods at some of the best restaurants in the world. (Also, in NYC.) It's really hard for me to eat out in restaurants anywhere in India anymore. I am not much of a fan of Indian food, and most restaurants that serve other cuisines are pretty bad. It's not just the food, it's also the feel of the restaurants. I always felt like there was something lacking in restaurants in India. It became clear to me when Nicole gave me her perspective: she told me about how Florence Nightingale — who laid the foundation of professional nursing — had managed to significantly reduce the death rate in the army by making improvements in hygiene. I never realized the absence of women in pretty much any restaurant in India. It's all mostly just commerce.
Of course there are exceptions. Caperberry in Bangalore, for example, is pretty good; and also has a decent wine selection (the lunch, though, is entirely skippable; and they could also do without the whole cryo thing). I wish there were more such restaurants here.
While I'm rarely ever excitable about any restaurant here, I'm able to go out and eat: food here is what it is and I gotta enjoy it for that.
If you're curious, a lot of what I've been eating over the years is documented here.
There's all sorts of reasons why one wouldn't feel "at home" in any city, but I feel like the reasons why one wouldn't feel at home within the four walls of what they call "home" -- whatever the city -- are pretty limited. By that I mean that I could live in any city in the world -- Bombay, for example, where I don't feel at home -- but it still is possible for me to feel at home in my apartment.
I haven't felt at home anywhere in India in a long, long time, but I haven't felt at home in my own apartment in Bombay either, which concerns me. But long ago, I did feel at home in my earlier apartment. In thinking about this, I realized that what changed was the number of hours this apartment feels like a public space: a couple of hours during the day by the maid, and later in the afternoon by the cook. Home doesn't feel private and cozy anymore.
Few months ago I never would've thought of doing a half marathon. Earlier last month I did the Asha 10k and finished in good time (47:40). That, and encouragement from friends, motivated me to try doing a half marathon. I was never training for a half or any such, but when I started reading about the kind of disciplined training people do, I got a little anxious; all the running geek talk scared me a little. I hadn't been in good physical state (bike accident the week before) or a good mental state either, so that sucked. (I was telling Gopal the other day that I run well when I'm happy or when I'm super angry, but I was sad, and I don't do well when I'm sad.) Running makes me happy, and I had to do this.
Raj and I went to Santa Cruz the day before the race (Saturday). We stopped at Bill's Cafe to carb load and then drove to Santa Cruz. Checked-in to the hotel, walked around the boardwalk, had coffee at The Abbey and then later carb-loaded at Lillian's. The night was spent being anxious and I slept very poorly. Next day morning, I had couple of bagels and OJ and then was off to run!
Was exciting to see so many runners (4,000+). The course is beautiful, but the weather sucked (20-30mph winds, overcast). I'm not used to the random inclines so that was a little painful. The coastal route was especially bad because of the winds, but I survived. The last two miles felt like a long time, but I finally made it. My time was 1:47:30.
While I didn't feel like I pushed myself enough, I am happy with my time. Next I'm doing the SF half marathon in July, and considering training for a marathon.
I have some photos from the race here.
I have a big problem: my insecurities. When I tell others I feel insecure about myself, they ask my why. I'm not sure I know why, but I suspect one of the keys to feeling better about myself is for me to understand what I'm afraid of. I know I have abandonment issues — feeling like people are going to leave me and never come back; but I have never spent much time delving into why I have such a fear.
I get pretty involved in other people's lives and end up understanding myself in others' context; I becomes we. I have never been able to self-introspect in a useful manner; when I try to think about myself, often times I draw a blank, and then carry on with the motions of life.
My insecurities are irrational, I know that. I have to make an effort trying to feel good about myself. I'm nowhere there yet, but I think I'll get there, with the help and support of my friends. One of the things I thought I'd do — and I know this might sound silly — is to have a "Premshree, you are awesome because..." list and look at it everyday. Think that will work?
Thinking of writing again. I want to share all the mundane stuff going on in my life. That's the hope anyway. Am not sure anyone's reading this, but that's okay, but if you are, hey!