In 2016, I attended an Introduction to Buddhism course at Tushita. The nun who was in charge of our course check-in joked that the rains in the mountains offered a great lesson on impermanence. I was reminded of that when I saw some tourists looking worriedly at the first few drops of rain as they came falling down. The tourists had stopped their taxi at the cosy, little Nirvana Cafe to check out the merchandise at the adjoining shop when the first droplets of rain fell. The skies had been overcast since the morning so one couldn’t really accuse them of springing a surprise. As soon as the cafe’s plastic chairs got the first drops of water, our tourist gentleman worriedly rattled off the names of the top ten places in the list of “Things to do in Mukteshwar” on Tripadvisor.
“How would we visit them today?”
His taxi driver suggested that they could visit some of the attractions tomorrow. The gentleman fished our his smartphone and tapped the Weather app – “Look, it’s going to rain tomorrow; today was only supposed to be cloudy.” Then he let out a lament about how the rains spoiled his day.
Meanwhile, on an adjoining table, I was perfectly content sipping my lemon tea and just watching the rains pour.
The rains in these mountains are transient, but even if they were to pour for the next few hours, I’d be perfectly happy to just sit and watch, or even step into it and get myself drippingly drenched. I didn’t have a list of places to go to today.
Too often, travel only becomes an exercise involving ticking off items on a list. People ask me why I visit the places I love over and over again when I could be discovering new places each time. In fact, if I were making a mental checklist of places to visit, I’d perhaps never return to a place that I’ve already visited.
Even when I’m at a particular place, I don’t have a fixed itinerary or a list of “must see” places. I’ve no qualms in admitting that I’m in Mukteshwar and yet I haven’t visited the destination #2 on the Tripadvisor list – Chauli ki Jali.
If you must travel according to a checklist, at least, you must be sure to leave ample room for things to go awry.
I’m sure our touristy gentleman too would’ve enjoyed the rains if only he wasn’t so bound to ticking items off his list. But, what do you really lose when you travel like him? That depends on what you set out to get when you embarked on your trip. Merely ticking a place off? You’d be best served by visiting the hotspots for just enough time to get a few selfies and photos for social media.
If, however, you really wanted to enjoy the experience, to discover the place, to make your own memories, go wherever the moment takes you.
Stop on a whim at a little corner. Spend an hour, or two, if that place makes you happy. You’re on a holiday, don’t let a checklist tether you.
And if it rains, just find a shelter and live the moment, savouring the downpour. After a while, jump right in and get drenched.