In 1977, Robyn Davidson walked alone across Australia (some 1700-odd miles). Her motivation, the malaise that affected her affected me as well, notwithstanding that our generation, our sex, and our class were all different. “Self-indulgent negativity” is exactly what it was. I was working at Amazon, getting paid more money than I needed and doing more work than I wanted. Many days, I forgot all the good things that I had, and dreaded coming back to the apartment to find out, as I did every day, that I was still there, that I had done nothing of note, that nothing had changed.
I had also been vaguely bored with my life and its repetitions — the half-finished, half-hearted attempts at different jobs and various studies; had been sick of carrying around the self-indulgent negativity which was so much the malaise of my generation, my sex and my class-Robyn Davidson (Tracks)
In the August (or September, or July) of 2014, I made a decision: I would quit my job and travel for a year. However, I was daunted by the propsect itself, since there was the obvious possibility that I would end up alone, homeless and poor, asking for handouts outside a temple on the streets of Bangalore.
I gave myself a year to back out, and went about my job and my life in Seattle. The year passed, my mind was still set and plans were vaguely sketched out. I wasn’t able to convince myself or anybody else that my thoughts made complete sense. All I had going for them was a strong feeling that if I didn’t follow through, they would fade away, but never be forgotten.
The trip had never been billed in my mind as an adventure in the sense of something to be proved. And it struck me then that the most difficult thing had been the decision to act, the rest had been merely tenacity — and the fears were paper tigers. One really could act to change and control one’s life; and the procedure, the process, was its own reward.-Robyn Davidson (Tracks)
As the day grew closer, I got afraid for the future. What would happen if I didn’t get a job after I was done? What if I didn’t like the pollution in India? What if I went back and had to depend on my father for money? What if this, what if that, and what if that other thing too.
So it came to be that instead of quitting, I took a “Leave of Absence” from Amazon. Now, I’m not saying that other voices were not involved in this decision, but it was still my choice to make. What a “Leave of Absence” meant is that I would always have the option to come back in case things didn’t work out. I could always come back to the life I was trying to leave behind so badly. This choice reduced greatly for me the value of the freedom I thought I was giving myself.
But I knew that this would alter irrevocably the whole texture of what I wanted to do, which was to be alone, to test, to push, to unclog my brain of all its extraneous debris, not to be protected, to be stripped of all the social crutches, not to be hampered by any outside interference whatsoever, well meant or not. But the decisions had already been made. Practicality had won the day. I had sold a great swatch of my freedom and most of the trip’s integrity….-Robyn Davidson (Tracks)
Now, I had to decide where to go. Somewhere with mountains, summed up my requirements.
When people ask me what I want from life, I usually say “Mountains and fast internet”. For my travels, I thought I only needed mountains, and there were mountains everywhere. “Where were the best mountains?”, I wondered. To answer this question, I obviously turned to the internet and entered the world of travel blogs and travel guides and travel books. I realized, as I read and watches many bogs and videos (the following sentences are obviously written to make a point rather than be true facts unto themselves):
- Everywhere I go, I’m not going somewhere else
- Everything I do, I’m not doing something else
- Everywhere is as good as everywhere else
- Everywhere is different from everywhere else
I strongly believe that it in being somewhere and seeing something, the “being” and the “seeing” matter more than the “where” and the “thing”.As my mind contemplated on the nature of travel rather than thinking of a place (though South America was creeping up the list), my friend Purushottam decided to get married. His wedding was in Switzerland. The alps were in Switzerland, and the Alps were mountains too, so Switzerland it was.
It didn’t take much googling after that for me to decide on the Via-Alpina as a hike, since it passed quite close to Geneva. My plan was that I would just get on the trail and do the last 45-or-so days. The day before the day I was supposed to start, I discovered a different trail: the GR5, which was easier to get to from Geneva. Mountains were mountains and the alps were the alps, and that is how I came to do the GR5 instead of the Via-Alpina.
It turned out that, even though I heard about it only a week prior to getting on it, the GR5 is a really popular trail and thousands of people do it every year. It also turned out that the Via-alpina intersected with it quite a bit, like they were two kids exploring the woods together.
I walked the length of the trail, from Thonon-Les-Bains (Southern side of Lake Geneva, on the top of the lower half) to Menton (South of France, one mile from the Italian border). There were hardly any other thru-hikers, since I did the trail in August, which is the end of the GR5 season, just before it fills up with snow and all the refuges close. I also discovered by talking to people in the refuges, and on the trail, that I was the first Indian they had seen in this trail in at least eight years. I found it very amusing when a guy told me it was “Incroyable!” that I had come all the way from India to hike.
Thus it was proclaimed by me, after 29 days on the trail, that even though thousands of people from France and England and the rest of the world had done it, I was the first Indian to walk the Grand Traverse of the Alps, from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean.