It’s barely a week into your holiday and you start missing home. The worst part is that this wasn’t supposed to be a random break but something that you and your partner had scripted, plotted, and directed for nearly a year in the hope that it’d turn out to be the greatest holiday of all time. Both of you did everything you could to save up for this sacred, lavish trip: Working overtime had given you stomach ulcers but you were perfectly okay with it. You had stopped tipping service staff at restaurants and exchanged body sweat with fellow commuters while being packed like sardines in the Delhi metro to save on Uber fares. Your vacation plan was born as a seed in your brain that was planted by envy-inducing pictures posted by your globetrotting friends for whom working for a living has always been optional. But soon it becomes your life’s sole purpose – a grand vacation worthy of Instagram. #NoFilters
The first week goes exactly the way you imagined it to. The sights are so stunning that you forget to breathe. Each day starts with a list, frenetic planning, pouring over maps, and setting out with a grim determination of a conqueror. Only in your case, the flying dragon is AWOL, so you have to walk on foot like the Free Folk. Soon, you start looking like them with corns on your feet, your hair all dishevelled with a mind of its own, and you are struggling to carry on, taking in your strange body odour and a backpack with your universe in it.
Now that your days are a constant state of wondering and wandering, you don’t really feel one with the world. And you are far from “finding yourself” or getting hold of that elusive “inner peace”.
That’s when it strikes you. You’re homesick in the middle of a fancy vacation. This is not what you had expected – the million TripAdvisor listicles that you had carefully bookmarked to make your holiday a dozen times more packed than your Instagram acquaintances, did not once hint at such a possibility. Maybe once you get back. you’ll start your own travel blog and write about the primal longing for your beloved jet spray. You quell all anxiety and are trying desperately to have the time of your life.
But it’s only downhill from here: You start missing your favourite corner of the house, the pile of books your ordered from Amazon but never got down to read, and your favourite brand of tea that you forgot to pack and is now languishing on the left-hand corner of the fourth shelf in your kitchen. How did the charm of a vacation that you’d fantasised about for a year – pigging on local cuisine and consuming so much alcohol that you could pass off as a rum-soaked raisin – wear off so quickly that you are now craving dal chawal with aloo bhaji?
The first week goes exactly the way you imagined it to. The sights are so stunning that you forget to breathe.
Was it the schnitzel in a watery pool trying to pass off as a gravy or the heritage tour after which every cathedral and palace started looking the same, that triggered this feeling of restlessness? You can’t tell for sure. But all you can think of is your comfortable reclining chair on the patio and the smiling face of Raju, your favourite office boy who makes the best adrak chai. And then one evening when your credit card is rejected thrice because you maxed it out, you are struck with an epiphany. Maybe if you focused all your touristy energy on feeling at home instead of moving around like a homeless vagabond in this foreign city, you’d feel less homesick and enjoy yourself more.
So you turn to your husband and say in a sombre tone, “You forgot to turn on the dishwasher again.” The next morning you walk to the convenience store in your nightie and Bata chappals with a dupatta jauntily thrown around your chest to buy eggs, milk, and rebuke the owner in an European country for not storing Parle-G biscuits. When he assures you he’ll get it next Tuesday, you give him a smug smile like a typical Indian tourist.
Is there any joy greater that getting the ghar-wali feeling thousands of miles away from home? Now I get it why people go to Thailand and go searching for the Indian thali restaurant! Charged with enthusiasm, you cut short your trip to the Botanical gardens. You get back to your AirBnB and overturn your bag, so you can start folding your clothes again. You dust the centrepiece that did not need any dusting; you can scrub the floors clean and attain nirvana.
As you lay splayed on the floor, tired but deliriously happy, you look at your dismayed husband and sigh, “Damn, why didn’t I think of this earlier?!” And before you know it, your mojo is back. Your husband looks grumpy all the time. Your head is throbbing and you’re not sure if it’s stress or meningitis. And the balance in the world has been restored.
Who said vacations can’t feel like home?