For me, travel is and always has been about more than a bucket list of “places to visit before you die”. I always feel slightly different after every trip. But I never expected a trip to transform my life in the way that it did.
It happened a few years ago, when I went to Lansdowne in Uttarakhand. I was supposed to travel with three other friends but as the date approached, for some reason or another two of them opted out. Rather than cancel the trip, the third friend and I decided to go ahead with it.
At first, things were quite awkward between us, as we had never travelled together despite being friends for a long time. It didn’t help that people we met on the trip kept assuming that we were a couple, which made things extremely uncomfortable.
I am not sure how it happened but after the umpteenth time we were asked the same question, “How long have you two been married?”, without even discussing it, both of us said, “Two months”. Surprised, we looked at each other, and I saw the naughty glint in his eyes which perfectly reflected my own. We went on to make up an amazing story about how we met, fell in love, and convinced our parents to let us marry. We had so much fun doing it, that all the awkwardness we were feeling until then disappeared. That moment set the tone for the rest of our trip and we were able to remain good humored despite the missed buses, delayed taxis, crappy food, and crises we faced while getting to Lansdowne.
When we finally got there, we were mesmerized by its beauty. Developed by the British for recruits training center of the Garhwal Rifles, the hill station was a perfect break from the city. There were very few tourists since it was the monsoon and most of the places we visited, including our lodge was nearly empty. Yet, instead of feeling bored in the absence of other people, it felt blissful.
We spent our time taking long walks along misty paths, exploring Lansdowne’s British-era churches, and soaking in views of the mountains blanketed in shades of green. I found it remarkable that even after spending all day in each other’s company, we would still be deep in conversation at the dinner table. I loved being in Lansdowne and I did not want the trip to end.
So a few days later when the time came to leave, I felt a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach. The same sensation I feel on Sunday nights when I realize the weekend is over. I tried not to dwell on it, but the sensation lingered even after I returned home. I assumed it was because I missed the mountains.
It was only a few days later when I met my friend for coffee one evening that the penny dropped. It was him and his company that I was missing more than anything else. He felt the same way. The trip had made us see each other in a completely different light. It was then that we decided to start dating.
We’ve been together ever since and will be getting married soon. If it hadn’t been for that trip, we would have never considered that anything but friendship could exist between us. We plan to go back to Lansdowne for our honeymoon, so that this time when people ask us about our marriage, we don’t have to pretend—though we might make up stories any way, just because it was so much fun.
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