- I research the airport I would transit through for places to eat and watering holes to frequent if there was a delay; take time to talk to the flight crew, and sometimes buy a box of nice chocolate truffles to share with them.
My bride and I travel a lot — she travels for work; and I, more for pleasure than work. She is a destination girl — I am a journey boy. At 53 and 57 years of age, we are hardly a girl or a boy but the anticipation and excitement of travel takes me back to when I was a young lad living in India, watching planes fly past my uncle’s apartment in the suburb of Vile Parle in Mumbai and dreaming of the day when I would be in one of those birds conquering lands far and near — a silent wish and a prayer would escape the lips of my 10-year-old self — eyes filled with dreams and anticipation of life.
And then life happened — a move to the U.S. to study and a job and a green card and a pretty young woman who caught my eye managed to bag me and become the mother of my three gorgeous children and the best partner in crime I could have ever asked for, and then the little boy who wished to travel suddenly found his grown-up self more on planes and at airports than he had ever imagined.
On one of my business trips, I was stranded in Atlanta because of bad weather and in the Delta Sky Club lounge that was bursting at its seams with irritable type-A personalities, I shared a dining table with an older gentleman who just didn’t seem agitated or stressed like the rest of us. Intrigued, I asked him why he wasn’t and he gave my 37-year-old self some very sage advice. He said, “Young man, the minute you step out of your home to travel, whether for work or fun, enjoy the journey as much as the destination, and that includes unplanned delays, long flights, tedious encounters with people because you and I are blessed to be able to experience this. So many in this world don’t ever get the chance we have been given.”
And that day the paradigm of my travel attitude shifted. I would research the airport I would transit through for places to eat and watering holes to frequent if there was a delay; airline lounges to check out at these airports. Suddenly, my travel experience wasn’t just where I was headed but how I was heading there. I took the time to talk to the flight crew, sometimes buying a box of nice chocolate truffles for them to share — watch what a little act of goodwill did to them and how it lifted them up especially if they were coming off a long day themselves.
I remember a flight attendant stop me in the galley once, tears in her eyes and shared that her mother had passed away recently and the brand of chocolates I gave her when I was boarding, was her mother’s favorite, that she was convinced her mom talked to her through me. She gave me a hand-written card of the most wonderfully caring words, and I realized that celebrating my journey brought joy to someone else because it brought joy to me.
Travel isn’t for everyone, but for me, it is the most exhilarating and life-affirming of things I do, and it all begins with me chatting up my Uber driver and asking him or her about their life and why they drive for Uber, and at that moment, I make a friend; I experience life through an immigrant’s story, or the trauma of addiction and then putting their life back together, or a retiree who drives because he drives his wife nuts by being home all the time, or a young lady who was abandoned at sixteen for coming out as gay, and then finding her authentic self and a partner with whom she adopted two drug-addicted babies. I found a handyman who drives for Uber, I found an electrician who drives for Uber, I found a reliable driver who drives for Uber and now drives our family, but if I hadn’t started enjoying my journey, I would have missed out on so much — so so much. And for that I am grateful.
As I write this, I am making my way back from Dubai to NYC on Emirates Airlines — on their magnificent double-deck bird, the iconic A380 and spending some time in their on-board lounge — talking to the mixologist about her favorite cocktails and her life as a flight attendant. She is the same age as our oldest daughter and living her best life, traveling, meeting people, filling the coffers of her soul with experiences beyond her wildest imagination; and then met a fellow passenger — a handsome young man, an investment banker from New York who was in Dubai for work and was returning home — his life filled with anticipation and hope. In him, I saw a younger me (especially the handsome part) — and I told him the story of the man in Atlanta… a big smile formed on his face, he sat down next to me, grabbed my hand, and said, “Thank you, I needed to hear that” — so 20 years from now if you see a travel blogger write about his chance encounter with an old man on an Emirates flight, know that old man was me.
So to all of you reading this, I say, enjoy the journey as much as you anticipate the excitement of your destination — you truly miss out on so much if you just worry about where you need to get to. Sometimes getting there is way more fun. If travel is an allegory of life, it would make sense that the journey really is just as incredible as where it takes us. Because isn’t that what life’s all about?
That 10-year-old boy standing on the balcony in Vile Parle in Mumbai would attest to the fact that his life has been all about the journey and the destinations have been way stations along that journey where he stopped and allowed the experiences to profoundly touch his life. At 57, he still has the same wanderlust and anticipation and zest for life as he did when he was 10. He is glad that deep inside him, his 10-year-old self still watches, with intense amazement, how these massive birds take off and fly into the clouds carrying millions of people to millions of wondrous places, opening millions of minds to new experiences of culture, food, language, love, fellowship and understanding. He still wishes he could travel more than he does, for his journey is not complete and his destination is still a little ways away.
Deven Parlikar was born and raised in India and moved to San Diego for his college education and decided to stay back and call it home. His professional career working with Native American and Alaska Native communities has allowed him the opportunity to live and work in Southern California, New Mexico, Arizona’s Apache country and northwestern Alaska including the Arctic Circle. He is actively involved in social justice programs, health parity and access to health issues for vulnerable populations. He and his wife, Medha, have three children, Mallika, Meera and Eshaan, and two furry children, Beni and Hana and continue to live in the greater San Diego area.