I had traveled to Europe for vacation with my family few weeks ago. This was as much a learning experience as a sight seeing tour. I would like to share some of the things I learned on this tour.
This was the first time I traveled abroad and I was very anxious about the trip. My cousin had informed me about the questions asked during immigration. This did not necessarily help me. I imagined an interrogation room wherein every individual is questioned separately. I believed there would be an official who would eye me suspiciously and question me about various things. I had lied during my Visa application regarding my employment status. I was very apprehensive about this coming up. But as it turned out ,immigration is merely a formality. You have to wait in a long queue where a clerk simply checks your passport and may ask you the reason for travel/visit.
I was greatly impressed by the road network inEurope. I tried spotting some potholes which could remind me of Mumbai but couldn’t find any. All the major cities were connected by highways and it took about 3-4 hours to cover a distance of 350 Km. Even the discipline of motorists was astonishing. I couldn’t spot any lane cutting nor could our driver be persuaded to break the speed limit. It seemed that everyone knew if you travel within speed limits and observe a certain road discipline, you would reach your destination on time. We Indians can never survive in such a place. No matter how much we claim to follow traffic rules and criticize people of certain cities(Pune) to lack any traffic sense, we all tend to break/bend the rules to cover the distance 5 mins early. There was actually a dedicated lane on all highways for emergency and police vehicles. No motorist drove on this lane knowing fully well that if he/she were to enter this lane and get caught, he/she would have to cough up a huge fine. This allows the emergency vehicles to reach the spot on time and provide necessary treatment. In case of an accident inIndia, the ambulance would be stuck in traffic and the injured might have to wait for a long time to receive any treatment or be carried to hospital.
What struck me most on this tour was the politeness in all the natives of the places we visited. It wasn’t as if people of a particular city were polite while the rest were rude. Everywhere we went, it seemed the locals were happy to receive us, interact with us and even guide us. We may never see such politeness in Mumbai. People here are always in a hurry. We don’t have time for anyone and we tend to become abusive at the slightest of provocation. It is not a surprise that some years back I had read in TOI that Mumbai was the rudest city on the planet.
Cleanliness in all the cities(exceptParis) was another amazing aspect of this tour. The roads and monuments we visited were so clean. I cannot recollect any place inIndiaI have visited that is comparable to any of these places. You couldn’t locate wrappers ,waste papers or garbage anywhere on the streets. Even we ensured that when ate some chocolates or had some coffee , we ensured the waste was thrown in a dumpster. Ofcourse you could always find cigarette buds on roads or around cafes. Maybe some things remain the same irrespective of country you are in.
The cities we stayed in (exceptparis) were so deserted. You couldn’t spot any pedestrians. There were vehicles on road but the sidewalks were empty. This doesn’t necessarily mean a good thing. The chances of one getting mugged are high on such deserted streets. We were cautioned by our tour guide about different places which were not considered safe for roaming in the streets.
I am not necessarily proud of what I am about to write. When I knew we were going to visitAmsterdam, I had decided upon trying a joint. Marijuana and Hashish are legally available inAmsterdam. Having finished my lunch early, I slipped out of the restaurant to visit the nearby rookies café to smoke a joint. The experience was the worst of my life. One tends to lose all control of his senses and its difficult to walk straight after you have had one. I can now cross one thing off the list of stupid/crazy things to do. But I am never doing this again.
I had traveled to Europe with Thomas Cook and always felt the job of tour manager was the best in the world. You get a chance to see the world free of cost. I realized this half way through the tour that this is false. It is a very tedious and boring job with a lot of responsibilities. Firstly ,you have to handle 40-50 people who come from different parts of the country and have different tastes and personalities. You need to manage them all and you are responsible for all of them. Secondly having seen the sites once or twice ,it would be boring to visit the same places again and again.
My family was aware of the fact that I smoked and drank before we went to Europe.So I had no qualms about trying out the local drinks in their presence.I must admit this was the first time I felt like a grownup.I had drinks in front of my mom and I was comfortable.Its just great to be a grown up ,finally.
This is one thing I realized after I came back to Mumbai and thought about the tour. There were quite a few teenagers and twenty year olds on the tour. But instead of mixing with them, I realized I was more comfortable with their parents. I couldn’t understand why or how they could be so joyous and merry all the time. May be I am too old, not by age but definitely by mind. My friends who read this would claim that’s why they all call me uncle.
It was a wonderful experience and I am looking forward to going some place again when I have the money again. December 2013???