Before “Lives Less Ordinary” took a sabbatical, we spoke to Arun Paul on his journey man ways. Arun is philosophical when he talks about why he would urge everyone to get out and about. To him, travel offers a shift in perspective away from the daily stresses, troubles, work and the mundane. Travel to him helps him see that his life situation that seemed complicated, is indeed so much better, witnessing others who live with far lower means who manage to find joy and inner peace. Travel allows him the opportunity to repurpose and reprioritize time and time again, helps him to find the whole purpose of his life and what he truly wants from it. Travel to him is like a breath of fresh air.
Travel to me is like a breath of fresh air.
It is not so much the places, he has visited but the manner of his travels that fascinate. He seems to have the uncanny ability to go where the locals go and do what the locals do wherever he goes. Taking off from where we left off, on gaining perspective, he speaks about the locals in Goa and their lives. Many of the locals, in the tourism industry, apparently own beach houses, doing brisk business during peak season, but struggling otherwise. He is amazed at how they still manage to stay pleasant and happy and lead the simple life as compared to the mindless consumerism in urban cities. Arun takes off on long road trips all on his own, and he derives immense pleasure, in stopping by at the local dhabha and chatting up the locals who run the tea shop or are regulars there.
In a trip to Taskent in Uzbekistan, part of the old silk route, where spices are even now traded with India, his group managed to find a Malayali local guide, who knew the ins and outs of the place with information no tourist guides would have per him. Even in the oft travelled metros, he manages to find locals who take him to places only the locals would go to like Amethyst coffee shop in Chennai or the Al Qudra lake , a man-made lake which is part of the government’s efforts to create freshwater wetlands to welcome birds and enrich the arid environment of Dubai with over a square kilometer of the land surrounding planted with dozens of trees due to which many species of birds started breeding there. Over 140 species of birds, a dozen of which are yet to be identified, have been spotted in and around a lake. The place according to him does not seem to be open to public and apparently only very few locals and wildlife explorers seem to be in the know.
Arun is one of us, a salaried professional. He manages to plan one international trip a year, and 5 to 6 short breaks within the country. He hopes to be able to see all the places, without specifying a list, before he retires.
He recommends Leh, Ladakh, and the North East for boys for the thrill of the ride. He talks about the coffee shop at 14000 feet made by the Indian Army in Sikkim from where they went up to 17800 ft. to view Gurudongmar lake, a lake that remains milky in colour through the year because of its sulfur content, but is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists, with legends based around the lake. For honeymooners, he highly recommends the Maldives and urges everyone to go their early with the receding coral reefs. The other one that is high up on his list, is the Santorini Islands in Greece, with its azure blue waters. In India, Aruns’ beach recommendations include, Little Vagator in Goa and Kerala’s only drive in Beach called the Muzhappilangad Beach. He says he meticulously plans his international trips but is spontaneous with his domestic outings. He recommends travelling with like minded people in groups of 5 or 10.
Arun is a relatable soul, a fellow Malayali, with an upbringing similar to ours. He is featured here because he is into travel, that is achievable for ordinaires. Born to banker parents, who’d utilize their LTA and travel every 4 years, all the way from primary school to graduation, Arun travelled with his parents across India with the sole exception of Kashmir. The final expedition during graduation was to Singapore and Malaysia. He enjoyed every trip they took, meeting new people, exploring new places and learning about different cultures. Once he got into GE from Xavier Institute of Management Studies, he continued to travel on work. From his narration, it is clear that Arun dives into the place he is in, not giving up the opportunity to experience the place he is in its entirely. This is where, I draw inspiration from Arun. While most of us get the opportunity to travel on work, I for one, stay cooped in the hotel and the conference room, not taking time out to live the place am visiting. Arun leverages every opportunity he gets plunging into the place he visits and making an expedition of it.
He signs off saying go, go where your heart takes you, and don’t wait for anybody to travel with.