The world is indeed a beautiful place. Its mysterious dark blue oceans, Amazonian forests and structured cities and cultures, there is beauty in everything we see in the world. Just thinking about it makes me wish I were rather looking at century old architecture over a cup of coffee with a dashing Italian than writing this blog post.
Fantasies aside, I have always wondered why some places attract us more than the rest. For instance, Japan fascinates me. Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I love Japan and its culture. I have read and written so much about Japan that people wonder if I had already been there.
For the record, I have never been to Japan. Things I have learnt about the country are through reading manga, watching anime and of course through a bit of research every now and then. I ask myself now and then: ‘What is it about Japan that fascinates me?’
Is it the rich and ‘unadulterated’ culture that Japan has managed to retain even today? Every country has a rich cultural heritage be it Rome, Greece, China, Egypt or Turkey. In fact Egypt and Turkey are much older than Japan in terms of cultural heritage and they are in the top of my bucket list too. But thinking about them does not give me a kick like Japan does.
Probably, it is just just the history, or not. May be it is what I have come to understand about Japan from what I have read and learnt through my interactions with Japanese. I loved how old traditions and customs are a part of everyday life in Japan, something I wish we have it India. Also the contrast between the conservative society it continues to be and its established position as the technology leader in the world fascinates me. Japan’s sexuality and their attitude towards it; its long standing traditions; those shinto temples that combines Buddhist traditions; its diverse geography and cherry blossoms, samurais, pop culture and food. I think it is the very idea of Japan itself that fascinates me.
So what about others, I asked my journalist friends when we had got together for dinner a week ago. One of them said Ecuador is in the top of his list. When I heard it, I was like: ‘What the hell is in Ecuador?’ “It is the Galapagos Island, off the Ecuador” he explained. I still did not get it. He said, “Remember how I’m a huge fan of Darwin. It has to do something with that.”
It is in Galapagos Island, where Charles Darwin’s came up with ‘Theories of Evolution’, though he did not know it during his journey in HMS Beagle in South America. Looking back, even he would not have thought he would have made this place famous a few centuries later. One of the islands in Galapagos was named in honour of the scientist and is referred as Darwin Island.
The other one did not have any preference. “Though I love hill stations. I want to visit Mussoorie some day,” he said. Why Mussoorie in particular, I wanted to know. For someone who grew up reading Ruskin Bond, he said Mussoorie is where most of his novels are based. It has only made his intent to travel to the place stronger.
When I was on a trip to Denmark, one of the journalists travelling with me said that for her, London is magical. I did not find the place magical at all. It was too crowded for me. She said, “Whenever I go there I always find one place Shakespeare has described in his plays. Just the thought of finding it gives me a thrill.” That is perfectly true for her probably. If it had been my Grandpa, he would have felt the same for he is a huge fan of Shakespeare.
As I was talking to my friends I realised how visiting a country is driven by different factors, especially literature be it a Ruskin Bond novel or The Odyssey. They are to a large extent influence our travel decisions and what we actually get out of it.
At least that is what I have learnt from my experience. I would love to hear stories about what why you love the places you do.