Boston, U.S.A., 2013
I’m not the most athletic person and would choose cabs over long-winding public transport options in a heartbeat. But over the years, I have learned that the best way to explore a new place is on foot. Seems pretty obvious now, but it took me a while to realize this.
The bulb went on a few years ago when I was visiting Boston with a friend. We had about three days in the city and no agenda. The one thing on our to-do list was walk along the Freedom Trail—a 2.5-mile long, route marked out in red on the footpath, connecting 16 historically important sites across the city. We laced up our sneakers and hit the road, seeing beautiful churches, storied bars, and quiet cemeteries. Along the way, we made detours and walked down alleys and roads that intrigued us. We chanced upon little bakeries that made some of the best cannoli I’ve ever eaten, funky bookshops, and lovely, shaded streets that almost invariably had a dog or two being walked. I remember the salty scents of the Boston Harbour as I walked along the water’s edge, and stuffing myself with macaroons, mac and cheese at the historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The one thing I remember registering was that despite being a big city, Boston didn’t have the chaos of one—no incessant honking, overcrowded public transport, soul-sucking hustling. The pedestrian-friendly city helped me see the tiny gems I missed when I sped past them in taxis.
That memory of seeing Boston by foot is what made me leave the cosy blankets of my homestay in the coastal Maharashtrian hamlet of Velas, in 2015, at sunrise. It had been raining all night, making the stony path out of the village a nightmare to walk on but the deserted beach at the end of the road made all that slipping and sliding worth it. I watched the overnight storm clear above the sea, with an adorable puppy for company.
I found that while walking, in general, I most enjoy it early in the morning, when the world is still waking up. It is what pushed me to roam Barcelona’s streets last year, around 7a.m. I set out from my hostel, following my nose to neighbourhood bakeries, sampling churros at each one. The absence of traffic meant I could hear mothers yelling at their kids to hurry for school, coffee cups clinking on tables at tiny cafes, and church bells ringing in the distance. And later last year in Havelock Island, I woke up extra early so I could watch the water change colour as the sun rose over the beach. For most of that week, I was in the company of an old Tamilian uncle who was chanting mantras from dawn. I can still hear his strong voice when I think back to that trip.
For other stories in “The Trip That Changed the Way I Travel” series, click here.
Kamakshi Ayyar is a former member of NGT India's digital team. She is partial to places by the sea and desserts in all forms. When she isn't raving about food, she's usually rambling on about the latest cosmic mysteries. She tweets as @kamakshi138.