What’s Travel Without a Sense of Wonder?

It's only suspending your disbelief—not fancy Instagram filters—that makes travel unforgettable.

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Raj Mandir, Jaipur. Photo by: Massimo Borchi/Age Fotostock/Dinodia Photo Library

So, the other day I went to watch a movie. I won’t dignify the movie by naming it (though I can tell you it rhymes with “poilet” and is a terrible film on a very important issue), but the main thing is that I watched it at Raj Mandir in Jaipur, and it was wonderful.

To those who haven’t been, it’s an art deco-ey building, a Jaipur institution, and most importantly, a single-screen theatre. Remember those? You went inside, knowing there was only one movie to choose from, bought your tickets, and went into a large, surprisingly dark hall. And then the lights came on, and magic happened. It was a nostalgia trip for sure, even without the Simba chips and that little Chocobar cone that represented the height of sophistication and luxury to me at six years old, but what struck me was what an occasion this was. Not just for me, but for everyone there.

When was the last time you dressed up to go watch a movie? Or to get on a plane? And no, those baggy pants around your ankles don’t count. I mean your Sunday best, with your face probably powdered up and shining with excitement. When even airline food was so rare that you waited for it?

Yes, I know I’m sounding like a particularly tiresome 70-year-old, but I’m wondering whether we’ve lost joy entirely. In travel in particular, things are so easy now, there’s barely a sense of specialness about it. You travel because cool people travel, because Mark Twain used his Twitter account to say so.

I’m planning a holiday with friends, and I realised I needed to kick myself up the backside when we were debating between France and Croatia and going “Mmm, hmmm, I’m not sure. Should we do Airbnb?” No, none of us were entirely blasé, but I don’t want to get there either. I mean, France! Croatia! Just the fact that you’re going, that you have the money and time to go, should be fantastic, no?

We have, obviously, too much of everything, and we get it too quickly. Can’t find a book (if you even went to a bookstore)? Order it online. Can’t wait for a pizza? Order it online. Haven’t travelled to the “in” place this year? Go now, because life’s too short, etc, and it’s easier to be cool than join those people on the Wall Of Shame who didn’t go. Oh, and remember to take a selfie or food-porn shot, because if you don’t put it up on social media, it never happened.

Whatever happened to anticipation? Whatever happened to things being rare and wonderful and worth waiting for? The longest wait we’d probably have right now is between Game of Thrones episodes, and it’s frustrating precisely because we’re not used to waiting any more. A whole week, you say? Quelhorreur! And there’s only one movie playing at the theatre, and it’ll probably go on for a month? Somebody call Human Rights Watch!

Don’t agree? What would you say if I offered you pasta? You’d go, “Do you have pesto sauce? Because I’m avoiding nuts. Oh, and arrabiata is so yesterday, but I love fusilli, so I’ll have it if you have fusilli.” Compare that with the little four-year-old I met in the elevator, who was discussing her lunch with her mom. “Pasta!?” she said, eyes shining, clearly delighted. That’s the reaction we should have, no?

Yes, obviously, it’s good to have choices and preferences and to have some things arrive quickly, but I fear we may have passed a point where things don’t matter anymore, because you can always get something else, do something else, go somewhere else. We’re over-sophisticated adults, pretending we’re above it all.

What I want to be is four years old again, or at least pretend to be. I want to look at skies and leaves and places and people like they’re the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I want to get excited about ice cream because it’s ice cream, and I’ve promised myself one next week. I think life’s too short for not getting excited, really.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

  • Vardhan Kondvikar is a travel, car, and humour writer and editor, who is known for road trips, generalised exasperation and far too many bathroom stops.

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