Travel Time with Tanmay -5: Lessons from a solo roadtrip

If you’ve been a long time reader or just generally know me, you would know that travel is an experience I really enjoy and will continue to do so for a long time to come. The Great Plague of 2019, which is still on as of typing this, did bring a lot of heartache with the inability to travel in 2020 and a large part of 2021, but by the end of the latter year, I did want to make a trip whose sole agenda was travelling for the sake of it. I also wanted to make the best of the year end shut down at work and hence really, really, REALLY wanted to head out.

Some of you would know how I vehemently prefer not travelling alone. The main reason being that one shouldn’t have to make memories alone, but the second reason being that I the last time I had done so I was abandoned in Hanoi by AHK and that’s not fun. In the past, I have had to cancel plans due to the lack of company, but this time round, despite not finding anyone to travel with, I persisted — half out of spite and half out of not missing my last chance to travel before the plague rose again.

After my brother in law made an expert itinerary, the plan distilled into a 1,500km drive through Karnataka exploring hills, beaches and forests.
Now, this post isn’t so much about the trip itself, that’s been documented elsewhere, but it is about the few lessons I learnt on the trip. Nor is this going to be some Eat, Pray, Love type story of finding some inner peace, but one of what I reflected upon after 8 days on the road with my trusty car.

Lessons in body management

  1. Your bladder can hold a lot more than you think
    I don’t like stopping while driving because it really ruins the fun and the pace of the journey. I do love drinking water because it is the best beverage ever. I dislike using public loos. Together, this means that I ended up pushing my bladder a lot more than one probably should, to the point that I was surprised myself. I didn’t know that the inner tank could really hold on for that long. Side note: there is an inverse relation between the perception of passing of time and the fullness of one’s bladder. [Necessary disclaimer: this was performed because of extreme conditions, don’t try this at home kids.]
  2. Your skin tans much, much faster than you realise
    I’ve written about the importance of sunscreen before and I got yet another practical reminder of this while driving in the hot sun. I was super generous with my application of sunscreen and tried my best to create makeshift shade in the car while I was on tree-less highways, but the sun has a sneaky way of finding itself in the exact spot you were getting it to avoid and leaving its big, bold brand with a generous dose of melanin. Point being, just know that how much ever you thought you would tan, you’d come back 1.5x more at the very least. So be prepped with SPF 1000 or something if you need.
  3. Leg cramps hurt and hurt bad
    I drove a manual transmission through this journey and because a lot of my travel was through winding ghat roads, I must’ve made a few thousand gear shifts along the way, that is not even hyperbole. Each shift meant my left leg would have to depress the clutch fully and while that’s fine the first 300 times, at the 351st time it’s going to protest. To paint this picture more clearly, imagine yourself winding up a steep road; you’ve the picturesque and deep valley to your left; a full laden truck with no working lights in front of you; an idiot who needs to overtake and just as the road is turning, your left leg says, “That’s it, I need a break” and you feel that cramp coming in; your eye has already begun twitching and your bladder’s anyway already full. The result? You’re sat in the car doing an awkward dance of stomping the floor trying to ease the leg while simultaneously massaging the calf with one hand and steering with the other and cursing all and sundry. Not fun. The lesson? Take breaks and stretch dammit.
  4. You can absolutely eat all your day’s calories in one meal
    For reasons elaborated in point #1, I would eat light at the start of a long driving day and eat heavy at the end. As a result I legitimately did not feel hungry while I drove. No stops to eat B-) Did I eat for two at dinner? Yes. Did I eat like this even on non-driving days? Also yes. What? I’m a hungry person okay, don’t judge.

Lessons in trip/road management

  1. Get your lights checked
    No, really. Get those headlamps checked and serviced or whatever. I knew I had bad lamps and got mine changed thankfully. And good god did that make a difference. Yes, Robert Frost warned us that the “woods are lovely, dark and deep” but he doesn’t tell you exactly how dark they really get. When I say dark, I mean pitch black, void of the abyss, dark like my soul level dark and poor headlamps in such a condition basically mean pull over and camp out. Good luck with surviving the night there.
  2. The internet isn’t as ubiquitous as we’d like
    I did use google maps a lot. Like a LOT. But I learnt on the first day that the further you go away from big cities, the weaker your internet gets. Till the point that you’ve reached a random road in the hills because you missed a tiny mud track turn a few kilometres behind and now there’s no one in sight and the light is dimming. Not that this specific, exact and accurately described incident happened to me of all people but just that it was one in the realm of possible scenarios. The answer — download offline maps and ask people. Ask, ask, ask till you know the route/landmarks/highway numbers. Also download your songs, you will run out of streaming services at some point. Good thing my offline playlist has been a constant friend since my first phone in 2008.
  3. Stop at that coffee tapri/shop when you see it
    I guarantee you that the moment you say, “I’ll stop at the next one” it’ll only manifest 2 hours later. Invariably, the time you are desperate for something to eat or drink, there is nothing for miles. Same with food. If hungry, make that the priority and find yourself a snack. Don’t treat it as a side mission because it will be left unfulfilled. I didn’t do so, but make this your MO for when you need to use the loo also. The next one is far, no matter where you are.
  4. Slow is steady and steady is fast
    This isn’t a lesson I learnt on this trip as such, it’s a continuous habit, but the line is from a guided run on the NRC app. But honestly this is the only way to drive. Weaving in and out of traffic, racing up to high speed and then having to slow down in a short distance is for idiots and my goodness the number of those that exists. It was always hilarious letting those duffers flashing their lights and honking zip past me only for me to look them in the eye as we stood in the same, exact place for our toll. Devolved protoplasmic scum that can’t respect the road or others on it.
  5. Write your journal daily
    If you write a travellogue, be diligent and write daily. Don’t ignore the day’s events and think that you’d write it all at once. Not only do you recall the events better but writing about 2500 words in one day as you awkwardly sit under a tree is likely to hurt your arm and cause pain that feels like you’ve pinched a pinched nerve. No no, my arm is totally fine, what makes you ask that?

Lessons about myself

  1. I really, really love driving
    As a child aged around 15, all I could want was to grow up, get my licence and be independent driving. I have always been fascinated by cars and that is a fundamental part of my identity — I’m not a petrolhead as such, but cars are up there in my “What would you buy if you won the lottery?” type answers. Even during the plague lockdowns, more than anything social, I missed taking out the car and just driving. Yes, even in the city despite the traffic. Sure, I’ve heard your Uber arguments like 300 times, but if you don’t get it, you just don’t get it. What? What are you saying? I can’t hear you over the sound of my engine and freedom on my roadtrip across the state. Where’s your Uber now eh? Snark apart, I love driving and applications to be passengers on the next roadtrip are open.
  2. One’s phone can really step away from the spotlight
    I spent a lot lesser time with my phone than I thought I would, partly because my hands were on the wheel and partly because I had other things to do like, I dunno, actually enjoy the wide world before my eyes. I came to realise that over time I’d closed my self from the real world so much that the phone because the only real reconnect with others or with things around me. This trip was a good reminder in just being more aware of the world around me minus my phone.
  3. One really is his own best friend
    I won’t lie, I think the biggest reason that I shied away from solo trips was because I thought I’d be bored with my own company and hence needed another person as a distraction from that fear of self-dislike (fear of, not an actual dislike). But that changed. Or maybe it didn’t change but I realised that it was a misconception all along and I’m now very happy that I know it is a falsehood. I can very much enjoy my own company, sans phone, driving around, eating and having a gala time by myself!

There you go. Thirteen lessons learnt from a trip that spanned 1 state, 4 hubs, 23 hours of driving, 1,500 km and thousands of gear shifts to come back home tanned and with a renewed understanding of myself. (Okay fine here’s your Eat, Pray, Love angle.)

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Tanmay D

Tanmay D

I'm a 29 year old son, brother, friend and colleague who enjoys reading, playing video games and complaining about never having enough time. Read my thoughts!