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     Volume 10 |Issue 30 | August 05, 2011 |


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Holiday Hurdles

Aasha Mehreen Amin

The human mind, since the time of its creation, has always craved for the unknown. The day the first human decided to step out of the cave and see what was going on in the next one the concept of travel just for the fun of it, was born.

It may have started with exploring the other side of the mountain or going past the stream in the forest, but there it was, the thrill of travel.

Eons later, one version of this ancient phenomenon became known as a holiday, a reprieve from the frenetic pace of life and into the short-lived fantasy of self-indulgence.

Before actually entering the vortex of happy holidaying, however, one must cross a few hurdles. Assuming that one has already scraped up enough money for the trip abroad, from savings, credit cards, personal loans or shoe boxes, the biggest first step is getting the visa to that exotic place where you can forget the choking traffic, the political stalemates and the list of projects you were suppose to have finished last August but inexplicably never got around to doing them.

Getting a visa, to no matter which corner of the globe, is like winning a lottery ticket. Before that you feel like a criminal for just wanting to go to that country in the first place. A visa gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you have passed the acid test. The form may have asked for a brief life history but the bottom line is - they don't care anymore, where your great grandmother was born. You have the official go ahead, a bill of good health in terms of visa eligibility. The trick however, is getting the visa before the flight date or before your non-refundable, cheap ticket, expires. Once that is done you must now go through yet another huge part of the test that may be the deciding factor of whether you will be looking like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday or the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. Packing, they say is an art and is something that requires quite a bit of foresight and wisdom.

For regular mortals packing is like trying to fill one's entire life into a square box and believing somehow there will be enough space for all the items acquired during the trip. How for instance, can one be sure, even if weather reports say the temperature will not be below 40 degrees Celsius at the place of destination, that you won't need your favourite woollen shawl? The streets may be hot enough to fry eggs on but hotels, malls and cinema halls are often kept at freezing temperatures that simulate a windy day in the middle of a Scandinavian winter.

Some people are a little intimidated by the thought of going to a strange, foreign land with stranger customs and try to take things to set up a mini home away from home. Thus the worn out pillow without which one just cannot sleep, a travelling iron with mini board, a rice cooker and a months supply of toast biscuit and chanachur (who knows what those people eat) _ will end up as unaccompanied baggage.

Many travellers therefore, make the grave mistake of taking a lot more than they need on the trip. One may think one may need at least six pairs of trousers for a five day trip (what if one has to change twice?) or one's wedding jewellery in case one is suddenly invited to a glamorous charity ball with celebrities. Some people, inspired by tourism ads, actually buy new outfits for the trip, only to find out that they are a size too small and end up wearing the old fotua and jeans they came in, for four consecutive days.

Many travellers, also go overboard with shopping, buying the most unwieldy, heavy things like granite busts of William Shakespeare that will definitely help to exceed the weight limit, not to mention make one want to kick oneself for bringing back so much stuff from home.

The night before the journey home, the hotel room will look like a tornado-torn hovel, with every bit of space covered by clothing, shopping bags, munchies and other assorted items you just must take back. While the beginning is tranquil enough, mid way through the packing, one gets the urge to tear out one's hair as the suitcase looks as if ready to deliver a baby.

This is when one swears to oneself never again to take such rubbish when going on a trip and never again to buy another granite bust no matter whose likeness it represents.



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