Middle-age has its symptoms. In my case, I sense an old flame flaring up. My passion for travel, especially to the mountains, is getting a fresh supply of oxygen with each passing year. Every experience leaves me craving for more: a more exotic and a more adventurous fix. Best of all, instead of threatening my marital life, mountains help us spend time together away from the constantly ringing phones, endless homework, and the relentless tube.For about 15 years, my passion has been simmering on low burn: I was embroiled in gynecologists and pediatricians (not to mention the associated bills), annual reviews and bank balances (or lack thereof). But as the children started growing up, and the bank stopped sounding like a reminder of inadequacies, I tentatively cranked up the fire. It started with a weekend visit to Kasauli (twice). Next, it was Shimla (thrice). Then, we moved further afield, to Ranikhet (once). Finally, we managed Manali (thrice). The family had caught the mountain bug but we soon discovered that we could, at best, visit a hill-station twice before getting jaded. We had to find something more ‘far-out’, more remote, more challenging or just more unknown.Last winter we decided that we were ‘done’ with Manali. We had spent two summer vacations and one winter vacation there. We had become too familiar with the town, the mountains, and the painted rocks in the river bed (in spite of the court ban) and even the menu cards of the restaurants, which incidentally never change. When you become too familiar with a place you do not quite feel like a traveler any more. To be a traveler is to be an outsider. We had to move on from Manali. (more…)

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