These are times of frenzied travel and fervent holidays. Our newly acquired globetrotting habit is taking us to exciting destinations across oceans and continents, and treating us to extraordinary sights and experiences. A majority of these are exotic locations that we see pictures of in travel brochures and magazines or hear people describe as ‘must-see before you die’ and long to visit.

But different from all the journeys that we undertake, there is one that doesn’t feature in glossy, colour journals, nor classify under dream holidays. It is a special voyage that takes us to our origins and to the places and abodes where our life stories were conceived, nurtured and nourished. They are ports of call that exist only in our exclusive life map, the greatness of which only we can see.

Somehow, more often than not, the pace of a modern world and the passivity of an indifferent mind have kept us away from these places from our past. The dynamism of our lives has made it difficult for us to make brief stopovers in places where we had set shop at various points and added bricks to the walls of our future, unless there is a compelling reason for us to go. But ever imagined how intoxicating it would be to tread those paths that brought us here, to trace those lanes where the dry leaves of old times lay strewn, transiting those stations to relive the times, remembering events and people that still linger in some coveted corner of our heart, and creating a mental bioscope of what made the bygone (many times golden) years of our lives?

It is no less than going on an expedition. The changes that must have come over these places in the long period that has elapsed can be overwhelming, to say the least. Along with the times, the rustic locales would have grown and matured, modest towns would have become chic and fast, cities become mega metros, people that you knew moved on, houses that you lived in redone or even broken down to make way for modern structures, and yet there would be something about the place that would connect with you instantly. Standing there, you would see the passage of life more distinctly than in a mental tour down the memory lane.

I had been on a few such outings in the past couple of years, going to the ancestral homes of my parents, and to the places where my husband and I had spent our childhood, teens and early youth. It is not easy to describe the sentiments that swept over us in those moments. The physical attributes of some of the places had changed immensely. The old, sprawling structures where we had learned to walk and talk had been displaced by intimidating buildings with pigeon-hole shelters that we now call homes. The places that had managed to survive the onslaught of modernity had become decrepit and wobbly. While some areas had become grossly distorted owing to their rapid development, some had become unrecognisable due to gradual decline. The changes, although inevitable, were heart-breaking. What we saw there had no resemblance to the past that we were carrying in the closets of our memory.

Yet there was something unmistakably ours that we could relate to in our heart. In places where the physical changes weren’t exceptionally huge, we found chapters from our life stories as vivid as in an illustration book.  In others, we found memories lurking in the air, with no living testimony to offer.

I walked those lanes, picking up pebbles of yore and filling my pocket, and hearing in my heart the revived chimes of the years spent in those corridors of life. Going to unexplored places can be exciting, but making pit stops in places that we once passed through can be indescribably ecstatic and emotional.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Dubai. Khaleej Times.