Follow me into a travel movie! Image by Flickr user Leo Hidalgo.

I spent most of my teens living vicariously through travel movies. So when I did finally graduate to actual world travel, I put to the test three of the most common travel movie tropes.

Falling in Love with a Co-Passenger

In travel movies

He’s sharp-witted and tanned. He reads Bukowski or another author whose last name has a minimum of three syllables.

Under normal circumstances, she would have no respect for folks with shabby book etiquette, but these torn edges are the consequences of his adventures across the Serengeti.

He makes everyone else she’s ever been with seem like an airline breadroll – hopeful on the outside but trite on the inside.

At least one of them owns a moleskine notebook. They indulge in witty exchanges as the plane flies across the Atlantic. They share drinks in plastic cups. They precisely time a foreign language film on the in-flight system so they can watch it together on their individual screens.

If they were riding a Euro-train, they would have jumped off hours ago, and their love story would have been subsequently made into a trilogy lasting a decade and inspiring scores of romantics to believe that the love of your life could be your co-passenger.

In real life

The dalliance of love and travel seems inevitable impossible.

Every time I board a flight or train, I wonder if it will happen. And then I dismiss it immediately. Although, each time I banish the possibility, I only push it to the depths of my subconscious.

At a very young age I decided that fate loves surprises and favors the unprepared. My master plan was to trick fate into thinking that if I didn’t overtly believe it would happen, then the chances that it would happen would double.

Still no luck.

In fact, now I’m absolutely sure that this magical co-passenger is buried deep in a pyramid of plausible co-passenger outcomes. A pyramid that looks like this:Pyramid of potential co-passengersInfographic by Sruthi Vijayan.

Though conditions seem unfavorable, I’m counting on fate. Or as Celine and Jesse would say, “When love comes as a surprise.”

Airline gods, if you are listening – love sounds great, but so does an upgrade.

Meeting a (Wise) Person Who Helps You Discover Your Life’s True Purpose

In travel movies

The toothless old man changes your life with a cryptic message that you don’t fully comprehend when it’s given but that all comes together, like ants around syrup, right at the end of your trip.

It would be vastly more convenient if this enlightenment occurred in the beginning of your journey. But the great truth in life requires you to fulfill the travel-movie rite of passage:

You must get mugged.

You must stick your head out of a moving vehicle and smell the fresh air.

You must do something wholly unlike yourself – skinny-dipping seems to be the crowd favorite.

And in true cinematic fashion, once these tasks have been completed, the epiphany arrives – on top of a mountain or on a deserted beach at sunset. Or, if you have managed to snag that travelling soulmate of your dreams, it will hit you while riding a bent-up scooter on a crowded street.

And this great truth will always be in the opposite direction of where you were headed.

In real life

I’ve never had an epiphany but I have been rewarded with small but significant life lessons. The kinds that leave you with clarity, much like the feeling you get when you pop your blocked ears at touchdown.

And all I had to do was to be there.

In a monastery in Myanmar, miles away from home, I was tutored on Indian history.

He was a wise man, but what he said didn’t change who I am. It fueled a curiosity. And that’s more than I could ask for.

Bridging the Cultural Gap with Food

In travel movies

She wanders into a narrow street. The sky becomes murky, and she is starving.

Sometimes the cinema does imitate life.

Sometimes art does imitate life. Image by Flickr user Juanedc.

A kind and voluble man ushers her into his family-owned restaurant. She’s his only customer today.

“We will eat in the backyard,” he says. The backyard is a rustic haven, with potted peonies and aged cedar furniture.

The tomatoes are redder than any she’s ever seen. Everything is fresh. The only old thing on the table is grandma’s primavera recipe.

She doesn’t understand Italian – but a tongue is all she needs to attest to the best meal of her life. The wine flows till late afternoon. And just as she leaves, the sun peaks from beneath the heavy rolling clouds.

In real life

This is by far the most feasible of all movie scenarios. Food is the greatest connector – I’ve seen a glass of chai open more doors than keys. Some of my fondest travel memories come from food.

I’ve been pranked by it. I was ecstatic after eating the most delicious bruschetta of my life, only to later discover that it came from the frozen section of a supermarket.

I’ve made friends over sushi and have learnt that people carry their recipes much like they do old photographs. I had the best chicken tikka of my life not in India, but at a small restaurant in Bagan, Myanmar.

The third-generation Indian immigrants shared their story over butter rotis. Their 16-year-old daughter had peroxide blonde curls and pale green eyes. I told her that she resembled a Latin American songstress, but she insisted her dream was to become a Bollywood actress.

Far away from home, beneath Bagan’s starry sky, as I listened to the story of their journey while consuming an heirloom recipe of chicken curry and lentils, I realized that what happens in movies seems implausible, unless it happens to you.

Has your life or wanderings ever panned out like a travel movie script? Sound off in the Comments!