Recently I read an article on a popular blog Thought Catalog about travelling solo. The article's header was - you should travel solo at least once in your lifetime. Yes, I did agree with it, but not really the post. Yes it was nice, and the author did manage to come up with five reasons as to why you should be travelling solo. Whatever the reason might be, I felt that the post was incomplete, the experiences lacked realisations, or maybe the author had her limitations - somehow I couldn't relate with that post.
So far, I have travelled solo thrice. Different locations, different modes of transport, different seasons. One thing remained constant though: the feeling of achievement and satisfaction. It's a different kind of high. I don't think I can ever express how it exactly feels. To experience that, you need to backpack and hit the road.
I do not call myself a traveller as yet. It's been little over a year since I started travelling. Yes I make a point to travel to a new place (or the one already visited) once a month.When I see the world map, I realise that I will never ever be able to call myself a traveller either. There is so much to see and explore in every corner of the world. India itself is so huge. With limited days and travel budget, there is always only one part of the state that you can cover and many things are still left out. Yes, I will never be called a traveller. But whatever travelling I have done so far, each one of them has been a different experience. And you have to be really really fortunate to get a chance to travel solo. If you say that you don't enjoy travelling alone, then you have surely done it the wrong way. I will share my experiences of travelling solo in this post:
1. First solo trip. I was nervous. I did all the bookings and checkings very carefully. Read each and every detail about the places. I had my backup plan, backup people to my rescue if I was ever in trouble. What if I happen to be in no network zone? What will I do then? I thought about all these aspects, planned my itinerary in such a way that I could come back in the hotel every evening latest by 6 pm. I booked all good hotels. First trip was for 9 days, 5 destinations. I still remember each and every moment of that trip.
2. Second trip. I was more confident this time. And this time around, I didn't want to stick to just cabs. I wanted to experience local transport too. I checked for the safety. Everything was in place. Deadline was set to 7 pm instead. Backup people were still there. Backup plan was still in place. I travelled to beautiful towns in cab. I travelled from one city to another by state transport. 4 days trip. Better experience than the last one. Confidence does work and does wonders.
3. 3rd trip. Best of the lot. For 2 days. Best because of the kind of places I visited. Best solo trip and not the best destination I have been to. That would be very difficult to pick among the list. Coming back to this trip, I interacted the most with locals on this trip, smoked a bidi with a 70 year old lady. She rolled it in front of me. We smoked it in the market, where she narrated various stories about people. Yes, it's difficult to pen down these stories. Meet me for a cup of tea or a drink and we shall talk about the stories, provided I like you.
Each of these trips had something different to offer, observe and teach. Each trip was different. People were different. The definition of luxury was different. Food was different. Yet I can mention certain common factors that made these trips memorable.
1. My drivers: I cannot thank my stars enough for this. On my each trip, whenever I hired a car, I happened to get good drivers. They were friendly. They knew about the places they were taking me to. Well yes, it's their job to know about the places, but taking you to places you would like after interacting with you for 10 minutes requires experience. And I was glad that I found gems. We interacted, they told me about various cultures and customs of the places we were passing by and visited, they patiently waited at some random place I asked them to stop suddenly. I used to sit at some random place for minutes, hours. They waited patiently, without making any faces. They kept asking me if I wanted my pictures clicked anywhere. All of them were simply amazing.
2. Food: Street food. Of different types. I don't remember halting at a fancy restaurant for any of my meals during these trips. I had thaali at roadside dhaabas too. I got to have weird combinations like vada with salad, samosa with kadhi, puri and papaya chutni, sutarfeni with milk and so on. I had different kinds of poha. I had different kinds of tea. Every single thing made you realise that you are in a different zone.
3. People and Conversations: I met people of different age groups, cultures and mindsets. They were friendly, rude, ignorant, cool and classy. I interacted with people from different countries, people from different regions within India, shopkeepers, babas and sadhus, kids, students, labourers, guides, security guards - everyone I could talk to. I had plenty of time. Their stories always amused me. They were interested in talking too. You just spot a loner, sit next to him or her and start talking - about how did you find the place to how amusing the way people walk and talk there. Talking about weather interests you too at that time. You forget who you are. You forget that you are sitting on a pavement or on a road. So far as you are not blocking the way for others.
4. Hospitality: At each of the places, there was at least one person who gave me free food. No, not the meal, it would be something like a cup of tea, or a piece of cookie, or a paan, or a samosa - they fed me with whatever they could afford without taking any money from me. Experiencing the same thing at three different locations is something that's yet to sink in. But that's India for you. And Indians. Strangely I didn't face safety issues anywhere. All the places were quite safe. Must use fair and lovely more often.
5. Local transport: Intercity transport didn't disappoint me a bit. It was cheap, safe and fast. The moment people got to know that you were alone, they would make sure you were comfortable. I used this just once, for experience. I somehow feel safer in my own car. I don't have to hunt for vehicles all the time. But well, if you travel in India and don't take an ST then the trip is incomplete.
Can you ever do these things with a group of people?
PS: Long post. Don't curse. You must have found it interesting thus you are reading this post script. No need to crib now. It's too late.