Sunday, March 23, 2014

Travelling Solo

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.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Some thoughts here and there

Things haven't been so good recently. They haven't been so bad either that I have to sit in a corner and cry my heart out. No things are never that bad. If you can control them. It feels weird when there is no motivation to write. I travelled for more than a month to some place or the other, there are so many stories to be told, but there is no motivation to pen them down. Or a theme. Or a background music.

You realise how fortunate you have been when you meet people less fortunate than you. Some realisations hit you so hard that at some point, you are ready to share your luck, trade it, or even part with it completely. One of such realisations is loneliness. I'm yet to meet someone who is totally and completely happy in their loneliness. I don't think I will even meet them as they wouldn't want to meet anyone. They have found their happy space. And they are living there.

Travelling helps you understand yourself. It makes you aware about the various personalities living within you. These personalities complete you. At the same time they leave you incomplete. They leave you in a void. This emptiness screeches inside you. It echoes your fears. You are scared. You try to run away. But it remains with you, as it's a part of you.

Yes travel. Yes I digress. Because mind is not at peace. It has to empty the content that's bothering it. But it's not easy to keep quiet and yet talk. I have been trying to master the art of being brave. I have succeeded too, to an extent. But I still keep failing. And falling. And getting up again. To fail again. To fall again. It's a battle to survive. It's a battle with your own mind. And self. You have got to save your heart. And soul.

Goal is peace. Goal is happiness. Goal is to feel content. Goal is to save confidence, real self, vulnerability, words. Goal is to save you by destroying you. Goal is you.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Life like that

I always wonder - what people do in their free time? I'm not talking about a holiday or a vacation. I'm talking about the time when you suddenly become jobless. Or bedridden. Yes I sound so positive early morning. That's my superpower. But yes, I keep thinking about this. What if you suddenly realise that you don't have to do anything anymore. Rather, you are unable to anything anymore. What will you do then? 

We end up cribbing about so many situation without even once realising what will happen if we don't have that situation, and anything related to that. A bad situation is a flip side of a situation you were expecting to happen. Things just turned out otherwise. But imagine your life without that situation. Doesn't it seem empty? Almost pointless? 

We often neglect what we have and concentrate on what we don't or ought to have. Yes, this has been said before. A lot of times. By some really learned and intelligent people. But life experiences make you pen these things down yet again. Especially when you have reached really early for your flight and don't really have anything to do apart from thinking. And writing. One such incident made me think about the value of the things we have, yet don't appreciate as much. 

Since I was travelling today, I thought to take a break from class to finish the pending work. Due to some technical fault, there was a power failure. Since Bombay power failures don't last longer than 10 minutes, we weren't worried. I called up the power suppliers and realised it would take a few hours for power restoration. I had to arrange for some permits and reports, did running around till 11 pm and got it restored.

I had become so dependent on this convenient life. I was brought up in a small town. To me, power failure was as normal as eating food. We faced it for a few hours everyday. Things changed there. From everyday, they started having one entire day of power failure and remaining days there was a continuous power supply. From there, I came to Bombay where power failure was as rare as an earthquake. Rarely ever we faced it. Yesterday was one such day. I realised how snappy I was. How rude I was to the customer care executives who couldn't have done anything anyway. But I still kept blaming them and yelling at them for not considering our case a priority. My major concern was my niece, but I should have known that yelling wouldn't have helped me either. 

After the power was restored, I couldn't do any work. I was too tired. I woke up early to catch a morning fight. Newspaper headlines was about a building catching fire due to the same technical failure. Ours was the only case, their entire building faced this. And there was a death too. Of a senior citizen. Of my father's age. And it hit me. We were really fortunate yesterday to not have suffered such damages. Or loss. 

Yes life is mostly nice to us. And not as unfair as we think it is. There are worse problems and graver issues. We are yet to fully appreciate what we have. It could have been worse, but it is not. We should be thankful about that.