Take a pause and go for a solo trip!
‘You know, until the 1970s, Nagaland had this tribe that used to go head-hunting, and for each head-hunt, they got this tattoo on their forehead, right above their eyebrow.’
Fascinating, isn’t it? The story of these tribe-men runs so much on the lines of an army-man, who gets a medallion on his chest each time he guns down an enemy.
I’ll tell you what’s more fascinating – this is one of the stories I shared with this Assamese guy, who was my sort-of roommate – for a day – in a hostel, a couple of weeks back in Jaipur. So, on a particular night, a guy from the west-most end of the country, sat sharing stories with another from the east-most end, having met each other somewhere up north. That’s really the purpose of travelling, to shrink the boundaries in your head and expand your visions.
Why solo trip? For the very clichéd reason that when with your own set of people from everyday life, going to different places isn’t really travelling, it’s more of a vacation – you go, chill, laugh about, make happy memories, and come back. Sounds good, but flying solo, a little here and there, works wonders. Here’s why,
It is demanding…
…much more than your average girlfriend/boyfriend. Locking a place (all by yourself!), looking for a decent hotel/hostel, planning an itinerary (if you need one), gathering all the guts (and answering all the questions) to finally travel alone, and fighting all other first-time jitters.
Eyes begin narrowing-in right from the moment you declare(!) that you’re going to a place, alone. People, in our part of the world, don’t really understand why do you need to do that. So, you need to answer all the questions being shot by your mummy, and mummy ki mummy, and mummy ki mausi, and the list goes on!
But, more than anything, it demands a lot out of you. Solo, for the first time, brings you face to face with yourself. You need to spend time in your own company, and that can really be challenging, because of we, as a generation, are really prone to boredom and overthinking. And if travelling solo suits you, it would definitely help you calm.
You’re brought face to face with…
… yourself. Borrowing from the point mentioned above, you really begin enjoying your own company (or, you simply don’t). Right from picking between a Haywards and a Kingfisher, to deciding if you’re a thudding-music-shady-lights person, or the quiet-mellow-book-reader (and if you are a hopeless romantic, you’d also know whom do you miss the most when left alone.)
You’ll meet absolute strangers, and you’d know how to initiate conversations and hold them over a course of time. You’d venture into the more interesting stories of your life, and develop a set of topics to talk about – and in return, you’d get prettier stories, and a whole list of new books and movies to jump into!
You’ll bump into strangers…
…like I did in Jaipur, or in Pune before that, or Kasol, or Udaipur, or any goddam place that you fancy. And each of these places will bring you a hundred strangers of a hundred kind. One day, you’ll have dinner with a wedding planner from Mumbai and next, a guy from the north-east.
What this would do really is make you understand that there’s so much to the world out there, so little of it you actually understand, and how petty is your own existence. It’d help you broaden your horizon, and emotionally, the empathy and humility would eventually shoot up.
You’d be exposed to cultures…
So apart from the Assamese guy, my other room-mates in this backpacker hostel were a guy from Spain, one from Egypt and a couple from France. In the common room, there was this British girl in front of me, who sat reading a crime-novella, and another woman, from I, don’t know where came in and started playing with a bubble-wrap. I looked at her, we laughed, she said something I didn’t understand, I said something she only half understood, and I went back to reading my book about Australia. See, there’s a world in this little existence. I could go up and strike a conversation with anyone and it would all be new to me.
There’s community travel too. Within India, end up at the opposite corner from where you’re stationed and it would still be a cultural shock. Only tells us how little we know of our “own” people!
And the classic old cliché…
Travelling grounds you, after a point, you stop whining about things and simply do them, taking everything in your stride as an experience.
I have met people who gather money for a year or two and simply set out with a map in hand, hopping over from place to place for as long as a year, until they run out of that money, and need to get back. Once back, they simply repeat the cycle, earn and travel, see what you have been reading about, live out what you’ve planned for the future.
So, coming back to the age-old cliché – seize the day, my friend; leave all your plans for today, only make stories for the future – that’s what travelling tells you.