There are certain things you HAVE to do in this lifetime. Then there are certain things you THINK you have to do in this lifetime. Then there are certain other things you think you SHOULD have done in your lifetime. A lot of us fall in the last category. You must be thinking that the lifetime isn't over yet, then why talk in past tense. But as a matter of fact, it IS over sometimes. Rarely does it happen that once cowered down by life and finding it hard get back on your own, you extract that last morsel of strength in your deepest guts to give life a kick back, that YOU are not over yet! That you live, not just exist.
Getting 30 year old is complicated, in many ways. I am not undermining any other stages of life, but 30s, IT is something. Either you give in to the template that the society has in store for you or you die fighting(I may have exaggerated that one a bit ;)). The fears you had been running away from so far, come bang on in your face. The regrets you had safely tucked in a corner until now, start to crawl out of the little crevices and appear in their full blown might. And sometimes you start to question the decision and choices you have made in life. And existential crisis, don't even get me started on that. Existential crisis makes Quarter life crisis seem like a local goon in a low budget Bollywood movie. Existential crisis is the reason Quarter life crisis became a goon in first place. Existential crisis is the don who looms behind the shadowed realm of doom. He, who, demolished the modesty of quarter life crisis' mother and made his father drink his own pee, all in front of his eyes. Existential crisis made quarter life crisis cry for being such a cissy.
Going solo was less of a choice and more of a thing that I had to do since I found no company, so I packed up and left. And now coming back to the question why was it important for a 30 year old Indian girl to travel across Europe, alone? The answer lies simply in two words, because SHE CAN. Sometimes it is important to make someone realize that, cause in daily dilly-dallying of things it is natural to forget our own capabilities that are beyond the way we have been conditioned through life. Ever since we girls are born, we are told a certain set of things, to behave in a certain manner. What you think may not resonate with people you meet, are related to or get associated with over the time. This changes the way you perceive things. That you need to be dependent on someone, or have a goal-set based on your age. Married at this age, kid at this age, house at this age. But trust me, there is no freakin' time bomb on your head.
Having said that, I can never thank my family enough for not creating a war-like state when I first disclosed the idea. I can never thank them enough to not think that I wasn't serious. and it is not just a "phase" that will pass. Sometimes it is important as it gives you strength to pursue what you strive for. Special thanks to my parents for trying to understand and understand to a certain extent, that why it was important for me to go to Europe, that too solo. It was scary to start with, but I gained courage when they thought it was possible and in fact, quite expected me to do that. All this, while me being a girl. And this is where the role of an Indian parent becomes very important. To trust their kids, to know that the education they get while on the road is something the parents will never be able to impart, to give them wings to fly the day they were born. You need to realize that they are grown ups now, big enough to take their own decisions. Big enough to make their own mistakes and gain their own experiences, which they can impart to their kids.
The kids now have so many "unconventional" career choices at their will, they can travel anywhere and still be earning great money. School textbooks can't explain the feeling when you are at the hospitality of a warm village family in remote parts of India, or the carefree attitude of people in Berlin. You gain a new perspective-about life or the lack of it! It is like, the more you know when you are out, you realize how less you know.
Solo trip may not always be fun. There may come ups and downs that sometimes get out of your hands, like the time when I lost my way to my hostel in Amsterdam at 1 am. I didn't even remember the name of the hostel or the name of the street. It doesn't feel great when you don't know the language and hence cannot figure out the way to the city center or tourism office and you want to cry as you have already missed two buses because of that. It is rough to eat alone outside in cold for an overpriced food, cause you didn't make the reservation. While it may ring hollow to hear from someone you do not know so well and find it hard to believe, but when you come out of your first solo trip after facing any kind of hardships, you will be OK. Very different, but OK.
The trust you develop in humanity is something you cherish for your life. Like the number of times I was dropped off to my destination by strangers, who just wanted to help a girl who was alone in a new country. Or when a girl offered me her house to stay for the night cause my hotel, somehow, got cancelled on my first night in Europe. It feels amazing to see Eiffel tower at night in its full glory and city of Paris from the summit. It is awe-inspiring to see the 16th century paintings and architecture even though you can't make the head or tail of it. It is exciting to get lost with your phone dead and just a map of paper in your hand, or to strike an interesting conversation with people you meet on the way.
Columbus discovered America while travelling, may be you will also discover an island someday and show it off to the world. Island that has become of you, dissociated from the person you are or wanted to be. Sometimes, it can help empty your head and take better personal and professional decisions. My solo trip to Europe is now a reservoir, I go back to it when I am feeling low and pick out little drops of joy that I had felt when I was there. It has been exactly a year since and it feels just right to write about it now. I can't wait to do it again :)
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