And I Traveled Solo

20th Mar 2016
Day 1
Indian? Single? Muslim? Aurangabad? Maharashtra? YES!!! I am a single Indian Muslim woman from a small city called Aurangabad in Maharashtra and I travelled solo. No family? No friends? YES!! I do! I do have family and friends back home. Travelling solo doesn’t mean I am homeless. I am travelling alone because I am an independent crazy woman who has bigger dreams, bigger goals and a life of my own where there are times when I believe I just need to follow my heart  and that is what I exactly did. I backpacked and travelled solo!

To be very honest I belong to a very typical, middle class, small city Indian Muslim family where if my mom gets to know her daughter travelled alone will give her a shock of life, my relatives will think I have gone out of hands, and my colleagues will think I have gone nuts but you know what? It’s worth every gossip and consequences of getting caught or criticized. I swear it was the best trip I have ever had and I am looking forward to many more solo trips.

I basically chose South India because it was my first solo trip and thanks to media I had a mindset that south is safer than north which I do not want or can’t justify. It was a semi-planned trip where I booked my to and fro tickets from Mumbai to Kochi and back and had a clear idea of the places I wanted to see. During my pre-plans, I finally decided to give couch surfing a fair chance and booked my home-stay with 2 hosts, one on the day of arrival in Kochi and another in the midst of travel at Thekkady which was probably my best decision of my whole trip.

When I landed in Kochi, the first thing that amused me was the airport itself. It looks like an old palace which was a very different sight altogether. It was really beautiful from inside and outside, decorated with lovely colourful flowers. I spent a nice time exploring the airport and found out that the Airport is completely operated by solar energy. Indeed! An eco-friendly airport! My host at Kochi was a really nice person with a lovely family. They were really kind and caring and served with local delicacies. I just cannot forget the taste of the local cuisines I had there. I got to taste the delicacies Idiyappam, puttu, nandan fish, neymeen curry, tapioca, vellayappam which were never ever known to me. At that point, I realized we Indians have really limited food preferences based on caste, state, taste. We get to eat based on these set preferences and are not exposed to unlimited varieties available. I realized Google is not the answer for everything! Google can show you only what you know and you know when you explore. 2 days with my host and I learned to trust strangers. I feel more open to the world. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people out there.

The next day I took a local bus from Kochi Bus Stand and headed towards Munnar. I met 2 foreign couple travellers from England and I got to know that the girl was serving an NGO in Bangalore for a year working towards human trafficking and the guy, who was actually an Indian born and bought up in England who served the England Army for 4 years. Ah! Indeed Globalization! Indian serving UK and British serving India!

We reached Munnar Town and had lovely food at the beautiful small town. The foreigners stayed behind and I took a bus from Munnar Town to Top Station, the highest point at the Munnar Hill Station. The night was dangerously enchanting and I kept looking out of window till I reached the top station. I camped there at the highest peak and celebrated Diwali with a family, had dinner near the bonfire and a peaceful sleep in a tent placed solely for me amidst the mountains and valleys. The night was breathtaking and sunrise spell bounding. I realized how completely different night and day can be at the same location which you probably cannot realize in cities due to street lights. On the way back I saw beautiful lush green tea gardens as far as you can see beautiful waterfalls and dams. To summarize in short – No words, no pictures, no videos, no paintings and no long articles can describe the beauty of this place called MUNNAR! I realized why Kerala is called Gods Own Country at Munnar.

The next day I travelled to Thekkady which was again a beauty in itself with fairytale homes, amazing spice gardens, national parks, the best spas, the grape yards and vegetable gardens and place to witness rich and cultural heritage of Kerala in the form of live shows and not forget the another amazing host family!

The trip ended with the relaxing day and an altogether different party in not less than a 5-star houseboat in backwaters of Kerala at Allepy with the most caring staff!! A touch of luxury, after all the long walks and local transport!  All I can say is for once in life — GO SOLO!!!