Endless pampering and protective nature of my parents during my childhood days, toils of lectures in college and plethora of formal meetings at workplace-amid all this volatile journey of this amazing thing called ‘Life’, I never really got a chance to travel much. It was one fine day, and I started my routine scrolling through the pages of my ultimate morning buddy, FACEBOOK! “Feeling Joyful @ Indira Gandhi International Airport”, “Excited for the Paris Trip!”,"En route Jaipur!” and what not! My social media was flooded with travel-related updates of my buddies. It was a usual day, but the posts did their magic on me and were surely a wake up call. I was turning 25 this year, and not even one solo trip? The thought brought jitters and invoke the long-lost travelista in me. Shortlisting a place was not a challenge, I like water, hills and camping-RISHIKESH, my mind exclaimed! I packed my bags and left, the very next day.
Starting alone wrecked my nerves, as I always made sure to travel with people I could rely upon and blame things that go wrong on them. This was my chance to take responsibility of every move that I make, every place that I explore! Trumpets of cranky bus horns and ample of travellers commenced my journey to Rishikesh. While the bus ride was bumpy, I was a jumping monkey, with immense happiness. After the overnight journey (8 hours from Kashmiri Gate Bus Stand, New Delhi), I had finally reached my destination. But what fun it is if everything falls in place, when you are travelling alone? Somebody was waiting for me at the bus terminal, heavy RAINS of Rishikesh! Travelling to hills, without an umbrella? This made the first pointer in my list of “Points where I tripped, on my very first Solo Trip-A handy guide for first time solos!” In that immense rain, my drenched body rushed here and there for a local commute. My camps were 24 km from the bus stand and were near Shivpuri, an area quite famous for river rafting in Rishikesh. After a minute struggle, I could find a kind autowala, who had dropped me to Shivpuri, after a 35 minutes’ drive and charged me 100 bucks. So far, so good, I consoled myself, as everything was falling under the budget.
After the smooth check-in to my camps, and not-so-smooth encounter with the washrooms that I was going to be using for the next 2 days, I decided to begin with my exploration. Rafting is an experience one should be doing in a group, is what I had heard, but it was my chance to challenge the usual. I got a vacant space in a group from Mumbai. Thrilled to see the waves of River Ganga, I had regained inevitable energy in me and proceeded with it. The famous Mumbai-Delhi clashes, rapids, cliff jumping and what not! The experience was surreal and got me not just a thrilling activity added to the list, but also a few new faces I could hang out with the next day. The group was, fortunately, staying in my camp only and we danced the night away, discussing our travel goals and life roles, over a bottle of Jack Daniels. The next day, I got up and took my leave from the new friends that I made and bid adieu to my camp. I won’t lie, the very thought of leaving that camp, which was like my home away from home, made me a bit sad, despite those washrooms! The main city was 20 km from Shivpuri, the place where I was staying. After spending approx. 30 hours out of my comfort zone, I was ready to take up more. Gathering all my courage, I waved my hand standing in the corner of the road! YES! I was asking for lift from strangers! I tried my luck and an open truck was my new ride! The driver asked me to settle with the vegetables at the back and I was glad, as I revive all those Bollywood movies that I have watched till date.
The kind driver dropped me to Laxman Jhula, which was nothing less than a shopping spree experience for me. But what had stolen the show was the 7:00 PM Ganga Arti at Parmarth Niketan that even my atheist self could not resist its charm. I had satiated my craving in the renowned Little Buddha Café and ate like a hog. I, then rushed back to the bus terminal to board my bus to Delhi. They say, good time flies with the blink of an eye. Indeed. I could not believe the fact that it was going to be over. But why to believe that this was over? It was definitely not an end, but a new beginning for me. When I had always seen myself as a planned person, I was busy rushing here and there in heavy rains in the unknown city for a rickshaw, when I was extremely cautious about safety in life, I had let myself go in the rigorous waves of River Ganga, when I had been following not to trust a stranger, I took a 40 minutes’ ride with a person I knew nothing about! This might be not the fanciest of places, but it was an experience. Here I am, back home, lost again in the monotony of life, but my mind has been awakened. Life doesn’t scare me anymore, as I know, every time I will feel burdened or find my soul drifting apart, I’ll pack my bags and will be off to start.