Completed my solo backpacking to Kerala last week. When someone asks me how the trip was, I share the best pictures of the trip. Backpacking looks colorful from these pics. What I haven’t shared is the dark side (..of the force) of backpacking. I don’t have pictures for them but only words. This experience was very similar to Northeast backpacking, I had to deal with different problems everyday at different places. I had to go through frustration of waiting alone for hours in the local bus station sweating under hot sun. Wearing dull mismatching clothes(light ones are suitable for compact packing), unshaven face and carrying a heavy backpack with a funny secondary bag hanging from your neck always attracts embarrassments among local crowd. People most of the times empathize when they know that you are backpacking alone and do not know the local language. I had to struggle to stitch the few Hindi/Malayalam words I know to make someone understand my question. Buses don’t give English signs. I had to reach out to a strange passenger in every bus to get to know my route. You even get misleading guidance. You feel helpless many time to be alone in not-know-the-name town and waiting to get to another-not-know-the-name town. You have to pass through empty dark streets at 11pm due to unforeseen delays. You always keep an eye on your bags and purse from being stolen. Sometime you travel a long way only to frustrate yourself knowing that the place is closed or no more in function.
But as discouraging it sounds, you will soon learn you are getting better at it and things take a turn. You face barriers, you learn to develop ways to cross them. You will face embarrassments, you will learn to ignore such pointless remarks. You feel helpless, you will know that the world is caring when most locals are happy to help. When you are proud to be unique, you will meet more interesting personalities and travellers everyday. You face frustration but you will learn to be polite because you are at the receiving end. You will really mean the ‘Thank you’ you tell others. You know you are in a hurry and still happy to share your knowledge when other travellers are desperately in need. You may live in an undeveloped village without even a decent eatery, you will learn how tough is their daily life and appreciate your opportunities. You will find how small your daily problems become when you are open to the reality.
You will feel the 23-hour hardships are worth the pain when you find how beautiful the world is on that 1-hour. The beauty is on strangers who care. Beauty is watching sunset. Beauty is finishing your day as expected. Beauty is not letting small frustrations affect your day. You will realize that you were not at your best self when you wear a suit or hang at a pub. You are at your real self when you are free from daily obligations and comforts for a moment. Not to tag yourself an Escapist, we of course love our daily life. Nor backpacking is a fantasy to escape into. We love to be with our friends, family, office and home. It is only a brief chance to mould your character into what you like to be. Try solo backpacking, it will change your life. It will push you out of the small box we are confined. You will start to appreciate tiny things in life. Solo Backpacking is not about enjoying, it is about sparing time for yourself and learning to live better. The life lessons you learn are as good as the experience we get in our work.
How was your trip? It was amazing!