Two weeks of backpacking in Rajasthan, 5 cities, befriending a dozen of nationalities, hundreds of conversations, never-ending journeys, unexpected experiences and one beautiful crush.
Traveling for me is to change the surroundings, give up the routine, allowing yourself to experience something new, something else. A few times, traveling had been a sort of escape also from the normal day to day life.
Traveling has helped me, amazed me, taught me and distracts me too. The more I travel, the more it changes my perspective towards life, towards people and myself as if I am not the same person anymore. I always get some insight, I always learn something new, I always change my attitude towards something and most importantly I always get to know a little more about myself.
Humans cannot live in isolation. Solitude is not easy, and why to be alone when you have so many amazing people around you to talk, to share, to laugh, to love, to support; even to fight and to hate. And traveling solo can be challenging mentally at times. I always loved the idea of traveling solo. There are so many advantages, you know. But every time I come back from a solo trip, I feel as if the roller coaster ride just got over. The experiences that I have are always damn unpredictable.
Lost in the memories of my recent Solo trip to Rajasthan, I started to jot down how unpredictable solo trips can be.
Breaking the ice, it feels so nice!
Feeling hesitant, anxious about what comes next and getting bored when you don’t have anything else to see or do are very common feelings during the trip.
Whenever I travel alone, there is always a part of me who wants a company, who wants to talk, who wants to feel safe in the presence of someone I can count or trust. That’s probably the irony – deciding to travel alone and then finding a company there. Staying in hostels helps a lot and as backpacking has become a ‘thing’ in India, there are ample of amazing hostels in every popular travel destination.
I met people from all around the globe. Everyone had a different story, a unique reason to travel, an unusual opinion about India and an independent perspective towards traveling and life. Some came to have fun, some quit there job to see the world, some to get some spiritual sense, some wanted to live a hippie life and some wanting to find themselves in the process. Listening to every story and telling yours over and over again makes you open-minded and connect well with others. I never felt overwhelmed and I didn’t see anyone being annoyed while sharing their thoughts again and again. Everyone wanted to talk, everyone wanted to listen (maybe I was lucky to have met such people), but to have this experience, you have to break the ice first. And a smile always works, it’s that simple!
Talking to the locals was very easy for me as I am from India and I speak the language. As I traveled most of the time in local buses, I always met locals and had ample of time to chit chat and ask questions about the place. So many people seem to be amazed by the idea of traveling solo and few of them, about quitting the job to travel. Nevertheless, in just a matter 1-2 hours they let all their lives’ stories out.
Few stories down below:
I remember meeting a professor who travels 45 km each way every single day to teach college students in a small village. He showed me so many pictures of playing, enjoying, teaching, staying overnights, cooking in the college. He also loved traveling, gave me some good advice from his experiences too. One of them (and the most cliché) was to travel as much I could before I got married. I realized he didn’t travel much now because of the responsibilities but he said he always enjoys his life to the fullest and he loves his family.
I met two youngsters. They were traveling to visit a sacred temple, far away from their home. They were very hesitant to talk initially but at the end, they become so comfortable that they invited me to stay with them for a night and visit the temple the next and leave. I was touched by their gesture. Some part of me wanted to go with them and experience the unexpected but somehow I politely declined as I already had bookings in Jaisalmer (where I was heading to).
I bumped into a Spaniard at 4:00 AM . She just reached to the unfamiliar place, Pushkar, and nervously walking down the street, looking for the hostel. I was in Tuk Tuk and asked her to join me and took her to my already booked hostel. After she told me she was from Spain, my inner Spanish soul, wildly, let the wings out and I, breathlessly, started talking to her in Spanish. We connected instantly, talked for hours in the hostel hall until a girls came out of the room, scolded us for not letting her sleep. The next day while leaving she called me ‘An Angel’ , who met her in the night on the street and helped her. Now, you don’t hear these words often, and from a person who has just met a few hours ago. So, unexpected experience!
Watching the sunset every single day
I never watch the sunrise (because I wake up late) and I never watch the sunset (because I am always indoor). I used to joke saying that it’s nothing new. It happens every day and it’s just an illusion – Sun never rises and never sets down. This trip changed my perspective. Now, I am glad that it happens every single day. This is, perhaps, the most beautiful thing that happens consistently (especially in India whereas there are quite a few countries who don’t see the sun for a very long time) and we can be grateful for that. I never imagined just watching the sunset can make you feel blissful. Every day I watched the sunset, every day it felt beautiful. Only the places changed every time but I felt the same calmness and peace in me while watching. If it’s an illusion, it’s worth believing to be true.
The best experience UNDER THE STARS
The most unexpected and the most beautiful experience of the trip was staying in Thar desert for a night, Jaisalmer. They have a Camel Safari package in Jaisalmer in which they take you in a jeep to a village nearby desert, then a camel ride to the sunset point where you would spend the night. I don’t support the use of animals for human’s benefits, so, I was very adamant that I wouldn’t sit on a camel to reach the point. One of the agents booked the package without Camel ride and agreed to take me in a jeep and drop me just one kilometer away from the camp. I happily agreed to the offer.
In the desert, few staff members and a Korean girl did ask me the reason for skipping Camel ride and I explained them about a little bit about Veganism in the simplest way possible. They did not argue with it, one of them agreed and appreciated the efforts, whereas, the rest smiled politely.
I was with a group of 7 Koreans. No one spoke English. I thought I had to spend the whole night in the desert, I might get bored after a while, I mean, how long would I watch the sky and stars there? The moment I reached the camp and saw the sunset, I felt I could spend my whole life sitting on the cool sand, watching the sky and surroundings. The moment was magical. It was so peaceful, serene, pleasant and vibrant. The stars in the night seemed so close that I could just jump and catch a few. But that wasn’t all. Contrary to my thoughts, the group of Koreans turned out to be very humble and joyful. They made me feel very comfortable, asked questions about India, told their stories with their broken English. I was delighted with their efforts of making me a part of their group. Moreover, I felt over-whelmed seeing that they always helped the staff with making beds and serving the food. In the morning, the sunrise made me realize I had the best experience of the trip in the desert.
The cherry on cake – A Beautiful Crush!
Perhaps not the best experience but the most memorable one. We all have some sort of fantasies of meeting someone special accidentally. I have always been the ‘Ted Mosbey’ from ‘How I met your Mother’, thinking that someone special would just drop from the sky, violin and saxophone would play in the background when I saw her for the first time and I would realize ‘She is the One’. I have had the same experience ample times and every time it feels great but different. Of course, they never ended as I always hoped but I am grateful to experience in the first place. Let’s tell you a little about this one.
It was somewhere in the middle of the trip. There she was, in my room. I glanced at her and she fitted perfectly in the frame of my fantasy girl. All my excitement of traveling solo, places that I was looking forward to, experiences that I already had during the trip, friends that I made whom I kept on meeting in every city started to fade away. All I could think of was her. I loved talking to her. We kept on bumping into each other in the hostel. I ended up spending much more time with her than expected. I can literally write a whole blog describing her beauty and the moments I spent with her, but I won’t bore you with it.
Eventually, it was time to say goodbye. My mind was running constantly with stupid thoughts and ideas to make the perfect ending. But before anything could happen she just smiled from far and left. That’s it? That was the only closure I got? I thought. I hate to say but It was hard to concentrate on the traveling afterward. I kept on thinking about her for days. All I wanted was a closure, a nice ending to this short story. I scolded myself for being so silly.
Gradually, I did start to enjoy afterward – met few Vegans and helped them understand about Indian food to make their life easy while traveling, saw some amazing sites, had the best experience in the desert – but there was some part of me wanting to see her again.
And yes, just when my trip was about to end, I did see her again. There she was, I glanced at her and she fitted perfectly in the frame of my fantasy girl. She was beautiful. We met, we talked, we laughed and at the end, we hugged and said goodbye like friends. I got the closure this time. End of the story…neah! you never know, life is long…and beautiful.
Moving on – The hardest part
Two weeks, 5 cities, amazing places, incredible people and memorable experiences. Whenever I traveled from one place to another, I had to let go of so many things, so many people and so many memories. There was a part of me that kept wanting to experience it, never wanted to leave. Traveling for a long time is mentally challenging sometimes. I wonder how people travel for months, even 15 days were too much for me.
Every day was a new day, a new experience, a new friend, a new topic and same sunset but a new place. There was always a lot to let go each day. I am never good at it. Some days were perfect, some were productive and some were wasted.
Sometimes you want to keep gazing the sunset and never wanted it to set down; sometimes you had the best of the conversation with someone and you wanted to keep it going; sometimes you feel sad leaving a place.
At times, it doesn’t even make sense to just move forward and become indifferent or non-attached, other times, moving forward is the only thing that makes sense and keeps you going to complete the journey and come back home with beautiful memories.
It was indeed hard for me to let go sometimes and move on during the trip. There was a constant chatter in my mind. In Buddhism, it is called the monkey mind. During the trip I also thought I should be traveling with someone next time, not alone, who would talk me out of my emotional turmoil in a worst case scenario. But while traveling back home, somehow, I felt peaceful as if everything made sense, everything felt complete and the journey was coming to a perfect ending. I felt grateful for everything that had experienced in the last 15 days. I was happy to go back home and meet my parents. It was a roller coaster ride but totally worth it. I wondered if only 15 days could give you this much rich experience, make you feel alive, make you learn so much and makes you feel grateful, then how enormous life we have in our hand, to make everything right, to fix the problem, to love someone truly, to cherish the relationships, and definitely no sense to cry over the past.
That very moment I realized had I traveled with someone or a group of friends, probably, I would have never experienced these deep emotions within myself. That constant chatter, that monkey mind would be far from my vision. I wouldn’t have learnt this much about myself. The experience wouldn’t have been this unpredictable, had not I traveled solo.
originally published at www.anatman.in.