QUEEN'S ROAD: Many travellers are discovering the joys of solitary splendour as they pack their bags to find new places.
“We spend all our lives being a part of a familiar structure. I realized that I enjoyed the unfamiliarity.Travelling solo helps me grow,” says Vijay Nambiar, a travel blogger who visited Kenya this year.
Vijay feels that by keeping his mindspace sacrosanct and away from colliding opinions, he is able to fully enjoy a new experience.“I find immense freedom in the act of being the only one responsible for everything that comes my way. Once you know that, you stop wasting time analysing and begin looking at everything by being present in the moment,” he says.
Another habitual solo traveller, Vineet Jayadevan got the travel bug from members of his family with whom he had seen parts of Europe, US and Canada. After becoming financially independent, he wanted to go solo, “I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I no longer wait for other people to chip in with their two bits. I need not listen to any comments,” he says. Even though he is only in his mid twenties, Vineet has been to more than 20 countries.In the past one year, this wanderer has walked a tiger in Thailand, explored monasteries in Bhutan and made friends with an Argentinean in Turkey, all by himself. He has set certain rules for himself to create unique experiences. “I never eat Indian and American food, I make sure I eat the local cuisine from the street food stalls and I never visit the same country twice.” Eating a frog was never on his bucket list but Vineet chanced upon it on the menu in Thailand and tried it spontaneously. “ It just tasted like chicken, I didn’t want to regret not trying it,’ he says.
Sharing a room with backpackers at local hostels makes it easy to meet more people like him who are on their own.
In Thailand, he enjoyed the nightlife with a fellow solo traveller from America. “The conversations are easy as I find that people all over the world are interested in Indian culture and want to visit the country at some point, ” he says. Extensive travel enables him to draw parallels, find differences and forge human connections. He found many uncanny similarities between the Middle East and Turkey.
“ The culture was a blend of the East and Europe. It was fascinating to watch westerners listening to Arabic music. On the other hand, I found Bhutan contrary to the sad picture painted by the media. The people dress in their ethnic wear and are content in their simplicity, ’’ he says.
Roshini ventured out to Dharamsala to discuss a job prospect with an NGO. Though the opportunity did not materialise, the trip turned into a solitary adventure. She hitched a ride with 10 strangers from the middle of nowhere to McLeod Ganj. “I got to see a monastery and do people watching on my own. There are moments when you feel lonely but it’s a neat way to clear your head,” she explains.
As a woman, safety concerns did cross her mind, but she did not hesitate to take the help of a taxi driver who even showed her an old church. “I ended up chatting with him the whole day. He told me about his life,’’ she says.
Roshini feels the conversation would have been mundane if she was with other people. “Many generations of his family had worked in the Army but he couldn’t qualify medically and that really hurt him.He’s trying to join the police now. I love these conversations” she says.
Tired of the monotony of the corporate world in Bengaluru, Gaurav Arora quit and moved back to be his parents in Delhi. But he wanted to fulfill his long pending dream of visiting Hampi.
“I hold Hampi in too much reverence to take just about anyone with me.”
The solo experience enabled him to compare the driven selfishness of a metro with a smaller town. He found a huge difference in the way people reacted to money.
“I paid Rs 150 for a 14 km trip to an auto driver who only got two trips a day and was okay with it,” he says.He cycled to Hampi’s architectural marvels and an official and some street children helped him through the rough patches. He returned the favour by buying them coconut water. Kaushik Raghunathan took a trip to Leh last month on his bike. “I went alone to contemplate my existence,” he says.
For solo riders, he says, it is important to ward off the fear of the unknown. “Vehicle repair, no petrol and fatigue, I have faced it all, but I bravely pulled through it,” he says.