Quirky as it may sound, traveling alone is one of the best experiences you will ever have. Over the years I have traveled to many countries – and some of them not from the “popular list” but I have enjoyed every experience I have had of traveling alone.
I have been shown kindness like I never knew existed, people gave me shelter, food, free rides (and advice), little gifts to remember them by – every time I come back from a journey, it makes me want to go out again to experience something new.
I have made friends – who continue to be friends – there is a certain unbreakable bond forged during travel. Some incidents leave me very nostalgic and some, spirited.
Once, out on the Rinca Island on the Indonesian archipelago, the Ranger asked me if I was coming “directly” from India or did I live somewhere else, say, Britain or US. It was a strange question, but when I probed further, he expressed a desire to see a “real Indian” – him having grown up on Indian films. He wanted to “touch” India. He added that if there was a place he dreamed of going, it was India. He couldn’t imagine how a country that produced Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan was.
So it goes. People dream of traveling, some do, most do not. I do. It gives me a “high”. It makes me free. I makes me want to go on and on. It restores my faith in myself.
And here are my reasons to do it alone –
1. Meeting new people : Always the best outcome of solo traveling. Imagine walking into a hotel/bar/interesting site – Imagine being approached by (obviously) like-minded fellow traveler/backpacker from distant shores – imagine the long coffee/beer talks following that – imagine the things you learn from them – its like touching a piece of their life, a new place. What can be more exciting than finding a sudden and unexpected friend who, golly, is just as you are?
2. Making decisions : There is nothing that gives you so much satisfaction than knowing that you have made your own decisions and are going to stick to it no matter what – and that at the end of sticking to that decision, you have had the best time of your life. Be it the decision of lingering on in an obscure village in remote Africa, I have found that when I have made those decisions, everything else becomes unimportant. I don’t mind one bit if I missed the “touristy” spots or sights, because I have decided to keep away from it. Travelling alone was a crash course in self-dependency. Plus, I loved to throw up my plans and see what came of it. I stopped worrying about what I would find or how – because it didn’t matter.
3. Risk adds to the charm: There is a certain risk you take when traveling alone, but that is exactly what draws me to it all the time. The adventure quotient is higher when you are alone – and hey, it is not true that traveling solo means you are “alone and friendless” – if you want help with your hammock, there is always someone around willing to do it for you. The “risk” I am referring to really makes you more aware and cautious but also helps you in identifying who you can trust and who you cannot. It hones your instincts like nothing else.