‘If you ain’t found something to die for you never lived’ – Akala. (Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote’s rendition)
I’m lucky to have found not only what I’d like to live for, also how I’d like to die. Travelling it is, the biggest virtue of life. And the best way to enjoy this journey is just the way nature decided our arrival into and departure from this world – alone. Some believe what’s normal is usually natural, yet traveling solo often receives resistance, deeming it neither normal nor natural. I’m all for traveling alone and what a way it is. Yes, it was an intimidating thought at first for me too, but lack of options pushed me for it and the rewards it brought in return are inexpressible even till date. Today, I push everyone to travel alone but not many are open to the idea, and they’ve no idea what are they missing. To them, here’s why you MUST do it at least once.
1. RARE DISCIPLINE
Firstly, travel and vacations are two different things. Travellers work hard, both before and during their journeys, and doing it all solo is a different ballgame altogether. It makes you independent, responsible, and practical. What you see, what experiences you have, where you stay and eat, how you commute, and everything else that fills moments of your trip is to be decided by you. Your idea of a place and what you derive out of it is to be defined by you yourself. It puts you in the driving seat and makes you decisive leaving you accountable for everything you do. In this modern time we are quick to disown a problem and are tuned to be partially dissatisfied when more people are involved. But, traveling alone detaches you from these fallacies and teaches to always control the outcome. Dissatisfactions and disownments can no longer be an option.
2. FOLLOW YOUR HEART
Many ask, how can you travel alone? To which I have a standard response. I can’t pacify myself with this hollow reasoning that just because I didn’t have company I didn’t do it. It is insane when you’ll look back and see yourself in a few decades and find the pages in your diary blank, reciting no travel-tales, no experiences, no crazy adventures, and sharing no learnings whatsoever. Never stayed in a hostel, regret not taking that mountain trail on the last family vacation, found no company to visit that monument you always wanted to, drop the excuse and travel just for that. Take that trek, ride the bike to nowhere, go see that old church, speak with that security-guard, go eat that awful-looking dessert, just do all that and more, simply because your heart commanded it, you’ll thank yourself. Open to your heart, and it’ll open the world to you. Follow what the it says, it’s the only one to please, and in return it’ll bring you fulfilment.
3. BREAK-FREE FROM YOUR INHIBITIONS
I once read – don’t be afraid of your weaknesses, for they don’t know they exist.
I’ve heard people wanting to travel solo but are reluctant since they aren’t sure if they’ll like it or not. It’s not a problem of their likability but of inhibitions of not knowing self well enough. If they’ll enjoy their own company and/or of those who’ll be joining on the way becomes a demon that sits on their backs restricting them from thinking straight and breaking free. Traveling solo sorts these inhibitions in the simplest of ways. Enjoying is no more dependent on people. First night in that mixed dorm where everyone knows each other and you’re a stranger is tough, but next morning everyone will wish you warmly and yours will be the story everyone wants to hear. They’re traveling solo too, they want to listen to a good tale and tell theirs too. Inhibitions disappear in a moment, and you would laugh over how stupid you were to restrict yourself. Go out there, learn about yourself.
A dear friend once asked – if you weren’t you, would you date yourself.
It stuck with me for a long time till I turned a half-hearted yes in to a definite one. How many of us are really comfortable being what we are and enjoy our own company? I’ve stayed alone for a long time and have come to do everything that a couple might do – dined at restaurants, watch movies, attended concerts, strolled in parks, boat rides, adventure sports, going to bars, and more, all alone. It may sound depressing at first but it most definitely isn’t. Rather not doing it is. I love my own company and it has made me a more confident, independent, and open a person. We’ve been told that we need someone to complete us, responsive and dependent love is true, which by all means is a fad. The most organic thing to do is to simply love yourself first, accept the way you’re, and be so comfortable in your own skin that this confidence shows and allures others. There are places that you can travel alone to but there isn’t anywhere you can’t travel alone to.
5. EMPTY THAT HEAD
Figuring out the virtue of your life is the toughest thing to do. Why are we here and doing what we’re doing? If this is what we were to do or there’s some other purpose? Is there a purpose at all? There are millions of questions and the more you answer the easier your life becomes. I’ve figured for self that my virtue is just to be happy. It may seem lame but try being always happy from within, not just wear a smile, it ain’t that easy. Everyone’s trying to fit in to others plans. Be it at work, in friendship, relationships, family, or else-wise. And there’s a constant dissatisfaction in it, the inner voice keeps screaming – I could do (it) better. Even if for a short while, this one is yours and completely yours. There’s no one else one travels on behalf of but for self. You aren’t answerable to anyone, don’t do anything for or to please anyone, it starts from you and ends at you. And this is the greatest satisfaction of it all since no one could do it better than how you did it. Follow the virtue of your being. Do it for self and be happy, even if not satisfied…
6. DO WHAT YOU WISH
Traveling with others have its challenges. We end up being complacent, doing things what others want, doing what is judged right, what everyone wants, stop and go in harmony of everyone’s consent, killing the inner voice and what we wanted to do. When solo, you do what you wish and are not obligated to please anyone. It’s the best time to complete that bucket list. Ditch the train for a bus, eat at that dirty but delicious restaurant, do the same thing again and again and again and not be bored, do whatever you like. On my trip to Bodhgaya, I visited the Bodhi Temple twice in the same day. Now most people I know would’ve been satisfied by crossing it off the list by visiting just once. I wanted to see it in daylight and at dawn, and since I could, I did, and I have no regrets whatsoever now.
I don’t watch TV, don’t read books, don’t exercise, and wake up really late when at home. All this changed when I decided to travel alone all of last year, and I traveled a lot!! I still don’t watch TV but books have become a constant companion, I’ve fallen in love with trekking and paragliding, and when traveling, I beat the sun everyday. I’ve become more aware of myself and my surroundings and people love me for the all-round seasonality I now bring. Traveling solo has broaden my horizons and added a spectrum of attributes to my personality which has made me fitting in to any conversation and thus less of a social outcast. These conversations have added more to my wisdom and to the travel list too. It don’t end, it further expands. More lure for learnings, experiences, and in-depth knowledge of everything to see and come is a brilliant feeling to have.
8. VALUE THE ABSENCE
It’s been nearly five year since I’ve lost my father and traveling is my way of connecting with him. It makes it seem closer and chats with him flow naturally. While it has brought me closer to him, travels have also made me realise the value of those who are the closest to me and appreciate their presence. Their momentary absence reminds me of their importance. I’ve randomly messaged my sister about how I miss her daughter, written poem for my mother and thrown a surprise party on her birthday to recite it to her in a huge gathering, brought untimely gifts for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, and quit travels just to be home on important occasions. A little time away from your loved ones makes you fall in love with them again, and if you have a partner, traveling away from them is the best way to return to them. My best friend has acrophobia and on our first trek together he sobbed due to his fear (yes literally) and said he didn’t want to die without seeing his wife again. Phew, that was strong!!
9. MAKE NEW FRIENDS
My recent travels have brought me redefined views of relationships. Close friends became closer, old ones revived, unwanted ones gone, and space made for new ones. I made friends from all corners of the world. A beautiful dentist couple at Nada Thach trek, three trekkers from Kunchenjunga, few from sharing a lunch table in Kolkatta, to a Defence Ministry advisor in Delhi, Italian mad woman in Jaisalmer, these are people who’ve added value to life, with their experiences, views, and wisdom. I’ve stayed at auto-rickshaw drivers’ homes in Sri Lanka, played with local kids in Karnataka, and even met some interesting ones on train journeys. Lets face it, if in a group we would occupy the back seats of the bus and would live and die within the tight-knitted gang of our throughout the trip. Now theres no fun in that, no loosening up, no expansion of our horizons. It’s impossible for a lone traveller to not open up, initiate conversations, fail at them too sporadically, but make new acquaintances. It’s the best way to let your pompous guard down and return to the old way of communicating, face-to-face.
10. BREAK THE RUT, CREATE A NEW NEW
If you have a routine job, this is of utmost importance for you. You weren’t suppose to wake up at odd hours everyday, lose your sleep, follow the tale-light of a car, get to a boring looking cubical, feed someone else’s dream, earn a few bucks, follow that tail-light again, listen to uninspiring music, go home, eat, sleep, and repeat it day after day. Waking up with a worry to mark your biometric attendance in time can never be justifiable. Break this chain and go travel in the lap of nature. Wake up to the ever-changing hue of the sky, listen to the inspiring songs of bird’s chirping and flapping leaves, and music of the river crossing the meadows. Follow a beaten path, and create your own open sanctuary, even if for a bit. Breath nature’s naturally conditioned air and contribute to only one plan, of your own. Break the rut, even the rut of being around someone, doing anything that you do on a regular day, switch the phone off, you won’t know when’s the next time you can afford that anyways. Live a little. And do it alone, don’t let anyone influence you even a bit. Be free.
My list of reasons to travel solo will never go dry. For every reason to not travel solo I’ll counter with at least ten. It can’t be challenged. It may not be normal but is as natural as it gets. Experiences are a sum of memories and wisdom that of experiences. Create memories, let experiences alter you, get wiser as you travel, go far beyond the maps and what your account balances’ allow. There’s really no need for company. It will find you if you go for it, and it needs you too, and imagine how easily accessible you’d be if you’re alone. You might just fall in love with it, and yourself…