Beaten down by the monotony of life, I decided to venture out into completely unfamiliar territory. It was time for my first solo trip. Ok, to be honest, I’m still not sure if this qualifies as a solo trip since I was traveling with a group, albeit, one full of strangers.
My friends and I had desperately been wanting to take a trip abroad for quite some time. But given the universal struggle of planning a dinner together, I knew that it would be years before this dream would turn into reality. During this time, I had come across quite a few articles about solo travel and after having read one by a friend of mine, it started to seem like an extremely appealing, definitely doable idea.
Being an only child of conservative Indian parents meant that I was cozily snuggled up in a cocoon all my life. And so, the idea of going backpacking solo seemed nothing short of suicidal. Joining a group tour through a travel agency did feel like a bit of a cop-out, but that was the most I could ask of myself at the time.
My trip was six days long with a couple of days in each city starting from Vienna, going on to Budapest and ending in Prague. All three cities were absolutely GORGEOUS. Every corner in each one of them was a sight for sore eyes. And no, I am not exaggerating, I promise.
Even though my initial motivation for the trip was just to go on vacation and visit somewhere I’d never been, I soon started seeing it as an opportunity to get some space from my usual life and the people in it and attempt to figure out who I am without them.
Most of the solo-travel material I’d looked up online gave me the idea that I would meet lots of new people, form friendships that would last well after the trip, do crazy adrenaline-inducing things, basically be the most spontaneous and fearless version of myself.
In retrospect, that’s just too much pressure to put on a trip and on oneself. I had clearly underestimated my need for company and overestimated my openness to uncertainty.
Loneliness started creeping up on me sooner and stronger than I’d anticipated. The sites we visited made a difference too. Some were engaging enough for me to enjoy them by myself while others would’ve been better with someone next to me.
Now before you start feeling sorry for me, I didn’t spend the entirety of my trip in solitude. The first couple of days were a bit rough-made up for completely by the beauty that is Vienna, but on day three, I got acquainted with the only other lone traveler in my group whom I then instantly befriended and hung out with for the rest of the trip. This somehow triggered a wonderful chain reaction and I soon started conversing with a lot more people within and outside of my group. I’ve always known that I enjoyed being around people but it was only during the trip that I realized how fulfilling it can truly be to connect with someone you barely know at a purely human level. There are no expectations, no motives. Just sharing a bit of who you are with a fellow performer in the circus of life.
While preparing for the trip I tried to tattoo one thing on my mind: Things don’t always go as planned, so be open to any and everything (within reason, of course) and try to enjoy the uncertainty that you are so damn afraid of being faced within your regular life.
Well, that’s easier said than done. I wish someone had told me that in real life just because I’m going to a new place, my personality won’t take a 360-degree turn. If I was a naturally cautious (read: scared) person, that would remain. I did loosen up quite a bit as time passed, but a little part of me was always on high alert. I was paranoid about my belongings and always made sure not stray too far from the group. There were a few places not covered by my itinerary that I would’ve liked to visit if only I could summon the courage to do so on my own.
This isn’t to say that I’m not incredibly proud of myself for wriggling out of my comfort zone and managing to have a jolly time while at it. To this day, whenever I get unnerved over trivial issues, I just remind myself about my excursion and instantly feel more confident and capable.
My trip wasn’t perfect. But it was most certainly a success. I witnessed some of the most aesthetically pleasing sights in the world, connected with people from different backgrounds and relished good food, all while challenging some of my greatest fears and insecurities.
So, for those of you out there having your apprehensions travel-block you, just GO FOR IT. You don’t have to start with backpacking solo in a place as unfamiliar to you as Westeros would be to Barney. GO AT YOUR OWN PACE. If you haven’t traveled before, take someone you know with you or you could do what I did and go with a group tour. If going abroad seems too daunting, start with your own country, or even state.
I can’t promise you that your adventure will go exactly as planned or will meet every single expectation of yours. But the one thing I do know for sure is that it’ll be worth the courage you gather and the effort you make. Unless of course something catastrophic happens. Although, if we’re being real, a catastrophe could be waiting right outside your door, but that doesn’t stop you from doing life, right?