Saturday, January 18, 2014

iFeature | Why I'm Travelling Solo in India Again.

To have the nerve to travel solo – book myself a return ticket – was not a pathway I’d planned on embarking upon. It just happened. Like most beautiful things. My first solo holiday was to a quaint little beach in Karnataka in the last quarter of 2012. Since then not only have my own perspectives undergone a complete overhaul but so have those of the people around me – and I mean this in the best way possible.

Well, for the most part traveling by yourself didn’t attract any brownie points – the bravado was totally discounted for. Instead the endless list of annoying questions never seemed to fade away. It was as a response to all those initial reactions that I penned my first solo travel-related blogpost. That I didn’t stop traveling nor writing after that seems to have made the kind of difference that I felt was required.

So this December, in choosing to travel to Coorg I made yet another decision: to reach Coorg via Bangalore. I got told by a few (the ones who know routes better than most) that I should’ve instead travelled via Mangalore as the route is shorter. I had to add here that no one asked me why I chose the route I did – but then again advice is always free so I didn’t really mind any of it. Now when I had first started making enquires for accommodation I was told by the locals that the road via Mangalore was ridden with potholes and not a convenient one at all. Also since I was anyway headed to Goa from Coorg I would be taking the Mangalore road later – so I’d have completed my Bangalore-Coorg-Mangalore roadtrip too. And isn’t travelling about the journey and not the destination?

My first morning at my homestay I woke up to a beautiful jingle involving birds of different shapes and colours tweeting alongside Taio Cruz and Mika Singh revving it on a player nearby. But the jingles aside, it was only now that I was beginning to realize how beautifully laid out this homestay was; bang in the middle of a spice and coffee plantation. Greenery everywhere, I was reminded on the roadtrip from Bangalore the previous day with farmlands and coconut trees alternating the landscape. The morning was more nippy than usual courtesy the wind gods whooshing through the night. Sitting at the porch with my morning’s cup of tea I was dazzled by the fluttering butterflies.

After breakfast that morning I took a rickshaw ride to the marketplace. I was back within cellular network coverage. A longish telephone call made home not without a list of locally available produces to be brought back took place, and I spent the next three odd hours aimlessly walking through the marketplace, even paced – watching, observing, soaking in. Quite happy to not have anyone bother or question me – and unlike other ‘touristy’ places no one here tugged or pulled at my sleeve to come see something or purchase something else. I walked into a couple of local shops only to be warmly greeted by shop-owners who were more than pleased to display their wares, answer questions, show a sample or two and make recommendations on what made better sense for me to purchase. Here I realized that language was seldom ever a barrier.

Lunch was had at a local hotel on my way back to my room, I realized how something as simple as this walk can teach you how to trust your inner compass and trust yourself (because you realize that you aren’t geographically challenged even in an unknown little town). You learn to be assertive and pleasant. And most importantly non-city bred folk seldom get bothered by a ‘solo female traveller’ – I’ve seen more eyebrows being raised (and recede into hairlines) by urban educated people!

Speaking of which, travelling by myself has taught me that it’s okay to get used to people being uncomfortable. But for the most part of it, people watch out for you – whether you’re a lone male or female or a group of people traveling to anywhere for the first time – people generally watch out for you and help you in any capacity they can. So, I had conductors directing me to empty seats (when they realized that my bag alone occupies more space than I do!), my homestay host not only picked but also dropped me back to the Coorg bus-stand the day I left (I had to leave at 7 AM which is early enough if not too early, and he didn’t charge me extra). I also learnt that rickshaw drivers are pleasant folks. Once I was off the bus, I was provided directions to the rickshaw stand by rickshaw drivers themselves who’d only just dropped passengers off at the bus stop. Me thinks they could’ve easily have fleeced me by offering to take me to my destination!

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This post was originally published on the India Untravelled Blog here

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