“Excuse me miss, are you travelling by yourself?” he asked.
“Yes”, she replied rather vehemently.
A tiny voice inside her head murmuring out aloud reminding her that this was such a contrast to the somewhat awkward self-conscious girl she once was. That was two years ago.
In an ‘if not now then when’ moment that occurred to her seemingly very randomly she decided she would give solo travelling a shot. She was all of 24. A woman. An Indian. In India.
A 24 year old Indian female travelling solo in India was not widely heard of. She knew no one in her close immediate or even wide open circle who’d gone down this path.
All she knew then is that she had travel on her mind.
So she put a plan in place. Her destination would be a quiet, quaint beach she recalled driving past as a child during their family road trips – Trasi in Karnataka, India unknown to most is on the west coast and is also known for its turtle nestlings (although there wouldn’t be turtle or turtle hatchlings in October).
In a week’s time she had her map in place – her train tickets were booked and so were her stay arrangements; independently managed with the only recommendations coming in from the Internet. And with that she was off to be in her own company for five whole days in a new place; her first time ever.
And she did well.
She learnt to be comfortable in her own company; that ‘sitting by yourself doing nothing’ was an art, an art that demanded to be mastered.
In the course of this mastery, she learnt to tune out of herself and into the world around her – that of her fellow travellers, the staff at her B&B, the kids she met as she’s walk along the shore.
More importantly she learnt to be comfortable in the company of the unknown – be it places or people. And she learnt that she’d have to teach people to be comfortable around a solo traveller.
In turn she learned to trust – herself and her instincts.
The girl who never dared look anyone in the eye;
who seldom, if ever, spoke with any authority in her voice;
who was awkward and too self-conscious of the world around her to then simply be herself
who depended on a someone to tag along with to go anywhere, turned to parents to figure out and deal with vacation plans;
who struggled to find the time she craved so much for to just read, write, dream;
who thought that being and living in the moment were merely feel good phrases for self-help books to claim to be bestsellers
…began to find herself. And she has been pleasantly surprised since then.
She returned with new knowledge; knowledge that didn’t seem to exist in any book or newspaper she’d read: the world around her could be a good place filled with good intentioned people.
So today, two years later on another solo trip, when two men are looking around a bustling restaurant for a table to sit at to enjoy a couple of beers or a woman with her family of five is baffled over a singular entity occupying an entire table while they had no else to go, she is a solo female traveller comfortable in her own skin with her own pace. She looks back at that girl who returned a hero i.e. a truer version of herself and for that she is grateful to that nondescript beach.
Because she is me.