By Vanya Rakesh:
As a 20-something girl bitten by travel bug and heavily inspired by books and movies, I always imagined going to some far-off city alone, having my share of adventure in life and explore a new country.
But this summer when I got an invite to attend a Summer School in Geneva for 2 weeks, for some strange reason, it took me a lifetime to convince my mind – Will it really be worth it? Would the course really add any intellectual value? How will it help my career? Where will I arrange for the tuition fee which would cost me a bomb? And most importantly, how will I manage my life in another country alone? Even having lived away from home for 5 years (though in the same country), the fear was never this big. Still, my anxiety just refused to die. Reasons: unknown.
So finally when I (or I should say the guarding angels in my Life) convinced myself to not let go of the opportunity and just give it a shot, instead of preparing for the course, a substantial part of planning started revolving around ‘places to see, visit and must-do’. Who knows when life will give me another chance to explore the Swiss
Alps all by myself!
With everything sorted (read the finances, plans to buy a super-saver Swiss pass and my anxious-yet-excited heart), I set off on my first solo foreign trip! And the exhilarating experience is what makes me write this account of things I learnt in those glorious 2 weeks.
While you plan a trip, zillion things will cross your mind. And many of those may shake your will to take the plunge and explore the place all by yourself. At that moment, the only thing that can help you brush off the anxiety bug, is your will to go. Yes, I will go, yes I will travel alone, Yes I can do it. Stay strong-headed and be sure about your ideas, plans and decisions. No one will be more proud of you than yourself.
No, I am not campaigning for any sports brand but stating something that gave me the strength to travel to 6 cities alone. We read multiple things happening around which is the biggest cause of our worry when it comes to safety. However, do we stop living? No. So do not stress over it because the Universe has got your back.
Once you decide the place you want to visit, make sure you burn the midnight oil and do a thorough research about the city, its transportation, the weather, the people, distances, food, local currency – everything you can think of. A well-read traveller is always prepared for what is coming and generates the confidence to step out on those unexplored paths. Though falling back on experiences of people who have visited the place before helps, the research you do to make your trip a success is totally another story. And it helps, a lot!
Solo travel is a teacher in itself and leaves you with valuable qualities that you as an individual bring back home with you. With great power comes great responsibility, and the same comes with freedom. Travel responsibly and be aware of your surroundings. Patience is another virtue you inevitably imbibe, thanks to long layovers, a missed flight, delays, and a lot many things. So instead of unnecessarily worrying, remember to enjoy that moment. Go buy that yummy choco-filled croissant with a vanilla cappuccino and live in that moment. Because things will be ok and turn to be fine. Even if that means waiting endlessly for a train, bus or flight.
In a new city, in the middle of a pool of strangers speaking a language you don’t understand, talking to someone may become quite a task. Well, sometimes. But here, you do not have to hesitate. Not even once. Unabashedly talk to people, ask for directions. Start a conversation with people you sit next to in the train you take. Trust me, the stories that you weave at that point of time are priceless. It helped me meet a Mauritian, who, on simply being asked for directions, took the responsibility to take me around Lausanne because we both were South-Asians.
On my way to Lucerne, I spent 30 minutes with an American who co-incidentally is a regular visitor to India, but never got an opportunity to explore the country as a tourist. And not to forget the bus driver in Interlaken who was elated to find an Indian lost at the bus stand (me) and suddenly started talking in Punjabi. What an experience! These small instances will always occupy a portion in my happy memory bank.
Go out and try that famous local cuisine, drink like a fish (but responsibly) with people you do not know. Spend some time in the local park under the sun and observe people. Spend some time in a Museum and Souvenir shops (even if you end up buying nothing). Trust me; the experience will be something that no other trip can probably ever match in your entire lifetime.
Go ahead and just make that one solo backpacking tour to another country in your life to learn new things about yourself and bring home a ‘new you’. If nothing else, making friends from different countries and travelling alone will definitely give you answers that you were looking for before booking the tickets to visit that place from your bucket list. Follow your heart and it will lead you to places.