Eight years isn’t a long time. Not if it involves what starts with a brave first step and turns into an irrepressible habit.
A long weekend at the end of an interminable stretch of deplorable work-life balance was to lead to a series of little weekend getaways with friends. The first of these was a visit to Shivanasamudra, the delightful segmented waterfall in the Mandya District of Karnataka. I got off work late and rather nonchalantly told my friends I’d take the next bus. I’d even booked myself a ticket before I realised I would have to travel by bus alone, eat a meal alone, sit in front of a leery old man smacking his lips in delight at the prospect… alone. I texted a work-related lie to my friends, picked up my backpack, and went home to weep into the comfort of my pillow. It was official: I had no guts; I’d have no glorious waterfall.
I recovered quickly. It wasn’t even a couple of weeks before I took my shamefaced self to the same bus stand and got on the first bus I found, to prove to myself that I could do this Big Scary Thing. Of course, at the Majestic Bus Stand, most buses lead to Mysore, so it was a very short – albeit gleeful – solo trip. However, it brought with it a life-changing realisation. I was not entirely bereft of guts, I could look at leery old men on buses and put my best finger forward, and I loved the time I spent with myself. Turns out, I was interesting and fun on that journey.
Eight years isn’t a long time to take self-bestowed travel-related bravery awards for granted. But compared to that one life-changing weekend and everything I learnt about myself back then, eight years is a lifetime. A lifetime of getting on trains and buses alone, an era of wayside tea stall meals eaten alone, an epoch of not being able to wait for the next time I took off to discover things…alone.
Today, as I travel with married/paired-off friends, large groups of just-acquaintances, or even an accidental gathering of travellers temporarily thrown together in the mists of time lost in waiting for transport, I continue to steal an hour or two of solitary wandering to celebrate my abiding affection for going solo.
If you haven’t already done so, I implore you to pack a solo bag, eat a solo meal, somewhere on a solitary highway. It isn’t just about the new people you’ll meet. It’s about the one you’ve been with all your life and never had the immense pleasure of befriending. And, of course, it’s about the places you will go.
Anoopa Anand is an editor, writer and animal welfare worker based in Bangalore, India. When she isn’t yearning to find her feet on different shores, she likes to work in animal shelters, read fiction, and do crosswords in auto rickshaws.
Follow Anoopa – https://twitter.com/leftarmspinster