Moments that have changed something in me.
Practical tips based on sticky situations, stupid mistakes and WTF moments.
Come with me, for if you never step out that door, you’ll never know how far you can walk.
There is only so much I can control about the wanderings of my mind.
An old dug-out wooden canoe waited for me on the banks of Yorkin River. Two cowboy-like young boys, dressed in vests and gum boots, greeted me with wide smiles and is-be-shkena. Dusk was fast approaching, so I had little time to voice my apprehensions. For an hour, we manoeuvred rapids upriver with an old motor and a wooden stick, slowing down to a crawl at narrow bends, tilting almost 60 degrees when sharp rocks rose from the river bed, nothing but dense forests on either side. My pumping adrenalin washed off the nervousness of being somewhere so remote, alone, in a country I had set foot in only two days ago (Read: Costa Rica Wasn’t The Country I Imagined). As night descended and finally on land, I lugged my backpack and followed my new friends into the home of the Bribris – one of the last remaining indigenous communities in Costa Rica. Deep in the rainforest, without electricity or connectivity, far from civilization as we know it. The boys made way for Don Guillermo, the head of the clan, to receive me. I expected him …
On a sunny afternoon, I sit on the steps outside my room, gazing at the bare, brown mountains and their snow-clad peaks. I’m lost in thought when four kids, wearing maroon sweaters and warm stockings, their heads shaved off, come and sit next to me. Word has gotten around that I speak Hindi, and the curious ones have come to check for themselves. On first glance they look like young boys from the village, so I ask Aap sab bhai hain? (Are you brothers?). They solemnly nod no, point towards the nunnery, and tell me they are nuns.
I often look back upon my life, wondering at what point I went from being a regular, 20-something Indian girl trying to figure life out, to someone who (sometimes) gets paid to travel the world! Well, I’m still the regular, 20-something Indian girl, and I haven’t quite figured life out. Someday, this blog will remind me of all the things I was in my twenties, and if you’ve been following my travels, I’m pretty sure this little list is going to surprise you.
There are some stories that I promised myself I would never write. Like the time I fell into an open drain in Rajasthan. Or when I was convinced a leopard was going to eat me alive. Or a painful trip to a hospital in ‘paradise’. In the crevices of my mind, I’ve been hiding away such memories. But it’s time to pen them, for these are the moments that keep travel real, and have gradually become good stories or memorable lessons:
Somewhere deep within, I feel a quiet longing. When I brace my ailing heart to say goodbye to a place I’ve come to love. When I’m filled with adrenalin by the uncertainty of where the road will take me next. When the soles of my feet hurt from days of traveling. When I feel my feet itch from being in the same place too long. On days good and bad, warm and cold, happy and sad. I feel a quiet longing for home.
One month ago, when I became one of the four worldwide ambassadors of the #WeGoSolo movement and announced a contest in partnership with Hostelbookers, I didn’t know that it was my turn to be inspired. I received over a hundred entries to the contest, and besides sharing your dream solo travel destinations literally in every part of the globe, you shared your stories and how you faced or plan to face your challenges. As the sisterhood of women travelling alone grows from strength to strength, the time has come to announce the contest results (oh yes, the EUR 150 voucher from Hostelbookers.com) and answer the big questions – why women travel alone, and what is on their list of dream solo travel destinations.