Looking out at the old Vijaynagara Empire, in Hampi
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved travelling, especially going anywhere outside of my home state.
More than three years ago, on my first solo trip to Rishikesh, I fell in love with solo travelling. My experiences and conversations amongst fellow travellers out there led me to set my sights on Himachal as my next destination.
I took a flight from (my hometown) Kochi to Delhi to start my trip, and used public transport for the remainder of my journey. I stayed mostly in backpacker hostels as it offered cheap and quality accommodation as well as the opportunity to meet plenty of other like-minded travellers.
My plan was to spend three months travelling around Himachal. But as is often the case while travelling, plans change. I ended up staying a month in Himachal and spent the rest of my trip travelling to places by following my curiosity and suggestions of the people I met along the way.
Here is the route I took for the trip.
Kochi - Delhi - Mcloedganj - Bir - Chitkul – Kasol – Kalga - Amritsar – Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Chittorgarh - Udaipur - Surat - Mumbai - Pune - Gokarna - Bangalore - Hampi – Bangalore - Kochi
Taking this journey has had a tremendous impact on my life, and I could go on endlessly about how it’s changed me, but for this post, I’ll limit it to 10 ways in which it has impacted me.
Now I must say this is going to be a slightly long article, however, you may come away with some key takeaways, and new perspectives, so I'd encourage you to keep on reading and stick till the end.
Boosted my self-confidence and ability to interact with different people
I used to be the kind of person who used to smile awkwardly whenever I was introduced to someone new and would interact much only on those rare occasions when I felt an instant connection.
Staying in backpacker hostels and being in completely new and unfamiliar environments forces you out of your comfort zone to meet and interact with plenty of new people each day.
As a result, my guarded and reserved nature towards new faces slowly made way for one that was more friendly, trusting and open from the outset. I began to put myself out there and initiate conversations more often, rather than over-thinking and ruing missed opportunities.
I discovered that the seemingly uncomfortable and vulnerable situations (with people) often turned into something enjoyable if I was able to stay with the discomfort for a while than flee at the first sign of it, which was often my instinctive response before.
Once I became okay being uncomfortable, fear no longer had as much power over my interactions with people, and it helped me to be more confident as a result.
Age doesn’t matter
In Mcloedganj, I climbed a part of the Himalayas, the Indrahara pass (14,271ft) over three days, along with four other travellers from my hostel.
To my surprise, even though three of them were in their forties and almost twice my age, it simply didn’t matter with regards to the quality of our interactions.
Growing up, I wasn’t very close to my eldest brother, and I felt one of the main reasons for that was our age gap of 9 years. However, while travelling, many people I connected with were more than double my age and it made me realise that the “Age Gap” was just an excuse in my mind and not a barrier while connecting with people.
I slipped twice while descending the mountain and if it wasn't for our guide I probably wouldn't have lived to tell the tale ( You can see me third from the top/bottom)
I fell in love with people & Conversations
The best part of travelling for me was not the places that I visited but undoubtedly connecting with the wonderful people I met from all over the country and the globe.
From Mexico to Belarus, you meet people from all parts of the world since India is a global backpacker hub. It was great fun interacting and relating with people from completely different cultures, age groups, walks of life and a pleasure hearing the different accents with Spanish and South African being my favourite.
As the trip progressed, I developed a deep love for people and conversations. I found that much like the other things I love in my life, conversations and connecting with people had the magical ability to make me fully absorbed, lose track of time and forget all my cares and worries.
It was a joy listening to people completely opening up about their lives, sharing their stories and talking about the life-defining choices they had made. Feeling lost and uncertain about my own future, their stories provided me with hope and helped to make more sense of my life.
While travelling the conversations could be completely frivolous one moment and can get very deep the next, even if you've known the other person for just 10 minutes.
A young Israeli I met in a tea shop in Rajasthan shared his experience of serving time in the army for his country. He described what it was like to be in the midst of a war and how he was almost shot and was lucky to be alive.
Outside of travel, it may take months or years before you can open up to someone about your feelings, develop trust or have any deep conversations. While travelling somehow, all of this could happen in less than a day.
I discovered that even the briefest of interactions with ‘strangers’ would leave me with a huge smile on my face and could make my whole day.
Putting yourself out there can lead to wonderful experiences
My experiences while travelling taught me to put myself out there and interact with all kinds of people as even the shortest of encounters were rewarding, and there was no predicting what it may lead to.
Someone I had met briefly over a 15-minute bus ride in Himachal, took the time out to show me around when I went down to Surat in Gujarat, later in the trip.
Making it a point to interact with some of the locals also led me to discover some beautiful places that I would have never found otherwise.
Travel fatigue is real
One and a half months into the trip, the excitement to explore and discover new places was waning, leaving me feeling confused. I never imagined I could ever have travel fatigue, as this was something I had dreamed of doing.
However, I was by no means ready to head back, but I wasn’t sure where to go either, and I was craving to see some familiar faces.
Fortunately, it turned out to be a phase that lasted little more than a week and spending long periods in one place without constant commuting and bookings helped me get my excitement flowing again.
As the trip progressed, it no longer became about seeing and doing everything in a place, irrespective of whether it was the main attraction. Instead, it became more about taking it slow and striking a balance between what to do and what to skip as trying to cover everything could be more draining than satisfying.
Celebrating Sudheer's 30th Birthday along with Shreya on the night I first met them
You are always choosing
I’ve always believed that there is more to life than 9-5 for six days a week. However, living in society, it can sometimes be hard to see beyond that when everyone around you is entrenched in this system.
What’s great about travelling is that you meet plenty of people who are following their dreams. This makes you wonder that if they can do it, why can’t you?
A young property manager I met in Chitkul, Himachal said — people keep saying life is difficult but do nothing to make things better for themselves.
He had chosen to quit his previous job and remove himself from the city to live next to the mountains in Chitkul where he felt most at home.
I came away from that interaction with the profound yet simple realisation that life is about the choices you make or don’t make. Either way, you are choosing.
Chitkul - The last inhabited village before the India-Tibet Border
Keep your expectations in check
After a month into the trip travelling through Punjab and certain offbeat parts of Rajasthan, there was a feeling of discontent and frustration lingering in me, which I couldn't seem to shrug off completely.
I was feeling bummed that I wasn’t meeting as many people or having as many meaningful interactions as before.
I felt uncomfortable at the thought of telling my friends and family who were all supportive of my trip, that this was not turning out to be as fun as I had hoped it would be. After all, this was something I had dreamed of doing and was something that my intuition was nudging me to do.
Moreover, I had never been more excited about anything my entire life. I felt confused. And I wanted these thoughts and feelings to disappear.
At the end of the day, what bothered me the most was the thought that I was not having as much fun I was “supposed” to be having. At least, not in comparison to what I had read in plenty of travel blogs before leaving for this trip. Were they actually being honest, I wondered? Heck, even my first solo trip was an amazing experience, and I could not help but wonder why it did not feel as great as before.
You are always responsible for your state of mind
I got up one morning and decided to vent out my thoughts and feelings into my journal, before boarding my bus for Udaipur. I was hoping doing this would put me in a better space mentally.
As I kept writing, it suddenly became obvious to me that my mind was the cause of the problem and not my circumstances.
I was perceiving what I was experiencing through a narrow and negative lens. After all, I was incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I was doing. But I was stuck in my head being stubborn and complaining about how things weren’t panning out as I wanted.
I was trying to resist the unpleasant thoughts and feelings, hoping it would go away somehow. But the more I tried to fight my thoughts and feelings, the worse it got.
What I had read years before in Eckhart Tolle’s bestselling book “The Power of Now” suddenly came to my mind. He says that whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists. He goes on to say that the key to letting go of negative feelings and emotions lies in accepting them fully.
I decided to accept my feelings, and focus my attention on them rather than the thoughts in my mind which kept saying – I shouldn’t be feeling this way, and this is not supposed to be happening.
By the end of that night, I was feeling much better. And little did I know then what was in store for me over the next few days in Udaipur.
RELATED : A Magical Way To Free Yourself of Negative Feelings
Simple pleasures can be the most fulfilling
What happened over the next seven days concluding with my 23rd Birthday in Udaipur was better than anything I could have imagined. Things magically took a 180-degree turn. It was as if the moment I stopped being stubborn and feeling sorry for myself, the Universe decided to reward me for it.
I usually stuck to staying in 1-2 hostels, in most places I went. But in Udaipur on a whim, I ended up staying in four different hostels which turned out to be a great decision.
I met some of the most fantastic and interesting people I have ever known. It felt intoxicating connecting deeply with them. It was the best week of my entire life, and I had some truly unforgettable experiences.
But to be honest, there was nothing extraordinary, at least looking at it from the outside. I wasn’t climbing a mountain as I did in Mcloedganj, nor was I floating through the sky while paragliding as I did in Bir.
However, what made it special were simple things like stimulating conversations, hanging out with different kinds of people and having a good laugh.
And since it was a beautiful place with lots to explore, great food and an amazing culture, it made things even better.
Celebrating my Birthday with 5 other Solo Travellers in Udaipur
Paragliding was one of those things that seemed better in my imagination than in reality.
My fears can be completely unfounded
We cannot always accurately predict how something will turn out until we experience it. Yet we have the habit of taking our thoughts (assumptions) about life too seriously.
I noticed that during the trip, many of my assumptions regarding certain experiences, events, places, people, and what I thought I needed to be happy were proven repeatedly wrong.
This was actually liberating because I realised I could just as well be wrong about my fears and worries coming true. This helped me to stop taking the negative thoughts in my mind seriously.
Sometimes our own thoughts can be our worst enemy and I stopped blindly believing it and started to question it.
In reality, most of our fears are based on assumptions and not on facts. So much of our fears can be released if we critically question and stop automatically believing in the thoughts that appear in our mind.
Realising that my fears and worries could be unfounded also helped me to reduce overthinking, be more open mind and say yes to many opportunities which I previously would have turned down.
In fact, one of the very reasons I decided to go ahead and start this blog even though I didn’t consider myself to be a writer or have any knowledge about blogging was because I decided to stop overthinking things and just do it.
I feel immensely grateful to have undertaken this journey, and it’s easily one of the best decisions I have made in my life.
If you feel something in your heart or your gut, that is excited by the thought of travelling solo, to you I’d like to say - Don’t think twice, just go for it. I know now is not the time, but once the dust settles and things get stable, it’s something that's worth doing at least once in your life.
I cant’t assure you that it will be easy and without difficulties, but it may turn out to be far better than anything you can imagine.
P.S – Do keep your expectations in check 😜
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