It took me several months to plan, scrap, plan again, and finally execute my first ever solo trip. I’d heard so many stories – from how a solo trip can be “life-changing”, or “absolutely boring” to “quite disastrous”. I realised that the only way I’d ever find it out for myself is by going on one, and find out I did – by going to Pondicherry (now Puducherry). The first October weekend was a long one, and the timing was perfect.
Now, why Pondicherry? Well, it’s been on my wish-list for quite some time. It is the French capital of India, has Aurobindo Ashram, and beautiful architecture and more. Then there is Auroville. Besides, Pondicherry seemed like a safe place too. I also did my research – read travel blogs, latest news about Pondicherry, its culture, and talked to friends who’ve been there.
Luckily, I got cheap plane tickets from Mumbai to Chennai and back. From Chennai, I was supposed to take a bus to Pondicherry. Finalising the accommodation was still left, and that got me in a dilemma. So here’s the thing: I love hotels, especially the beds so much that the first thing I do when I enter a hotel room, is bounce on the bed. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
But the whole point of the trip was to get out of my comfort zone, so I booked bed in a hostel dorm. It was at Vedanta WakeUp – a south Indian hostel chain.
I arrived at the Chennai airport on early Saturday morning, had good breakfast and reached the bus boarding point 30 mins early. “No problem”, I told myself, and I waited. The bus was 2 hours late. During these two frustrating hours, I tried calling the bus driver only to realise that he could only understand Tamil, I was harassed by two people who tried to sneak pictures of me, and make lewd gestures. A man noticed my ordeal, and offered me tip: Never give anyone the impression that you’re a woman traveling alone. Turns out he was traveling in the same bus as I. I talked to 3 girls during the bus journey, and it was fun. I reached hostel in the evening, and went for a short walk with my roomie. End of the day.
Next day (Sunday), I went cafe hopping with a book for company. I met a mother-daughter duo who were traveling together. The mother was an environmentalist, and the daughter ran an elite publishing house. I also chatted with an old Canadian man who’d saved up his leaves just to visit India! I went to the Promenade beach in the evening, and read Kafka on the Shore by the sea shore. That night, I bonded with my roommates, and the five of us were chatting till 4.30 am on the terrace. It was epic!
One of them checked out on Monday, and someone else checked in. I went out again, and met my roommates by the Promenade beach in the evening. The three of us went to Zuka cafe (oh I love their hot chocolate).
Later, we went to Rendezvous cafe where there was a live musician playing. Good food, good company, and excellent ambience. What we (or rather Omar) loved the most was the passion with which the musician was singing. He was so much into it! We did leave a huge tip too. What a night! Did I mention that it was also drizzling?
Tuesday was the day I was supposed to head back to Chennai, stay at my friend’s place and return to Mumbai the following. I went out for brunch with a roomie (a new one) at pretty boutique cafe where I bumped into my colleague (who was also on a vacation). I met my friend in the evening, and since her parents were also visiting, I joined them at a resort in Mahabalipuram. I guess I got my wish of jumping on the bed. Vipra (my friend) and I drove back to Chennai on Wednesday morning, and after a lovely breakfast, I headed towards the airport, and reached home in the evening.
Thinking out loud: Was the solo trip a completely life-altering experience? No. Did I enjoy myself? YES! No check-ins, no Instagram pics, no tweets or anything except a phone call once a day to my mom to let her know that I was alive. For once, I was taking things one day at a time, and was at peace with myself. During these few days, I interacted with a lot of strangers – not on social media, but in real life. I met –
- A woman who told me how she pulled herself up after she lost her husband at a young age.
- A man who’d come all the way from Saudi Arabia to volunteer at Auroville for 6 months!
- A man who’d been living the backpacker life for almost 17 months and had crazy stories!
- A sweet woman who was on her first solo trip too.
Frankly, I was really sceptical about the trip. But I also knew that it was a now-or-never moment. During the trip, there were times when I was afraid, yes, but I also knew that I’d figure my way out. And I’m so glad I did. I spent approximately Rs. 10,000 ($146) on the entire trip. I learnt some travel hacks which I’ll make sure I use in my next solo trip.
Enjoying your own company is a powerful drug – one that doesn’t have a side-effect. 🙂
If you have similar experiences to share, I’m all ears! Also, please don’t hesitate to suggest me your favourite travel destinations. I’d love to explore more.