Now I really had to dig deep into my Facebook profile albums to restore the exact date when I set sail solo. It all started in the year 2013, however, the foundation was being set long before I had known. Living AND working as a flight attendant in one of the fastest emerging cosmopolitan cities in the world, flying for a leading airline and constantly living out of a suitcase had its crests and troughs. Whilst on one side it made me an independent, confident and rich (wink) woman, it also came with its own occasional loneliness, bouts of “family and friends sickness” and insecurities about the future.
As everything under the sun, the said career had its pros and cons. Some people are unable to adapt to the whimsical nature of the job and the constant dry cabin air while some do the same with aplomb and joy. Whatever your take might be, I do not think there is a single flight attendant who does not take away something positive from the job. It might be a beautiful destination, memory of a mixed race baby, an obvious onboard admirer or the feeling of “flying” itself.
I realise I got a bit carried away here but giving you a glimpse of my past was essential since that laid the foundation and gave me the courage and reason to begin. For the past two years, my closest girlfriend and colleague of 5 years, Namrata and me, had been trying incessantly to go for a typical girl-vacay together. Owing to our schizophrenic schedules, emotional drama-laden family commitments and the uncalled for guilt for “neglecting” love lives, we were never able to plan one. Years passed and we realised that our prime years of travel (there is no such thing) were being spent without as much reward as we wanted. We were unable to dodge the oh-so-scientific leave bidding system of our company and did not have enough friends who would swap their leaves with us. Hence it was time to think of the unthinkable.
Now I have to admit, travelling solo was not my idea. Namrata did her first solo trip to Jordan – the destination we had dreamt of going in tandem, and came back with beautiful anecdotes. Her response of “bada maza aya ” (It was good fun) was admittedly unexpected for me. Her happiness and delight after coming back from a solo trip from an Arabic speaking land was truly remarkable and encouraging. She declared that Jordanians were the “best Arabs in the world “. Here reportage of the journey was compelling. “Abe , every single local told me – welcome to Jordan “, she quipped. The fact that she felt welcomed and safe was one of the driving factors for me to follow suit. The indescribable beauty and innate mystery of Petra was a close second.She encouraged me to take the leap and do something which I thought I was incapable of.
Due to passport limitations and the hassle to arrange visas for almost all the destinations on my wishlist I had to choose judiciously. The fact that I was unable to leave my passport at one of the embassies for visa process and continue working, added to my woes. (Flight attendants need to carry their passports for EVERY SINGLE flight, from a 20-minute turnaround flight to a 13-hour long haul departure ). “Why?” , you ask. What if a 20-minute flight turned into a 24-hour layover due to a technical snag, duh! Not to mention the uneven duty hours and upside down working days in a week. The fact that I was not getting my weekly offs on the “normal” working days was not helping.
Hence, I decided to choose a country where I get a visa on arrival or visa-free entry. Visa requirements for Indian citizens became my favourite site instead of the good old Facebook or the friend in need YouTube. After much deliberation and thought I zeroed in on Bali as my first destination.
Bali brings to mind breathtaking parties and crazy beaches ..err.. you saw what Bali did to me there! Well, more about that will be on my upcoming blog.
I am going to be a tad conflicting here. As a kid, I saw a writing at our place which said – “One who walks alone walks the farthest ”, and then the other wall hanging said – “It’s always lonely at the top.” Pardon me for my ignorance as I am unaware of the source of both the quotes. It has been two decades and the quotes still seem disconcerting to me. Whether to choose to be so called alone and “walk” the “farthest” or be stoic due to the fear of being “lonely”. After travelling to 11 countries across continents solo, you can well imagine the quote which I believed in. And more than the quote I believed in myself and took the plunge. For ladies who have second thoughts about taking the first step, I have a single advice and you have heard it umpteen times – BELIEVE IN YOURSELF which loosely translates into DO NOT BELIVE EVERYTHING THEY SHOW ON TV.
At the risk of being ungrateful to the press, I would like you to know, people are people in every corner of the world. We might have different appearances, ways of life, beliefs, situations, upbringings, languages and zillions of other anomalies, however, we still bleed the same.One and the most important things I learnt from my solo travels is that we all are unthinkably alike. I drew inspiration from a fellow Argentinian passenger on the way to Cancun from Lima and the way she pursued yoga at 55 , was touched by the craftsman who gifted me blue earrings in a dusty by lane in Istanbul, flattered by a group of local men treating me to a Bintang in Bali and left without words when ushered into his house by a local guide in Nicaragua and introduced to his specially-abled brother. While the gestures were small, I took away a piece of their lives and gave them a piece of mine.
After Namrata, these were the people who continuously inspired me and propelled me to advance. I got bitten by THE bug in Bali and I have not recovered since. How could I, when I frequently bump into inspirations at every corner?