I come from a conventional Indian family where travel meant only quick family vacations or family weddings. No one I knew was the traveller type, and no one had ever travelled alone; not for fun anyway. I didn’t know I was the traveller kind either. Like life, it just happened to me.
You know how people in their teens are anxious to grow up, to find out who they are and what they want to become? Well, I wasn’t one of them. I was a naïve fool who intended to go the ‘planned route’. The so-called plan at the time was simple: have a career, find a nice guy, get married and have kids. That’s all. But as I said before; life happened.
I was also curious though; about discovering new things, doing stupid things, always keen on trying things others said they wouldn’t or couldn’t do. One such time, when a college friend shared her travel story, she talked about how she had travelled by herself without any prior planning and how liberating it felt. How she’d turned strangers into friends, and how it had been one of her life’s most incredible experiences. Now who wouldn’t want that? I was fascinated as expected, but I certainly didn’t think of following in her footsteps. I mean, what would my family say? How could I even manage to travel alone? I had never even slept alone in my own home. I was a sheltered child and a protected adult. The thought of breaking free was exciting and yet unfathomable. It was a nice thought…but just that, a thought, an idea that would never see fruition.
And yet, the unthinkable happened. One really hot Sunday morning, I woke up and just felt the need to run off somewhere…escape. Amid my confused state over my then current advertising job and what seemed like a painful heartbreak, I just wanted to run off to a place that had bad cell phone reception and preferably no human in sight. I was at a friend’s place wearing a pair of jeans and a T-shirt with a sling bag containing my belongings. I didn’t think even for a second. I just left in a rush towards the Gateway of India to catch a ferry and go to Mandwa and from there to Kihim beach.
It wasn’t as exciting as it seemed in my head. The bus was creaky and rickety; the road was certainly far from smooth; and the people inside were mostly locals living there staring at me with a question-mark-like expression. I too had a question mark in my mind, but I hid it cleverly faking confidence and appearing to know what I was doing. It was much harder than I thought.
I reached the beach only to be disappointed by the three tourist buses standing there and a tiny stall selling chai and pakoras. That was what I was escaping to? Disappointed as I was, I was also hungry since I left without eating. As I drank my chai and ate a pakora, I decided that this trip would not be in vain. I folded my jeans and started walking down the beach. Soon, the crowd thinned and it was just me and the sea.
I kept walking only to stop and admire the vastness of the ocean and the sudden moments of silence only cut by the waves crashing into the shore. I sat on the rocks and just stared into the sea looking at the horizon and the sunny sky above. There were houses on the other side, but there was no one around for miles. I was alone. I was silent. And nothing more was needed.
That was the day my travelling journey began, and I haven’t stopped escaping since…