I have done numerous small trips of few weeks to months duration as a solo backpacker and group trips when I was single. When I got engaged to Hari, most of our conversation was around the trips and treks we planned to do. After much deliberation and plan we did our epic India 360 trip. A big thing off my bucket list. I look back at the difference between the two sets of trips and noted some interesting differences.
As a language-challenged young woman solo backpacker, I was a little lost everywhere I went. I was also cautious before speaking to anyone so as not to attract too much untoward attention to myself. But my vulnerability also gave me several wonderful experiences that taught me that world was a friendly place. Many people went out of their way to help me find my connection transport and safe accommodation. Multiple times people invited me homes for tea, meals and a stay and even offered me hand of their sons in marriage :D. But that’s a story for another day.
As a couple, my vulnerability quotient was significantly lower. Hari is quite proficient in Hindi and fairly fluent in a few other Indian languages. Hari grew up in a more multi-cultural environment that I did and hence had more exposure. I no longer felt the need to be extremely cautious. We could stay in hotels, go out for a stroll late and generally be at ease in a new place. But on the flip side, not as many people went out of their way to help us and I certainly didn’t get any more marriage proposals 😀
As a backpacker, I stuck to public transport. So my travels were limited to the timings and places of the transport system. I worked with those limitations and sometimes around them.
Having access to our own vehicles or even a hired vehicle, because Hari was a more able and confident driver than I am, gave us numerous options that i had previously not considered. We studied and planned carefully as the route, duration of stay, activities and everything else was left to our choice. While our vehicles gave us more control over our everyday activities, it also severely reduced our random serendipitous conversations with strangers.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu
During my backpacking days, I did limited research. I often fixed upon a location by seeing just one random picture and then figured out the ways to get there. I went to Tawang after I saw a picture of Sela Pass. I went to HMI as it was in Darjeeling over NIM, which was in Uttarkashi. Trekked to Sarpass because it started from Kasol. Went to Gushaini because it was somewhere in Himachal. Not very well thought out or logical decisions. I almost never had a plan on what to do after I got there. Mostly, I asked around local people or was simply happy taking a walk around or indulging in scheduled activities of the camps of YHAI or HMI. Well, I looked at it more as time away from work to rest and rejuvenate. More as a place to be than see.
Hari likes to plan the destinations in detail and make the most of our time there. As I tell my friends, ‘I have a wishlist and Hari has a plan’ 🙂
Now thanks to this blog, you, our dear readers, can follow Hari’s route plans from the section ‘How we covered it‘. Reading the posts from this section will tell you how to plan a travel around a country as large as India, in systematic, easy-to-follow routes. You can also plan trips around certain themes by reading posts from the section, ‘Thematic trips’.
At the end of the day:
When I travelled alone, I discovered a lot about the world and a lot more about myself. My days were filled with ‘me time’. The new and beautiful places and the serene nature filled me with great joy. But the inability to share the beautiful moment and the perfect silence turned the very joy into loneliness and pain. Wherever I went it followed me. There was nothing more I wanted at the moment than to share this with someone who would understand and be there.
Today, I look back, see and know I am where I wished to be once in my life. I am with a partner who was all I had wished for a few years back. And feel blessed to have taken this journey of India 360 together. As they say,
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”