I just returned from a five-month solo journey to South America.
People always ask me what changed? Why I decided all of a sudden to goon a solo backpacking holiday? Well, the reason I decided to go on a solo adventure was that I woke up one Sunday morning and realised life was passing me by. I was 37 years old, single and nothing was really any different from my20s. I had to shake things up for myself otherwise, nothing was going to change.
I was clear from the start that I wanted to do something that was as far out of my comfort zone as possible, which is why I chose South America. From the language to the food to the people everything was unfamiliar to me.
I have worked hard since my 20s, and all my money was spent on partying,eating out and other unproductive entertainment. I realised that I should be doing so much more with it. So I started researching online, looking at various blogs and connecting with people who had already done stuff like this.
Through this, I formulated a ballpark budget for my trip. Luckily I already had a little bit of savings. I continued to save till I reached my ballpark budget. After that there was no stopping me, I quit my job, packed my bags and off I went!
My first stop was the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile. The first couple of weeks were very hard, especially because I did not know the language. Not a soul spoke English anywhere I went. I couldn’t even buy a bottle of water when I first got there. Eventually, I had to take a crash course in Spanish as it was terribly frustrating not being able to communicate with anyone.
I had travelled a fair amount throughout my life, but never alone, which really scared me. Till the last minute, I was contemplating shortening or even cancelling my trip. In the end, I settled on a three-month trip and went without a return ticket so in case I hated it I could come back home. But of course, South America absorbed me in as it probably does to every traveller; and I ended up staying for five months, only coming back because I started to run out of funds.
Before I went I didn’t know much about South America, from what I had heard it was full of crime and drugs. But the more I read about it I realised it was actually a backpackers paradise. I was scared of being by myself with no one to talk to for so many months, not having anyone to share experiences with.
How would I be safe, without anyone robbing or being violent with me? So many fears, but in the end, I was perfectly safe, and in fact, there is an amazing sense of community among the backpackers. You very quickly become a part ofthat.
Growing up as a woman in India, we believe the world is a scary place.What I learnt is that it isn’t, in fact, there are friends to be made every direction you turn. Even when I did adventurous activities like jumping off cliffs, or rock climbing, I had people supporting me the whole time, encouraging me that I can do it. Sometimes absolute strangers.
When something bad happened to someone, everyone would immediately drop everything to help them out. The feeling of community was welcoming and embracing. I ended up making so many friends, some of whom I am sure will visit me someday or vice versa.
Soon after my South America trip, I went on a backpacking trip to Indonesia with two of my girlfriends. As fun as it was because of the comfort of being with friends, I realised that we never met anyone else. We never went out of our way to chat or hang out or even make plans with others. We were very insulated. I think that being alone forces you to make friends and push yourself to be a much more open to new experiences.
My next big adventure is to go to Mongolia. I like the idea of discovering places that not too many people have been before. I want to push my boundaries and go to cities that are fairly undiscovered. There is an immense thrill and excitement, of going somewhere that I know so little about. You live life only once and you have to make the most of it.
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