The solo traveler I am not
The world is talking about it and more women than men are exploring it. There are blogs and travel stories describing a walk in the mountains or quaint cafes overlooking snow-capped mountains. Of unexplored locations, JOMO (joy of missing out) and where English is a foreign language. There are personal stories and lessons on solo-traveling. The checklists and the to-dos.
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I was traveling from Minneapolis to Chicago that weekend in July to meet a close friend. Before taking the flight on that Friday evening, I had a conversation with myself.
Developed countries are easy to travel. The bus is available to Evanston from that terminal and in hour’s time, I would be at my friend’s home. I will get to see the sun set by the bus window and I will see the city is its true light. As it is. Like a Chicago citizen.
It wasn’t that simple.
There were two Evanstons and multiple maps on the internet. The map and the bus-route showed two different directions. The buses plied on some days and did not on a few other. There was hardly any information that I could put to use. I was more confused than clear on how to travel. So I chose the easy way and decided to call an Uber.
It should have been simple. Right?
In India, I can choose to pay by cash when I hire an Uber. In US, I had to add my card which did not go through. I tried another and that also failed. Having left with no choice, I asked a friend to book a cab for me. All this while knowing that the free airport internet could die any time. I had lost time by then and it was getting dark. Not my favorite time to be out of home.
As soon as the cab came, we started rolling. The map showed we were on track and I was estimating that I should be in the campus town by 9 pm.
Around 2 blocks away from the destination, the cab driver took a wrong turn and dropped me off saying that we had arrived. He was also an Asian and his accent was harder to decipher. He did not give me a chance to look at the map to ascertain where I was.
Now I was lost.
That’s my worry with solo-traveling. Without a phone to call or data to look at maps, I did not know how to figure my way out. Dark alleys and a girl on the road with no other soul in sight. My worst nightmare had come true. Or it looked like that.
I asked for help from a passer-by and he wasn’t sure. So then, I started walking. I knew the house number and since the block was correct, I had to solve the puzzle. To my good luck, I spotted the door but there was no door bell. I stood there for five minutes that seemed like fifty. Banged on the door but no luck. And then it I saw my friend up in the window. Like those road side lovers and stalkers, I yelled to attract her attention.
Phew. She came to get me upstairs and I was finally indoors.
When the signs don’t lead to where I am headed, I prefer to talk and consult before taking the next step. It’s easier, safer and comforting. There are no knots in the stomach and no what-ifs. Alone or like the world says ‘solo-traveling’ makes me do a lot on my own which includes thinking and executing. Not that I wouldn’t with another person by my side but the risk is shared and so is the anxiety.
Writing for Yeah Write #347 this week.