Feels great to be solo
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Feels great to be solo

Almost four months in on my trip. I’ve travelled to 14 countries and met travellers from thrice as many. My mind is full of a thousand sights and sounds and tastes.

columns Updated: Oct 02, 2010 21:48 IST
Tithiya Sharma
Tithiya Sharma
Hindustan Times

Around the world in 54 weeks
Destination 15: Ireland

Almost four months in on my trip. I’ve travelled to 14 countries and met travellers from thrice as many. My mind is full of a thousand sights and sounds and tastes. I can close my eyes and be on a bustling street in Bangkok. I open my eyes and I see the beautiful rolling meadows of Ireland.

I’ve trekked to the rim of a live volcano, I soaked in pristine waters off one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, I’ve marvelled at the Sydney Opera house all lit up at night. I’ve felt insignificant in the shadows of magnificent Ankor Wat. I’ve been lost in the back alleys of Bali and I’ve found myself in a tiny tea stall in the mountains of Laos.

I’ve shared a banana with a three-legged elephant, I’ve eaten a grasshopper, I’ve danced the Poi with real Maori women, I’ve watched, with my jaw agape, the chest-slapping display of manhood that is the Hakka. I’ve made a fool of myself in a toilet in Singapore. I’ve shared a dorm with perfect strangers and left behind dear friends. I’ve discovered new cities with people whose names I don’t know or ever will. I’ve shared a humble meal and a hostel with refugee students, I’ve fought for my honour, I’ve helped strangers in need, I survived on the kindness of strangers and I’ve started to believe in Karma.

I’ve had hot chocolate made in a pot warmed by natural hot springs. I’ve walked on the Giant’s Causeway and felt a little annoyed at the exaggeration.

I’ve almost jumped out of a plane but was grounded due to bad weather. I bought a sweater to make myself feel better. It did not help.

I’ve mastered the art of the 5-minute shower. I’ve realised that if you’re changing locations frequently, you can actually survive in two cargo pants and 4 t-shirts! Or one jacket, two pairs of jeans and 2 sweaters, now that I’m in Europe!

I’ve marvelled at the exotic faces of women in Asia, I arrived in Europe and suddenly I was the exotic face in the room! I’ve realised that sometimes people stare because they’re curious and you can shock a smile out of anyone by beaming a big grin at them. Waving helps too.

I’ve met people who made me feel empowered by their courage and actions. Each story felt like one more piece of the puzzle dropping in place to help me find my own calling. I’ve made friends and found family in places I couldn’t find on a map four months ago.

I’ve felt a surge of patriotism every time I’ve heard a tired old cliché about India. I know that anyone I’ve met will never look at my country the same way again. I’ve been “our first Indian traveller” at too many hostels than I care to remember.

I’ve also had too many conversations about the Commonwealth Games and Slumdog Millionaire. To a middle aged American lady I recently met, I had to explain that I’m Indian… like Gandhi not Geronimo. I’ve been served a meal in a restaurant by hard working Indian students- in at least 5 countries.

I’ve cringed and ducked when an Indian gentleman travelling with his wife and daughters spat out of the tour bus and repeatedly told the tour-guide to stop the commentary!

I’ve had my passport soaked in a tropical storm, I’ve learnt impolite phrases in 8 languages and I’ve finally learnt to pack light.

It’s not easy being a solo female backpacker — but there ain’t nothing like it either! If I look down at my feet I see the straps of my flip-flops burned onto my feet. If I look in the mirror, I see epic sunburn and the worst skin of my adult life. I look at my hands and I see bruises and scrapes from three continents. I close my eyes and I feel free, inspired and ready for more.

Tithiya Sharma is on a year-long journey across the globe to find 100 everyday heroes — and hopefully herself —along the way. more on web . To follow Tithiya’s journey, log on www.hindustantimes.com/100heroesproject

First Published: Oct 02, 2010 21:45 IST