A Journey with Solitude

imageAn ale off the dust trodden boulevards in Germany, a quite coffee in the sundown shade of the Swiss Alps. Even a thoughtless train journey watching an old classic and sighing in the hale aromas of midsummer fields. To travel is to project such vastness onto oneself that we seldom realize the significance of the change wrought upon us.
I remember jolly times when a low budget train and a knock off pair of earphones were the extent of my suitcase. People and places passed by as so much smoke through grasping fingers and nary a thought would acknowledge their being. I was alone as can be, well alone except for the same repeating score of songs and an attitude more careless than carefree in its naivety.
And it changed, as all things must, and blessedly so, over a simple conversation. It could’ve been any day of any month and even the year is hazy. I had just stepped on the tiled pavement of Platform 2 and my constant if slightly unsteady companion for the last 5 odd hours, the Chennai bound express from Madurai had just taken its leave. While usually I’d expect to be swept off into the daily throb of humanity, to be tossed hitherto by a meddling mass of public. That morning was different and the station was strangely peaceful.
The occasional coolie nodding off on the cold metal benches, small puffs of steam from the Tea Stall and a bleary eyed forty something man standing off the newly painted gate, if the heady varnish-y tang was anything to go by. I, as always ignorant of the many perils of the world and of the entity itself, leant right against the recently painted post. It was only the kindness of the jovial fellow that I so rudely ignored for the last fifteen minutes that saved me from walking round the town with a pattern in yellow and black going down my length.
Travelling alone isn’t probably what it’s cracked up to be, there are obvious disadvantages. No surety, no constant unshakeable companions, but the motto of the motive distils down to the fact that you’re allowed to make mistakes.
And you need not bear any other judgement but your own. In all of my solitary travels since. I have striven to implement at least this single smidgeon that unwary wandered into my grasp on that slow station morning.
You do not travel to places, you travel to communities, and to travel means to smell, to listen, to talk, to get completely and utterly smashed; just as much as it means to see and praise.
The people, the culture the stories that sew that culture together and to me, most importantly the cuisine have always spoken more to as firm time stamps of travel than even the greatest falls or the most casually vivid landscapes.
Travelling alone has taught me self-sufficiency and has granted me solace.
But, paradoxically, the best thing it did as teach my how to treat with people, to live a life not my own and come back a better person for it.

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