By Fellow traveller Neha Bhatia
I was going through a rough patch in my life, my marriage of 2 years was falling apart, and I was separated and living alone in Delhi, India. It’s difficult taking this stand, where I come from. My parents were my biggest strength, their support for my decision gave me confidence to move on with my life. The harrowing experience of going through a divorce in the Indian legal system kind of put me in a shell. I stopped going out, didn’t socialize much and avoided ALL family events at all costs. Having to hear, how is your husband? Why didn’t he come? and having to make up excuses all the time, just put me off for good.
Living on your own isn’t all what I expected either. Managing finances with a one-person salary comes with its own challenges. I decided I needed to do something about this shell I was going into, not able to talk to anyone and avoiding any human interaction. I got busy with planning a budget trip to Spain and Portugal and to travel alone like I always wanted to.
Getting Indian parents to digest that you would be travelling solo for a month is a task, especially a girl’s parents in India. But I wasn’t taking no for an answer this time. As the date came near for me to leave, I was freaking out. I was cursing myself to have booked this trip and only one thought came to me all the time, won’t I get bored travelling for a month? Maybe I’ll cut short my trip. Even on the flight my mind was racing frantically as the captain called to close doors. Landing in Madrid, I was super confused, got lost a bit and finally reached my hostel. As soon as I reached, there was a walking tour leaving and there was still time till my bed got ready, I quickly freshened up and left with the group. On this tour I met an Australian girl who had been travelling for a month across Europe, and I quickly hit it off with her, mind you she did all the talking.
And then, there was no looking back. Travelling by myself gave me a sense of freedom, an indefinite flexibility to do whatever, turn on any road that looked beautiful, walk alleys aimlessly and be my own guide. It taught me my likes and dislikes. To be honest, I grew up in a house where my parents were both economics students so for me it was never even a question. It had to be economics followed by an MBA. I never once put my brain to use, I didn’t have to. It was all planned. Having protective parents, you don’t get to decide much, what to wear, where to go, where to study, even what to study. Everything comes pre-decided for you. But here, no one was making any decisions for me.
I met some amazing volunteers at the hostel who were staying there for the last 6 months and ended up going out with them at night to have a fabulous time. Every morning I would get dressed and come down to the common area not knowing what my plan was for the day. I would eventually end up gallivanting around town, sometimes bumping into fellow hostelers and joining them wherever they were. I immediately got out my comfort zone and was forced to make conversations which I think was very necessary given this lifeless zone I had gone into. Also, telling my story, how I felt, to strangers helped me immensely. These were not my best friends or family, they weren’t going to judge me! And this made it all the more easier to just let go. Travelling solo opened my mind to a complete new me.
There is an innate sense of confidence that comes with responsibility, when you are subconsciously aware that you are responsible for yourself. You don’t have any support system around you. It frees you like never before.
I went a step further and literally let go. I remember when I was at the airfield ready to take the plunge despite being afraid of heights, the lady shooting my drop asked me “Do you have any messages for anyone back home?” and I simply said, “I’m doing this for me.” I skydived from 15000 Ft in Seville. I have never had such an out of body experience before. I was shit scared when I was on the plane and the door opened. I couldn’t imagine the sight in front of me. I really had no idea that this is what 15000 Ft looked like.
I had absolutely no control on the jump. I was tied to the waist of my Tandem Jumper with a harness and was dangling between his legs scared to death as it lay in front of me. And then he just jumped, tapped me twice to open my arms and all hell broke loose. I couldn’t breathe, my heart was beating at a million a minute. And then, I just screamed and screamed, and it felt so good.
The one-minute free fall was like wind gushing into you and you just fly. I was flying! it was out of body, out of mind. Life was more than just my silly problems and stupid issues. Everything turned lame at that moment. Every issue I had ever had, turned lame. My jumper pulled the parachute and with a gush of thrust we were trusted a few meters back up and now it was all chill. We were hanging midair and everything slowed down. We were in the clouds, I could touch them, feel them, play with them. And then the most amazing thing happened, we saw a rainbow forming in a nearby cloud. He said to me “Do you want to touch it?” and I thought but how? I nodded, he circled down as though we were a big bird to the rainbow and held my hand and extended it for me touch.
This was clearly a dream, it’s just not possible, I thought. We played a little more with a few neighbors, talking about life and just hanging before we made for our decent. As soon as my feet touch the ground, I was a different person. I was not the same person who got on to that aircraft. I said, “let’s do it again!!!”
I was quiet, I think, for the next few days. That jump just jolted all my thoughts, I felt different, a sense of pride in my walk. A sense of disbelief prevailed over me, I wasn’t living until now.
I went on to travel to Portugal for the next 3 weeks, I met some amazing people, shared such beautiful days with them.
I traveled from Madrid to Seville to Lagos in Portugal and this is where I fell in love. I was in love with it all. But most of all, Myself!! I was spending time with myself and I was not afraid to do that anymore. This little town came as a big surprise to me. Everyday I would set out to wander around with the sound of seagulls singing, every beach had a mystery to it. The waters changing color from beach to beach, secret caves, secret beaches, beautiful Portuguese beach houses and a superb nightlife, Lagos was quaint yet insane at the same time.
My travels took me further to Lisbon, Sintra, Porto where I met with friends I had made before in Madrid and Seville. They are now friends for life!!
I pushed myself for what seemed impossible, and I couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be more at peace.
Get up, pack your bags and just let go….
Signing off – Neha Bhatia: For the Global Indian