When I had taken this resolution in the beginning of this year that I will travel more, little did I know that so many new experiences will come my way. The year started with me relocating to Delhi and soon taking a road trip to Amritsar (a blog post I am yet to publish), followed by a road trip to Mcleodganj (read about it here) and now I am writing this post from the United States of America. This is my first solo trip out of India – and though this is a business trip, I still was making it alone. I mostly have a pattern of writing these travelogue stories but for this one I thought I will share my experience – my fears, my courage, my strengths – in a 3 part series.
I am a fairly independent woman – by Indian standards atleast. I had moved into the hostel away from home right after school and then found a job in a new city only to come back home during vacations and time offs. Soon after, I got married. The Indian society never assumes that a woman is complete, independent and settled alone. She is complete only if she is married and a mother (in that order only). The feminist in me always hated this but then my revolts were only limited to social media. I never really did any kind of self retrospection to realise that this hypocritical nature was ingrained in my system too. Atleast to a certain degree. I got married at the age of 25. And then I have been “his responsibility”. Despite me being all independent before marriage, I took a step back after marriage. Whether it was commuting to office, or handling “outside” matters like making travel arrangements – I soon started relying on my husband. I took the reigns of household work – like ensuring the house was clean, or taking care of what the cook and maid were doing in the house. Not sure why – maybe it was because where I come from there has always been a clear demarcation of a man’s job and a woman’s job. Taking a step back was a obvious next step after marriage. Infact, all the while when I was unmarried – everyone sold the idea of marriage to me by highlighting that I won’t have to do everything on my own. It did not seem like a bad deal really. Not till I was about to take this trip.
5.5 years of being married and dependent on my husband, my work presented me with the opportunity to take a trip to the States. Alone. While I was working on my visa and travel arrangements, the idea seemed great. But when I packed my bags, I realised that I was about to embark on the two-week long trip ALONE. Noone to lead the way, noone to do the talking and noone to guide me. I was going to be all alone. And in a country where my husband could not magically fly down and help me. I was going to be all alone. I was a mess. The tiniest non-issue became my biggest worry. I could not think straight. Everyone I spoke to gave me a different version of experience. And I asked a lot of people – I read blog posts, I spoke to colleagues and friends, I spoke to everyone I could talk to. “Dubai layover for only 2.5 hours – run to your gate”, “Luggage trolleys in America are not free – they charge $2-3”, “Be careful while you are there – don’t look anyone in the eye”, “Don’t call yourself a non-vegetarian … say that you only eat chicken and fish” etc etc. I had made a mental note of it all. But all of this was a lot to take in. And then the thought of coming here, roaming around alone, eating my breakfast, lunch and dinner alone, and just being by myself for 2 weeks was a scary thought.
But the trip had to be made. So I packed and reached the airport 3.5 hours before departure. I maintained a tough exterior and got through things easily. I was flying business class and so had the access to the lounge and some wine before I made it to my flight. That helped. And flying business class has its perks.. you get to zip through immigration and security check. And soon enough I was seated on my flight to Dubai. 18 hours, few wines, a 2.5 hours stopover at Dubai and some movies later, I landed in Boston. The “few” wines had calmed my nerves. And I proceeded towards the port of entry and presented myself. “Here for business or visiting Ma’am” the gentleman asked me. “Business” I said. And that was it. He stamped me in for a 6 months stay. “You will have to pay for the trolley” kept ringing in my ear as I walked to grab my bags- I definitely did not want to pay for the trolley. But I saw people just picking it up – no swiping of cards.. it was free. I grabbed myself one too and proceeded towards the conveyor belt. This was my first lesson of the many to come – I was going to learn from my own experiences first hand. Relying on blog posts and others experience would have me dragging my bags.. metaphorically speaking. My bags were out soon enough. And I stepped out – finally in Boston.
What was to come were a series of pleasant and a few unpleasant experiences. But as I stepped into my cab and made my way to hotel – I could not stop feeling overwhelmed. But more on that later. Have you ever traveled alone? Tell me about your experiences.