It’s not a trip, that I could not have done without. I would have carried a little subliminal regret maybe had I not gone. But there would have been other trips and different journeys and maybe when I turned older, I would have done a part. Yet it was affirmative, transforming.
My solo backpacking trip across South America was a conscious decision. I was turning 40. It was a year to my younger brothers passing. It was a culmination of a few other thought- shifting moments. Why three odd months and not 6 months or 2. Just.
A solo trip is a call of the moment
It had been on my bucket list for more than 15 years. I always thought I would make the trip with someone. A partner, a friend. Somehow it always seemed like a destination that required a fellow traveler, not a solo endeavor. But when the decision had to be made, it was to do it now. Else I had to leave it for another time, which might have never happened. I made my trusty old backpack my companion and bought myself a one- way ticket to Buenos Aires.
From Sao Paolo to 4 nations – well I had not planned ahead
My plan was to start from the south of South America and make my way up to Mexico and fly back to India from there, over 3 months. I flew from Goa (where I live) to Mumbai. Ethiopian airline took me from there to Lome on the west coast of Africa via Addis Ababa. On to Sao Paolo, Brazil and finally, my destination- Buenos Aires. Except for the first 20 odd days in Argentina, I really had not planned ahead. I had a dear friend in Chile so I know that would be a rest ‘home’ stop for me and that I would want to be with her on my birthday and another friend in Mexico City at the end, but my path was not really fixed.
The fact of doing it alone
I love travel. And over the last 20 odd years, I have backpacked the globe, in many different ways. Most of them alone. In the last few years, since meeting my then boyfriend and now husband, my solo trips never really come about. It was always us travelling together. That was another reason why South America was important to me. Not just the sheer breath of the continent but the fact of doing it alone. Something I thought I had forgotten to do. Or just not done for years. It mattered. I missed that confidence I had of navigating new countries and jumping into new experiences. Always with some amount of caution but it has almost all times been a leap of faith. I needed to get it back.
You get lost. You find yourself
Being on the road alone is a crucible of contradictory emotions and vibes. It makes you fearless; it makes you cautious. It forces you to open up to strangers, it asks you to keep contained with strangers. You look toward to moving on and you yearn for the same bed for 4 nights. You eat different, you listen to sounds and languages that are not your own or that you are not used to. You get lost. You find yourself. You learn to speak to yourself and more importantly, listen to the unsaid and unexpressed in your consciousness. Once again, it’s not easy to travel alone. You crave company at times. The need to turn around and share the moment of ahhh with another person when you see something breathtaking. The warmth of confiding in a partner when your body aches after an overnight 16 -hour bus ride. But the solitude also warms you like a cozy blanket at times.
It was affirmative. It was transforming. Just like how all journeys should be.