When we embark on a journey, no one ever tells us what it will bring along. There are only questions, too many questions, in our heads. And when one such journey is by yourself, the experiences maximise outgrowing the questions!
Three months after my first solo trip to Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, I find myself drawn more and more to travelling by myself. This time it was Panjim (Panaji), Goa. The last time I was in Goa, I had made up my mind to stay in Panjim the next time I travelled to the state.
The quaint lanes of Panjim are ideal for walking and photography. The city centre is also a great place to meet strangers and get lost in some Goan cuisine. Though I must admit, this time Panjim was my test of fighting fear!
Fear 1: Walking alone on unknown streets post 2300 hours.
The first night in Fontainhas was rather exciting.I had to step outside for some dinner, which meant walking a certain distance from my hotel. And although, Goa may be one of the safest places a woman may find herself in, fear does not support rationality!
How did I get over it? I put on my headphones without music but Google Maps on. Looked straight and whenever I was confused about directions (yes, Google Maps may do that!), I would ask anyone I saw on the street. I have realised, through my travels, how addressing a problem head on is the only way out, whether it is getting lost or being stalked.
Result: I got some great Goan fish curry with beer followed by a soundless sleep.
Fear 2: Riding a two-wheeler.
Yes, I am a cyclist and yet, two wheelers are unknown creatures for me! I take great pride in expressing the number of years and the confidence that cycling brings to my life. But equally scary is the experience when I have to ride or be a pillion in any other two wheeler. Goa is THE place for gear-less bikes. I had fought it long enough and this time I was not left with any option but to hire a bike. So, I hired a bike for three days without any prior experience of riding it ever.
Result: Discovering and sitting by some of the most quiet colonies, while talking with the birds in Panjim.
Fear 3: The inevitable fear of water.
It’s particularly challenging how we are made as a person. I am made to love the water and perhaps, it is one of those lives where I am also made to fear it. I am not a swimmer yet and have not been in my best behavior underwater. In spite of all these, I had decided to try scuba diving this time. I wrote to Dive Goa a couple of months back and expressed my desire to dive. They are a great team and what impressed me is their ability to make you feel safe with the equipment as well as their words. Nigel Adamms, who was my instructor, told me very many pertinent things but the one which stayed with me is ‘trust your regulator.’
Result: This cannot be expressed! When I was underwater, I could hear myself breathe. How many of us experience that every day? I thought I was a different person, awake every moment, every second. My body had escaped me and I was living. It was meditative and surreal. Of course, what I saw was remarkable. Red coral, clown fish and another twelve varieties of fish. But that did not matter to me. I live life as independently as I wish to and have experienced being free previously. THIS feeling was above all. It was Being.
The thing about challenging yourself is that no one ever tells you how good it feels. We all question and sometimes, doubt someone who might be challenging themselves. But it is once we overcome the fear, we know how to let go. In three days and four nights, I met three of my big fears. And it is just a small part of what travel makes me. Now, I know that those questions that people ask me are just their way of caring about me. And all I need to do is be with them and believe.