I did my first solo trip as a software engineer
And you should too…..
I finally took the decision to go on a solo trip. I was terrified and confused till the last minute. But, this trip turned out to be one of the best trips of my life. It was an extremely different experience. But in this article, I am not going to bother you with those cliche words “I found a new family, etc.”. It’s going to be much deeper, so dig in.
The purpose of this solo trip was obviously experiencing new things and making new friends and not just sitting in my room doing work. So, the place of stay had to be a hostel and not a hotel or Airbnb. I searched some hostels and booked one of them and hopped on to the ride. While waiting for my bus, I found another guy(E) going on a solo trip staying at the same hostel as mine. It was a big coincidence but a bit relieving too because there was someone else too doing the same crazy things as me. I reached the hostel and it opened the gate to a whole new world.
Everyone was drinking something transparent with something floating in it. It looked like tea but it wasn’t. I entered the reception. One of the guys drinking that liquid came in and started looking out for records. I was taken aback. In hotels, the employees don’t generally hang out with the people staying there. This was something new but something which I liked. I asked him and got to know that he was not an employee. He was a volunteer. He had been staying there for about a year and volunteering to cover food and living expenses. I asked what he was drinking, it was ginger lemon. I reached early, so my room wasn’t ready. I had to wait out in the common area and that’s how it all began. There were different groups. I did not know who to join or talk to. Everyone seemed way different than me, smoking up, and drinking ginger lemon. I don’t do both of these things. I got to talking to some people talking about what they do and how long have they been here. I was surprised to hear that some people had made the hostel their home. They had been here for a lot of months and there were a lot of people like this.
People were waking up, coming to the common area, and talking to each other. It was a village and I was new to it, unknown of how the tribe functions. I put my stuff in the room, second thoughts still raging through my mind, have I made a mistake? I came back down and talked to some random people. It felt lonely and alone. People talked to each other, discussed things, and went on to lunch barely noticing me. It felt like I was an invisible man. Thankfully, E had better social skills than mine and also similar interests as the people there. So, he got into a group, and I just tagged along still invisible.
In the evening there were events in the hostel, I just roamed around invisible. I had food alone. I saw people having fun with their friends and having food together. I missed my friends. There were couples, enjoying each other’s company in the cold weather making me miss my girlfriend. The day got over fast. I went to sleep. People were still up having fun. Thoughts wandered through my head about whether I should join them and sit there invisible or just go to sleep. I just went to sleep thinking about what a huge mistake I made coming alone.
The next day began, and the same things were happening and suddenly one of the guys(A), I was talking to yesterday came and said that he was going for a bike trip to a waterfall. He asked E to join. He said yes. I was sitting close to him. I said yes too. There were 4 more people going with us. We went to some great places and had food and it was the first time I became visible. I got a chance to have a real conversation at the waterfall with one of them(B) in the group. We clicked a lot of pictures and the weather and the waterfall made it all better. By the evening, we all went from crazy strangers to acquaintances. We all had a lot of fun and now I was too a part of a group having fun in the cafe, just like the people I saw yesterday having fun while I ate my food sitting there alone.
We came back. I now had a few people to hang out with. I did not know anything about them. They were just co-passengers on my journey. The day went ahead. Wherever they went, I tagged along. It was a good feeling that I got someone to hang out with but there was something horribly wrong. I was in a private room and all those were in a dorm, so I was the one who could get alienated quickly. But, work bought us together.
Everyone was on a kind of workation. Everyone had to work on a Monday and everybody worked in the work den. Met the same person who I had a conversation with before on the waterfall and this time we really hit it off. Our work timings were the same and it was easy to talk. We both did not use to have breakfast so our lunch timings were also the same. Then it became a routine. We worked together, we ate together and we became really good friends. Now I also had someone to call me for yoga in the morning and ask me for lunch. This was not a solo trip anymore. We used to make plans for the day together, go out and try different types of food together.
Soon, I got to talk with more people in the group too. Each one of us was from a different background, profession and interest. Each one of us had a different story and no one knew anything about each other. But, having made new friends brought along the issues you initially tried to mitigate with a solo trip. What do you do when your friends are busy? This happened and I was alone again. But luckily, there was another group going on a trip. I was on leave. I asked if I could join and they said yes. It was a spontaneous plan and I was back on the roads with another group. One of the people(C) was common to the people with whom I went on the trip on the first day. C was mostly quiet, but I could figure that underneath was a great person. He genuinely tried to help people who asked him for help. He was humble and simple. He was honest in whatever he said, irrespective of even if hurt someone. This made me trust him because I knew that there was nothing concealed.
The trip started. New people, new place. These were totally different people. If I had been at the hostel, I am pretty sure, I would not have been able to talk to them. But, being in one car, made us all function as a group of people on a mission. We all just had each other on a long journey. It all started with helping each other, went on to enjoying some mesmerizing great views together, having fun, and finally ending the day in an ecstatic mood. We talked about stocks, played stupid games, and had some great conversations. I got to know that one of the people in the group was my birthday twin. This indeed is a small world. The day ended, and I now had a lot of people who actually knew me, liked me, and even wanted to be with me. Didn’t know that I would make so many friends in just 3 days. Now, I had to choose who I really wanted to spend time with because there were a lot of people who actually wanted me to be with me. This choice is what defines the people who would be around you in your life. We tend to choose the people, in whom we find a part of ourselves because that makes us more comfortable.
For a while, I forgot about my actual life. I had no worries, no one I could hurt unintentionally, and no control to make anything right/wrong. I was living an alternate life. Everything slowed down. I spent my days doing almost nothing, talking to random people. I had no feelings of anger/sadness. I was really at peace. I am not sure, whether it was due to the amazing view of the hills, the company of great people or the amazing weather. There was nothing in this life that could make me sad. The air really had magic in it. I also remember just sitting by myself alone for hours, staring at the sky and doing nothing and it felt amazing. There was no nagging feeling at the back of my head always cursing me for wasting time. My demons just disappeared into thin air.
But my day at which I was leaving was coming close. I had a small party with a few of my friends in my private room, which finally came to some use(instead of me sleeping alone). We had a great party, had a lot of fun, listened to a lot of songs, and played a lot of games. I was getting attached to people, and it was almost time to bid adieu. Listening to stories of people, made me remind one saying — “If everyone put out their struggles and you could choose one, to switch your struggles with, you would always choose yours”. Everyone was going through something. Everyone was finding an escape, running from one thing or the other. I was running away from my thoughts, some were running away from their life, some from their family, and some from the heat/pollution of the city.
By the time I left, I had someone to ask me to stay, someone who would miss me if I was not there and someone who would really want to meet me again. I bought gifts for everyone from my first trip before I left because if anyone would have been missing, I would never have made such great memories. I left with a rock on my heart, after all, my alternate life was coming to an end. I had to leave my village, leave everyone behind and get to the fast-paced city life, to fuel my future growth and meet my demons again. My alternate life was just about survival and people. It had nothing to do with money/ambitions/growth/future worries. It had no blots. Could I ever settle in it? No, because I know that people would leave, the village will change, and my alternate life would get sad too, which I did not want. I wanted it to be a blot-free dream, containing just happy memories. I sat on my bus, bid adieu to my friends, and left my village. As I approached the city, my actual life sprung back, my demons came back to meet me too. But, I am glad I could bring some people from my alternate life to my actual life who would always remind me of that happy dream.