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A Wanderer

Finding solace in places like this, I am at peace with myself
Also adapted & published on Medium.
As a somewhat seasoned (luxury) traveler, there is very little that can bother me in means of making plans and traveling on a day’s notice. Or a few hours as it happened once. I have a small vanity bag packed at all times with essentials, and this can truly be brought down to just my contact lenses. Everything else can be purchased at my destination. From weekend trips to month-long vacations, I am quite at ease. A mental checklist and alarms set for any morning flights are mostly enough. But, I still remember my first trip. The one I took on my own - decided, planned and executed on my own. It is quite an intimidating task and it takes courage to go through with it.
With my measly first bonus check, I picked Seattle as the destination of my first jaunt. Why Seattle? Because very few people choose to go there as their first vacation spot. A month before the trip, I signed up for every possible e-newsletter about Seattle tourism, read numerous articles and blogs, pored over maps and drew out hourly plans - from the restaurants I’d eat at, to the path I would have to walk. Apart from actually traveling and looking around, there was another aspect that is equally daunting. Asking for a table for one at a restaurant. I like my upscale restaurants and bars, and I to sit at a table ,not a bar. I knew this even before I’d tried it out. Seattle turned out to be a great place to go through with the experiment.
Three days of being twitchy about every tiny detail, not even trusting my hotel - again an high-end one - to stow my bags properly, I did manage to have fun. I did go to cafes and bars by myself, had conversations with some people though never actually enelated spirits. I had done something. It was quite invigorating and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
couraging any sort of continuity after usual pleasantries. I returned with
Five years forth now, traveling solo is a thing of everyday ease for me. A week long midwest road trip - because I’d never visited Illinois’ neighboring states, driving through the flatlands of Texas in the middle of the night, waiting in airports for red eye flights, frequently applying for visas and traveling internationally. It’s all a piece of cake. It does help a bit that I am also much more settled into my work and the fact that it is within the travel industry makes it all the more accessible to me. I have shed whatever inhibitions I might have once held.

Several colleagues are into ‘points usage’. I’m not. I pay for everything because it's simpler and is my personal preference. I really don’t have the patience to balance out conversions and vie for upgrades. If I want it, I just get it. And you know what? Free upgrades to roll in. Business class and presidential suites even! Though, admittedly, most of the time, I end up paying for these benefits just for my own peace of mind.

International travel isn’t something I can boast off about but that’s only due to my visa restrictions. With
an Indian passport, there are very few countries I can get into without a pre-approved visa and the process is quite tedious, not to mention expensive. Canada and the UK are the only two places I have made multiple visits to, and only in the past year. Nepal and Central America are fine, but they weren’t exactly at the top of my travel list - this has nothing to do with the fact that I absolutely delighted in the experience. Now, I am at a point in my career where it's ok that I splurge on first class tickets when I please, and thus began my personal international travel with Europe being my main destination!

The motivation to travel on my own is born from a very basic necessity to explore. The excitement of being somewhere outside of my comfort zone where not much is a mystery - knowing directions and names of streets, relying on muscle memory of where and when to stop - is rather exhilarating. I do rely on my handy phone and 4G connections all the while, but the charm of walking into a nice cozy coffee shop, used bookstore or library, an artsy quaint area of the place, hitherto unknown to me, is an experience unparalleled.
I can now say that I've been on hikes, bungee jumping, cultural walks, literary tours, historical paths on my own. I love sharing it with other people, but the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is greater when I've stood at the top of a hill or mountain, or by a lake or ocean, stared out into the open beautiful world below.
The world is my oyster, first class or not, and I intend to make the best of it for as long as I can.


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