Venturing into Terra-Incognita
A photo story of a first-time solo travel experience
As I sit in my room while we are in the midst of a global pandemic that has devoured thousands of people across the globe, my mind wanders off to the days when we were free enough to travel across the globe and have adventures. I am not sure what the future holds for me in the post-covid era so I want to utilize this time to write about my travel experience to Europe. This was my first time traveling alone and it was an exciting experience. The solo-travel inspiration came from a friend who traveled alone before and booking a tour group to do it came from another concerned friend who feared for my safety. I felt safer booking a tour that made all the arrangements as a first-time solo traveler. I grew up in many cities as my parents were always moving across the country. A predominant part of my childhood memories consists of packing, unpacking, moving, adjusting to a different climate-culture-people and then bidding them adieu as if my entire life was teaching me to let go. To some, it was a broken childhood and to some, it was a life full of new experiences but to me, it was all I had. What I really wanted in life was to escape, to dream, to do more, to be more and travel all the distant and friendly lands. This felt like my chance to live my dream, so off I went to London.
It was a lovely (and rainy) morning in London when I reached there and I realized that I forgot to pack an umbrella (or rain boots). Spent an hour contemplating my life choices and overthinking things when it finally hit me - I am in a city I can buy shoes and an umbrella. I shopped at Harrods and got myself a nice pair of shoes. I also went to the attraction at the South Bank called London Dungeon which is like a Haunted House but with creepy stories from the dark past - Sweeny Todd, Jack the Ripper etc. After spending two days in London and doing regular touristy stuff, our tour group left for Paris *Paris - Chainsmokers*.
Paris was full of stories and friendly experiences. I talked to a local girl who talked to me about her life in Paris, her dreams and that she was saving up some money to travel. It amazes me how much the world has progressed that some girls are finally fulfilling their dreams of traveling by themselves *Flashbacks of the movie Taken*. I hope one day all the humans of this world become free to travel everywhere without fearing consequences. She taught me a few french words and phrases. I bid her 'Au Revoir' and got lost in Champs Elysees. I took a taxi back to the hotel and in my conversation with the taxi-driver, I disclosed that the Louvre museum is not on the tour itinerary and how I wanted to see it. The taxi driver helped me by routing the taxi towards the Louvre and even though I could not go inside the museum, I got to see it from outside.
The next stop was the beautiful city of Lucerne, Switzerland where I visited the Chapel Bridge, Mount Pilatus, Lion Monument and shopped around for chocolates. Anyone who is into Bollywood movies and has seen DDLJ will understand the importance of the cowbell but for people who don't know - the bell was used as a parting gift for the lover and the lover took it as a challenge to go on a journey to woe the family of his sweetheart and win the girl back. *Love Story - Boy meets girl, they hate each other at first but later fall in love. Both return to their worlds where the girl gets hit with the truth that her marriage is arranged to a stranger, they have to leave it all behind and never return*.
I spent a day in the gorgeous city of Venice. It is still a romantic city even if you are alone in Venice *The one I love is everywhere - Rumi* *Girl with the Universe*.
How I loved the city of art - Firenze and *cough* David. While there are many paintings and sculptures depicting the beauty of a female body, this sculpture is truly a masterpiece showcasing the intrinsic details of a male body. You can see every little detail of his body down to the muscles, arteries, expressions, hair and his relaxed gesture. As if he is thinking - "The weight of the world rests upon me but I am just a simple boy. I don't know how I am going to win but I sure won't lose."
Anyone who has ever been in a tour group understands that you need to adhere to strict timelines or you get left behind, something that has happened to me in the Call of Duty game *which is why I don't play it*. I got lost when I took a passage in the Sistine chapel that leads to St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican city *something that I saw while playing Assassin's Creed game and was really curious to explore that section of the building*. It is a one-way passage, a fact that I discovered upon reaching the other side, separated from my tour group. I kept walking as there was no way to go back and I really wanted to see Musei Vaticani. This experience was just like life where even if you get lost, you need to keep moving. I feel that video games teach us some life-saving skills because I was able to find my group back by using my knowledge from the game *navigation using radio signals received on the tour headset*. Although, the game story may be filled with inaccurate historical facts as it is just the representation of the knowledge of the story developers.
Just like video games, the history that we know is a recollection of someone's memories created-destroyed-edited-recreated by people over a period of time. You can only know what people have informed you about and what you have learned through your cultural and social conditioning. Every thought, belief and concept has been ingrained into your being by the present-day society that you live in. So, when I look back at the gladiator arena and see how time has eroded its beauty and how people failed to maintain it during that time, I think that maybe people did not take care of it because they looked at that place as an institute where many lives were lost in the name of entertainment. Nevertheless, when you stand and view the arena, you can bask in the glory of its grandeur. There is something majestic, unknown yet familiar about the city of Rome. To me, Rome felt like home.