On 1st October 2021, I started my first ever truly solo international trip. I visited France, Portugal, and Turkey all on my own. Planning and executing an international journey from start to finish was not an easy task especially due to pandemic threats and the ever-changing entry rules and restrictions in different countries. The choice was either to go crazy from feeling stuck in life by staying “safe” at home or travel and take the risk of catching coronavirus abroad. But why in the world did I travel alone to foreign countries during a pandemic and that too for almost 60 days? Read more to find out.
Why I traveled during pandemic?
Like every one of you, I was also mentally affected by the pandemic. 2021 was supposed to be better than 2020. But it was even worse! My grandparents had passed away in 2021. Some of my close relatives got infected during the delta wave. On top of that, seeing my fellow citizens in the northern part of the country begging for oxygen cylinders in the streets in April 2021 was shocking and worse than any nightmare I saw. Life had started becoming stale and each passing day at home felt like torture. I knew I had to get out to a totally new environment and breathe in some fresh air.
Though I knew really well in August 2021 that we were far away from the end of the pandemic or that we might have yet another wave, countries across the world have been making great progress with vaccination, cases were decreasing, and had slowly started opening up for tourism for vaccinated people.
It was a calculated risk. I did what I know would make me happy – traveling and experiencing the world the way I always wanted.
Looking back now in 2022, I can see what I did was the right thing for me. I listened to my guts and traveled at the right window of opportunity. My 60 ( almost ) days of traveling and exploring wrapped up right before Omicron started spreading in December 2021. Had I waited for the pandemic to fully end to travel again, like my family and everyone else advised, I would still stay stuck and miserable.
Why I traveled abroad?
One of the ideas floated on the internet when cases declined was to travel locally to help the local tourism industry. Having lived all my life in India, I knew traveling in India was not going to be stress-free or meet my expectations.
If you’re not aware, there are people everywhere in India. Finding a touristic destination that is not packed with people is almost impossible and from my previous experience visiting Athirapilly waterfalls before the deadly delta wave, almost no one bothers to wear masks. The air quality is not that good in most Indian cities. The streets are quite dusty and there are barely any footpaths in most cities. I love walking when I explore somewhere. So, clean and well-maintained streets were one of my important criteria – which in my perspective is easier to find aboard than anywhere in India.
France is one of the very few countries that recognize the covishield vaccine that I took in India. Moreover, I had been to France and a few other countries in Europe in 2016. But it was a group tour package with my family and 45 other people on a bus where we rushed between different cities and attractions in France in just 3 days. It was a hectic trip and I had no freedom to explore on my own – basically, it was not a satisfactory trip.
Highlights from my Europe trip in 2016:
I had left France back then not knowing if I would ever get to visit again. So when the desire to travel came to my mind, France was an easy choice and I decided to explore France and Portugal in Europe.
Why I travelled 60 days?
My idea of traveling and exploring is not hopping from one place to another place every other day. I want to take my time, settle down in a good apartment, use the public transport systems to visit nearby attractions, go to the local supermarket and buy things to cook my own breakfast, etc just like I how would do if I were a resident there.
This meant that I would need to stay at least a week in one place. It would also allow me to explore without rushing and travel to the next destination without affecting my work.
In Paris, I spent over 2 weeks and I do not think it was still enough time to reach all the attractions in and around Paris. In Portugal, I spent 4 weeks exploring Porto and Lisbon. In Turkey, I spent over 2 weeks exploring Istanbul and Ankara. Overall, it came to be around 60 days of traveling and living abroad.
To be honest, by the time I reached Istanbul, I had met the purpose of my travel. I was out of the rut of feeling stuck at home and was feeling a bit tired of the frequent traveling and just wanted to go back home and get a good rest.
In the future, I plan to rent a caravan to make travel between cities more fun, flexible and time-efficient without affecting my work.
Why I travelled alone?
I know that most people in this world are afraid or uncomfortable with the idea of traveling alone. Traveling long distances alone, especially to places where you don’t understand the language may not be the smartest of the ideas in the world. There are so many things that could go wrong and it would be difficult to get help if something were to happen. Embarking on such a journey especially when the world is suffering from a pandemic makes it even riskier.
You see, I’m pretty good with making plans and executing them. But when you include a second person in your plans, it becomes twice more difficult to execute it. Your freedom to explore and travel is restricted by the reservations and punctuality of the other parties on the trip. As the number of people involved in something increases, the more complex and chaotic it would become.
Even though I appreciate the freedom you get when traveling solo, I have mixed feelings about it. The biggest difficulty is not being able to take good photos of yourself. If you have a travel partner, you can just ask them to take your photo instead of asking a random stranger and risk getting your phone stolen.
The joy is also multiplied when you are able to share the experiences with someone you get along with.
Even though there were some difficulties and moments when I dreaded traveling alone, everything worked out fine and the trip turned out to be the best decision I made in 2021. I also managed to complete my side quests in this trip – which was to get rid of the fear of being on camera and also make videos to document the trip. You can check out the videos on my YouTube channel here.
In future trips, I will be leveling up on my video-making skills.
Did you travel during the pandemic? What did you do to get out of the feeling of being stuck at home? I would love to hear your perspective!