Rosalyn D'Mello: Your best travel companion is you
If you've never done it before, there has never been a better time to fly solo and revel in your own company and the joy of free will
I've always fantasised about travelling through Europe on my own. Representation Pic/Thinkstock
Last night, I missed my flight to Paris. It was scheduled to leave Mumbai at 2.30 am. But one of my closest friends wanted to meet me before I could head to the airport, whether to use me as a courier service or to genuinely say goodbye, I still don't know. I tried to tell him I had just an hour until my flight departed, and there was the matter of entering the airport, immigration clearance, security checks and the final frenzied running to the right gate, though he insisted I'd have enough time. Then he bailed on me. I tried to get a cab to the airport but just one driver was willing to go, if I paid him Rs 4,500.
I looked at my watch, it was past 2.30 am. There was no point going now. Then, in that specific instant, it occurred to me that the airline had had a caveat — I could have cancelled and had my flight fare refunded in full if I'd done so 20 minutes before the flight was to take off. It's okay, I told myself, money comes, money goes, money comes. But I couldn't contain the regret I felt for not having just gone to the airport myself, even four hours beforehand, for allowing myself to be talked into waiting on someone. What I wouldn't have given to be in Paris right now.
I was borderline ecstatic when I woke up to discover that all of this had come to pass only within the terrain of my subconscious. I had not, in fact, missed my flight, and had not, as a result, ended up with money down the toilet. I could trace the origin of this nightmare; I had spent most of the previous day planning my trip to Europe in June. In the course of a few hours, I'd turned my itinerary around completely. Where before I was meant to go first to Turkey and Greece, and then perhaps Germany, now I was going to mostly land in Berlin, then make my way to Prague and Kassel, and finally head to Istanbul and Athens. I had been slightly dependent on the same close friend from the dream to come along or to join me at some point. We've both been travelling companions to each other many times before. But before I went off to sleep last night, I had a premonition that this time I'd be flying solo, and I was profoundly exhilarated by that prospect, instead of disappointed. I'd spent a week alone in Paris, back in 2012, but I've always fantasised about travelling through Europe on my own, doing things in accordance with my own whim, my will not suppressed at the altar of another's.
Planning your annual vacation is one of the most underrated things about being single in your thirties and forties. Unlike your married counterparts, you have only to pay for yourself, not a whole family, and no one can really veto your decision about your preferred holiday destination. You work towards it, save up through the year, and then decide whether you want to hop across countries or spend time between just two and see the most of them. You can choose a dorm over Airbnb, for the experience of meeting strangers from lands diverse from your own, or sleep on a couch to save money, then splurge on a gorgeous room for a night or two. You decide the parameters. And surprisingly, when you open yourself to all possibilities, the world seems to open its doors to you.
It's a little tragic that many Indian women who happen to be single are too afraid to wanderlust alone. It's not their fault either. Our country doesn't necessarily encourage or facilitate single women travelling, either alone or in a pair, and so very few of us have known the joy of making our decisions in terms of where and when to go, and where to stay, what to do, and for how long. We're usually content to go with the flow of other people's motivations. We follow the plan, rarely ever participating in the making of it. Instead we make excuses. We delay. We wait until we have enough funds, and even then, never end up going. Therefore, rarely ever have many of us known what it means to be a truly singular entity in space and time in possession of free will.
If you've never flown solo, there's never been a better time. Don't wait for your honeymoon, or for your best friend to be free. Don't be afraid to revel in your own company. As Charles Bukowski reminds us in 'The Laughing Heart': Your life is your life/know it while you have it/you are marvellous/the gods wait to delight/in you.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputed art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to email@example.com