A few weeks ago, my grandmother came to live with us. I was ecstatic because that meant three delectable meals every day and someone to advocate for me in front of my ‘mom’ster. There was one thing I didn’t account for. All the marriage jokes and the sly comments about my cousin’s upcoming nuptials. Subtlety is not my family’s strong suit. Although, 25 is a confusing age. How am I eligible to be married when I can’t even parallel park? My grandmother, like many from her generation, believes that a woman’s life begins only after she bags a husband. Her mindset, while irksome, is not surprising. When I told her I wanted to get my hair coloured, she said “shaadi ke baad jo karna hai, karna“. It’s the same response I got when I told her I was getting a my ear pierced and that I was considering solo travel for three days. Side note: if I put a rupee into my piggy bank every time I heard that statement, it wouldn’t be as light as air.
I didn’t listen to her. Just before the Omicron cloud rolled in, I took off for 5 days by myself to Turkey. I didn’t know until I got there, but it was exactly what my anxiety-filled, travel-starved soul needed. Over five days of my first solo travel experience, I transformed into my spirit animal — the sloth. I ate like a maharaja, napped and lounged around the gorgeous hotel. It was the kind of pampering I needed to get the quarantine smell off my hands.
I got a whiff of what those five days would feel like as soon as I exited the Airport. A chauffeur from the hotel greeted me with a Happydent smile, a signboard with my name on it ( a milestone adulting moment) and a turkish tea. I knew from the get-go that I needed to embrace indulgence like it was my travel companion.
Despite building it up in my head, I never thought solo travel would be my cup of tea. For the longest time, I couldn’t imagine just sitting by myself in a restaurant, sipping tea and meeting new people. But that’s all I want to do now. Before my trip to Istanbul, I’d worry about going away by myself? Would I get bored? Who would I talk to? What if I got lost? But after spending five days by myself in a city I’d never been to, living it up at a hotel that oozed luxury, I know that travel can be fully optimized when you do it alone.
The experiences in Istanbul are curated to immerse you into their world. From the bousphorus dinner that made me feel like a contestant on MasterChef to the lavish literary lunch (each dish is inspired by a passage from a classic book), followed by some lounging about my room’s private balcony. But the cherry on top of this already overindulgent cake was the spa. I’ve always been averse to massages. But this time, I was a relaxed hippopotamus basking in the sun. It was the most time I’d spent with myself since being in my mother’s womb, and I loved it.
All my anxieties and fatigue had been washed away like the tub water I spent hours soaking in. The big question was, why? Why did solo travel make me feel like I was walking on air?
It hit me while I was walking around Istanbul, looking at the birds and the sea and taking in the noise and the beauty from my surroundings, a Calm swept through me. It felt like after generations of standing alone, these elaborate defense mechanisms have become mere tourist attractions. Spending time with myself caused me to lay down my guard and relax. Without realizing it, the absence of a travel buddy allowed my inner batteries to recharge to 100%. I was focused and confident. Like my old Blackberry, that always worked better after I removed the batteries and put them back in.
Everyone has their own method of self-care — after the trip to Turkey, solo travel is mine.