Travelling Solo

Wow, it’s been ages since I wrote. I promise myself I’ll blog more every time but fail. Oh well, let’s hope this time I keep the streak going! Today’s “topic” of musing: travelling solo.

I get asked this question a lot “why do you travel solo”? And while the one word answer is “Happiness”, I’ll hit you up with the longer version.

I believe that travelling solo can really provide you with a fresh perspective on life, yourself, and the world around you. You have no constant company but your own and you’re left to your own devices to discover places, explore, relax, appreciate the little things, and understand your own thoughts. It gives you a chance to venture down untried avenues. There’re no limits to what you can and can’t do. You can try out any new place to live, eat, and visit. There will be no clash of opinion on what you want to do or where you want to eat or where to go next. You can be as free as you like, have no responsibility towards anyone but yourself, not have to worry about waiting for the other person or being on the same page with them, and enjoy the absolute freedom to do whatever you want. You are tired and want to spend the day lounging around inside, you can. You want to go exploring and take risks and go on an adventure sport, feel free. You feel like a three-course meal and want to indulge, go for it. You want to take a 1-hour walk instead of the bus to wherever, hop on. You want to sit in the park and read your favourite book in front of the gorgeous cathedral instead of going inside, do it. The opportunities are endless. Much of the time that goes in convincing your travel companions with what you want to do, or even simply brainstorming and coming to a mutual decision, you save all of that.

Moreover, travelling solo also allows you to mingle more with the local community and other travellers – you stop and talk to random people, make friends with tourists and locals alike at places you visit, take pictures of whatever you want and ask others to take pictures of you, and sometimes even join surprisingly pleasant strangers for a meal somewhere. Meeting new people and getting to know those who may not be like-minded, or befriending someone who you differs a lot from your usual type of friends – these are the socialisation perks of travelling solo. The best part? You can exchange contact details if you wish to stay in touch, or simply not, and then, once you’re done mingling with someone as much as you like, at any point of your liking whatsoever, you’re simply free to walk away without obligation. You have the luxury of switching between being among people and being on your own throughout and you can make full use of it to get to know yourself, your surroundings, and the people inhabiting/visiting it. Really, the journey and the destination are both completely yours.

Lastly, travelling solo really helps you become more self-aware and organised in a way. You have to manage your own budget, expenses, take care of your own belongings, figure out your own routes, rely on Google and other sources of information to decide what would be the best option, and essentially strike a balance between having fun and ensuring your trip doesn’t end up badly all on your own. Usually, we tend to rely on others to “police” us, remind us to do this and that, but when you’re on your own, there’s no helpful friend to sort out your stuff or take care of you when you need help, you’re responsible for yourself, and it’s a pretty big responsibility.

Bottom line: once you’ve travelled solo, you feel like you can do anything and it’s a divine feeling.

 

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A snap from my solo travels in Cardiff (England) that a helpful stranger took, back in 2015!

 

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Lost

Smoke billowing in the wind
Eyes shining with tears unshed
She stares up at the starry sky
Searching for her lost soul within

Eyes closed, flashes of memory
Eyes open, harsh reality
She clenches her fists
Guilt and pain clawing at her heart

There is nowhere to go, nowhere to hide
Stuck like a wheel forgotten in time
She lets out a sigh, pursing her lips
There is no room for weakness, impossible to run

Scars on her body, scars on her mind
Losing a battle that was once won
She shudders at the hollow reflection staring back from the mirror
It all comes crashing down, what is she doing, this is not her

Gasping for air, holding on to hope
She raises her arms, embracing the sky,
Darkness is fading, a shadow of a smile
Seeing clearly after a long long time,
…yes she will find her way back to the soul.

Friendship

I realised today it’s almost been a month again since my last post, and well, it’s time to let off some steam. (Side note: Going to try and break the pattern, and write more often). Word of warning: this is really a stream of consciousness type post.

Friendship.

It’s a loosely thrown-around term, but it means so much. Almost anyone you meet can become a friend, sometimes instantly, sometimes it takes a while. For someone who has travelled to and lived in many places, I am glad to say I have an abundance of friends. Some I hang out with on a regular basis, some I was close to when I was in the vicinity but drifted apart after moving away, some I have a chat with every once in a while, some I don’t talk to much but I know they’ll be there when I need them, and some who only exist in my memories for time and distance has withered us away.

It’s fascinating how despite having a variety of friends and knowing so many people, there are only a few that you really connect with. While every friendship is unique, every once in a while there comes that one friend in your life that you know is a bond you’d hate to lose (with time or distance or whatever). And you hold on to it with all you have – human beings are social animals after all. We thrive on company.

So this special friend – you call them a best friend – which again has become a loosely used term today, and one can have more than one best friend of course – well, it’s strange how one day you’re alone and then suddenly not anymore. This “real friend” is someone you enjoy spending time with – watching television/movies, cooking, eating, listening to music, travelling etc. together. Talking for hours or sitting in comfortable silence. This is the person you go to when you’re down to lift you up, the person around whom you don’t have to worry about your troubles, or if you are, you can share them, the person who makes it a little easier to get through your day, particularly if you’re having a hard time. It’s a bond of happiness and sadness, of laughter and tears, of practical jokes and teasings, of silly arguments and immediate make-ups, of deep conversations and meaningful silences. It’s one of those inexplicable human relationships – you don’t know how or why, but you just connect with someone on a level that you don’t with others, and somehow include them in your mental list of people you want to hold on to.

This was just one of those random thoughts I had while sitting with my cup of tea today, watching a friend, and a smile made its way to my face, for no evident reason. Friendships are strange, funny things – perhaps a little underrated – but really one of the finer things in life, eh?

Change

A month ago, I wrote about making a tough decision. A decision that involved a huge change in my life. It involved a lot of anxiety, confusion, uncertainty, and thrill. Today, I complete one week of living that decision: my move to Canberra (Australia).

So far, I have been settling in. Shifting to an apartment from a temporary hostel, shopping tons of stuff to get started, managing my time with evening classes and work all day, and balancing all that with staying healthy and keeping in touch with my loved ones thousands of miles away.

It’s been one hell of a ride. You would think, after having been to and lived in four different countries, armed with plenty of experience in meeting people and adjusting to new places, moving here would be a breeze. Surprisingly, it’s not. Each place is different, each culture is unique, and every single move is difficult. The term difficult also comes with the tags of exciting, adventurous, refreshing, and learning though, which is what makes it worthwhile.

I am trying my best to be as involved in everything as possible, get a jumpstart on my work and academics, and make the most of my time here (all while keeping in budget)! It is a task but not an impossible one. To cap it off, I am glad I made the decision and took the leap of faith. New ventures, new opportunities, and so many new horizons have opened up since my arrival here, and it’s only been a week! There’s so much to explore, within me and around me, that 24 hours are just not enough.

Of course, there are times when the feeling of loneliness creeps in, when it’s painful and sad to miss the loved ones, when what’s coming ahead seems like an abyss of ambivalence; but reassuring myself that this is all for the better, for my growth, and having the support of those who matter the most, helps a lot.

So, yes, change is scary, but it is also worth it. Stepping out of that comfort zone for a week has already taught me so many things, and am looking forward to the journey ahead 🙂

A little sneak peek at my life here:

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When a chapter begins…

Starting something new in life can be terrifying. More than the end of a chapter, the beginning of one is what makes me anxious. There is a certain uncertainty – am I making the right decision? Is this going to lead me to a better future? Is this going to prove fruitful? Am I going to be able to fulfil the expectations attached to it?

This post has been sitting in my drafts for a month now, but I’m finally hitting “publish” today.

A thousand questions ran through my head as I stared at my computer screen, the button  “accept offer” glinting at me. I have accomplished three degrees – dual-award undergraduate honours and a postgraduate diploma. I felt like I should have been ready to take on new challenges, I had done this enough times after all. Nevertheless, my heart beat fast and my hands shook. This was a huge decision, much bigger than my previous ones, because it was supposed to truly define my future, both in terms of work and education. This was the final stop and it had to be right – because if I went wrong here, my plan to hit it off with my career would start on the wrong foot.

Moving to another city, easy. Moving to another country, still easy. Moving to another continent, exciting but also a little daunting. The older you get, the more difficult you find to adjust to new surroundings. Not only that, this time am going to be doing something a lot different from what I have been doing in the past two years.

A little change is enough to shake me up. Past couple months, I got so used to staying close to my loved ones, having them only a train ride away, and suddenly, the prospect of turning that into a flight and increasing that distance, it is enough to give me a pause. There is a lot at stake here and time and money are only small factors. My future, my family’s expectations, my own dreams… clicking one button could make or break it.

Finally, I took a deep breath and hit it. (A form that needs to be filled follows but that part is easy). This is it. I have chosen my path. For the next 2 years, am going to study Masters in Management from one of the world’s top rated institutions, the Australian National University. I hope the postgraduate coursework degree is not only an academic learning experience, but also a life learning one. More than that, I hope it gives me the foundation I need to really build my career in the managerial side of the media industry. I hope, after two years, I can get the return and make my loved ones proud on what I will be investing here – my time, my dreams, my efforts, distance from those I love, and a major part of myself.

Carrying all these hopes inside me, and keeping my fingers crossed on the outside, because that is all I can do at this point, I begin the new chapter – no matter how scary it is. Canberra, here I come!

Why do you write?

Last week, I blogged about reconnecting with reading. Today, I came across a post asking why write…. and it got me thinking, as an aspiring writer, and someone who dabbles in short stories and fan-fiction (judge all you like!), why exactly do I write?

For the most part, I think I write for myself. It is therapeutic in a sense, an outlet for my emotions, a medium to express my thoughts in a sensible manner. I find that I am a much better writer than a speaker, and more often than not, I end up talking in circles while my pen (or the keyboard!) tends to spin those very thoughts with brilliant coherence.

I started writing fan-fiction years ago, when I felt like I had nothing and no one to turn to, and it became a huge part of my life. It helped me grow into a writer, practice my writing skills, make friends with people who shared the same interests from a variety of backgrounds, and gave me a new identity. While initially it was a way for me to channel my love for Harry Potter – a series that shaped my life and ideals in more ways than I can describe – over time, it became so much more. Not only did constructive criticism help me build as a writer, but to this day, when I am stuck in a busy routine and need to think, leisure writing (be it a blog entry or a one-shot fanfic or a short original story) is what I turn towards to get my creative juices flowing.

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There is the other end of the spectrum too – writing for others. I also write because I have this need to share all these ideas in my head with others. Whether it’s a book or an online medium, it can create some sort of impact, bring about some sort of awareness, get someone thinking…. and in a world where everyone is entitled to their opinions, the more opinions we have out there, the more discourse it encourages, and the more we progress. After all, even if it’s only a handful of readers taking in my words, any knowledge shared is some progress, right? I may not be able to save the world like Harry Potter but what’s to stop me from trying to pass on some ideas of world peace to the young generation?

Regardless of which end of the spectrum you are at, writing is primarily about the writer. When you write for yourself, you’ve decided that you have a story to tell and you want people to take this journey with you. Some people will love what you’ve written, others won’t. But when you are done, you have the satisfaction of saying “I have a story to tell, and I told it how I wanted to.”

When you only write for others, you end up trying to please everyone which never happens. I express my ideas through my writing, my story the way I picture it, and sometimes people will not like what I’ve done, but that is the journey of writing. It helps me grow and, whether through a theme or a message or something else, it encourages thinking and discourse.

So, why do you write? 

Reconnecting with reading

I have always called myself an avid reader. However, it had been a while since I found myself engrossed in a good book, or touched by words on paper. Determined to discover my lost bookworm again, I read over 20 books in the past 11 months, and just when I had thought I would never reconnect with the written word again, was almost on the verge of losing hope, I was introduced to An Interpretation of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. It was published way back in 1999 but I only got my hands on it recently, and instantly fell in love with it. It is unlike the usual stuff I read. For starters, I have always been more of a novel reader, and this is a collection of only nine short stories.

However, each of these short stories is poignant, moving, and plain beautiful. The writing is very ‘simple’ yet relatable. In only a few pages (per story), the writer makes me feel for the characters, gives me the minutest details about their lives, and brings the emotion out of the page(s).

My favourite from the entire collection is the very first story “A Temporary Matter.” It seems like such an ordinary tale and yet it is a tale of tragic romance. The details of love are described in the most intricate of ways, of loving someone for their little habits and knowing them inside out, and at the same time, it also shows a more painful, real side to a relationship, and how circumstances and time truly affect lives. It spoke to me in a manner very few stories have, and brought tears to my eyes.

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Another one that I connected with was “The Third and Final Continent” of the same book. Another story of a relatable, bittersweet, impactful, to-the-point, and humble nature. It speaks about the most basic of things – the human connection, or the social need of a man, and yet it really made me think about life and people and relationships that we develop, which is remarkable considering the bare minimum amount of time it took reading it.

They say  that everyone is a reader; those who claim otherwise have just not found the right book. As a child, JK Rowling helped me discover the reader in me, teaching me lessons on life, love and friendship… and as an adult, Jhumpa Lahiri has reinforced those very lessons with such a different type of storytelling, helping me rediscover that reader in me who had gotten buried in the fast-paced, electronically charged, hectic routine of daily life somewhere.

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Fifty days

Some real advice on love… and arranged marriage 🙂

Hello!

Two strangers. complete opposites. There was no way we could have been together. Except – fate works in mysterious ways.

It all began with a phone call. My dad handed me a phone and told me to speak to him. No pressure. Typical arrange marriage scenario in today’s Indian household. After getting over the shock of my parents trying to set me up with a “suitable groom”, I decided to have fun and see where it goes.

Little did I know that I had just walked into the trap. I never believed in love; it was just fairytale for me – limited to children’s storybooks. I mean, common I was surrounded by people who fell in love and out of love every few months! That’s the reality of our lifestyle. We try to run from everything – from relationships to responsibilities. I was no stranger. I was running from marriage, after all, it…

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#DreamingBig – The MTV Star

This post marks the launch of a new series on my blog: #DreamingBig. Under this, I’ll be featuring ‘ordinary’ individuals whom I find inspirational – particularly because they have not stopped chasing their dreams, and/or are well on their way to achieving them. These individuals can belong to any field, any part of the world, and be of any age/race/gender etc., and I’ll be personally interviewing them. The frequency of the posts under the series will range from monthly to bi-monthly. 


The MTV Star: Ermin Telalovich

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Ermin is a 28-year-old university student, studying English language & Literature, whose passion is composing music. He belongs to the city of Zenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and finds himself lucky to have been able to turn his dream of becoming a musician into a reality. Or at least, take a big step towards it. After all, he is a proud MTV-featured electronic music producer and multi-instrumentalist today.

Me: How is the experience of having your music played on MTV? 

Ermin: Having your name up there with all of your musical role models is a very distinctive kind of recognition. As such, it comes with great responsibility. It keeps me hungry for constant improvement, rather than feeling that I’ve reached the final destination. The greatest joy about it is having your music out there for someone, somewhere, sometime to discover, experience, think about and hopefully enjoy. Receiving fan mail from different parts of the planet and knowing that someone took the time to listen to and interpret your music in their own way, discover their own meaning of it – it is a special feeling and experience.

Me: That’s amazing, but how did this journey begin? 

Ermin: Well, it started when I first got in touch with composing in 1992 , at the age of 4, playing my niece’s piano, and creating numerous variations on this popular ‘Lambada’ theme. Discovering my interest in the area, I continued an education in music through Musical Elementary school and Musical High school, concentrating on, and mastering my skills on the piano, guitar and musical theory.

Me: When did this interest of studying music transform into a lifelong dream? 

Ermin: While in high school, my friends and I formed a pop-rock oriented band, concentrating on producing songs rather than covering someone else’s releases. It was then that I felt the urge to express myself rather differently, and was introduced to music making softwares like FL Studio. What started as a game, soon turned into a beautiful, lasting, musical experience that has continued to upgrade from track to track.

Snapshot of Ermin's music on MTV.
Snapshot of Ermin’s music on MTV.

Me: Who is your role model or inspiration? 

I have studied ENIGMA’s mega mind Michael Cretu and his modus operandi when it comes to composing and producing. I like to follow in his footsteps and aim to transmit  the erotic, melancholic, seasonal, romantic, mystical, playful and enigmatic themes and emotions through my pieces. Of course, throughout my life, there have been various role models, from superheroes, to astronauts, to composers. I like to draw inspiration from all of them to channel into my music. 

Me: How would you describe your music? 

Ermin: Although sometimes conceptual, my music is a direct, frank and encrypted report on everything I encounter, be it the sounds of my surroundings, visuals, feelings, textures or scents. Music is a tool I chose for documenting the age I live in. Hence the decision to use the synthetic instruments rather than the classical ones. They represent this millenium.

Me: The big question: what now? 

Ermin: I would say that, so far, I’ve only achieved a goal, rather than my dream. What now? To keep achieving the goals I set for myself in this endless, everchanging game called music. The next one is engaging in film scoring and consequently winning an Academy award for Best Music in a Motion Picture. 

Personally, I find Ermin’s story inspirational. He never gave up on what he wanted, and from a hobby to a dream to a career, he has indeed come a long way. His simple advice for others like him: There is someone, somewhere who will find your work inspiringSo, continue to challenge yourself. 

One of the pieces he’s particularly proud of:

This is his YouTube channel & This is his soundcloud.


If you have a story to share about your dream, no matter how big or small, ping me at aditi.verma@hotmail.com and I will get back to you 🙂

 

Trapped in mirrors

Growing up, most of us are taught that we’re “different”, we’re unique, that we’re our own person. While that is not entirely wrong, it presents this skewed notion that we’re somehow isolated from our environment. Looking around me and within me, I have come to realise that we are not that different after all, and we’re certainly not separate from our surroundings. We’re constantly looking at the people in our lives and the experiences we come across to help us build and see who we are. Our environments are essentially our mirrors, and more often that not, we find ourselves trapped in their definitions.

A girl who wants to be “pretty” but doesn’t look like the definition of “pretty” according to those in her environment will never see herself as pretty. A boy who wants to be “rebellious” but doesn’t fit the definition of “rebellious” according to those in his environment will never see himself as a rebel. So, we strive to become what we want to see in our “mirrors”, moulding ourselves according to a certain niche in the society that we live in. And if somehow, we fail in that process, we feel excluded, left out, alone – a bad different.

But is it really so bad? For most of my life, I felt that I existed somewhere between flawed and full of potential. I felt that I did not fit in the ‘group’ that I wanted to in school, I did not experience a college life that I was ‘supposed to’ live, and that I did not become a person that my environment expected me to.

In the end, I said “chuck it all” and decided I was different, but that’s where the irony comes in. There’s a niche to how “different” is supposed to be too – and I found myself trying to adapt to it.

I could go on and on about the mistakes I made and what I did and how I behaved, ever since I was a teenager to the present point in my life, to mould myself into what I saw in the mirror, but that’s not the point. Looking back, I only see years and years of trying so hard to “fit in” and “be normal”  and “be like so and so” by doing numerous things that I probably didn’t even want to do, or by saying things that I didn’t even want to say.

And last night, as I struggled to meet a crazy work deadline, I realised I was fighting so hard not because I wanted to but because I was expected to. At home, at work, with friends, with family. I was expected to abide by perfection – that had somehow become my mirror in the past few months – and when I couldn’t, it drove me crazy. It was like waking up from a dream – learning the difference between what I really want for myself and what others want from me. There’s no harm in trying to do good, to be good, but the definition of good – that is one that should be defined by my experiences and my ideas – because I am me and not my mirror.

I don’t want to be understood by everyone and to desperately adhere to what is needed from me. I don’t want to be trapped in the definitions of my mirror. I want to break free and understand myself before I spend a life blended into my environment without a speck of personality to call my own.