Solo travel: The low frequency sound of silence

I travel alone to the hills because it’s how I want to experience the world for now. It’s not as though I am one with the sand and the sky or anything fancy like that. I just feel interconnected to the sum of their moving parts. It also lends itself more to discoveries, life-changing or merely chimerical. The more people I am surrounded with – the less likely I am to feel the pulse of the environment. And it’s not just because how loud and obnoxious they can be.

Exploring a town, a village or the woodlands is an exercise in self-centeredness. I couldn’t be more self-absorbed. If one travels with like-minded folks, it can be a delightful experience. A sharing of primordial sensibilities and digestible proportions of love and laughter.

However, with the wrong individuals, travelling can be stressful. A nuisance like no other.

I find it exhausting, at times, to deal with human inhibitions. No matter where some are, they can’t go through the hour without complaining about something or the other. They are so used to the stench of traffic that they cannot deal with silence. And they have trust issues with people who belong to lower income brackets. Insects, reptiles and wild cattle too. It’s only a matter of time before they disassociate themselves from the location.

Whenever I have wandered alone in the plains and hills of southern India, I have felt lighter. More fluid and confident in movement. I was able to sense and understand things that I wouldn’t if I had someone with me.

The warmth of sitting on a crumbling wooden stool, tonguing the warm flesh of passion fruit. Seeing dusk undress with songs of Shrikes and Barbets on the playlist. Spending an entire evening in front of a cottage with potted plants by a windowsill. Watching nature’s little subplots evolve on tiny blades of grass.

And the joys of running into kindred strangers.

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of connecting with a few wonderful people because I took the decision to travel by myself.

Senthil Kumar was the first one. In 2012, I met him in Kodaikanal. He is a yoga practitioner and a talented multi-instrumentalist. A native of Kanchipuram, he had left a regimented lifestyle to find harmony in the hills.

He teaches yoga and farms vegetables to make a living for himself. And he jams with hill-dwelling musicians from all over the world to set his soul on fire.

Vattakanal

I ran into Senthil at an Israeli café in Vattakanal, having followed a Crested Serpent Eagle. He was afoot with a Didgeridoo – a traditional Aboriginal wind instrument – slung over his shoulder. He saw me scooting across a pine forest – gazing upwards and stopped for a conversation.

We went to the cafe and ran through several cups of fresh coffee and a mound of rolled tobacco. We spoke about socialist propagandas and just how brilliant King Crimson was. He was also curious to find out how far we had regressed, as a society, back in the city. And I wanted to hear him talk about life in the hills.

Just before I left, I asked him if I could record a video of him playing the instrument. He agreed, with a generous smile. So, we went inside an adjoining forest filled with peach trees and Malabar Whistling Thrushes. The matinee mist was just drifting in from the mouths of nearby mountains.

Soon, thunderous music filled my lungs. It poured out of the skies. Ran up the trees. Skirted through acres of moss on giant rocks.

There was music everywhere.

Let it flow into your lungs too.

(Photographs: Gavi, Munnar, Valparai & Kodaikanal)

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63 comments

  1. Traveling alone is more beneficial for the soul – this statement, C, hah oh yes, both pragmatic and spiritual (trust me I tried to avoid this word, but..meh)
    I’m happy to see that you’ve started enjoying, travelling (alone) more than before(?)
    Have a lovely weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I so agree that people make for lousy travel companions! Incessant droning about things “not as expected”. These people, I think, get a high from being dis-satisfied.

    We went for our honeymoon as a group tour. Yes, call us idiots, but we did that. And we were shocked that people expect to be served paneer platters and spicy Indian food in a different country! The small talk with fellow-honeymooners always had that “the food is yuck!” or “they said Indian meals, this pumpkin with puree is so not Indian” or “they said 3-star but the room-decor is so dull (believe me we had neat and clean rooms, clean resort and decent food). I mean if your honeymoon is supposed to be all about eating good Indian food, why waste your money on a overseas trip!!

    Anyways, I digress. Good post!! Very apt!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tis not a digression at all. abject cynicism is the bane of traveling. most people want to be pampered and that seems to be the purpose for taking vacations. I guess they don’t realize how cozy their lives are already without needing to take a break from it! And the magnetic pull towards all things Indian in a different land is just the worrrrsssssst! my sympathies.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a fellow South Indian, I can definitely say that this post is so relatable. All is bearable till they complain about the food, hot water, and other amenities, but it just gets annoying when they’re cocky and say, “oh, ye toh kuch nahi hai, maine jo pehle dekha tha woh toh awesome tha dude”

    Also, this post is very engaging. Every word screamt honesty. Incredible. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe I might need a translation on the Hindi portion but yeah I can sense the vibe! I guess that explains why flying solo figuratively is the best way to discover the world.

      Thank you so much, pooja

      Like

      1. I hope I meet him sometime in May at Kodai. He says that exchanging phone numbers creates karmic distance between friends. I tend to agree. Imagine a world where friendships, relationships or any other sort of connection were all serendipitous. We d be lonelier but a lot happier, I think.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. travelling alone is first and foremost traveling within..it took just one trip to do it alone(by chance) and keep doing it ever since. i loved this post mainly for its philosophy and concept but also for the didjeridoo! you know, India is a dream destination that one day will come true for me..i am paying you a visit. i promise no drama, i will be a ghost but you have to show me where all these wonderful birds in your blog do nest(i dont think i can do it alone) dont say i didnt warn you..ahahaha!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t tell where the music is coming from! It really is everywhere.
    There was a (seemingly) throwaway line about trust issues.. I’m going to be thinking about that for a while I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post. I agree with all of it, esp the ‘running into kindred strangers’ part. You notice, feel and live much more of the travel experience when you’re either alone or with someone who has an instinct for when to say nothing. Actually, same goes for watching a movie in a theatre.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi. You are really good at what you write and lately i have not missed any of your posts. I have never traveled alone though,but i would love to. And that thing about phone no. exchange creating karmic distance, i have been having such thoughts lately and i am rarely on my phone these day but i do keep in touch through mails. i find it better than anything else. Its two years since i deactivated my facebook, and people get really surprised when i tell them this. Sometimes i feel i am not of this century, it’s funny.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Fatima. Tis’ always a pleasure to meet a new reader. I am glad you wrote to me!

      It’s very interesting that you said that exchanging such information creates karmic distance. Senthil still hasn’t given me his number because that’s what he says too!

      It’s reassuring to know that there are people hopping out of the social bandwagon. Of course, it would mean that writers might get fewer opportunities to promote their pieces to suitable audiences. Still, the need of the hour for humanity is disconnection. Writers be damned hehe.

      I hope you find more peace in your ecosystem.

      Like

      1. Well i am not a very new reader, i would call myself the silent reader 🙂 Thank you for replying.
        Yeah writers not being on soicial media can be a disadvantage, but reader will always find the good writer, no matter what.
        About what your friend said to you, let me give an example from my life, I don’t know if it would make sense to you, but I feel what your friend said and what I experienced with a close friend of mine is similar.
        So having deleted wastapp, facebook, and having not used my intagram for a while the only choice to get in touch with me was through mails or phone calls. She is not in India so, she mailed me. Apart from mailing each other unknowingly on the same day around the same time after more than a month, it so happened that in the following week I had written this small inspirational stuff of being your own hero, for a school magazine. I wanted to share it with all my friends, so I mailed her too. The next day she replied telling me that she had been talking about the same topic with her sister night before.
        We have been in touch very rarely but then there is this intangible connection of the minds. We laughed about it, calling it the weird telepathy. But we both know that such things actually make our friendship stronger even though we don’t remember the last time we spoke to each other on phone.

        All the best with your work.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Awwww what an endearing analogy. It made a lot of sense to me. As you had mentioned, the “intangible connection of the minds” leaves lasting impressions. I am glad you have a kindred soul for a friend!

        “we don’t remember the last time we spoke to each other on phone” – how fitting and lyrical.

        Thank you for deciding to leave your footprints here, Fatima. It really does mean a lot to me.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Ah. Solo travel. But Christy, if this is how luxuriously you say no to travel requests, then you will have more people thronging you just to hear your refusal as much as to travel!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve always been a loner so I understand your need to be alone to appreciate what is around you, more. It may seem strange, but I married a loner and we do a lot of things by ourselves still. I believe that is why our marriage lasts.

    Christy, have you thought of writing a book with your poetry, prosetry and photographs? I think it would be a thing of beauty if you were to do this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great to hear that you found someone to enjoy aloneness with. As someone pointed out recently, it’s very different from loneliness.

      Thank you for the vote of confidence, Val. I haven’t really thought of a writing a book thus far. Somehow it doesn’t excite me. I feel that it would lack purpose too. Either that or I am gunning for superficial posthumous fame hehehe.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s true what you say about travelling alone. That’s the only way you can be one with everything else around you. I personally am more aware when I’m alone. I wonder why that is.

    Liked by 1 person

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