In a country, where women need approval so much as to step out of the house to meet friends, traveling solo is really a big deal. In spite of my belief that the world is full of good people, I went through the ordeal of assuring the family and well wishers that I will come back alive.
But the biggest challenge is to convince the officer at the immigration counter that a woman traveling solo without any agenda is not a criminal offence. They have the special ability to make a lamb feel like a terrorist! Questions will range from “why are you wearing so many earrings to what is the formula of beryllium aluminum oxide?” It is Al6BeO10, by the way.
Once the passport is stamped, half the battle is won and the rest of it is only pure bliss, for the world is full of good people.
Usually I’m a very dependent traveler and “excuse me followed by how to get to xyz place” not to mention with a map in my hand, is one of my favorite sentences. For my specialization lies in poring over maps and directions for a long time and not understanding it.
Every time I returned safely from a trip, my family’s belief in God becomes firmer.
While in Rome..
It took me one hour to find a luggage trolley at the Rome airport, let alone finding places in Rome on my own. Unlike Roman history and monuments, Rome airport is anything but impressive. If not for the good-looking Italian men, I would returned to India the same day I landed in Rome.
One fine summer evening in Rome, after an elaborate shopping and pizza session, looking at my brimming new acquisitions in the glossy packets, I told myself “life can’t get better than this.”
Very satisfied, smiling to myself, I picked up my phone to call my friend, Francesco. After work he was going to pick me up from wherever I was. My smile turned into a “holy crap” frown in a jiffy, when I discovered my phone was dead. I didn’t have my friend’s number noted anywhere. Although I stayed at my friend’s place for a couple of days, I couldn’t so much as pronounce the name of the place, much less, go there on my own. Yes, I confirm, I’m a moron!
I spoke to a few passersby and explained my predicament. It was much like talking to my horses. They just heard me with eyes wide open, sighed and walked away.
My prayers heard..
Worrying about my future, I sat on a stone bench praying in silence for over 15 min. An old man, with an air of a kind person, came and sat next to me. He was too old to know English, I thought, yet I spoke to him. I checked with him if I could use my SIM in his phone to make a call. He understood me and he was ready to help.
He opened the back panel with his trembling fingers, dropped it once on the ground and picked it up. With a grace of an angel and slowness of a sloth he replaced his SIM with mine. I got all misty eyed. He dialed Francesco’s number once and shot me a look as if to say “you will be homeless.” He dialed the number twice and thrice. He put his phone on my ear, and a sweet Italian woman sang *&^%$#@@#%^&&** into my ear. Then he used his SIM to call, and a sweet Italian woman sang again. The line was not going through, I gathered. I said thank you and took my SIM back.
I looked inside my shopping bags to see if there was anything I could use while I was hopelessly homeless in Rome. To cheer myself up I thought of the credit card bills I don’t have to pay. Twenty minutes later the old man came hobbling towards me. I made some space for him to sit but he came and handed me the phone! I readied myself to listen to the sweet Italian woman singing again but, I heard FRANCESCO!!!
Lesson learnt: Italian men are not only good-looking, but also good-lookingly kind-hearted.
Oh yeah, I also learnt to note down all the important numbers just in case.
In the floating city called Venice
In Venice, I met some random person named Alvise through another random person named Sofia while I was busy getting lost in the lanes that resembled a maze. We got a drink called Spritz, the most incredible drink I’ve ever had in my life. Just one drink of Spritz and the “feel good endorphins,” kick in instantly. After one glass of Spritz, thanks to the endorphins, I ended up paying for Alvise’s drink, because he didn’t have change. While I was in the middle of “why did I just pay for a stranger’s drink?” conversation with myself, Alvise interrupted me and offered me a boat ride in his private boat. I held my tears back and said “YES.”
With Alvise while star-gazing on the boat, I explored glistening Venice, learnt about Venice, Merchant of Venice and Venetians’ lifestyle. He also realized I wasn’t very good at finding places on my own. He parked his boat and walked dropped me at the hostel that night. And the best part of my trip to Venice was the boat ride. All I did was, pay a little over fifty cents for his drink.
Therefore, I repeat the world is full of good people.
If it wasn’t for all these good people in the world, I would be lost and never found!
To be continued..
Read Part-II here