9 Things That Will Happen When You Travel Solo for the First Time

9 Things That Will Happen When You Travel Solo for the First Time

“I don’t get to travel. I have no one to travel with!” 

Yep, these are the words I get to hear so often when people write to me. Many of them tell me they REALLY want to travel, but they don’t have people to travel with.

Guess what – even I didn’t a few years back. Back then, two of my closest friends were studying abroad and I had no idea who to go with. Thankfully, I didn’t wait for them and booked my ticket when I was between jobs. I had absolutely no idea what to expect but it was an experience that I will remember for life.

Sounds fun? Well, there’s more. So what really happens when you travel solo for the first time? Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly so that you can mentally prepare yourself beforehand. If you’re getting ready for your first solo trip and wondering what it’s like, you’re going to LOVE this post. On the other hand, if you have already traveled solo and are on this page, you will totally relate to the points in this list.

 

What Happens When You Travel Solo for the first time

01 | You will get scared and think you have lost your mind

 

Am I crazy to travel alone?

The first time I traveled solo, I was unnecessarily jittery at the airport. I felt that everyone was watching me because I was alone. I even imagined that some people were pointing at me. Their faces looked familiar – did they know my dad? OMG, were they going to call my family? The fact that I had lied to my parents about traveling solo didn’t help.

I’m not trying to scare you away from traveling solo, but I want to prepare you for scary moments. There will be a moment (or many) when you will wonder what the hell is wrong with you. This will most likely happen before you actually leave but may happen again at the airport or any other place where you have to sit and wait.

Some of your friends or family members may say that you’re crazy to be doing this. There will be times when their statements will borderline amazement and shock, as a result you may also wonder if you have made the right decision. Some other people may discourage you and tell you you’ve been reading too many travel blogs. Stay away from them.

02 | You will have to take your bags to the toilet, so pack light

The advantage of traveling with someone is that you have someone to look after your bags when you go to the toilet. So what do you do when you travel solo? Of course, you take your bag WITH you to the toilet.

It sounds easier than it’s done because not every toilet is big enough. It is very easy to do this when you’re at an airport but not so when you’re at a bus station. Make things easy for yourself and pack the lightest bag possible. Your back will thank you and so will your bladder.

03 | You will learn to get creative to get pictures of yourself

Let’s be honest – we all want at least ONE good picture from our travels, no? After all, it is your trip and you should be a part of at least one shot. It’s not always possible to ask someone else to click you. After taking 100 bad photos, you will eventually learn how to get creative.

I absolutely hated selfies when I first traveled solo for the first time and I refused to click a single one back. A few days of traveling and I realized that I had absolutely no pictures of myself. Too shy to ask someone, I tried looking for the perfect spots to balance my camera so that I could fit in the frame along with the view. I finally learned the art of clicking epic pictures of myself when I was alone in Turkey. BTW: check out this post about easy ways to take awesome photos when you travel solo.

04 | You will feel very lonely at times

 

Yes, solo travel is about enjoying solitude but there will be times when it will make you feel lonely.

It will happen when you see a spectacular sight and you’d wish you had someone to share that moment with. It will happen again when you get lost and wished you had someone with you.

Loneliness is unavoidable when you travel solo and as long as you don’t embrace it, you will not be happy with your own company.

One of my favorite travel movies of all time is Into the Wild, especially the final scene where Christopher writes – “happiness is only real when shared”. I did not fully realize the meaning of this until I traveled solo and something exciting happened and I had no one to share my happiness with. Of course, I could later call my sister and tell her, but that was the moment I embraced loneliness.

Loneliness is unavoidable when you travel solo.

05 | You will make new friends.. even if you’re an introvert

If you’re an extrovert then you will probably make friends even before your plane takes off. By the time you arrive at your destination, you’d have already made a little group in the airplane and will share your taxi with them. Before you know, you will end up staying at the same hostel and spend literally every evening together. Doesn’t sound like you? Well, that’s not me either.

Extroverts have an easier time making friends when they’re solo. Over the years I have realized that I’m not exactly an extrovert – perhaps because I’m very selective about my company. If you’re anything like me, you will continue your journey alone because you love your own company. However, you will end up making friends at the most unexpected places. You will suddenly realize that you have a LOT to talk about with your new friend. Your friendship will probably be short-lived but it will bring you a lot of happiness on the road. I’m remembering my friend Eva as I type this, who I met while I was in Turkey.

06 | You will end up having more fun than you had ever imagined

Believe it or not, your first solo trip will be a lot more fun than your other trips. You will end up doing things that you never imagined you could. You will learn to survive on your own and will have a lot of fun doing so.

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You will end up having more fun than you can ever imagine

My first solo trip was the most fun that I ever had in Goa. I did exactly what I wanted to do without having to compromise anything with a travel buddy or a boyfriend. I made a lot of friends and experienced the craziest parties. Yes, those were the days when I was a “party girl”. I woke up when I wanted and slept early on days when I was lazy. There was no need to see the needs of another person and I loved that experience.

Keep an open mind, smile and be happy that you’re traveling. Oh and by the way, check this guide if you’re planning on backpacking India alone.

 

07 | You will realize you have a “gut feel” and you will learn to use it

Call it your instinct, sixth sense or gut feel, but at times something inside will tell you something just isn’t right. Your instinct will tell you to get the hell out of the place that you’re in, and you should listen to it.

After traveling alone for a while, the reason why you will develop this instinct is because you are all by yourself. You will end up being more aware of your surroundings than how you would have been if you were with a friend.

Yes, solo travel is fun but you should be aware that not all areas in this world are safe. Even if they are, you never know what goes inside someone’s mind. I’m all in for backing your decisions with evidence or data – but at times if your instinct is telling you something, you should listen to it.

Traveling solo has taught me to trust my instinct.

08 | Be warned, you will get addicted

Have you ever met someone who traveled solo once and never again? Neither have I.

Solo travel is addictive AF and it is so for all the reasons that I have mentioned above. It will bring you a lot of happiness and will leave you wanting for more.

We all have our reasons to be addicted to things but here is what happened to me. I came back home, ended my relationship that wasn’t going anywhere. I decided to spend more time and energy into learning things (like playing guitar) that I had always wanted. Even though I realized that playing guitar wasn’t really for me, at least I tried for three months and I don’t have any regrets.

There are a lot of things in this world that you can get addicted to. Solo travel is one of the better ones.

09 | You will never be the same again

Yes, I know it sounds cliché but solo travel will open your mind and make you see things a little differently.

It happens because most of us live our lives in an autopilot mode and get into a routine. Many of us don’t shut up and spend enough time alone with our thoughts.

Traveling solo will push you to spend time alone with yourself

Traveling solo will push you to spend time alone with yourself

Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with communicating but at times it is important to be silent. Traveling solo will push you to spend time alone with yourself. You will end up thinking about your family, your career, your decisions and life in general. When you return, you will never be the same again.

So have you ever traveled solo? Let me know in the comments section where and why not. I’d love to know more.

7 Thoughts That Crossed My Mind Before My First Bungee Jump

7 Thoughts That Crossed My Mind Before My First Bungee Jump

“Your turn”, said Olly, the jump instructor at Jumping Heights, Rishikesh.
“OMG Whaaaaaat”, I thought. However, I smiled and said “Awesome!”

I could hear my heart in my ears! I was standing at the edge of the bridge, 83 meters above the ground, ready to take a leap of faith. This was the first time I was going to bungee jump!

What felt like an eternity but in reality was just a couple of seconds. In that moment, a lot of thoughts flashed through my mind but only a few of them I remember today. The common phrase is “butterflies in the stomach” but what I felt was more like a tornado through my nervous system. The tingling started from my toes, went up to my knees, made a circle in my stomach and rose up from my spine and I felt a little dizzy.

 

Things That Crossed My Mind Before My First Bungee Jump:

What if I accidentally pee while bungee jumping?

Don’t laugh but this can happen to anyone. Blame it on that MasterCard commercial where a guy actually poops in his pants while bungee jumping so the thought stuck in my head. What if I’m too scared while jumping and I end up peeing in fear?

What if I puke while bungee jumping?

Even though I had eaten a very light breakfast, I could still feel my it in my stomach. I was hoping it wouldn’t come out while jumping. What if I puke while bungee jumping? Will my puke fall back on my face?

What if my chord breaks while bungee jumping?

There is a reason why bungee jumping is a leap of faith. It’s because you have to trust the system. I still remembered a news article that I had read about an Aussie woman whose chord snapped in Victoria Falls and she fell into the water.

What if my back breaks during the bungee jump?

It just suddenly struck me that they had asked me if I had a back problem before I registered for the bungee jump. Is it because a jump can break someone’s back? What have I done?

What if I get a heart attack while bungee jumping?

What if this rush of excitement is too much for my heart? What if my heart cannot handle it and gives up. Do I have a strong heart? I was going to find out now.

What if I am too afraid to bungee jump?

What if I’m not as much of an adrenaline junkie that I thought I was? What if I chicken out? At this point, I was really hoping that it wouldn’t happen.

Am I crazy to be doing this?

Not completely crazy, but only a little. No sane person would ever jump off a bridge just for kicks. Why can’t I just eat chocolate and enjoy the rush? Or some form of intoxication for a decent high.

My first bungee jump in Rishikesh, India

My first bungee jump in Rishikesh, India

Yes, I did end up jumping and NONE of the above mentioned things happened. In fact, as soon as I jumped, the fear vanished and I was let out a sound that was a mix of laughter and scream. My friend Archana also bungee jumped in Rishikesh with me and she felt it was scarier the second time.

Oh and by the way, actually bungee jumped with the famous Dangal girls – Fatima Sana Shaikh (“Geeta Phogat” in Dangal movie) and Sanya Malhotra (“Babita Phogat” in Dangal movie). In fact, Sanya did Jumping Heights’ 50,000th jump. It’s crazy but the first three jumpers at Jumping Heights were also women. Talk about celebrating girl power, eh?

Here, you can watch this video

Have you ever bungee jumped? If so, let me know about it in the comments. Note: Cover picture credit

Or, watch San’s first bungee jump in Last Resort, Nepal. This is Asia’s second highest bungee spot.

Like it? Please subscribe to our YouTube channel for more travel videos!

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her partner in crime (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us reduce the costs of keeping this site active. Thanks for reading!

25 Things That Happened When We Traveled Around for Music Festivals

25 Things That Happened When We Traveled Around for Music Festivals

If you have been following our adventures on Instagram and Facebook, then you know for sure that our summer was full of music festivals.

We started in Manali, India where we danced with our Japanese family at Dance of Shiva festival. Next on our list was Germany’s Freqs of Nature where it was time to dance on dark psychedelic tunes. After Germany, it was time enjoy old school psychedelic tunes and meet our S.U.N. Festival family in Hungary. Right after this, Modem’s amazing hi tech décor and music blew us away next to the Springs of Mreznica in Croatia.

Somewhere around the full moon, it was time to be ONE with nature (and people) at Boom Festival in Portugal. After Boom, we volunteered at Lost Theory Festival’s kitchen in Spain. Our last festival of the season was Earthquake festival in Germany.

Seven music festivals, six countries in just one summer – obviously a lot of things were bound to happen. If I start writing in detail, I can easily write enough material to make a book but I don’t want to bore you to death. So here are N things that happened during our summer full of music festivals:

01 | We got to travel for REALLY cheap (sometimes FREE)

Summer full of music festivals

Summer full of music festivals

Euro trips are expensive, no? Not so much of you hitchhike. The best thing about traveling from one festival to another was we didn’t even have to make an effort to hitchhike. From one festival to another, it was easy to find people who were happy to take us in their campervan to the next festival. Our best ride to remember was from Portugal to Spain in our friend’s ancient campervan.

02 | We lost a lot of things… and found many others

Yes, people lose a lot of things at music festivals – so did we. But each time we lost something; we found a replacement for free. No we’re not talking about finding other people’s lost things, but we got these things from people who were leaving the festival and didn’t want to carry them.

You may also like – How I met my soul mate in a psytrance music festival 

03 | Strange things happened with our hair

I went with 22 dreadlocks and came back with just 10. San went with 4 and came back with 5. Conclusion: dreadlocks require hard work and maintenance.

04 | We realized it is possible to dance for 30 hours straight

Energy on the dance floor at Boom Festival 2016

We danced for 30 hours straight at Boom Festival 2016

Blame it on the lineup or the vibes on the dance floor but at Boom festival, San and I ended up spending two nights and one day on the dance floor without sleeping. How did we do it? We have no idea.

05 | We now know how much fun it is to volunteer at a music festival

San and I working inside Lost Theory Festival's kitchen

San and I working inside Lost Theory Festival’s kitchen

For the first time in our lives, San and I volunteered at a music festival. It was the Lost Theory festival in Spain where we worked in the kitchen for four hours every day. In return, our festival entry and food was absolutely free!

06 | We fell in love with Acai

Yummy Acai bowls in Fremantle today!!! @ohana.acai.bar #acai #food #fit #healthy #yum

A post shared by Tweat Melbourne (@tweatmelbourne) on

Acai or açaí berry is a Brazilian fruit that should be labeled as the perfect party food. We tried it for the first time at Boom Festival in Portugal and ate it almost everyday after. It is very low in sugar but very high in vitamin C and antioxidants. It provided us with a much needed energy boost after dancing for hours.

You may also enjoy – 9 Reasons Why We Love Music Festivals

07 | We realized that every festival has an outdoor sex spot (you just need to find it)

Modem Festival, Croatia 2016

Modem Festival, Croatia 2016

While it may not appear so during the day but things drastically change when it gets dark. Not every area is well lit and if you try hard enough, you can find many spots that you can have to just to yourselves for a long time.

08 | We met our favorite PsyTrance artist – Arjuna

Arjuna at Modem Festival, Photo by Es Web

Arjuna at Modem Festival, Photo by Es Web

After dancing to Arjuna’s music at every festival, we finally got a chance to meet him and hug him. Believe it or not but at every festival we decided are sleep (and tripping) schedule based on when he was playing.

09 | We met the famous Mr. Pink (and also his soul brother)

Mr Pink at Boom Festival, Portugal - 22 Things that happened during our summer full of music festivals
Me with Mr. Pink at Boom festival 2016- 22 Things that happened during our summer full of music festivals
Me hugging Mr Pink at Boom Festival - 22 Things that happened during our summer full of music festivals

If you’re a regular at PsyTrance festivals, then you know of Mr. Pink for sure. Since the last two years, he’s in almost every PsyTrance music festival video where he is colored fully pink. Well, we have been following his adventures everywhere and at the Boom festival, we actually got to hug him. Check it out!

10 | We can now use almost every kind of toilet

Compost toilet at Modem festival - the cleanest festival toilet this season

Compost toilet at Modem festival – the cleanest festival toilet this season

Believe it or not, dirty toilets are my biggest fear. A few months back, I would have preferred to jump off a cliff than to use a toilet that’s dirty. However, seven back to back music festivals and 100s of dirty toilets – I had no choice but to face my fear head on. Yes, now I can use every kind of toilet.

11 | We now know that almost everything can be recycled… even poop

A beautiful garden at Boomland which was built using human waste

A beautiful garden at Boomland (Boom Festival 2016, Portugal) which was built using human waste

Do you know how much environmental damage a music festival can cause if not done correctly? Almost all of the festivals that we attended this summer had invested in tonnes of environmental programs to leave no trace on the land. Almost all the waste was recycled, even poop. Most of these festivals also had compost toilets where they recycled human waste to provide for food for building elaborate gardens.

12 | We became camping experts

Our camp at Modem festival 2016, Croatia

Our camp at Modem festival 2016, Croatia

Camping is a very important part of a music festival experience. Pitching a tent is a different matter but making it super comfortable requires a little more work. After spending most of our summer in our tent, we became camping experts and can now make our tent almost as comfortable as our bedroom.

You may also like – The Ultimate Packing List for Music Festivals

13| We experienced a few Divine Moments of Truth

divine moments of truth at Boom festival 2016

divine moments of truth at Boom festival 2016

We visited another planet and met aliens while we experienced a few divine moments of truth. No, we did not do anything “illegal” because many things have been decriminalized in Portugal, including recreational use of a few substances.

14 | We met a lot of talented children

Modem baby by GemeosVB Fotografia

Modem baby by GemeosVB Fotografia

Music festivals have areas that are specifically designed for children. We think that parents who bring their children to festivals end up fueling their creativity. Being in a creative zone for 4-5 days continuously is very good to open up their minds’ creative window. We couldn’t help but notice how talented most of these children were.

15 | We now know that hand fans make the perfect festival accessory

My hand fan with a water spray in Portugal
My paper hand fan

Even if the temperature is low, things are bound to get sweaty after dancing for a few hours. A hand fan is the perfect dance accessory because you can fan your face while dancing.

Read: 17 Psychedelic Festivals You Should Attend in 2017

16 | We learnt that tutus aren’t only for girls

Why did I ever think that tutus looked good only on girls? They look amazing on women and men alike!

 

17 | We had to take a “forced vacation” from blogging

A Psytrance Festival in Old Manali (Dance of Shiva)

Dance of Shiva Festival in Old Manali, 2016

You must be thinking – wait, isn’t travel blogging a permanent vacation? Wrong. It’s a lot of work and it requires good Internet connectivity. Of course I was fooling myself when I thought I was going to be able to continue blogging from my phone but in reality, I was too wasted to ever charge my phone.

 

18 | We lost a lot of weight

What else did you imagine would happen after dancing for many hours and eating a lot of Acai?

 

19 | We embraced “Free Body Culture”

Free body culture at Lost Theory festival 2016

Free body culture at Lost Theory festival 2016

Free body culture.. or as Germans call it Freikörperkultur is awesome. There is nothing sexual about it but it’s just an expression of being free and natural. Naked body is not a source of shame but in almost all the civilizations, it is a social taboo. Festival naturism is real. And it’s not just limited to Woodstock.

20 | Our skin became better because of natural soap

At most of the festivals, we were given free bars of natural soap so that we could use them to bathe in rivers (Modem), waterfalls (Lost Theory) or lakes (Boom). These soaps that are usually made with olive oil, coconut and honey, are 100% biodegradable because they don’t contain chemical detergents that most of other soaps do. Obviously these are good for the environment they are very good for hair and skin too!

 

21 | We fell in love with life a little more..

Bring Out Your Inner Child at Boom Festival 2016 Portugal

Falling in love with life a little more at Boom Festival 2016 Portugal

At music festivals, people celebrate life and happiness. It is difficult not being happy when the collective energy of everyone’s happiness influences you. It works a little like laughter Yoga that is based on the principle of collective energy. These festivals gave us a massive dose of happiness, hope and love. They changed us for life.

22 | We sold little things to make money

San and I selling earrings and bindi at Lost Theiry festival, Spain

San and I selling earrings and bindi at Lost Theiry festival, Spain

Here’s a picture of our little “pirate shop” where we’re selling small dreamcatcher earrings from Nepal and bindis from India.

23 | Our Wardrobe became “fashionably” torn

Torn clothes but fashionably so

Torn clothes but fashionably so

A little rip in my tights? No worries, I can make them evenly ripped. While I’m at it, why don’t I do the same with my tunic?

24 | We got a little more creative

We spent hours drawing, making new things with our hands and San now makes jewelry!

Getting creative at Earthquake festival in Germany (2016)

Getting creative at Earthquake festival in Germany (2016)

25 | We made at least 150 new friends

Some of our festival friends

Some of our festival friends

At the first festival we had just 20 friends. By the time it was our 7th festival, we realized we had made at least 150 new friends from all over the world. Why not, coconut?

Summer of 2016 was the best summer of our lives. We met many amazing people, discovered many new things about ourselves and fell in love with life a little more than before. For us, traveling for music festivals was definitely cheaper than just backpacking around because move from one place to another for free and sleep for free.  These festivals changed us for life and things will never be the same again.

Do you also love music festivals as much as we do? If so, share this post with your friends!

Hey, if you want to see more pictures from our music festival madness, search #PsytranceDrifterPlanet on Instagram. 🙂

 

Wondering what we’re doing in Goa?

Wondering what we’re doing in Goa?

If you’re following us on Facebook, you must have noticed that we’re in Goa. No, we are not here for a week or two but are here for a few months. We’re not “holiday”ing here but are volunteering in Goa. This is our way of slow travel because we want to make our way to Sri Lanka by January 2017.

So what exactly are we doing in Goa?

A little work in the hostel..

I’m volunteering in Goa ‘s Red Door Hostel in Anjuna. The same hostel also has a restaurant where San is working in the bar and kitchen. We get two meals a day here and get to sleep for free. I don’t get paid because I’m a volunteer but San get a little money because he’s a professionally trained chef. Both of us work for half a day and get a day off per week. Our work is very relaxed and a lot of fun.

A little travel blogging..

2016 was a very crazy year. I traveled to 10 countries and didn’t even get a chance to write about them all. I had to take a forced break from blogging while I was attending back-to-back music festivals and later preparing for my German examination. Sitting behind the hostel help desk for half a day has given me a little stability that I needed. I’m finally getting some writing done.

And a little party..

Goa is the birthplace of Psychedelic Trance genre and a typical old school Goa party has no match. This is where I got my first taste of Psychedelic trance music back in 2004 and I was hooked. So yes, we are partying a LOT here. Again.

Why did we choose Goa?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’m sure you know by now how much I love Goa. A lot of people hate it because it’s getting touristy, but which place isn’t? Honestly, Goa is massive and there are many empty areas. It’s mostly the beach belt that gets crowded and we have our own secret spots. We’re in North Goa, which is busier than South Goa.

The cost of living in Goa is definitely lower than most of the places we know of, so it is easy to survive here with little money. The fact that we’re sleeping and eating for free has made it possible for us to live off the earnings of our travel blog. Goa is a good place for digital nomads.

I visited Goa for the first time in 2004 and have always wanted to live here. After finally finding courage to quit my full time job, I can finally make my dream come true. Better late than never, don’t you think?

Want to meet us?

A lot of my friends and blog readers are in Goa at the moment because it is a popular spot to celebrate New Year’s Eve. If you’re planning on visiting, do check out my post about Goa travel tips and my detailed guide about North Goa Beaches. It has some amazing hotel and hostel reccomendations too. Oh, and send us a message on Facebook or Instagram if you want to meet us in Goa.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us reduce the costs of keeping this site active. Thanks for reading!

Did Yogyakarta in Indonesia change me as a traveler?

Did Yogyakarta in Indonesia change me as a traveler?

This is one of my rare “travel diary” kind of posts which is a result of my introspection and where I express my deepest thoughts.

Can visiting a place for just a few days change me for life?

I thought to myself as I reflected back on the time I spent in Yogyakarta.

I arrived here as a backpacker with a typical “herd mentality”. Over the last few years, without realizing I was usually following the typical backpacker trail. Yes, from time to time, I did make an effort to interact with the locals and to learn about their culture. However, the majority of my time was spent with the other backpackers who I had met while traveling and spending many hours partying. But hey, I thought I was different.

Now here I am, thinking of my fondest memories of my travel in Indonesia, and what’s the first thing that comes to my mind? Spending many hours with the locals, learning more about their culture, learning their language and creating new things every day with my own hands in Yogyakarta after watching how the locals did it.

Now don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with being a backpacker. It is a lot of fun being one and I will be a backpacker for a long time. Not everyone has the same travel style and it is absolutely okay as long you’re happy without harming anyone or anything else in the process. This post is not about that – it is just an expression of my thoughts after hours of introspection.

I can’t forget the time I said “no” for a party in Indonesia because, by that time, I was absolutely in love with Indonesian culture and wanted to wake up early to see more. I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t got my taste of experiencing local culture in Yogyakarta. My mind has found a new snack and it is always hungry for more. I am hopelessly in love, and this time it is with Indonesian culture.

If you ask me to describe Yogyakarta in short, I would just utter three words – Art, culture, & heritage. Mind you, it is not one of those pretentious places where you spend a bomb to experience the local way of life by being a part of a carefully orchestrated charade. It is a place where things get real, whether it is making pottery with the villagers or carving faces on clay puppets.

Before visiting Yogyakarta, a lot of people mentioned that it is a very touristy destination in Indonesia. But upon visiting, I wondered where the tourists were. I didn’t see any while I was exploring some very interesting areas in Yogyakarta. I got my answer when I visited the famous Borobudur temple. Yes, many people visit Yogyakarta to see this largest Buddhist temple that has a fascinating history. But only a few stay on for a longer time to explore the villages and the old town areas.

What is it about Yogyakarta that had this effect on me? Perhaps the fact I was making things with my hands made a difference. Or maybe it was because I was away from my smartphone while making those things that I finally allowed my brain to think and introspect.

Today I promise myself to take out time away from my gadgets as often as I can. I will use this time to create something with my own hands. I will give more time to Art.

Art is magic and it makes us forget a lot of things while making us realize who we are.

Did Yogyakarta transform me into a cultural traveler?

I don’t know the answer to that yet, but I hope to find out soon. What do you think? Have you ever felt this way about a destination? How has travel changed you?

PS: watch out, an epic Yogyakarta post is coming up next where I will shed more light on the things I did.

PPS: to get a glimpse, you can stalk me a little on Instagram 😉

Photo Credit: Bressiona Chastity (Indonesia) and Najii (Japan)

 

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us reduce the costs of keeping this site active. Thanks for reading!

Yogyakarta changed me
Being Stranded in Istanbul During the Military Coup

Being Stranded in Istanbul During the Military Coup

They said it is unsafe and they said I should not visit it. “It” in this case is Istanbul and there was no way I was going to cancel my ticket.

Did I just prove them wrong?

I smiled to myself as I walked around Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square. I was glad I was here! I felt safer here than I did in my hometown. At least, no one was staring at me and there was excessive security everywhere. I even saw a military chopper a few hours back while I was cruising the Bosphorus Sea. That’s how serious they are about security.

My feet were tired but curiosity got better of me because everything around was too pretty. The spikey minarets, the domed mosques, the sweet sound of Turkish language, and the smell of Turkish coffee – it was breathtaking!

While common sense told me I should stay at the area around my hostel, my curiosity kept pulling me away to just “one more block” to see what it was like. It was my last night in Turkey and tomorrow I was going to fly to Germany. I wanted to make the most of it. I looked at the time – it was 9:30 pm.

Should I go back to my room now?

They all said I shouldn’t walk around in Istanbul at night but I was hungry! I had not had any food all day and it felt completely safe. I was not going to let people’s paranoia get to me. With that thought, I found a corner table and decided to eat kebab.

Something was not right.

This is what I told myself as I hurriedly finished my food. I had a funny feeling in my stomach. Was it because I had heard too many people’s opinion about what I should not do in Istanbul? Anyway, it was time to pay the bill and go.

I unlocked my phone and saw there was a massage from my mentor blogger – Sab from Just One Way Ticket. “Where are you? Don’t go to Istanbul”. Hmm? I was already in Istanbul! Her reply – “Shit”.

Shit. Bad? Scary? Am I in danger?

She said go back to your hotel right now. The military has taken control and the bridges are shut. The tanks are on the road.

Why was she saying that? Everything was normal in Sultanahmet Square – the heart of Istanbul. Maybe because she has a Turkish boyfriend and she’s worried about his safety?

“The military has taken over”.

What the hell does that even mean? How and why would that happen?

It took me a moment to realize that I was walking so fast that it did not appear normal. People were looking at me curiously.

Wait – why am I the only one running back to my room? Why is everything normal here?

With that thought, I crossed the blue mosque. Just next to the mosque, I saw a jeep full of men in uniform and guns. These were not the usual black clothed Turkish policemen that I saw during the day. These men were wearing army green and had big guns. Oh and these were many in number – not the twos or threes that I saw earlier this evening. And then it stuck me that I had seen a chopper during the day, which I had assumed, was for security.

Maybe that was a military chopper.

Maybe Sab was right.

SHIT.

Without realizing, I broke into a jog, as I got closer to my hotel.

I should get to my room and check the Internet.

I met a few people on the road near my hostel that had helped me earlier that day with the directions. I panted and narrated what I heard. They shrugged and said – “don’t worry lady, the media overhypes everything. Nothing is happening!”

I hope they are right.

On my way to my hostel, I messaged San (my husband) to tell him what’s happening. To my horror, he checked the news and confirmed its true.

Still unsure of what it meant and the possible implications, I entered my hostel and see a little “party”. Apparently, my room mate from France – Gabrielle (name changed) didn’t have a key and she was waiting for me at the reception. Our receptionist had a few friends over and they were all devouring baklavas and drinking tea.

Did they not know about it yet?

To my surprise, their reaction was also the same – “don’t believe it, it’s the media that’s overhyping things.”

They were all laughing.

All of them except Gabrielle.

She was the only one apart from me who had heard about this military coup. I made them change to a news channel. The news was in Turkish but we could see images of many military people everywhere. Tanks on the street, choppers and uniformed men everywhere – apparently there was total chaos in Istanbul and Ankara.

We didn’t even need to understand the language to sense what was going on. The smiles gradually disappeared from everyone’s faces as the consequences hit in.

Thank God I’m flying out at 8 am!

Oh, am I going to be able to fly out tomorrow?

Just at that moment my suspicion was confirmed and the receptionist said – lady, no flight for you tomorrow.

This was not good.

I look at my phone again and see close to 30 unread messages. It seemed the whole world knew what was happening and they were messaging me to check if I was safe. Every single one of those messages had a sense of urgency. The last thing I wanted was to get people worried about me!

I replied to every single one of them and then there were more messages. These were coming in faster than I could reply. Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter – every damn notification on my phone was on. People were writing on my timeline!

Soon there was a WhatsApp group that was made by my ex colleagues (RateGain) and included the entire Turkish team. I was surprised to see this kind of support because I was not working with them anymore. They did not have to do this. But they did. They saw the news and thought of me.

I was too much in shock to fathom what was going on and they were doing thinking for me.

Go to the ATM and withdraw enough local currency to last you for a few days – one of them said. The ATMs may be out of cash by tomorrow and you may get stranded.

It sounded reasonable to me. Gabrielle and I went to the ATM that was 20 steps away from our hostel and withdrew the cash. It seemed people now knew what was happening.

A man came to us and said we should go back to our room. He offered to walk us to the ATM and back to the hostel to make sure we were ok. The street had fewer people but it felt everyone was watching out for each other.

Do my parents know what’s happening? I thought to myself as I walked back from the ATM. I looked at the time; it was around 1 am in India. No, they would be fast asleep in India and I did not want to wake them up and worry them.

Maybe my sister is still awake? No, she has a busy job and her son to take care of.

By now, we’re back in the hostel and the three of us sat silently. We spent several minutes sitting silently and replying to several messages on our phone before one of us talks.

You girls should sleep, he said to both of us – no flight for you so just go and sleep. And you don’t secretly go to the airport.

How was he able to read my mind? Yes, I was actually stupid enough to be considering it.

Too lost for words, Gabrielle and I walked to our dorm room. Shin (name changed), our roommate of China was sleeping soundly on her bunk bed. Maybe she did not know what was happening.

For a few minutes, Gabrielle and I discussed the consequences of what was happening. She had lived in Istanbul for a few years and said it’s the first time she was seeing something like this.

By now, my phone battery was very low because of the number of messages. College friends, ex colleagues, bloggers – everyone was messaging to check if I was ok.

How am I going to reply to everyone?

I did not want to do this but I realized the easiest way was to update my Facebook status to let everyone know I was ok. Within a few minutes I realized that move was like opening a can of worms! The frequency of messages increased where as I wanted the opposite.

BANG!

What was that? A bomb?

Gabrielle and I looked at each other. Then we looked at Shin with a little envy because she was sleeping peacefully through everything.

Another bang!

This time it was followed by extremely loud airplane sound. Except, it must not be an airplane because it was a little too loud and was moving very fast.

Was that a fighter jet? Shit, what the fuck was happening? Were we going to be safe?

Gabrielle said her Facebook had stopped working. Thank God mine was working! What would I do if mine stopped too? I wanted to be connected to my husband through this app.

I’m going to sleep and so should you, she declared as she climbed on the top bunk bed. We both knew that no one was going to sleep.

Am I not flying to Germany? I looked at the watch. Soon it would be time for my shuttle. On the Internet it showed the flight was still going to depart. Maybe they had not updated the status but I really wanted to go! I called my hotel manager to check if it was all right to go and he pleaded me not to do so. I wanted to see my husband really bad. I had not seen him for two months and this had to happen just a day before my flight. Just my luck!

It was 4 am when my cousin from New York messaged on our family WhatsApp group to make sure I was safe. He even tried calling but I did not want to wake up Gabrielle even though I wasn’t sure if she was sleeping.

I could still hear loud bangs and jets from time to time. At 4 am, I heard the morning prayer from the nearby mosque. It sounded comforting in the backdrop of ominous sounds of that fateful dawn.

My ex colleagues from RateGain were still awake and that WhatsApp group was active. A few of them even offered me a place to sleep if I didn’t have one. People from all over the world were messaging me their friends’ or relatives’ contact details in Istanbul.

Someone instructed me to call the embassy. I called the general number and heard a recorded voice that said the business hours were 9 am to 6 pm. In my daze, it took me a few hours to realize that the embassy website also mentioned the emergency number. This realization came when a friend shared a screenshot of embassy’s phone number on my Facebook wall.

I finally called the emergency number of the Indian Embassy in Istanbul and was surprised when an actual person answered it. He sounded tired on the phone, he must have answered 100s of calls like mine. He listened to me patiently and told me to stay in. He said I should call him every few hours to check the situation. I should go to the airport only when he confirms it was ok to go. He also told me that I should expect the Internet to be down sporadically.

It was now early morning in India and my family had woken up. My WhatsApp received a new message every single minute telling me what to do. It was just what I needed because my mind was not working. They urged me to call Turkish Airlines, the embassy and what not. They discussed various options of what all I should do.

By now, everyone was asking me the same questions on WhatsApp and I was literally copying and pasting the same messages to everyone. Surprisingly, the owner of Turkiey Balloons was also concerned and checking to see if I was ok. Without me asking, he took my flight number and airline PNR and called the customer service.

He somehow managed to speak with Turkish Airlines. He told me that I needed to rebook through Yatra.com since my ticket was booked through them. Hmm, I needed time to figure that out.

Hours went by as I continuously answered the messages. I somehow managed to sleep for one hour and woke up again to more messages. Some of them said that the situation was better and the military coup had failed.

Did that mean I could finally fly to Germany?

No it’s still now safe and I cannot let you go, my hostel manager said to me. He said he needed to go out for some work for one hour and I should not attempt to secretly take a taxi to the airport.

What do I do with my flight? What if there are too many people like me at the airport and they do not let me board? I had still not been able to rebook my flight through Yatra.com and my sister offered to call the customer service from India. Minutes felt like hours because I felt like I was wasting time if I was not at the airport if the situation had improved.

I decided to call Yatra.com myself and hold for a long time as they figureed out what they should do. Obviously it took them a while because they were not able to contact Turkish Airlines. I asked them if I really needed to book considering I had a ticket and the flight did not go? The rep suggests that I should just go to the airport and request the ground staff and in this case they should be able to put me on their 7 pm flight. Yes, I wanted to be on that flight.

Fully convinced, I knew I had to get to the airport. I called the hostel manager again and he finally confirmed the situation was better. He offers to book a shuttle for me so that I could arrive 5 hours before the 7 pm flight.

I hope I’m doing the right thing.

I hope the streets to the airport are actually safe now. Apparently there was an army tank on it last night.

I tell my husband and family and they sound relieved. This gives me a little more confidence that I was doing the right thing.

The streets looked normal because all the cafes and shops were open. The people on the street were a mix of locals and tourists. I saw one man with a massive flag of Turkey and several small ones. He was distributing the smaller flags. Were they celebrating the failed attempt of military coup attempt had failed? I speak to a few of them and realized that many of them thought the military rule was what Turkey needed..

Mentally crossing my fingers, I boarded my airport shuttle when it arrived an hour later. Some people looked nervous and unsure if they were going to be able to fly out.

As we reach closer to the airport, we saw an abandoned military tank on the road. Towards the entry of the airport, many civilians and policemen were standing. The civilians were waving Turkish flag and showing a victory sign to all the people that were entering the airport.

I entered the airport and witnessed total chaos. The queues were longer than the ones outside Indian passport application center. I saw some people yelling at overworked Turkish Airlines’ staff members.

At the check in counter, a woman with two daughters started yelling like a mad person and crying loudly. The airline staff tried to calm her down but she hurled some insults at them. I could not understand the language but it was obvious what was happening.

What if they ask me to rebook? Will I also lose my mind like this woman?

I could hear announcements that all Turkish Airline ticket holders needed to call the customer service or visit the city office to get their tickets rebooked. If this was the case, I was going to be in trouble because I had done neither.

Just at that instant, my husband called. He had magically rebooked me for the 7 pm flight while he was in Germany! I LOVE HIM. I’m so lucky to have him.

The check in queue took extremely long but after one hour, an exhausted looking airline staff member finally handed me my boarding pass. He tiredly smiled at me and wished me a safe flight.

I finally had my boarding pass.

I decided to celebrate by eating my first meal of the day.

I finally sighed with relief after three hours when my aircraft flew over Bosphorus. I couldn’t help shedding a tear as I gazed at Istanbul’s beautiful architecture, the distinctive curved mosques with their minarets, the European architecture and Rumelihisarı Castle.

Turkey, you are a beautiful country. I love your culture, language, food, hospitality and the people. Please stay the same. I’m lucky to have visited you. I pray for your peace.

Would I revisit Turkey if I got another chance?

Yes.

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