Throughout life, we keep on learning – not just about others, but ourselves. Sure, others may not be that obsessive about introspection as I am, but the change before and after a student exchange program is tangible. It might even be true for traveling in general, I don’t know. Everyone I meet seems to be passionate about traveling, as it is with most things nowadays. Things become a fad, and it is hard to tell who speaks with their lips, and who with their hearts.
I agree with the school of thought of putting oneself outside their comfort zones. From whatever I heard from my friends, this is done at varying degrees, and definitely easier said than done.
Traveling alone is one of the ways to do it. I have heard several friends talk about wanting to travel alone. A couple of them, who were going during the same duration as me, shared their fears with me. “I’m afraid I’ll have to travel alone most of the time.” But when push came to shove, neither one of them actually did. Sure, they might have spent the odd day or night by themselves, but I don’t see how that is significant. In what humble little part of the world I’ve witnessed, solo travelling is often spoken of, but seldom done. The nature of year resolutions comes to mind. Sounding high and mighty over people who didn’t travel alone is not my purpose here, tempted as much as I am. I digress.
Coming back to my story, one important thing I learnt about myself was again during the first week.
My friends and I were out drinking, in Copenhagen. Drinking in public gave us a weird sense of satisfaction and independence, as it is prohibited in India. I finished a delicious bottle of wine in no time, and started swaying and over-expressing myself. Not like taking off my clothes or flashing or anything of the sort, but you know. Elevated enthusiasm.
|At a supermarket, Copenhagen|
Meanwhile, my friends started talking to some locals outside a club. This upset me for a weird reason as I look back in retrospect. Now I take my time to interact with new people. And my introvert-ness stood out in stark contrast to my set of friends there. So watching them talk to those locals was like watching them enjoying a roller coaster while I was standing outside because I wasn’t tall enough for the ride.
So my brilliantly drunk mind told me to get another bottle of wine. And in my temper, I didn’t inform anyone where I was going. It was around midnight, and I slipped away without anyone’s notice.
Twenty minutes later when I came back to the scene, I found myself exchanging loud yells with one of my friends.
Oh and by the way, there was no way for them to contact me as I didn’t have a working SIM card. Neither were we death eaters to be summoned by the dark mark. So really, what I did was pretty stupid.
“WHERE THE F WERE YOU DUDE? ARE YOU INSANE?”
“WHAT? IT WAS JUST 15 MINUTES! AND I’M NOT 5 YEARS OLD!”
Not exactly the wittiest of defenses, but a bottle of wine has a way of its own. And so the yelling continued for a minute or so, and then my friend turned away in disgust. I remember expressing my angst over not wanting to go clubbing and dancing and talking to Europeans and chilling and this and that. You get the picture.
It all ended with me asking for the keys, so that I could go home, to our Airbnb apartment. And I’ve debated this part of the story often, because they gave me the keys in a second. Wait, what? It’s a problem when I’ve disappeared on foot for 15 minutes, but it’s not a problem if I’m going back drunk to my apartment, with a second bottle of wine, which is 6-7 kms away?
I didn’t see how I was in any less danger by merely informing them that I was going home. My phone was still SIM-less, and I was still drunk.
Anyway, I trotted away in anger towards the nearest bus-stop, with the wine bottle under my jacket. It didn’t really need to be concealed, but old habits die hard.
Now I had no idea how to get back home. The direct bus was no longer in service, as it was around 1 am. So I looked over the running routes and looked for any familiar sounding station names. Ridiculously spelled, and even more absurdly pronounced, they are a real pain for the unaccustomed. I did manage to find one vaguely familiar, and took a shot. Once I got off the bus, the task was now to use Google Maps and find my way home. The battery in my phone to my utter dismay was one percent. One. Excellent timing, you useless chunk of trash.
It didn’t however give in, having learnt a thing or two apparently from its stubbornly determined owner, and I found my way home after a mile-long walk or so.
All other things aside, I was pretty impressed with making my way home in the predicament I described. I have since then realized that alcohol cannot affect me beyond a point. That once my fierce urge for control takes over, alcohol cowers like an animal from fire.
What is this, if not discovering yourself? Wandering drunk on unknown streets in a new city takes courage. And that day I knew I’m made of stronger stuff than I thought, and when such situations and worse presented themselves later, I knew I could take it.