Travelling is so much fun especially when you are travelling to a foreign land with your better half. You wait in excitement for the day of departure to arrive. The feeling of butterflies in your tummy is just so crazy. But have you ever realised – what if at the last moment your travel plans get cancelled due to unforseen situations? What if the entire travel scenario changes? What if you go from couple travellers to an “Accidental Solo Traveller’? Read about the story of this couple who faced such a situation. A story of my Mom in her own words!
“As a child, I heard so much about other countries from our overseas relatives. I often dreamt of going there but no astrologer confirmed this, and by 2011 when I was approaching “old age”, I had given up this innate desire. But suddenly my imagination took wings when my husband decided to book ourselves on a trip to Europe on a Cox & Kings package tour. At last, I could step on foreign land!
After a few months of preparation, planning, excitement and packing, the day of departure finally arrived. Our sons were equally happy and excited about our maiden flight out of the country. All odds and ends tied up as we left for Delhi airport. After checking in, we sat down to eat before going to the immigration counter. On our way there, we saw same bags we had received from Cox & Kings, so I filed that in my memory box.
With great anticipation, I cleared the immigration hurdle and waited for my husband to do the same. But we were in for a shock as our dreams came crushing down. The computer screen showed that he was not cleared for foreign travel. There was an error while issuing his passport because it should have been issued from where he was working and not from his hometown. We were stunned and went numb for a few minutes. We just couldn’t believe that such a thing could happen and that too with us! The concerned authorities were extremely helpful and sympathetic but helpless to do anything. Desperation snuck in as we tried our best to convince them but the worst was confirmed when they impounded his passport.
Our baggage had to be off-loaded, and we had to make a decision within minutes whether I too should cancel the trip or go ahead alone. Our sons expressed their faith and belief in my strength and courage to go ahead alone. I was too shocked to think but I agreed. We had to hurriedly open our bags and sort out my belongings; I was given whatever little cash we were carrying. My only concern now was to board the flight. After saying goodbye to my husband I literally ran to catch the flight. It was a short distance but felt like eternity as I hurried, dragging the bags behind me with tears rolling down my cheeks. Our dream couldn’t have been broken like this, I thought. The sight of my husband looking at me as I entered the boarding area broke my heart; we had lived apart our whole lives and this was our one chance to enjoy life together! And it was now gone.
“Loneliness is my least favorite thing in life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.“
After settling down in my seat, I looked at the empty one beside me where my husband would have sat. I couldn’t control my emotions and broke down. The crew and some fellow passengers noticed my hapless condition and consoled me. I took stock of the situation. Here I was amongst strangers, with little cash, no camera, and my phone charger had been left behind. The forex card was in my husband’s name. I just prayed to God to help me through. I had never been out of the country and now I had to travel all over Europe for the next two weeks!
I had to plan things in my head. First and foremost, was the need to stay close to the group, never let them out of sight and be punctual. Then to conserve the cash till I was sent some by my son, make some friends and make the most of this trip. I was in a bad situation but I couldn’t let that stop me from enjoying. We had spent a lot on this trip, from our life savings and I wasn’t going to let it go waste.
On reaching the hotel in London, I was asked to pick up cash sent by my son through Western Union money transfer to a nearby store. I felt much relieved and a little bit of confidence crept in. Although I made friends, yet I could not enjoy the sights as I felt lonely and missed my husband. We travelled through UK and to many countries in Europe. I managed to take care of myself while being with the group. The sights were amazing, just the way I had seen in books and on TV but I couldn’t enjoy them without my husband. I constantly felt his absence. In Padua, three members of the group were late in reporting back to the train, so they were left behind. This scared me even more. So many people around me and still I felt so left out and lonely. I looked at other couples and felt bad for myself. But then I picked myself up and decided to feel better about my situation.
From there onwards I decided to treat every moment as a new experience. Even at this age, I wanted to experience the thrill and adventure of seeing new things. We covered 6 countries and I was awestruck at the beauty and hospitality we received throughout Europe. My favourite destination was Switzerland as it reminded me of Himachal, where I grew up!
Soon the two weeks were over and I was now looking forward to meeting my husband. We landed at Delhi Airport and my happiness knew no bounds when I saw him waiting outside. I had so many things to share, so many stories and things I learnt. I thanked God for my courage and perseverance.
I have no pictures because the camera was left behind and I didn’t have a smart phone at the time. I didn’t have anyone to take my pictures as well! I had finally fulfilled my life’s desire of a Europe trip and it was not as I had perceived it. I decided to make another trip with my husband to make it a memorable one.
So after 2 years, we got his passport issue sorted out and made another trip to Europe through Thomas Cook. My husband insisted to go South East Asia but I wanted to experience Europe all over again with him. The places were the same to me but this time I was happier as my husband was living the dream with me!”
| Authored by Anjana Pandit |