They say I am crazy about shoes. They drag me away if I accidentally run into Red Wing, Timberland, Lacoste or even Deichmann for that matter. But they are wrong. I don’t have a penchant for shoes. I only have a thing for boots. Brown boots, to be precise.
Boots hold a world of meaning for me. I love the velvet and the leather stretching up till my knees. I am smitten with the clap-clap of the boots as my feet traverse all kinds of terrain. I adore the plush brown shade – the bare earthiness of it. Boots make me feel beautiful. Especially brown ones. To me, they spell miles and miles of uncharted territory. They spell travel. Freedom. They give me a thrill. The thrill of discovering a new place. Or of finding a new way to an old place. They are my fellow globe-trotters. Brown and bold and brazen. They are only boots. And yet, they mean everything to me.
I have always dreamt of taking stock of my life. Doing things my way. But sometimes, it becomes difficult to do so. To ignore the naysayers, the doubters, the discouragers. And that’s why this was a relief. This programme. Away from the hustle bustle of the metropolitan life. Away from the city. Away from the country. Away from everyone I have ever known.
To break away from all shackles, bonds, prejudices, and travel unhindered. It feels enormously liberating.
I remember roaming the castle in Heidelberg. The enormous ruin. Enormous and beautiful. A snowy white courtyard surrounding it. On my way up, I saw houses I had only seen in movies and books. Cute little ones. Those typical German countryside windows, the luridly bright purple flowers, a swing for the kids, colorful slats over the walls and baubles hanging in the windows.
I remember walking along the adventure trail of the Rhine falls in Zurich. The feeling of utter tranquil. And freedom. Yes, freedom in the true sense of the word. To roam in the wilderness with not a care or scruple. To not be worried about leering lechers or overanxious folks. To walk as if nothing matters but this. This sole moment.
I remember tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, making a wish and wishing it to be true. I remember the beaches of Barcelona. The museums of Paris. The islands of the French Riviera. The snow storms in Finland. The Aurora Borealis in Sweden. The talking statue in Copenhagen. The ruins of Pompei. The ever-leaning tower of Pisa. The gardens of Vienna. The castles in Buda. The imposing bridge in Prague. The graves of Ghent. The zoo in Antwerp. The parties in Amsterdam. Beethoven in Bonn. The Reichstag in Berlin. The beer wall in Brugge. The wineries in Colmar. The lake in Konstanz. The shopping in Luxembourg. The riches of Monaco Monte Carlo. The canals of Venice. The scenic beauty in The Hague and Rotterdam. The storks of Strasbourg. Phew. One can only recall so much.
It was only when I came to Europe and tasted not just its pretzels and croissants but something called wanderlust that I realized what liberation felt like, what freedom meant. It was a unique feeling to be able to do what you want and, go where you want without constraints of time and work. And what you want may vary from eating chips and cookies and gateaus all day long to roaming around in the night to sleeping for 24 hours to walking for 6 km at a stretch to anything wacky and weird that your mind can come up with. I remember there were days when I ate nothing but chocolates. And the sheer unhealthiness of my diet choice gave me a thrill. I would think to myself that today I would live on chocolates. Why? Just because I could. Heck yeah!
It’s beautiful. The feeling of being in control. The feeling of solitude. The feeling of being on your own. Beautiful and humbling. It is a journey unto yourself. It was curious and wonderful, giving into impulsiveness, and even making mistakes, simply because they were my mistakes.
I met a wide assortment of people on my solo trips through Europe. A couple from Utah chatted and walked with me till the salt mines in Krakow. Then there was that Mexican guy in Oslo who showed me his tattoos and piercings, asking about India and drawing similarities between Mexican and Indian cuisine. Then there were two priests from the Vatican City who met me on the train from Verona and told me about their courses in theology and museology. As I peregrinated, the radius of my connections kept expanding. From Iceland to the island of Malta, I met a huge variety of travelers. Nevertheless, the bliss of solitude remained pure. Unadulterated.
It is something else entirely to be on your own. Enchanting. Novel. Liberating. Enriching, to say the least. Going solo was the best thing that happened to me. Even Marquez couldn’t explain it well in his 100 years of solitude…Or Ayn Rand in her worship of Roark’s individualism. The real thing is richer, trust me.
*The girl in the brown boots*
The above account is a work of fiction based on real life characters and happenings in and around IIFT (or the globe, for that matter).