Liberation! Off comes the answer when I am asked what is it like to travel solo. Not alone, no. Not lonely, despite the feeling of being alone occasionally. We come in to this world alone but to a mother and father. It is because of them we are here in the first place. Your birth makes them ecstatic and there starts a life of another human being – YOU. Form your birthday to an onward life you take of loving, learning, living and lasting.
Like love, travelling solo is magical. It is a feeling to be felt, at least in my case. No amount of words I speak or write do justice to how I feel when I pack my bags and take that ride – solo. You see people often confuse going to places solo as lonely. There is a huge difference between alone and lonely. I choose to go alone, by myself because it’s the solitary moments of travel that I wish to immerse myself in. I do not backpack alone for I have no friends or my family has abandoned me. It is the sheer joy of exploring my own strength and capabilities. The mornings I wake up to simply inhale the aroma of a fresh brew. The dinner dates I have with more than just one person as I sip on that cold beer discussing difference between British and American humour. To the goofiness of running middle of a tour cause it wasn’t that interesting.
Travelling solo is like being your own boss. You decide the time, the place, the activity, the assignment, whatever there is to do – you call the shots! You are responsible for making it happen. You talk to your mind, you listen to your heart, you do what makes sense to you and you eliminate what doesn’t. It is this confidence, the independence coupled with the sheer joy of going places and learning that keeps solo travelling on the move.
Travelling solo is about risks. You take them. Even if you think you cannot but you are forced to. You trust yourself, your gut instinct, you push yourself farther than what you had imagined. Caroline Myss once said, “always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to require the most from you”. And you do. In your scariest of instants, you take that choice. Your living proves it.
Travelling solo is like experimenting with a dish but making it tasty. You know the usual ingredients that will go in, yet, you throw in some different ones. At first, it tastes interesting but with each bite the flavours start to last.
And if you put these magical shots of risks in a dish, it is indeed, liberation.
Speechless! That is exactly how I felt as I lay my eyes on this beauty. The hidden sun rays penetrate through the watery clouds, bouncing off its demeanour turning its white coat into blue armour. The radiance it spreads cannot be taken in with just one look.
The small icebergs floating in the calm waters, is a carpet that welcomes the ship to this largest tidewater glacier in North America. 7 miles wide and 76 miles long Hubbard Glacier sits in eastern Alaska and is a part of Yukon, Canada.
More than 6 miles wide where it meets the ocean, Hubbard Glacier is gigantic. It is so big, so massive it will leave your jaws dropped. An active glacier, it has had 2 surges in the past 30 years, actually threatening to flood the coastal town of Yukatat. Gaining itself the title of ‘galloping glacier’, because of how quickly it is advancing toward the Gulf of Alaska, being here you witness the largeness of nature. As the National Park Service informs us, global warming is the cause for this advancing, as it brings more precipitation to settle in the St. Elias Mountains. The precipitation cools and turns into snow, hence the advancement of the glacier. The ice that one sees at the face is about 450 years old and almost 2,000 feet thick.
HOW TO GET THERE
The ideal, scenic and cost effective way is to get on a cruise ship. Almost every International Cruise liner visits Hubbard Glacier. Choose a route that cruises through inside passage, as the mountains leading to the glacier is a sight of its own. On an Alaskan cruise, most ships visit Glacial Bay National Park and Hubbard Glacier, so make sure to check this important bit, before you book your cruise. The view of the Elias and Fairweather Mountain Ranges, as the ship enters Disenchantment Bay is of a morning welcoming the sun and gifting it a glowing blue richness. The ships take a 360 turn slowly but surely around the glacier and the photograph options are spectacular.
There are some things you want to keep in mind as you get ready for your visit to the glacier:
- Wake up early and finish your breakfast. You will be there for more than two hours trying your best to soak in the moment and get good pictures you do not want to hear your stomach growl.
- Double check the timings the ships will get there and be there at the top deck half an hour if not an hour before.
- Dress warm enough. You do not need to layer up for snow but it does get chilly as it gets windy. A winter jacket, scarf, cap and gloves will do the job. Cover them legs up, off course.
- As a photographer I will always say move around to get different angles to that one shot. Here, however, stick to your spot. More people come up to the deck and stay there, you do not want to lose your shot.
- A dslr with a zoom lens is a blessing to capture the pure peaks. If you do not have a dslr camera then make sure you are standing at the bow of the ship. As the ship does a 360 degree turn you have various options to shoot. Binoculars will help see the beautiful birds around.
WHAT TO SEE? (Photo)
The marvellous wonder of Mother Nature, at its best. It is nothing like what you have experienced before. What you feel here cannot be compared to anything else. As the ship enters Disenchantment Bay, look at the Elias and Fairweather Mountain Ranges as they welcome you with their calm yet glorious presence. For me, it was like being in a place of nothing but happiness; because all I did was smile.
When I saw the glacial ice crack and fall down, all I could feel was a superhero making a glide all the way down from a skyscraper. The sound of the calving glacier made me hear growling in a heavy metal song. I experienced art in its varied forms. The emotions that ran through me were magical!
It was happiness that came out sheer spontaneity. Two injured women grooving the night away to some minimal, soothing, slightly provoking electronic dance music, the night itself danced its way to the morning. Raising the bar of happiness a notch higher – crawling into the hazy morning, off we were to this quaint southern spot of Goa.
Moving from up North Vagator beach to down South village of Canacona, the ride was humid and sleepy. (At this time we were up fr 30 hours:)After a 1.5 hour drive from Capital city Panjim we arrive at a little Chapel on a now bright sunny morning in this fishing village in South Goa – AGONDA. The oh so busy beaches of Goa known for their numerous activities, satisfying every tourist needs, loud streets, blaring music from in numerous shacks – does not describe Agonda. A relaxing, pristine haven, away from the otherwise crowded buzzing beaches of Goa, is what it is.
With no agenda or to do things , this spontaneous trip was nothing but a getaway because its GOOD TO NOT ALWAYS HAVE A LIST!
So here is a few things and people we stumbled upon.
The beach belt of Agonda is quaint and offers quite a many options of hotels, huts and rooms. You can do this two ways – either walking along the stretch on the road or take a diversion(through a hotel shack) and walk on the beach. We found AGONDA COTTAGES on the beach and it felt like we were in a tiny forest village inhabited by different travellers. Every part of the day was cool and breezy.
The rooms are a little above the backpackers budget but definitely worth the expense if you do not mind it. My favourite bit? The open air bathroom. PHOTO
Surrounded by 120 acres of forest and a few beaches around, it is a small fishing village Canacona taluka in South Goa. It has a church called St. Anne church which got upgraded from a chapel into a church in December 1888.If you go here in the month of May you can join the locals in celebrating the feast of the patron St Anne on the first Saturday of the month. The village has not acquired too much construction, has a government school, two ATM’S (both of which did not work on my trip) and a Saturday market in the nearby town of Chaudi.
The town walk
A single partially narrow road is basically what is called the Agonda beach stretch. The best part about this stretch is – that it is not busy. And that is already scoring points from me. Hotel, cottages, souvenir spots, small shops offering the daily essentials and people with similar stories as yours. My friend Marlene and I met two other injured people, one from Italy and the other from Lithuania and for a good half an hour we spoke about the quirky side of being injured, yet travelling. It’s a moment added to my stories.
Calm, quiet, and wide. This vastness is ideal for a relaxed swim, playing cricket and football, a stroll along the shore and even yoga. The beach also offers its grounds as a turtle centre, protecting the endangered Olive Riddley eggs.Hence, please be mindful of the noise level at night by the beach. Such places, where natural beauty is still not touched by the economical masses are what we need to preserve. Responsible travelling should be just like travelling anywhere.
Bars, Cafes and Restaurants
Here in Agonda, they are all unique. A cafe serving varieties of beer on tap, a mellow vegan cafe, to local fish thali.
My picks :
La Dolce Vita. – A medium size cafe run by a Goan family, who dish out wood-fired pizzas, pasta, local wine and lots of tiramisu throughout the tourist season. We arrived here on our first morning and needed to wake up. Cappuccino along with crumbling heart shaped cookies is my dig. The Wi-Fi is a little slow.
Fatima’s Corner – You want local food you head here. Although it has a tandoor which stands big as you enter, the local Goan fish thali here is what you must go for.
If you want to get your freak on, then you must not even be here in the first place. Since it is a quiet part of Goa, parties in Agonda aren’t may and in fact they are around it.
Leopard Valley – A night club in a jungle. I was here on our second day which was actually the day of one of the most colourful festivals of India HOLI. We already celebrated at our hotel but went here only because the whole village spoke about the party happening at Leopard Valley. It was crowded and the entry money was not what I wished to spend, so I skipped going in. One can go here if they wish to have an experience of nightlife in South Goa. It is located on Agonda-Palolem road, and the drive is scenic.
NEARBY AND AROUND ATTRACTIONS
Palolem beach – a very busy and noisy beach about 6.5 kilometres from Agonda. What it was a decade ago and what it is now is not shocking but disappointing. However, if you want to have a heavy tourist experience, you can check it out.
Canacona or Conco Island – at the North end of Palolem beach, can be reached by foot at low tide, or a boat when high tide. It is also (funnily) called as Moneky Island as it is frequented by the monkeys from adjacent forests. Can be crowded and not very clean
Khola beach – a remote and unspoilt beach almost 2 kilometres north of Agonda. The ride or drive takes you to the country side, up and down the hills.
Cabo de Ram fort – about 8 kilometres from Agonda. This fort was built by one of the Hindu gods, Lord Rama and later conquered by the Portuguese. The cliff here offers a spectacular view of the coast.
TRAVEL INSPIRATION? – Most mobile networks do not work in Agonda. Considering this an added bonus for your solitude.
This trip was a learning experience. I was injured, got here in just a sling bag and played Holi after 10 years that too with people from different parts of the world. Travel isn’t always about planning and going through the unimaginable list. Such is the beauty of travel that it does not have a specific order that you must comply with. I will always cherish this trip.
PS: I have thought about two more blog posts just with this experience. How cool eh? :):)
If you have an experience that is similar please share through an email or just by leaving your comment. I love stories – listening as much as writing.
How did you start working on cruise ships? You travel the world and get paid for it? And thus, this post!
How many times have I been asked these questions? The look in people’s eyes when they ask me, the curiosity to know how does it even work? Before answering I actually smile. Yes, these questions they actually make me happy and are a constant reminder of how lucky I am, how glad I am for choosing this life of WORKING ON CRUISE SHIPS.
It was a sunny afternoon where I was assisting a senior photographer TINA DEHAL of www.tinadehal.com on her shoot for a fashion label bringing out their catalogue for the summer season. As we sat down for a little break looking through the shots we got into a conversation about me. Little did I know about the journey that would follow?
TRAVEL IS THE GOAL, REST FOLLOWS! This is what I breathe every day. And there it was her suggestion “try cruise ships. You will get to see the world and experience a lot”. I haven’t looked back since.
It has been 5 years (though there have been thoughts about one more and the move on to something else) and the journey keeps getting richer. Before taking this step to cruise the various oceans I dabbled into quite a many fields; features writer, photographer, copywriter, event organizer and host, sales associate and dancing and parading at events. It has all paid to where I am and what I do with utmost love.
So, in 2011 I went through a series of portfolio showcasing and interviews and got my first gig on board this massive cursing industry as a photographer. With a pounding heart and a knotted stomach I took my first flight to a world of endless possibilities. (I had never even sat in an air plane till then). My father jokes about it saying “first flight, and there she took the longest one”. 🙂 As I landed into Miami, I knew there was no stopping from there on. I worked as photographer for two years with two different companies. (I will be writing more about this on Life as a Photographer on board cruise ships). The two years went by beautifully with travels but my creativity hit a slack. Same procedures, same angles, same prints, same words, I wanted more. But was I ready to leave ships? The re sounding answer my mind always gave me was solid NO. I knew then it was time switch. But like always plunging into a new field or course of work is scary, the question was HOW?
There are so many departments on a cruise ship that job opportunities are bountiful. I was seeing this, living it; I just needed to figure out what. Right in front of me was a field I had already played in and had experience, the event and entertainment department. But how was I to break into a job where I would be the only of my kind? There was (and even now as I write this) no Indian woman in the entertainment department on board cruise ships. We are a bundle of over 60 nationalities on a cruise ship of any size, so the competition is high, how was I to forget this? What does a photographer know of hosting a game show in front of people that too, of different demographics? I come from a country of strong accent. Will Americans understand me? Will the British find me amusing? Let’s not reach that far, will my company find me suitable and apt for the role that none of my people have broken into?
None of these thoughts stopped me. I knew how to hold a microphone, I knew how to talk to people and make them laugh (sarcasm is my good friend). But there is the technical aspect to very job and that is what I had to master in order to score this position.
I do not want this post to turn into a chapter of a struggling novel, so I am going to brief this and get right to how it happened.
I met the Entertainment Director who luckily was cruising for a month on the same ship I was about to finish my contract as photographer. Nervously I met her and expressed my interest in making a switch. She didn’t say no, but asked me to show and prove that I was apt. Two months of relentless self training was what got me through? All my free time went into going to venues where CRUISE STAFF (the job title) hosted. Eight hours of sleep turned into four as I hid behind curtains watching the entertainers swing and salsa. Reciting scripts in front of the mirror helped me mold my accent to being diverse.
The day arrived and I auditioned. I was asked to go onto a stage, imagine there is 500 plus guests and open a show. I did it. I dressed absolutely wrong. The microphone in my hand almost dropped twice (I thank my reflexes). I did not even exit the stage the ‘right way’. Followed this small circus performance was the interview that lasted 45 minutes. I still remember biting my tongue between my teeth as words found a way to come out of my mouth. I described the job I had never done to two very experienced professionals in the same field. The following week I was due for vacation. Without any plans of relaxing I got onto my email the first day I got home. And there it was – “three months from now you will joining us as Cruise Staff”.
Sixth year in the running and I love every day no matter how much of a struggle it is! So, thank you to those who ask me how I do this and why I do this. Your questions are a constant reminder of what makes me happy.
Tina Dehal I thank you always.
TRAVEL INSPIRATION? – Fight your fears. Dream Big.