Lakshmi’s Solo Trip
“Congratulations! You have won in the contest you participated last month. You are entitled for a free trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The tickets, accommodation, food and all necessary documentation will be taken care of by us,” read the email from the local branch manager of a popular travel magazine.
Lakshmi could not believe what she read. She was on cloud nine. She had participated in such contests several times which involved identifying a place from a picture and writing a story about it. But this was the first time she had actually been selected as a winner.
Lakshmi ran to her son.
“Suresh ….! Look what I’ve won.”
“Congratulations Amma! You seem really very happy. This would prove to be a wonderful getaway for you. All these years you have struggled really hard to bring me up. It is now time for you to enjoy.”
“I thought of asking you to go instead of me. I have never travelled alone. Moreover at this age why should I travel? No, No!”
“Come on Amma! You deserve it. I urge you to go. You don’t have to worry. You will be fine.”
Lakshmi was very hesitant. She had never travelled alone. Being widowed at a very young age she had toiled hard to run the family. Finally after a lot of cajoling and coaxing by Suresh she agreed.
Over the next few days Lakshmi applied for a passport, got her visa ready and purchased the necessary few items to be taken for the trip.
On the day of departure, she wore a beautiful saree from her wardrobe. She was very skeptical about the trip. Suresh dropped her in the airport.
“Bon Voyage Amma! You speak English and so communication wouldn’t be a problem. Enjoy your trip and don’t worry. I’m sure you will have a great time. Make sure you always carry your documents, passport and purse along with you. Take care and keep calling me whenever possible.”
The flight journey by itself was one of a kind experience for her. After twenty long hours of journey she reached the US. She seemed a little intimidated by the customs officer who asked her several questions. She waited with bated breath for a tour guide to receive her. After a long wait she saw a foreigner who held a board with her name written. She felt really glad.
“Madam! Welcome to Arizona. I am Jack. I will be driving you down to the hotel in Grand Canyon. It’s a six hour drive from the airport.”
Lakshmi found it slightly hard to understand his accent.
During the drive, John asked her several questions for which she either replied a yes or a no. She was very anxious and opened her purse several times to check if her passport and other documents were safe.
They finally reached the hotel. It was the month of April and the weather was quite chilly.
“You might want to wear your winter jacket tomorrow morning. The shuttle will arrive at 6 am in the morning to take you around the south rim of the Grand Canyon,” said Jack.
Lakshmi thanked Jack and went to her room. Everything seemed like a new experience to her. A pizza was delivered to her for dinner. She was a little disheartened but that was the only vegetarian option available.
“What if a stranger attacks me in the middle of the night? What if I miss the return shuttle bus while going on the tour? Maybe travelling solo is not a good idea”. She had a million questions in her mind. She then chanted her hymns, spoke to her son and went to bed.
The next morning after having a continental breakfast (again she had very few choices available) she boarded the shuttle bus. Her heart was a little relieved when she saw an Indian family in the bus. They waved at her and she waved back at them. She decided to ask them if she could tag on to them so that she wouldn’t feel lonely.
She took the window seat. The moment she saw what the place had to offer all her fears vanished. She enjoyed the breathtaking scenery. It seemed to her as though the Grand Canyon had a message to tell her “Welcome Lakshmi. I have patiently stood braving all the seasons just like you. It’s time for you to enjoy your life.”
Lakshmi just stood gazing at the magnificent splendor of mystical nature at every stop that the shuttle bus took her. The canyons were intricately sculptured and composed of many buttes, gorges and ravines. Every formation revealed nature’s artistic hand at play. They seemed to be narrating innumerable stories that had happened over the ages. It was definitely a sight to behold.
Finally after viewing all the spots she boarded the shuttle bus back to the hotel. The Indian family whom she had met earlier told her that they could stay with her if she felt lonely. Lakshmi thanked them but chose to enjoy every minute of her stay in quiet introspection. It was her first solo trip and she loved it. At the end of the trip she went back renewed, rejuvenated and with innumerable experiences to share. She had finally found the wanderlust in her blood and did not need anyone to accompany her in her future trips.