Friday, June 06, 2014

Quebec Exchange Programme Post #2- About travelling alone

Previously in the Quebec Exchange Programme Post series: 

Being the youngest in my family, I must admit that I have always had it easy. At whatever time, whatever it is that I have had to do, I have turned to siblings and parents for help, or better yet, I've let them do my work. Seldom do I have a hand in deciding what colour paint we should opt for for the walls, what furniture to buy, plan a trip, find out all the formalities that need to fulfilled, research the processes that need to be completed, make restaurant reservations or even pick up the house phone when it rings. It's not like I don't do anything, it's just that I don't ever take the opportunity to do it. I know I have the capacity, but I also know that I don't really need to do it. I am not the most enthusiastic person on the planet but I am genuinely curious and I am more of a silent observer. So I have watched my family do everything and I just tag along, keeping them entertained and together (like we young ones take pride in doing). I come from a family that loves to travel abroad just as much we love exploring our own country. 

Quebec wasn't the first trip outside of India for me. It was, in fact, statistically speaking, the fifth. At the same time, however, it was a first trip for me, in the sense that it was the first time ever that I traveled without family, and not just abroad, but in general. Like everyone knows, my books keep me happy and occupied and my reserved nature doesn't really crave anything that involves people outside of family and really close friends. Even though I had classmates from my University, someone from another college, another from another institute and our professor with me on the trip, I was apprehensive about getting along with everyone. My apprehension was, to put it bluntly, futile since I had a nice time getting to know these great people with whom I share the lovely experience that Quebec was. We might not have a lot in common and we might not even be in touch with each other a few years down the line, but this is what binds us together- this amazing experience that we had and the wonderful memories we made, the few times when we got to spend time together. I cannot forget to mention how excited and nervous I was before meeting my correspondent and her family. I am timid and we took time to open up to each other but what matters most is that they accepted me just the way I am and honestly, for me, they are my family in Sherbrooke. They are the most warm, welcoming and wonderful people who I am really glad to know. 

Exploring Quebec city.

Finding our way in an unknown city. 

In this post, I want to focus on how the experience of traveling alone was for a very pampered, (up to a certain extent) spoilt and carefree child of the house. Like I previously mentioned, I never have to worry about anything while on our international trips since my sister takes care of the planning, booking and confirming, what to see, what not to see, dad takes cares of the tickets, itineraries and passports, (finance too!), mom looks out for the basics like water and food to fulfil our natural and unavoidable thirst and hunger, fevers, upset stomachs and medication, and my brother finds something practical and productive to do, like checking the local bus/ train schedule and finding out expenses. Wondering what my job is? Well, it's easy. I go and have fun. That's all. Honestly, I am the jobless person in the group and the only productive thing I can think of that I do is click pictures. I try to capture all the work that my family does for me and that, until Quebec, I took for granted. 

I would check my email every time just to know my flight details which I never learned, imagine doing it all from scratch. I would panic when I didn't feel my passport in my bag or pocket, imagine taking care of five. I would worry about falling sick when being in snow and being hit by wind, imagine worrying for five. I would let my host family tell me all schedules, imagine having to find them out on your own, perhaps in a language new to you. If anything, all this only makes me appreciate all the work that my family does that I casually skip and probably still will but it makes me proud of myself, for I did most of it this time around. 

I am used to hearing advices, suggestions, comments and concerns. All. The. Time. The lecturing started right from the time when I was told that the photographs I got clicked were completely wrong for the visa for which I would be applying and continued till I got back home and accidentally let it slip that I, very illogically, forgot to put my phone in my bag during security check. My family laughed at my stupidity and they enjoyed hearing more about my awkward and embarrassing moments. But you know what? It doesn't really matter. I'm just glad I gave them a few reasons- silly as they might be- to laugh in exchange for all the practical and common sense lessons they've taught me.  

Me cooking for my host family. 
Because I had the most travel experience in our group, my friends asked me a lot about many things, which I know I wasn't really good at answering, but I tried nonetheless. I remember waiting for the youngest person in our group while she explored and photographed everything, partially because I promised her parents I would take care of her and partially because I knew my siblings would do the exact same thing for me. So my point is, even though I have been useless most of the time when travelling, I have done the most important work and that is observation. In my head, more than once, I would count us all to make sure everyone was around, not out of boredom, but because I've seen people do it before to make sure we hadn't lost anyone along the way. From my experiences, I know that keeping a pen on you is a must while at the airport so I had mine ready and it got passed amongst the others a few times. I know that there are chances of getting lost when travelling in a group, and I found myself picking up and distributing cards with an address on it of the hostel in which we stayed while in Quebec for a weekend trip. And these are things no one had to remind me, they just came to me. My professor would ask me to do some work, and even though I would question my ability to do it, I still feel privileged that she asked me to do it in the first place and it only makes me feel smart. I'm kidding about the last part. I know now that I'm smart enough. *winks* 

Look everyone,  I survived in minus temperature!
The pretty, pretty snowfall!
I am seriously very proud of myself to have survived a temperature of -8 without my family, whose presence itself is enough for me to make an issue of anything, like we youngest kids are experts at doing. Trust me, I feel so cold that I don't mind wearing a jacket even in summers. I am proud of myself to have returned back to India in one piece and most importantly, I am super proud of myself to have actually signed up for this programme, which itself was an achievement for me and it ended up being an absolutely amazing experience that has made me appreciate all the things that I took for granted and all the people who do so much for us on a daily basis like their life depends on it, when in reality, it's just us who depend on them. In fact, I am proud of all my friends as well, for it was us all together who made this into something we'll remember and cherish for the rest of our lives. 


  1. Omg. Exchange programs sounds SOOO fun and cool! You seem like you had a lot of fun! I want to try it one day. :D

  2. LOL this is so good! I'm so happy you had a great time and what's more it seems that this trip really though you a lot. I know everything about being taken care of as I'm a single child but still with years I learned how to take control. Now I'm usually the one with all the plans and everything. Still I'm so happy you had a great time! Great post, Sarika :)

  3. YAY SARIKA!! I am so happy for you that this ended up being such an amazing experience for you. I can believe it! I can definitely relate with feeling anxiety over travelling for the first time on your own without family to take care of you. It's a learning experience, for sure. But I love that you got so much out of it and have become more independent for it!

    I must admit though - I had to laugh at the mention that you were proud to have survived -8. Girl! You should visit Alberta one day, where I am from, where it reaches temperatures of -50 Celsius with the windchill in the winter!! I don't know how you would fare in those temps. And along the same lines, I'm not sure how I could manage in some of the heats that you get in India! I can only deal with so much heat, whereas with the cold, you can always put on more clothes. I guess we're just suited to different temperatures!

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