It is only recently that actor Shaalin Zoya discovered the bliss of solo travelling. Earlier this year, she took off to Bali, one of the most popular travel destinations in the world (set in the middle of Indonesia), also dubbed the ‘Island of the Gods.’ With its golden beaches, coral reefs, and iconic temples, the trip was a revelation for her. She reveals some of her favourite and memorable travel destinations.
From the villages of Rajasthan
As a child she does not have many memories of travelling. Maybe because most of them were in connection with her film shoots. Besides, she was too young to really understand what was going around her.
“I cannot recall the exact moment when I started enjoying travelling but today for me, it’s a way of life. I have been to Rajasthan twice and during both instances it turned out to be an out-of-this-world experience,” recalls Shaalin.
If there is one event, she holds close to her heart it is the time she lived in a quaint little village in Rajasthan. From teaching the children English to mingling with the locals, it was one of the best takeaways of the trip for her.
“This was a make-believe world I had envisaged as a child. You know, to live in a tiny faraway village in India,” admits Shalin.
What she saw there was a remote village with no hospitals or police stations (since crime was practically non-existent) or any modern amenities. There was no easy access to anything, and the nearest mode of communication/transit was miles away. But surprisingly, Shalin got used to it after a while- “It was nothing like I had ever experienced but perhaps I wouldn’t mind doing that again.”
Shalin likes to think that every travel has been an enriching sojourn, giving her a wider perspective about life. Therefore it is difficult to really pick favourites.
The qawwalis at Ajmer and Pushkar nights
It is impossible to miss the resplendent Sharif Dargah if you are in Ajmer. Positioned at the end of a hill, this tomb of Sufi saint Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti is a pilgrimage haven, thronged by people from all over the world, irrespective of caste and creed. A Sufi saint who came from Persia, he was the messiah of the poor. At the Dargah chaddars (sacred sheets) and rose petals are the offerings. Shalin cannot get over the heavenly qawwali she heard at the dargah. “It was my long-cherished dream to visit the Dargah and the reality was even more beautiful.”
Another stunner was the Pushkar lake, often frequented by pilgrims for a dip. Pushkar city is famous for its various Guru Nanak gurudwaras and its annual fare. “I cannot even begin to describe the experience of sitting near the enormous lake at night, with the moon shining on water, enclosed by white buildings. It has to be seen to be believed,” says Shalin.
The list is unending…
Shalin says there should not be anything called a “dream destination” for any traveller. By that one is already restricting oneself. “The world is your oyster and its beckoning you to explore and experience. I am dying to see every nook and corner of this world. And it is always special when you finally get to travel to a place that you always wanted to see. That is Bali to me. Somehow none of my plans were materializing and then one fine day, everything just fell into place,” admits Shalin.
At Bali she stayed at a backpacker’s hostel, similar to a college hostel, where people from all corners of the world tucked in. Such facilities, according to her, were one of the advantages of traveling in a foreign country. India seems to be slowly picking up this trend. “There mostly solo travelers use such lodging. That is also where I met the friendly Canadian, Peter. He occupied my neighbouring bed and we quickly got talking. He suggested snorkeling,” recalls Shalin.
Though she knows swimming, snorkelling (swimming with a diving mask, a shaped breathing tube called a snorkel), she admits was a different kettle of fish altogether. Since scuba diving required a day’s workshop, Shalin opted for snorkeling. “It’s a spectacular sight to witness life under the sea- fishes, sea turtles, mammals, giant mushrooms, corals, oysters, sea cucumbers, clams, mussels. It was such an awe-inspiring experience,” sighs the actor who took the time to visit all the important places in Bali. Next on her travel itinerary is the North East. Right now, she is savouring the gorgeous Maldives.