Zeba started traveling around South America in Sep 2019. It was her life’s dream; she would get free accommodation in exchange for teaching and community projects. The pandemic stranded her in Chile. “Nobody thought that the Corona was so serious. I was firm in my decision to wait for the end of the quarantine to keep traveling.” However, as her visa expired and all government offices closed, she had to wait until November, when the flights to India resumed, and now she lives again with her parents.
However, her memories of those months traveling are so dear and opened up a new world for her: “I could have just chosen to work in hostels, but I didn’t want to meet travelers. I wanted to connect with the locals and live with them.” Zeba taught English and art therapy workshops, gave Bollywood-style dancing classes in parks in Colombia and Chile, and did a mural painting project in Peru while learning Spanish on-site. She was brave enough to defy prejudice: “I was told that I would be in a dangerous community on the outskirts of Lima, but being from India helped. It also helped that I was doing a nice project for them. I felt just love and support. They would come and watch, bring me and my team drinks, play music for us, paint along! I learned so much about generosity,” she recalls.
She spent Christmas in Arequipa and remembers its volcano being the last spot lit by the sunset. Alone, she made lots of sandwiches to give to people and made friends. In Santiago, Chile, she even got a 6-month contract to teach kids in a small community, although the pandemic canceled the plan: “I prefer the warmness of people in the villages, where not many want to go to teach. I don't want to keep backpacking; now I want a more meaningful experience, in some place I still don't know. I want to be part of a different place, walking a dog, exchanging words with neighbors.”
In Santiago, Zeba met a guy from Norway who spent one month there. They call each other daily. They both feel that that the relationship is very special and are just waiting for visa offices and flights to reopen. I asked Zeba to pose with her backpack. Although it looks empty now, perhaps for Zeba, those times, those places, and those people will always be in there.