In spite of being largely heard amongst female folks and incessantly seen on social media and the internet, solo female travel yet has been unexplored. It is imperative to realize that the purpose it serves is not only fun, games and pleasure. Solo female travel shouldn’t be taken up because it has become this ‘It’ thing everyone seems to be doing. It is not merely a term, but a profession, a way of life.
A girl/woman. Alone. On a lone trip. Yes, these utterances could raise a couple of doubts and questions and are more challenging than they sound. But, the immense joy and learning that one receives as the end result is worthwhile.
While some women ditch their mundane, corporate jobs and deliberately take up solo travelling, some claim that it happens purely by luck, by chance. Either way, the experience is as enriching as it could get.
The beauty of solo travel is the ample amount of freedom and independence that comes with it. In that charmingly new land, you are your own guide, you are by yourself. Compared to the general risks of the scenario, the unbelievably handsome opportunities are million.
While in a conversation with Elita Almeida, travel writer at The Nomadic Thunker (http://nomadicthunker.blogspot.in) she enthusiastically shares one of her travel experiences with me, “My first solo trip in 2012 was to a relatively unknown beach – Trasi – along the Konkan coast in Karnataka. I had office leaves that would die a ‘lapsed-due-to-accumulation’ death and solo travel seemed like the only redeemer. That was also because planning out a trip with friends wasn’t as easy as I’d thought it would be. So the only option I seemed to have before me was to plan my own trip. That’s how I had my first solo travel experience. So it was me, a backpack with my paperbacks and a diary along with a resolve to make this happen. And honestly speaking, back then I didn’t know there existed this concept of solo travel.
Looking back at Trasi, it’s been my only experience of having an entire beach all to myself (with the bare exception of the fisher folk for company during walks in the mornings and evenings along the shoreline). I’d known of Trasi from having driven past it on road trips as a kid – but we’d never stopped by at it. Just that bit of familiarity I think somewhere helped reduce a bit of my anxiety.
During my walks on the beach, I’d run into kids who lived in the village close to the beach. We’d try to converse with me not being familiar with Kannada and them not being as familiar with Hindi or English. But at the end of those five days, I learnt that I had the appetite to be in my own company without driving myself up the wall. This in itself was the stepping stone towards making solo travel more than a one-time affair.”
Solo travel provides one with a golden chance of meeting new people and in turn, developing meaningful relationships. And since you are on your own, you could happily plan your trip however you want (or not plan it at all.) Hence, in all its glory, traveling solo is something every woman should experience for at least once in her life as it has a lot to give (along with the generous amount of tan in most cases. But come to think of it, it is all worth it in the end!)
Deepika Gumaste, travel writer, and blogger at Feet on The Map (https://feetonthemap.com/) gets candid while talking about her travel experience: “I have travelled independently in Bhutan which was my first international trip. It was just after I quit my job. I was confused and yet had to make plans for my next steps. Bhutan was totally an eye-opener on lessons of happiness, sacrifice and life. I met monks, played badminton with nuns at the Zilukha monastery, hiked to the Tiger’s Nest alone, roamed the streets of Thimpu people watching and exploring the beautiful café scenes of Bhutan.”
Female travelers – professional, aspiring and amateurs, are largely being underestimated in this sphere. One of the many such statements being ‘India is an unsafe country for a lady to travel alone,’ to which Elita responds, “That India is unsafe is a mindset. And a rather generic one at it. If I were to believe every headline I read, I wouldn’t have been here to say that in my five weeks as a solo female traveller in Bihar, I did not experience being cat-called even once! What’s true for Bihar is true for many other parts of the country. Everywhere I’ve been I’ve found good samaritans in the guise of bus drivers, train co-passengers, homestay hosts and waiters at restaurants.”
There is nothing that can diminish the spirit of these travelers especially with the number of initiatives and projects taken up by women across countries.
Deepika has undertaken various projects and collaborations in the field of travel. She is currently involved in two travel projects- The Happy Traveling Girl and The Mountain People. Happy Traveling Girl is an initiative with a group of friends to create a platform to encourage women to travel solo or independent and share their experiences, while highlighting India as a safe ‘tourist destination for women.’ Within a considerable seen future, the team hopes to work with tourism boards and local women across India to build sustainable and viable solutions that will allow women travellers to travel safely within India and at the same time empower local women with employment by creating opportunities that will allow them to host travelers in home-stays, build women-friendly hostels, etc. Besides that, Deepika also actively works at The Mountain People, where their primary purpose is to create sustainable communities in the mountains & to protect the indigenous tribes and their wisdom.
As is the case with any profession and endeavor, nothing is handed to you on a golden platter when it comes to solo travel or any undertakings in the field. One has to hustle day in and day out, burn the midnight oil to make it work wonders.
Amrita Das, a professional travel blogger and freelance writer at Travelling Ideas of March (http://www.travellingidesofmarch.com/) talks about a few challenges that she had to face while taking up travelling as a full-time career. She says, “Travelling for me, has always been a way of life and not something that I discovered lately. The major challenge that I faced in this field was money as freelance writing does not pay enough. The second was, getting used to being a freelancer. No matter how much you struggle, most people tend to not pay heed to it because you are ‘working from home’ ”. Amrita plans her trip a month prior if it is national and six months prior for international ones. When asked about her bucket list of travels, she said she doesn’t have one, she wants to travel everywhere.
Nupur Kedia is yet another passionate traveler, who is a lover of nature and manages to steal a huge chunk from her year to spend it amidst the mountains. Nupur talks a bit about her style of travelling and some of her best experiences – “I personally am a fan of slow traveling, which is, you stay at a place for a longer period of time and explore it at your own pace. That way you get to know about the people and their culture better and form meaningful bonds. My most recent and best trip so far has been to Gurez, an isolated valley along the LoC in Kashmir. The place beats every other place, both in terms of beauty as well as the people. They are always open to welcoming outsiders into their homes and are the epitome of hospitality. Like one of the locals said, “You can stay at anyone’s house here, even without their permission. One such place was Spiti valley, which was again full of stunning landscapes and helpful people. The monasteries, prayer flags and prayer wheels exude an endearing sense of calm.”
Along with turning to major destinations, Nupur also likes experiencing a lower tourist flow by visiting places which are less commercially developed. She finds that traveling by local transport exposes her to a lot more people and experiences, instead of booking private transport. The same being with creating her own itinerary, as opposed to going for a tour package.
Ruchika Vyas, blogger, and writer at TravellerStories (http://www.travellerstories.com ) says, “There are no specific problems en route a solo trip. Just that one needs to be aware of the destination they are travelling to and ensure that basic logistics are in place, like travel plans. With technological advances today, anyone can travel alone with ease using just their phone for navigation and information. The only challenge here is if you’re ready to travel by yourself.” She adds, “Just go for it. Don’t wait till you have enough money or enough leave, make time for travel now. It’ll teach you the most valuable lessons in life.”
The roads, the beaches, the tapered lanes, the puckered huts, the dainty animals in their hideaways, skylines of a city glistening handsomely at night, beautiful plantations, exploring the woods or a land filled with green, modern cafes and art galleries and simply the fact that you are waking up in a city where loads of adventures and life lessons await you. – One experiences this and much more first hand on a solo travel spree with the journey being his/her only teacher.
Solo traveling is not only about exploring new places but also about finding one’s self in the process. Instinct, courage, and passion being the core pillars of solo travel, it gives way to a plethora of encounters and possibilities.
Hence, if at all you want to push yourself to that extra mile, communicate with strangers only to invest faith in them, be wilder and free spirited and experiment like never before, then step out of your comfort zone and take to solo travelling. Experience the traveler’s life for yourself and it’s very many wonders that unfold before you.