Published: Times of India on Jan 23rd 2015
Title: Why travelling solo is the best thing that ever happened to me
If someone asked me to think back to the last time I went without a trip or travel, I’m afraid I wouldn’t have an answer because travel for me has now been ingrained so deeply that, it’s now a lifestyle choice than a task or career.
When one travels as often as I do, that it sometimes gives me only 2-3 days at home, you realize that travel has become a part of life, or is life as you know it. Solo travel on the other hand can be the ultimate in self-indulgence; you can rest when you want and push on when you’re feeling ambitious. Your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs, more exciting. There’s no worrying about ruining your partner’s day because you insisted on trekking all the way across town to a museum that was closed; it’s your own day to salvage or chalk up to a learning experience like a tango class in Argentina or cooking class in Thailand.
You can do exactly what you want, when you want. People who have never traveled alone often describe their first solo trip as an almost religious experience. New surroundings unfiltered by the prejudices and preferences of a travelling companion can be heady stuff. But travelling solo also comes with questions and stereotypes and female travelers are slowly learning to answer these questions and assertively break stereotypes by continuing to do what their heart wants.
Perhaps the foremost concern of the solo or single traveler is safety. Without a companion to watch your back, you are more vulnerable to scams and criminals, as well as simple health worries. But as a solo female traveler you owe it to yourself to do your homework, dress appropriately, never arrive at a new destination at night, be assertive, watch your body language, don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home and most importantly trust your instinct.
Solo travel isn’t always easy. It tests your courage, patience and willingness to adapt to situations normally outside your comfort zone. But, despite these challenges, I’ve met wonderful people and had amazing adventures. Although I did encounter inappropriate men who stared at me, there were countless others, who in no way treated me as a sexual object. People, whose warmth and compassion moved me in unexpected ways.
The man who gave me free hot Chai in Rajasthan when temperatures were almost spine chilling, or being invited to a random stranger’s wedding who I had only met and spoken to while buying fruits in Goa and the time someone offered to clean and dress my wound after having fallen off a bicycle in Pondicherry.
After having spent quite a bit of my time abroad in the last few months, I can vouch that India is a safe place to start solo travelling and most hospitable.
Without sounding snobbish, I think my joyous moments are when I get emails and messages from readers asking for advice about travelling the world, alone and especially female. I’m a big believer in inspiration and creating igniting a spark within a person that causes them to go out and try something different, something new, something they might not have done otherwise. I will do everything to inspire women to travel far and wide, and if that means alone, then so be it. It is important that you become independent and self-reliant. I did it and so can you! Women need to stop underestimating their own abilities. We’ve grown up in a world where powerful, independent women are frowned upon.
Women need to step up to the plate and travel happens to be one of the easiest arenas to make that happen. Whether you are backpacking around the world for a year or going on a day trip from your hometown, I encourage you to try it once. I promise the results will surprise you.
One of the best things about solo travel is becoming independent and self-sufficient. Like a boss! Don’t deny yourself such a wonderful and fun opportunity to grow and let travel make you more independent.