Solo travelling has redefined the meaning of freedom and independence, and has become an aid to discovering your inner self. Find out why more and more women are joining the solitary bandwagon.
Meet Rhea. She is a typical 24-year-old conventional Indian girl. She has lived a very sheltered life. She wasn’t given the freedom most teenagers usually get such as going out at night with friends. To even hear of any rebellious act, be it smoking or leaving home, would scandalise her gentle-thinking mind. She has never disobeyed her parents; she had always been the perfect daughter.
But…deep inside her heart a desire to escape and break free was beginning to consume her heart and mind each passing day. She would daydream about adventures and experiences she’d only read about. Exploring new places, meeting different people, walking on an endless road, emptying her mind of all fear, anxiety and tension, discovering herself - sampling a taste of freedom that she didn’t know existed. But she never had enough courage to translate her wish into reality. Until one day, she decided to do what most Indian women would never even dream of – travel alone.
Just do it
I know what you’re thinking: ‘She isn’t the kind of girl to set foot alone in a country like ours?’ But it’s true. Today, several Indian women today have travelled on their own and many are working on doing the same. Travelling solo is fast becoming a trend among urban working women; some do it just to get away from all the stress, some for the thrill and some simply prefer being by themselves rather than amongst a rat-pack.
Although there are many people who want to go solo, but there are many fears that cloud this desire and melt their courage. But it is conquering these fears that mark the beginning to the adventure. Setting out alone might seem difficult, especially dealing with the opposition you face from friends and family stating how unsafe and nonsensical the idea is. Ritu, CEO of Silversmith India, says, “The first time I decided to travel to Pondicherry alone, my friends’ reaction was ‘why would you want to go alone? It’s very unsafe, plus it’s simply boring!’. I actually had a hard time convincing them what it feels like to enjoy some alone time.”
Of course, travelling solo is not only for those who want to defy societal norms or escape pressures at the workplace. It is also for people who want to rediscover themselves. There are times in life you simply want to be surrounded by new people and travelling solo is a great way to make new friends. The only thing that is important is whether you want to do this or not. It’s all about the first step. The day you take the first step, the others will automatically form, and then there’s no looking back.
A trip alone is the road to liberating your soul; it redefines being independent. An experience like no other, it will change your life forever. When you’re alone, you don’t need to wait for someone before you start your exploration; there is no one to tell you where to go or what to do; you do as you feel; you make your own choices. Besides, being alone is a wonderful way to find some inner peace and do all those things you ‘never had time for’. Read a book, listen to music, dance or simply indulge in a coffee and dessert—because there are times when life should be only about you.
a) Your sole companion
Agreed you’re planning a solo trip, but you do need a companion, albeit a silent one, who’s there with you, but yet inconspicuous despite its presence. Pick up the latest volume of Lonely Planet India or an Outlook Traveller Getaways guide, a traveller’s bible and every tourist’s prized possession. High-end, mid-range or budget hotels; eateries, places to visit and how to get there, it works as the perfect guide.
b) Be prepared to expect the unexpected.
There may be times you’ve planned everything about your trip to the T and yet some expected situations come forth. Shruti, a PR executive, cites an example, “I’d set out to visit a beautiful tree house in Munnar and booked it three weeks in advance. But when I finally reached the hotel, the gentlemen who took my booking abruptly says “I’m sorry ma’am, but the tree house is currently occupied by a couple and will only be available tomorrow night.” I was aghast, I angrily reminded him about my booking and the fact that I had cross-checked its availability before leaving, but he just said sorry. I was lucky to find another place thanks to a friend, otherwise my trip would’ve been a disaster!”
c) Do not rely only on the internet
Check and cross check your bus/ train/ air tickets and timings and hotel reservations. “I was aboard the Kanyakumari express to Ernakulam and according to the Indian railway website I should arrive at the station within 24 hours. But just at the end of 24 hours in the general sleeper class, on an unconfirmed ticket, I find out that my destination is yet 12 hours away! Ever since this goof-up I also advise people to cross check any reservation made via the internet with the company directly,” says Nishrin, a counsellor.
Published in Rouge (now iDiva), Mumbai Edition, dated October 11, 2008