If you’re here to read the rainbow-sprinkled, sunshine-happy, and Tumblr-inspired version of how ‘solo travel is going to blow your mind into smithereens’, let me stop you right there and say just these four words: not going to happen.
However, if you’re here as a curious travel enthusiast who is one listicle away from deciding whether or not to go forth and book your tickets for that one trip you’ve been meaning to take since you started dreaming of travelling alone, I have four more words to say: this is for you!
Take one deep breath. Let it out. You got this. Here are some very real, no-nonsense lessons that my first solo travel experience left me with, that I do hope you will be prepared for, when your wings take flight into the world.
True story: I have missed an off road hiking trail that was supposed to lead me to the base camp of a mountain trek and found myself wandering through the undergrowth of, what eerily resembled, the Forbidden Forest just off the grounds of Hogwarts. How did it happen, you ask?
The sign pointing me to the right direction was no bigger than a foot in size and hidden behind a thicket of bushes that I missed because I got preoccupied with a sneezing fit. Yep, that’s all it took.
Because there are people all around you who are willing to help you if you give them a chance. You can make the choice of trying to get out of the situation by yourself, if that suits you just fine, or else do the brave thing and welcome the assistance that absolute strangers provide you with. Risky? Extremely so. Should you do it? Definitely so.
Case in point: taxi drivers in countries you know nothing about, that can smell your desperation leak from your sweaty forehead and tired feet. They know you need them, and that you don’t have a lot of options going for you on unchartered territory. You can’t help these things sometimes, and the best way to deal with it is to sometimes accept the unexpected (see what I did there?).
This is, of course, more relevant for a backpacker who encounters more than a day of hiking without sufficient resources available to replenish your energy. As human beings (and as khaate-peetey ghar ke bacchhe), we don’t realise how privileged and pampered we are to be fed and well nourished nearly all our lives; until hunger pangs make their way to you, and you decide whether to chomp down on all your protein bars all at once, or take enough bites to last you till the next dining establishment.
Say goodbye to long showers, soothing hot water, and even floors that are ‘not-just-clean-but-Monica-clean’ for as long as you’re on the road. Unless you’re planning a package tour to a country abroad, complete with luxury hotel bookings, being a woman on the long open roads, especially in India, can be an enormous task. The wide open grasslands may be every man’s urinal, but as a woman, my tushy has to make a lot of compromises when I’m travelling alone and I don’t have another person to guard my things while I do my business.
Unfortunately, we still are a long way from guaranteeing absolute safety for women on the planet, no matter where we go. Even if we do happen to pick a destination where no crimes have happened yet, your mind is going to nag you with “there can always be a first” that you will have to fight. But fight it, you must! Because the world is your oyster, and you can’t be the pearl that washes away!
Brand this into your minds with the red hot iron rod of determination, ladies. Yes, we all have a tendency to believe the worst of mankind, and we can’t even be blamed, given how countless women have become mere statistics in the wake of horrendous sexual assault following them like shadows everywhere they go. But armed with caution and an open mind, you are going to do amazingly well on your solo travel if you just put the tiniest amount of faith in people you meet.
As huge a fan I am of the tough love talk, I can’t help myself from telling you how empowering a journey it is going to be when you finally take that first step to travelling alone. It’s not easy, but it’s worth every second you experience out there, and you are most certainly going to thank yourself for doing it.
More power to you, ladies!