"You're travelling alone? Without even your family? How?! OMG!"
Did you find yourself chuckling or shaking your head at the phrases you just read? If yes, please take a seat, because you're going to relate the heck out of whatever's coming next. And if no, that's still okay, because these will definitely come in handy for the time you eventually take your first solo trip!
For every woman out there who has taken a solo trip or two across India, there have definitely been a couple of hiccups along the way that they couldn't possibly have foreseen. From developing a high-functioning internal 'creep-alarm' to unimaginable washroom woes, here are some of the all-too-real struggles that women face as solo travellers in India.
1. Washrooms are hurdles that you have to cross daily
Especially if you’re someone who prefers camping out and backpacking across states and cities rather than stay in hotels and resorts everywhere you go. And if you happen to be on your period, the very act of going to do your business, behind a bush, in the dead of the night as you’re camped out in the wilderness can turn real nasty, real quick!
2. The shady creeps who won’t leave you alone
The second it is known that you are a solo female traveller who wants to hire/rent services for your travel, the men, in most places, seek to misuse the helplessness of your situation. You find yourself being surrounded by really shady deals and ‘opportunity lurkers’ who seem eager to see you fail and pester you relentlessly as well.
3. Venturing into unknown territory after sundown
While there are some really cool cities that are all for events that happen after dusk, a lot of other cities ask solo women travellers to be wary of going out alone at night, for the fear of being harmed or robbed in isolated spots. So much for creating safe spaces!
4. Not being able to dress as you please
Thanks to the tourism industry, this very real struggle seems to be letting up in places where people are slowly getting used to tourists from other countries dressing as they please. But for most parts, it becomes almost impossible to dress comfortably for the fear of drawing unwelcome and uncomfortable stares from people.
5. Explaining the concept of ‘solo travel’
Tell me if this is just me: people cannot seem to wrap their head around the fact that a 20-something woman chooses to travel by herself, and it boggles my mind every time While hostels and student dormitories willingly accept women travellers without a lot of fuss, I have found myself explaining to a lot of hotels and lodges across the country that I bear no ulterior motive except to rest my head at night after my exhausting day of travel.
We’re all familiar with the umpteen number of warnings we’ve received from our loved ones telling us to keep our belongings safe because the world can be a terrible place sometimes. The worst part of travelling solo is the fact that you have to be your own security guard and carry your stuff with you everywhere you go, since you can’t rely on everyone to be trustworthy. Even into a tiny washroom stall where there’s just enough room for you to squeeze into!
7. Getting authorities to take you seriously
There was one time when I lost my wallet during a solo trip, and it contained all my essential documents including my ID, my debit cards, and quite a bit of cash. When I tried to register a complaint at the nearest police station, I was literally asked if I had been drinking/partying, and why did I come to the place "alone and without your husband or family". The experience left me fuming and enraged with the perception that people had of female solo travellers in India.
I did get my wallet back, thanks to a kind Samaritan who dialled the number on my ID and tracked me down, but I do wish I wasn’t viewed as a criminal by someone who’s supposed to uphold the law and protect the citizens, no matter the age, gender, or circumstances.
Yes, these struggles are painfully accurate and can be quite a bummer on your adventures, but speaking as a highly opinionated solo traveller: I wouldn't stop doing it, no matter what. The kind of spine-tingling, adrenaline-rushing happiness that I get from travelling solo is unparalleled to anything else in my life, and nothing is ever going to change it - and it shouldn't for you either!