By Tsering Dohna
Girls can travel solo. Be it in India or abroad. I will recount brief experiences of my travels abroad alone. I have found that garnering the courage for a solo trip is much harder than actually travelling. There are a number of girls out there who have travelled solo to various places around the world. They packed their bags and headed somewhere they have never been to. We are not bound by anything. Management of resources, resolve, and tenacity are key traits for a female solo traveler.
I am a working woman in my twenties. Few months ago, I decided to go to Cyprus and Kazakhstan. Immediately, a number of people harangued me with passive aggressive advices. Friends, family, and colleagues tried their best to dissuade me from my decision. Some went in detail about the dangers I faced. One went so far as to show me a power point presentation of the trouble I could be facing. They pleaded with me to reconsider my decision to travel solo or at best, let a male from the family or friend circle accompany me. I was told that,’aap toh ek ladki ho, foreign mein kya karoge?’, ‘shaadi ke baad pati ke saath jana, akeli ladki abroad mein kya karegi’ (You are a girl, what would you do abroad? Go after you get married with your husband. What would a girl do alone abroad?)
It is high time that we add the word ‘broobs’ to our vocabulary. i.e., brains despite the existence of boobs. We have a lot of assumptions about why solo travel doesn’t suit women. Here I provide the actual realities, so you’ll have something to base your decision on and not be discouraged by the panicked nitpickings of your nearest and dearest…
ASSUMPTION: That you’ll be lonely.
REALITY: No, you won’t. You’ll be fine. Alone time is healthy, and women are more than capable of enjoying their solo trip without having to retreat to the corner of a room to curl up in a ball of nerves
You’re going to meet potential new friends all over the place – some of them you’ll want to know and be with; others you might think ‘nah, you know what – I’m cool on my own today”.
What solo travel teaches you, aside from how much fun solo exploration can be, is what your soul truly craves as it provides ample space for introspection as well as the choice on whom to surround yourself with, the new place will usher in new people which will widen your horizon. It shows you that being alone is better than being with someone you don’t care for purely for the sake of having a companion. Plus, when you crave for human company, just head to a bar, grab yourself a beer, and such is the magic of bars, you’ll have four or five new friends by the time you’ve found a seat. Take calculated risks on your solo trip. What would a trip be without the sense of adventure.
ASSUMPTION: That we don’t know where we’re going, we will be lost, and we will be unsafe.
REALITY: But, do we ever really know where we’re going?
Basic map reading skills are a key skill you’ll require when navigating yourself around the new town you’ve just rolled into. Always research thoroughly about the place you will be visiting. Many also possess that innate ability called ‘bearings’, which has allowed them to navigate the streets of their life so far without stumbling into quick sand…you will not suddenly be rendered incapable of navigating your way around just because you’re abroad. However, if you, like me, are one of those people who tend to give the map a cursory glance and then walk in whichever direction looks the most interesting – embrace that. Sure, you need to be clued up about the corners of the town to swerve, but outside of that, you’re here to explore, and to see new places – getting lost can be more beneficial than following the tried and tested official tour anyway.
ASSUMPTION: That we’re in mortal danger at all times.
REALITY: Spoiler! The world is actually a wonderful place if we choose to go out and see it rather than contemplate the dangers that we might face. We can never prepare for every possible outcome. Yes, you’ll need to keep your wits about you and not wander the streets of a place you don’t know in the dead of night.
Just because you are a woman on your own, doesn’t mean that everyone is out to get you. In my experience, I found that it made people want to help me when they knew that I was lone traveller – I had my hair stroked by an old lady all the way from Kyrenia to Nicosia, purely because I told her I was on my own, and she thought I might need some motherly love. She was right. Another time, a lady clutched my hand and called me ‘strong’ for travelling on my own every five minutes on another bus in Almaty. The kindness I felt radiating off strangers as they shared their tasty food with me in buses, or laughed in wonder at how skinny my arms were, far outweighed any negativity I felt. Of course you can’t float around thinking everyone wants to buy you dinner, give you a fiver, and give you a hug – we’re not living in Disney World, but keep your suspicion at a healthy level, most people, in my experience as a solo traveler are good humans.
ASSUMPTION: Women are incapable of slumming it.
REALITY: There is a certain type of satisfaction that comes from finding a place to rest your head that costs the same as a sausage roll, and that satisfaction is not exclusive to men.
Women don’t need fancy hotels, with complimentary blow dryers, and suit presses when they’re backpacking. Denim shorts do not need pressing, and hair dryers are almost completely redundant in most (sea level) locations, they were redundant for me in Cyprus. Want to dry your hair? Step outside for 12 seconds – job done.
So pack your bags, manage resources, research about the place, and reach that horizon. Cheers!
Tsering is the fire in a Song of Ice and Fire. Born in Arunachal Pradesh, she resides in Mumbai where she handles the dual role of being a student and looking after her family business. Fiery and opinionated, Tsering loves to travel solo, and is already packing her bags for her next trip.