You can do it: a guide to solo female travel for Indian women
Disclaimer: This isn’t a to-do list to ace solo travel as a woman; it’s more on how you can allow yourself to be freer in a world that demands otherwise.
I wouldn’t be the person that I am today, had I not taken that one evening bus to Mcleodganj in March 2016. I was so used to travelling with friends and my then boyfriend that I never believed travel would be enjoyable on my own. One day, I got curious and decided I’ll go on my own. That one ticket changed the way I viewed myself, the world around me and travel. I remember being extremely nervous while packing, stuffing my belongings in my backpack
Safe to say, I’ve been travelling by myself for six years now and I’ll forever be grateful to my own self for taking that plunge, six years ago.
1. It's all in our head
As a female, we are fed since the day we are born, that the world outside is a dreadful place. Parents and society pass their fears down to us and it’s forever engrained in our brains and daily function that we can’t do things alone. Many may not agree but that’s society’s way of keeping its girls on leash. Tamed. Timid. A good girl.
The first thing you need to do in order to take that first step, is to acknowledge the fact that this whole wild world is not the bubble that your family has created for you. It’s much more than that. More diverse, more giving, more fun, more loving, than you were ever told.
I won’t lie, it comes with a whole lot of ordeals but mostly, you’ll always find yourself in the company of good people. You will begin to trust your instinct, form your own opinions, become more attuned to how YOU see the world, make friends, trust people more and enjoy conversations with strangers you never thought was possible. I don’t have friends from my childhood or college. I only have friends and acquaintances who I met on my travels, or went hiking with, or shared a hostel room with. You will realise how you are not alone in your problems, fears and insecurities. You will attract people who you will be able to relate to. And, then you’ll fall in love with the idea of travel as not a mere escape but an opportunity, to discover who you truly are. It will not always be easy, but it will change you.
2. Remember your intention
The second thing in this list would be the management of your pre-trip jitters. Many a times, we don’t feel like going for our planned trips anymore. Our insecurities take over, we imagine the worst case scenarios, we begin telling ourselves we aren’t ready, we find excuses to postpone it to some other time etc etc. We basically get cold feet and are unsure of what we’ve gotten ourselves into. In these moments of doubt, go back to the source. Go within and find the reason why you booked this trip in the first place. Go back to the moment you booked your flight ticket. Go back to that joy. Reclaim your reason. And pack your things. You’re about to go on an adventure.
3. Expectations backfire
Thirdly, manage your expectations. Your trip will be NOTHING like you’re expecting. It will be nothing like your favourite travel influencer has portrayed theirs to be. Your trip will be YOUR own. You’ll have your own share of adventures and mishaps, your own moments of liberation and fear. Do not expect anything from your trip- else you’ll be really disappointed it didn’t go the way you thought it would. Make space for things to happen for you. Be open to serendipitous encounters and they’ll come in abundance. Put some faith in the world…..but also know when to run.
4. Baby steps
All places are safe until something happens. I have encountered problems in places that are supposed to be safe and been extremely loved in unexplored places that people wouldn’t considering visiting. It takes time to adapt to a whole other place, even for a few fleeting days. However, because it is your first solo trip, don’t push yourself too hard. Go to a place YOU are comfortable visiting. If you’re someone who fears bus journeys or have altitude sickness, don’t go to a mountainous area. If you’re worried about vegetarian food, don’t go to North East yet. If you have a phobia of flying, don’t plan a trip to a place that’s very far. Baby steps. You don’t want to be so out of your comfort zone that you end up feeling emotionally scarred and then decide to never travel alone. Plan a trip to a place you really want to. It could be a desert, a camp site next to a lake, a writing retreat- choose what makes you happy and go for it.
5. Honesty is not the best policy
Once you start travelling solo, you develop a sixth sense of sorts. I don’t know if it has a name but it develops over time. You will make mistakes on your first solo trip but you will get better on your second trip, third trip, fourth trip and so on. This sixth sense that’s mostly a work in progress, keeps you alert and vigilant; it activates your survival instinct and you instantly know how to do things. I’m certain you’ll think I’m not making any sense but gut feelings while travelling are so strong, you almost become intuitive of how a certain someone is going to behave with you just by looking at them, or what the framework of someone’s questions is going to be like, or how to reply to someone to get out a situation. Some call it being street smart and it’s something you can’t learn from someone and apply in your life. It takes practise, focus and more travelling to get at that stage where you are a 100% sure that there’s nothing you won’t be able to handle.
For instance, I do it myself and I know few women who do it too - we travel with a ring that looks like an engagement ring so if some unassuming pervert comes along the way and begins to flirt with you, you tell them you’re married. The sad truth is, that when men know you “belong” to another man, the chances of him leaving you alone are higher. Please know that you don’t have to be honest with everyone while travelling. You’re never going to meet some people ever again so when it comes to your safety, you can lie about your itinerary, your marital status, whether you’re travelling alone or not, about where you come from etc. It is heartbreaking when you can’t put your trust in everyone but remember it is your trip, you can mould it the way you want. I don’t personally always lie; if I feel someone is really pissing me off and crossing a boundary, I try to get out of their sight smilingly and sometimes, I cause a scene. Let nobody take advantage of you being a woman. It’s a man’s world, hence, you’ve got to take space, travel by yourself, without their approval.
6. Take a break from your responsibilities
Don’t share your live location with your parents/family members. They’ll be worried sick if they keep tracking your live location and find you for hours at the same spot. You could be reading a book at the edge of a cliff at sunset but to them, it’ll seem fishy. In fact, let them know how much this solo trip means to you and assure them you will be fine. Because, seriously, you will be. Talk to them only once a day, share pictures with them at night. Once they see you're alive and kicking, they will feel calmer. It's necessary to draw boundaries. Start with your solo trip.
7. Solo travel is for everyone
I’ve heard a lot many people compare how travelling for an extrovert is easier than for an introvert, but I don’t believe it’s true. Quite a few introverts don’t want to travel solo because of this same shared myth and I’d like to highlight a few points stating otherwise.
While for an extrovert, solo travel is a great way to talk their hearts out, chill with people from all walks of life, and be their best outgoing selves; travel for introverts is even better. Introverts get to CHOOSE whether they want to be involved in a conversation or not, listen to their own music or participate in a loud bonfire, go on a hike alone or with a group of people. Extrovert travellers rely heavily on groups of people to explore a place whereas introverts know how to enjoy their solitude. They’d rarely feel lonely or distressed because they are their own best friend and saviour. Introverts have the ability to make the other person in a conversation feel comfortable, heard and understood which leads to deeper long lasting relations with people they meet on their travels. Their word is sacred, their travels are more peaceful and they have their own ways of enjoying travel, without being dependent on a group of people to make them feel like they belong.
I am a mix of both and I am a better traveler on the days I am an introvert. I am able to truly admire a place when I’m left alone, go on solo dates, enjoy a view by myself and get out of social situations I’m not vibing with. In a nutshell, solo travel is for everyone because there are no rules or foundations. You can be whoever you like and still end up making a ton of memories.
8. You don't need much
I recently took a 5 week trip across Turkiye and Azerbaijan, only to realise I did not use half of my things. My back kept suffering relentlessly every single time I had to carry my unnecessarily heavy rucksack from one place to the other and I am never doing this again. So, one of my advice would be, to pack light and smart. Make more space for things by rolling your clothes, carry clothes that are multi utilitarian, leave some place for souvenirs and other things you might want to get back home and that’s it. Also, on a long trip, you can either visit a laundromat to wash your clothes or choose to stay at an airbnb with a washing machine. That way, your travelling closet will be refreshed and you’d also be less worried about your rucksack/suitcase becoming a dump yard of sorts.
That's it for now. You can always DM me on my Instagram or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you're seeking my advice on anything travel/life related. Should you end up solo travelling after getting inspired from this blog post, do make sure to share your pictures and videos with me- I'd love to see them.