When I first wanted to travel alone, I googled it, and I was amazed at the number of articles about the single female traveler. It felt like there was this huge new fashion wave in the world, and I was still wearing bell bottoms! There were so many women traveling alone all across the world, and even from India – so what I was doing, was not unique, not even fashionable, it was passe! Well, I did travel alone, and then a few more times. The internet now is much more crammed with articles about the single female traveler, and most of them make total sense. However, I did find a few myths, and this is my attempt at clearing the air!
1. It’s tough! – Wrong. Solo travel is actually delightfully easy. Truly. Don’t believe me? So let’s try and separate the myth from the reality. What are the thoughts that come to your mind when you think of travelling alone? Here’s what I thought – Is it safe? Would I be able to do all things I wanted to – I mean, it was easier with friends or the spouse, wasn’t it? There’s a shared burden of responsibility. Would I be really be able to wander like a nomad, go into unknown territory, without at least having one known factor (my friends!) in my experience?
Okay, the safety, let’s discuss that in point 2. Next, was I able to do all things I wanted to? Of course I did! I did more, and more importantly, I discovered the things that I really wanted to do. And think of it – isn’t it the easiest thing in the world to do what you really want? No really, close your mind and fantasize about it – no middle path to take, no need to be considerate, not even the slightest bit of compromise – just your wish to do exactly as you please. Now tell me, how exactly can that be a tough situation? In fact it’s so easy, you will wonder why you never considered doing it before.
2. It’s unsafe! – Wrong again. Reality is that there’s so much crime against women in my own neighbourhood, in my own city. India itself doesn’t have the best record for robbery, or muggings, or sexual assault. I find that I have be careful about my safety even as I travel to work, or come back late after a party, or even at my apartment complex. So why this paranoia about travelling alone?
Yes, you have to be sensible; yes, there are some places where you need to keep your eyes open and be alert; yes, there are some situations where it would be smart to walk away..or well, run away – but that’s doesn’t make the whole experience unsafe. Solo travel is as unsafe as life is. Live smartly and without fear and it is rewarding. So is solo travel. 🙂
3. Its not lonely! – Most travel write-ups will tell you about how you meet all these wonderful interesting people, and how you would be so busy soaking up all these new experiences that you would have no time to feel lonely. All true. And yet, not completely true either. You do have the occasional “oh dear, why I am doing this alone” moments. Personally for me, the evenings would be the tougest. The days were easy – I would be roaming about – and on a lots of days, I would wind up the day with dinner and drinks with new friends. But on some days after the revelry is over, coming back to an empty room was tough. Worse are those small potent moments when you are caught unaware and loneliness hit you in the gut with the power of a sledgehammer. I remember trekking up a particularly difficult trail in the High Tatras, and soaking up the cold sun and scenery and feeling gloriously alive and happy. After huffing and puffing about for a while, I sat on a rock and gazed down at the valley and took a picture of the valley, angling it with my shoes. Very happy admiring the pic, I suddenly remembered how the hubby would constantly help me with my shoes laces and the running joke in the family about it. And that’s it. All I wanted at that particular moment was to have him with me, to share that feeling of glorious wonder with him, just for a few moments. After a while, I was back to my prosaic self, and got back to trudging up the mountains in my solitary state of enjoyment. 🙂
But yes, there are moments when you will be lonely while travelling alone. But hey, Skype helps! 🙂
4. It’s difficult to organize – This is the lamest excuse I have heard! Okay, so you don’t get double sharing rates while booking accommodation, but in every other way, organizing solo travel is as easy as travelling with others. Whether its sight-seeing, treks, accommodation, public transport, you would anyway be researching for the best possible options. You would do it if you are travelling with people; you do the same when you are travelling alone. You still have to lug your suitcase while travelling alone, as you do with friends. Okay, yeah, you can leave your luggage with a friend, when you go to the loo, but surely that does not qualify as ‘easy things to do’!
5. It’s your chance to be who you are! – Well, true, but more importantly, it’s your chance to be who you want to be! Away from people you know, you can not only be yourself, you can discover newer facets to yourself, and the best – you can recreate yourself to be who you want to be. So if you are known to be the lazy bum in the group, this is in fact your chance to get off your butt, and walk for hours and figure out how much you like it. If you are labelled as the sensible wife with the adventurous husband, then maybe this is the time to let go, and discover that crazy sense of adventure. If you have always labeled yourself as the quiet introvert, maybe this time you could try conversing with strangers – it’s not small talk – it’s about being curious about the world and its inhabitants! When I first traveled alone, I was so unsure about a lot of things – about my very identity, and that’s the subject of a completely different post. I didn’t find all the answers, I still haven’t.What I have found is – a lot of me which was hidden in some vague corners of my own self. And I have learnt to embrace those facets of me, and even more, nurture those facets and celebrate them. Yes, I was discovering the world, but I was also discovering myself; I was also discovering how easy it was to be the person I wanted to be.