A story of love, loss and second chances by Nikita Singh, releasing this Valentine’s Day.
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Though many women travel alone now, most women still worry about the fear of travelling solo that becomes an unwanted roadblock, literally.
I am just back from a solo trip to Vizag. Solo woman travel – What comes to your mind when you hear these words? Brave, exciting, scary, fun?
Solo travel is opted for because it helps us discover things for ourselves, use our free will to decide all details of the tour, for meeting new people or the for the sheer excitement of it. I decided that I will travel the world solo, may not be at once but to a lot of places. However, like every time we start something new, I was scared. I planned a 9 day solo tour around Himachal, booked the flight tickets, spoke to a few people who had been there. But the doubts started creeping in a few weeks before the trip.
I have fainted before in my city, Bangalore, sometimes. What if I faint in an unknown place, with unknown people around?
What if I am stuck somewhere with no one to reach out to? What if there is no network there?
What if I die there and it becomes the last trip of my life, ever?
The people around me didn’t help much.
“Try to get some friends with you.” – Most of my friends are not busy during that time?
“Will you be free to go with me?”
“No. I am busy.”
” It is not safe for women to travel alone.” – Just avoid such sexist shit as our fear is directly proportional to the absence of women on streets. More women seen around, the safer it feels.
“North Indian people pull people out of train and kill them!” – A stupid stereotyping no doubt, but the mental image formed was scary enough to make me reconsider my tour.
Also, just narrating a recent event of crime in the place you choose so that you are ‘careful’. It is all a well meaning talk but doesn’t really help if you are taking your first solo tour and already scared. In fact, my fear got on my nerves so much that I had a very strong urge to cancel the trip.
STOP! Too much negativity. If my dream was to travel the world alone, I have to get over my fear of travelling solo and just do it. Here are some things I did to take the first step to the huge dream of mine.
Before jumping to a longer trip to a far away place, we can choose a place nearby ehich we are comfortable with. I was in Pune for work. I hired a cab there and went to Lavasa, Pune for half a day. It was in the outskirts and my friends warned me not to go alone as reaching back might be midnight. But going there helped me feel confident.
The fear mostly is because that we do not know the place. If this is the case, talking to people who have been there before, travel guides, online information about the place helps a lot. I planned on how I will spend the whole day including where to eat, how I will go around the city (did not follow it though) which helped to just put my mind at peace.
Whenever I shared my plans about solo travel, people either looked in amazement or thought I was crazy. I was lucky to meet a friend who listened to me and asked “What’s stopping you? Just do it.” He connected me to a girl who has traveled solo before. I also went to an event called ‘Travel Conversations’ which helped me meet and connect with other travelers.
I joined as many solo travel groups on Facebook as possible and followed their discussions. We are not used to seeing women travelling alone, which is why, I think, the movie Queen was really appreciated. Only after joining the solo women travelers group, I realized so many women travel on daily basis. It did not seem odd or scary, but normal.
I did not talk to friends who I thought would be against the plan or just would say super scary things about travel ( including my mom-like-best friend).
If you feel safer carrying a pepper spray or holding a key when you are travelling, do it. You are not comfortable staying at hostels, just don’t. Go to places where you know someone already. I usually shared my whereabouts with my close friends on a daily basis ( Who by the way were available at 3:30 AM, when I had to go the train station and book a ticket.)
One particular video which helped me was of Will Smith talking about how the fear is mostly in our head. Until we face the actual problem, everything else are just thoughts which don’t really matter. This especially helped me at Araku, a village in Vizag, where there was no network in my phone, most people didn’t speak or understand Hindi and I looked like an alien in western clothing while women there wore saris. I followed his advice every time I felt creepy. I also watched all Ted talks on travel.
I completed two tours which entailed a lot of adventure, making new friends, feeling different emotions at once (happy plus lonely) and proud of myself for planning and completing the tour. Now, I feel confident to go around the world without worry. If you love solo travel – make time for it, plan the budget and do all things which will help getting over the fear. It is the best thing to do.
Travel, like a lot of other things, has its good and bad facets. I hope that solo travel, like a lot of other things, starts getting treated as normal.
Image source: Rifath Fathima
Header image source: pixabay
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I am a social worker who is extremely passionate about development in education sector. I
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