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As women, we spend a lot of our time before we travel, thinking of travel safety precautions! Here’s an account of a trip that went against all the usual travel safety tips we hear.
I was solo cycle touring. Berlin to Copenhagen, 550 km in 17 days. For those who aren’t aware, there is a mode of travel called cycle touring. I had packed up my luggage using specially designed bags called panniers and loaded it on the cycle rack. The luggage included camping gear for night halts and cooking gear for preparing a quick meal.
I had embarked on this solo cycle tour in August 2015. It was exhilarating, overwhelmingly so.
We, women, spend too much time thinking about our safety. Even when we are not consciously thinking about it, at the back of our minds, it remains a burden. This trip blew these usual safety considerations apart.
Here are some instances where the usual solo travel precautions were blown, and how…
Well, I planned on staying at campsites. I had routed out meticulously, a map of campsites on my route. But, hey, I was cycling. It could be too windy, I could be feeling a bit tired or sick and so on. I could not be sure of where I would camp every night.
So yeah, I pretty much took a call on where I wanted to stay and when I wanted to roll into a campground. (And no, tempted though I was, I didn’t do any illegal wild camping). But once, I did opt to camp in a private farmhouse in Denmark rather than a formal campground. Yay!
Does zipping up the tent flap work? It does actually have a similar psychological effect I found. Once inside my tent, I zipped it up, and it felt like I am in my own private space.
And then I found out that the Germans often don’t have latches on their bathroom doors including ahem the mixed gender shower rooms.
I had to make peace with that (and have really quick showers!)
Well, I have to say, I did. I planned so much – the gear, the route, the options and so on. But at the end of the day, the trip simply couldn’t be planned. I couldn’t plan for the wind or my physical stamina or the calling of my heart. Eventually, I followed the planned route sometimes and sometimes not.
I don’t need to plan my trips much now. I am way more adept at being on the road. It’s easier to let the wind ruffle my hair, to smile at the tangles and follow the calling of my heart. Which often comes hard to urban folks and especially us women, always caught up in the web of considering safety.
Uhh, what about, in the middle of a forest may be a hundred miles from a big city, is that ok? Or how about passing by an old Nazi concentration camp, alone? I had not imagined that the European countryside would be so desolate. Nary a human to be seen for miles and miles. Fields, beaches, rivers and solitude! It was beautiful.
(This is not exactly a solo travel precaution but it’s the instruction I got from my older relatives when they heard I was solo traveling to Europe!)
And that’s why I spent a lot of it lying outside my tent in the campground grass, staring up at the sky and listening to the doves cooing in the nearby hedges. Or digging into greasy cycling shops in Berlin for some good gear.
Well, I did stop by a few houses on the road and requested a water refill. And many of those people asked me whether I wanted the water hot or cold. Lukewarm was my answer, easy to drink and soothing for the throat.
There weren’t many public taps on the route, it was after all in the middle of nowhere. And I wasn’t ok filling water from bathroom taps. Nor did I want to buy a lot of plastic bottles (it’s not eco-friendly!). Anyway, when one is cycle touring, one has to depend on the locals. I don’t know where exactly I imbibed this, but now, locals are my best friends, wherever I am.
I couldn’t. I had never cycled long distance before. Never cycled a geared bike before. Never camped before. Never been to Europe nor on an international solo trip before. What I had done was solo travel extensively in India and I figured if one can solo travel India, one can do pretty much anything in the world!
So that was one fun trip. Oh and then next year, I went solo cycling to Australia and Taiwan as well. But that’s a story for another time.
Hope you enjoyed this read. I was trying to give you a taste of blowing safety precautions away. This trip changed me in many ways. And one of the reasons was because it just blew my safety norms out of the chart.
Once in a while, let’s give ourselves a break from all the safety considerations, shall we? (But only after planning a lot!)
All images are author’s own.
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