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I travel alone. Yes I like to travel alone. For some that would be shocking. But I do not see any reason to drag along someone I do not want to take along, just so others feel better.
Yes I travel alone, and not only on business but also on vacation. Yes people, I like to travel and let me travel in peace without you staring at me with that weird expression.
Yes I travel alone, and yes, you men and women alike make it difficult for me to travel alone, and what is meant to be a time for relaxation is often peppered with anxiety. Even before I actually head out, I’m made to feel anxious for my safety. I hear many statements from people close to me- reiterating how dangerous it is for women to travel alone. I know India is not benevolent to her women, but I don’t need to drag unwilling people or compromise on my own time and choice of destination, just so that I have company and that I don’t stand out as the solo woman traveler.
I have come across countless websites enumerating the dos and don’ts for the solo woman traveler.
I spend many hours browsing through the internet, finding all possible information available on how safe the location is for solo women. I find out everything prior to arriving at that location.
I spent hours learning about how to reach from point A to point B. I research about all the available forms of transport beforehand. I find out whether Ola and Uber operate in that city- if they do, it’s excellent for me- I save myself from the being robbed by the auto and taxi drivers who overcharge you preposterously seeing that you are a woman travelling alone. I also save myself from unnecessary haggling which never really makes much of a difference.
Next comes trying to find a hotel which would be safe for me. As a student on a shoe string budget, I spend an endless amount of time reading reviews of hotels online, to find just the hotel which is safe and fits my budget. Needless to say it’s a difficult task, given my budget. Often times safety takes priority and I end up booking a hotel beyond my budget just to be on the safe side.
There are calls from the hotel, upon coming to know that a single woman has booked a room, and the hotel often demands to know my purpose- questioning my motive. Often they even add that “other males are not allowed in the room”! Some would even demand pre-payment – violating the website’s policy from where I have booked the hotel. Sometimes when I have reached such hotels, the man at the reception eyes me suspiciously.
When I’m travelling alone, I usually do a Google search for famous restaurants in the area.
I remember one such instance when I walked into a bar one evening and ordered a vodka. The waiter looked at me weirdly- as if having a drink alone is like being an extra terrestrial sitting at one of their tables. Why does me sitting alone at a restaurant’s table, make the waiters and others grimace, even before I have ordered anything?
Often when I dine out alone, the waiters do not come to my table, and I have to let out a muffled yell or wave vigorously to let them know that I’m also one of their customers. Perhaps in such cases they are just waiting for another person to show up at my table, and only then my presence can be acknowledged.
It’s never the other way around – solo men never really stand out, they are let alone to mind their own business. I have even come across websites advising solo travelers to order takeaways or room service just to avoid experiencing the loneliness or awkwardness of dining alone. Well, I refuse to heed such advice- I will order a takeaway or room service only if I want to, and not to eschew the prospect of weird glances from the waiters.
Next comes the looks and gasps that you receive from other tourists. I remember roaming on the terrace of Hawa Mahal, where I came upon a group of college going people. Upon finding me travelling alone, a girl from that group asked me “Are you from Jaipur?” I answered that I’m from Bengal, to which she exclaimed in disbelief, “Oh so you are travelling alone!”
Yes I like to travel alone and dine alone and drink alone, so let me be. I don’t need a man or other women to accompany me just because it’s perceived to be unsafe for women to travel alone. Yes I know the dangers of travelling alone, but I have learnt to deal with them in my own way- even if that means spending more time reading up about a place.
I have come across websites which talk about solo travelling, and how women should go on solo trips as it increases their confidence. Well, I travel solo because I prefer travelling solo; my solo trips are not really meant for confidence boosting. Neither do I travel solo to make the point that women too can be like men and travel alone wherever they want.
I like to travel solo because it gives me greater freedom to live a few days on my own terms, and I love my freedom.
Image source: pixabay
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Research scholar with a passion for writing, music, art, cinema and animation.
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