7 Learnings From My Solo Trip That Feel Significant As A Working Woman

On a solo trip or at work, you look back, not just to check whether or not you made the right choice, but to congratulate yourself for how far you’ve come.

It is a well-known fact that having a steady job empowers and enables you. Having now returned to work, after a long break, I am beginning to see for myself exactly how that change comes into a working woman’s life.

Last year after I got back to the paid workforce, I have worked on bringing to life quite a few of my dreams that were on hold due to lack of funds. I have been able to focus on my writing and art in my free time without putting the pressure of generating an income from it. I have also been able to finally go on that solo trip that I had kept putting off because I didn’t have enough funds to spend without the guilt of spending my parents’ hard-earned money.

After some hectic days at work, and delivering some demanding client projects, I finally felt like I had worked hard enough to not just deserve the break but also put together enough finances to be able to travel on my own.

A solo trip is like truly adulting and earning your own way in the world

There is something scary and also hugely empowering about travelling alone. Decisions need to be made every step of the journey. Right from when to go, where to go, what to do, and how to go about it. There is no travel guide or tour company making those decisions for you. You’re on your own, and the sense of responsibility and freedom it brings is empowering, especially where there is no other person accompanying you or advising you. Even if there is a local resource to guide you, it is upon you to ensure your own safety. Tread carefully, because one wrong step could cause instant death on a treacherous trek.

I had wanted to a trip that I experienced not as a tourist but as a traveller. And so, I travelled backpacker style–with luggage that would far exceed the definition of a backpack–in local transport till my destination. It was an experience that made me resolve that my return journey would not be in a local state tourism bus, but in a luxurious cab that would be mine alone to occupy.

This was only one of the many choices I had to make.

So what are the 7 learnings I had from this solo trip?

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To Quit or Not to Quit

A similar question faced me during my trip. I chose to go on long treks, despite not being a seasoned trekker. I was told these treks are easy enough for the regular person. Half way through the first trek, my guide decided to take a short-cut through someone’s private property, because there was no way I would make it to the top if we took the normal route. The trek I went on the next day was fairly simple but still scary because fears and doubts plagued my mind constantly, especially because I had no guide with me this time to hold my hand and offer moral support and motivation. What if I twisted my foot like I had the previous day? What if I sustained a more serious injury?

With these roads that were just slightly wider than a Victoria’s Secret model’s waist, there was no way someone would be able to carry me back, if something untoward happened. I stopped several times on the path, and looked back, contemplating whether to go on or turn back. Every time, like the confused stray dog who’d found solace in my company another time, I look back and forth, and then stepped onward.

Workplace parallel: To quit or not, is often a question that arises at work, especially in toxic circumstances. One wonders whether to silently hope for the situation to resolve itself, or take matters in our own hands and quit. It is important to not quit easily. But it is even more important to know when to quit.

Break toh banta hain

Having decided not to quit, I trudged on further, panting and puffing, stopping occasionally to catch my breath. My flat feet notwithstanding, I refused to give up.

This I believe is another lesson I learnt as a working woman. While it is important to not quit in the long run, it is also crucial to pause occasionally and refuel yourself – either with the sips of water as I did on the trek, or with short breaks like this one that are well deserved. These frequent breaks and taking rests is something I did on both treks – guide or no guide.

Workplace parallel: This is quite similar to our working life too. We must regularly take breaks and not just planned vacations or weekend getaways but also a day off now and then when we need to give space to our mind and body to rejuvenate after a hectic project or a stressful week. Breaks are important even during each working day, even if it is to refuel yourself with a cup of coffee or green tea.

Perceptions dictate reactions and interpersonal relationships + Ask for Help

My driver while dropping me off at the starting point of the trek had briefed me on the route and added the advice: ‘When in doubt, ask the locals.’ Maybe he was able to sense that this was my first trip to the area.

On the trek itself, there was no one in sight. I called out in the distance, ‘Namaste, hello, anyone around?’ I needed help, and I was humble and smart enough to ask for it. I got no response. I called out again. Again, silence met me.

‘Namaste! I need help. Anyone around, please?’ I called again, knowing fully well that it would be foolish to go in the wrong direction.

‘Namaste, namaste!’ The voice replied first, then the face appeared – somewhere in the distance, on one of the higher floors of what had earlier seemed to be a vacant house.

‘Hello. I’m lost. Which way do I go?’ I waved to her.

‘The right fork, that’s the path for where you want to go.’ She replied helpfully, without even asking where I wanted to go.

Clearly, I wasn’t the ‘traveller’ I thought myself to be. This was another lesson I learnt – others perceive you differently than you perceive yourself.

Workplace parallel: While I do believe all of us are smart, confident women, there are things we don’t know, skills we don’t have, and tasks we cannot accomplish alone. Not only is it wiser to ask for help, it also builds trust and helps strengthen interpersonal relationships when you’re upfront and honest about your capabilities. How we come across to the other person will not only determine their willingness to help, but also how the professional relationship develops in the long run.

Take on measured risks and trust your instincts

A few metres ahead, another fork faced me. I asked a local passer-by this time. ‘This one,’ he said. I was taken aback at the difficulty level of the terrain he had pointed me towards.

‘These paths are narrow and rocky. What if I fall and hurt myself? There’s no network in my mobile. I won’t be able to call for help even.’

‘Is that so? Come, I’ll take you.’ He held his hand out to help me manoeuvre a steep step. Hesitantly, I grabbed it. Was this man trust-worthy? Would he lead me up the right path? What if tomorrow’s news headlines had my face on the front page as the latest victim of a gruesome crime?

We kept climbing upwards, me huffing and panting, stopping every few metres; he skipping and hopping, smiling and reassuring me every time I stopped.

I chose to trust my instincts. I chose to trust him. I have not regretted that decision, especially since not only did I make it back alive, I also did not suffer any injury.

Workplace parallel: It is important to recognize the risks that are involved and determine which risks are worth taking. Some risks will help you learn and grow while others may create further challenges. Challenge yourself by taking risks that will be worth the trouble, but also be mindful of which risks not to take.

Push outside your comfort zone but stay safe

After two arduous treks on two consecutive days, I had now gained the confidence to easily skip and hop through a short rocky path that led to the river. As I sat there, revelling in the moment, I marvelled at the courage of a family of four who had ventured deeper into the river. I watched the couple with two young kids, of which one was an infant in their arms, as they took off their shoes and stepped into the icy water. I contemplated doing the same, and the though itself sent shivers down my back and caused one mighty sneeze. I heeded the warning sign but remembered the mutt.

I climbed down further on the path, carefully weaving my way through the rocks, until I came to the edge of the water. ‘I’m happy here,’ I thought to myself, and took off my shoes and socks. I dipped one foot and then another in the water. After a few seconds, I felt my feet slipping and stepped out of the water, to sit on a sturdy rock. After all, there’s a difference between pushing outside your comfort zone, and being foolish.

Workplace parallel: Silence that inner critic that says you can’t do it, but also listen to the voice of wisdom when it tells you to step back from situations that may jeopardise your career.

Sometimes bad circumstances lead to good outcomes

As dusk approached, the family, and I too, were leaving the riverside. I complimented the lady for the family’s courage of stepping in the middle of the river despite the icy temperature and strong current. Do a kind deed, and it comes back at you. The lady told me how she had felt jealous of me sitting and enjoying the peace alone. I knew then that staying single hadn’t been a choice, but an outcome of circumstances. Those circumstances, however, had arisen because of choices I made.

Not all choices are bad, even though in the moment of making those choices, it may seem like you are missing out on something. Today, after hearing the woman talk about freedom, I certainly did not regret not being a married woman with kids.

Workplace parallel: You may not have got the promotion you wanted. The coveted project you got passed over for may seem more enticing. However, recognize what you have and how it benefits you in the long run.

Reflections and Reassessing your path is mandatory to further growth

I made my way back up, the confused mutt meeting my gaze, and I knew then that I just been taught yet another lesson. You look back, to check not just whether or not you made the right choice, but to congratulate yourself for how far you’ve come.

Workplace parallel: This is self explanatory. Career progression is not a fixed path set in stone. It is okay to have different goals at different times, depending upon where you are in life. Recognising how far you’ve come, and what’s the way forward is the key to continued success. This could mean upskilling yourself, or taking on an additional role that’s not part of your current job profile, or even stepping in a colleague’s shoes and taking on a completely different role that takes you down a different career path. All of these are okay and help to become an all-rounded professional who is eager to learn, adapt, and grow.

As I write this, back in the comfort of the homestay I am at, sipping hot chocolate, reminiscing the past two days I have spent in the lap of nature, I cannot help but marvel at the mountains I have climbed – literal and figurative.

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About the Author

Piyusha Vir

Piyusha Vir is a writer, artist, a CELTA-certified English Language trainer, and a Creative Writing Coach. She was awarded the Top 5 position in the Orange Flower Awards 2018 for the category of Writing read more...

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