Although the world has seen revolutionaries travel alone and discover places, I don’t think it’s been more than 10 years that the idea of solo travel has become a popular trend. Before you think, “oh, I have done it!”, be sure to check off from your list, those kinds of travels which are done to a familiar/comfortable place, even traveling for work (majorly going into an office setting) doesn’t count unless you take time out to travel and explore the place. So yes, I mean traveling alone, outside your comfort zone and exploring a place.
In a close-knit society such as ours, the first thought of solo travel makes a person appear as selfish. “O my god, you’ll go alone? What is the purpose of that anyway? It sounds so weird.”
I am sure it sounds weird. Especially in India (or to Indians) which is a country where infringement of privacy and personal space is a very normal thing. Our idea of solitude is seen as an enigma (or worse cruelty). If a person can be with their own-self without being uncomfortable, it is a matter to be respected.
At least in my personal case, solo travel always brings me closer to my family. When you go to a certain place, for example, a beach, and you are experiencing the power of that nature, there are stray thoughts in your mind: Mom would love coming here! So there’s this intermittent feeling of yearning and nostalgia that is an inherent part of solo travel, which in a way brings you closer to your family when you’re back. Another reason is that the very fact that they are letting you do this, makes you want to love them more.
I’m sure it is a very difficult decision for a parent. But if they let you, it also means that they trust you and they trust your instincts. And in spite of the risks of traveling alone, they are ready to let their little bird fly off the nest. (Convincing the parents in this matter is always easier said than done. It might need a separate article.)
What’s worse than being called ‘selfish’? Being called crazy. You are labeled as an anti-social. A lot of friends also look insecure. “But why can’t I come with you? Don’t you have fun when we go out together?” Or worse, if you are a married person, god forbid if you are a wife and if you decide to go without your husband, you’ll be punished with 100 verbal whips (100 kode maaro is ladki ko). It may be essential to know that there is no scope of comparison here. This question is as stupid as, who do you love more- mom or dad? I hardly know anyone who goes by the doctrine, “I only solo-travel.” All kinds of travel have their merit. Sometimes you want those crazy fun times with friends and sometimes you seek solitude. Also, some people just dread the idea of being alone, so the idea takes them by surprise. Acquaintances have further level questions: Are you lonely? Umm, no. I am not lonely. Being lonely and alone are two different things. Solo travel is straight in your face. This is surprisingly not about you. No one is going to deal with your tantrums. You are your own muse.
If you are able to bypass the stream of questions and restrictions and if the decision is finally on you, as the date approaches, you feel pangs of anxiety and mood swings (at least I did).
There are moments when you begin a reverse calculation and wonder, “Let me cancel this whole thing. How much will it cost anyway?! Let me just cancel it. My peace of mind is more important.” But like most other things, this fear is also worth overcoming.
In the end, however good or bad your trip is, you’ll feel better with the idea that you overcame your fear. But one thing that helps the best in such situations is research. If you’ve researched well, you know what to expect from the trip, the place, the locals, etc. For example, before my trip to Chennai. I was told by people that people in Chennai are very rude and stubborn. When I did my research (reading blogs and travel websites), I did not find any such thing written there. I also looked up how much time/money it takes from the airport to various places. And in contrast to my well-wishers, I did not have a single bad experience in Chennai. Nor did I encounter people anything but sweet. It will be a gross generalization to say that everyone in Chennai is very sweet, but that’s as wrong as, everyone in Chennai is rude. There are all kinds of people everywhere. And this is a lesson that I learned from an Australian guy I met at one of my solo trips to Pondicherry.
Being the same age as me, he had recently quit his job and begun the journey across the world (until the money last). So from Australia to Sri Lanka to now in India, he had seen Kerala too.
When I asked him, “Don’t you get weird experiences as a foreigner?” He said, “I sure do. And they are both extremes: really good and really bad. But I don’t judge people when they don’t help me because I don’t know what prevents them. Sometimes someone is just having a bad day. And you’ve got to accept all kinds of people when you go to a place.” This applies to anyone new going to anywhere. You may be better off in the same country but not as much.
Safety is definitely a concern on priority, especially when you are a girl. Not all places may be the best. Some places may be great during the day but unsafe in the night. For example, Auroville (in Pondicherry) is considered to be the safest places to be. But not in the night. There are no lights on the streets and apart from humans, there can be dangerous animals too on your way. Some places have good security measures that one can avail. For example, Mumbai locals have policemen in the ladies compartment starting from early evening tonight (according to my personal experience). I am not going to provide my list here because I am no expert. But you can decide on the basis of your own research. Everything may appear too hostile from a distance.