Iam a solo woman backpacker who has been actively traveling in India for more than 2 years, covering 145 cities across 20 states and 2 Union Territories. I have been often asked by the girls deciding to venture out on the roads on how do I manage to feel secure and more importantly feel fearless. Especially in a country which has been labelled as UNSAFE for women travelers.
I agree that traveling in India has never been considered the safest. And it’s not because we women can’t do it, it is because we are made to believe that the world out is bad. Precisely the reason why I had my share of initial hiccups before I decided to step out into the world of unknown but once I was convinced there has been no looking back
Travelling Solo in India especially for a woman is still not an easy task. Not only does one have to deal with queries from strangers but enough eyebrows are raised when you announce you are ready to take off on your own. I gave up my career to follow my passion to travel. I come from a background where solo travelling had been unheard off. I rebelled and followed my heart. Eventually when you decide to follow your heart things fall into place.
Using my example I want to share with you how to break stereotypes that women traveller face and some things I learnt during my journey
Outside world is filled with bad people: Every day we read stories in media on the incident which are happening in this country. In the process of noticing all the bad, we forget that there is a good side of mankind as well. There are still good people which exist in this country and far more in number of what we think it is. I received unexpected help from the strangers at unexpected time whichreaffirmed my belief that there is more good in this world than bad. I remember during my initial period of traveling I met a couple who helped me get out from a secluded place in Rajasthan when my taxi broke down and I was clueless on the way forward. I was treated like a family member in the guest house I chose to stay in Zanskar Valley. I didn’t really shell out much on this trip because they took me around the place. World is safer than we think or the media wants us to believe. The safest thing to do is to unite with every destination It’s important to be in your senses and trust your gut feel
It’s not safe to travel alone –I won’t go far as to say that people are wrong in their perceptions and concerns of safety for women travelers in India but that’s half the story. It’s all about Travelling SMART and presence of mind to handle things on the go. I have traveled solo covering the border villages and in the states which are considered unsafe, majorly using local transportation. And I had a smooth transition in almost every state without much difficulty. Following the right advice always helps
Accept it that if you are doing something foolish, you should be ready to face the consequences as well. There are challenges when you travel alone and accidents can happen with you in any country, leaveaside only India. Infact many people I met during my travels told me that the fears of solo travelling that we hold are the same that people have in other countries as well. A friend recently shared that how she was chased by three boys during one of her solo journeys abroad and robbed her with all the expensive belongings she had including money and the phone. And Iam talking about a place which is quite popular among the Solo backpackers
Woman who travels are judged: Yea I was judged too. Before I was congratulated for my bravery for choosing to travel in India, I would often hear that I do not like to be at home, that I do not like to be around my family, this uncle said this or that aunty said that. But the question is does it all really matters because you will be judged anyway? Travel has brought me much closer to my loved ones and to my surprise I hear the same people appreciating me when I sit with them to tell my stories.
Many of us lack the courage or tend to step back from following our heat because we fear of what the society might think. This used to bother me initially when at times I used to think if Iam doing something wrong. But a friend suggested looking at this from a wider angle- Not all can do everything that their heart desires. There are other people in this world also who will appreciate and motivate you for your efforts. And I met many which made my journey all the more memorable. I remember meeting a lady in Kolkata who told me that it is inspirational that I can follow my dreams. She regretted why she waited so long to follow her heart. The guest house where I stayed in Zanskar Valley, the eldest one was appreciative that I am travelling solo. The thing is if I can do it, you can do it too. There is need to challenge the protected environment we have and go explore the beautiful world out there
Travelling always does not mean a Vacation or roaming around: Unfortunately in our society travelling is only looked upon as a vacation. Travel in its utter most sense is limited to break the mundane life and collecting series of photographs which can be showcased on social networks. During my journey I have realised that we are yet to understand what Travelling means. Travel in its truest self is the best teacher one can ever have. It transforms your perspective towards life and it transforms you. Today, Iam grateful for even the smallest thing I have in my life.It has made me more humble as a person. When you see people living in the remotest part of the world with not even basic amenities and still smiling, you tend to stop making excuses for your own life
Experts Guides are everywhere:During my journey as a Solo Backpacker in India I have realised that we live in a realm of pre-conceived notions and are not ready to budge. We blindly accept what are surroundings feed us and pass it on without any thought. My first trip to Ladakh is a perfect example when I almost cancelled my trip on the suggestions coming from all around that cloud burst happens in Ladakh ever year 😉 Another example when I wanted to go for Chadar Trek in Ladakh during winters when someone told my father that frostbites are common in the area. I remember last year when one of my friend was planning his first solo travelto Spiti. My friend almost cancelled his trip on the suggestions coming from his other friends that in Spiti you will be hit with AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). When he told me about this, my first question was- Has anyone of them travelled to Spiti and as expected he said NO. We must experience before we say and this holds true throughout our life.
India is far more beautiful than we think it is and I feel bad when I see people narrowing down India to limited places for solo travel. Iam not saying that it’s a bad idea to feel safe but India is far more than what we think it is.
Travel with open mind and may be you can discover the warmth which I experienced. Challenges may come and go but it will definitely help you to discover the beautiful side of this country that we live in
Happy Travelling !
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