So how was it like traveling solo for the first time? Did I like it? Will I do it again? These are the many questions I have been asked ever since I returned from my first solo trip. So let me try my best to answer them.
So before I start, let me tell you the factors that made me decide to go solo this time. Even though I did some roaming around in the USA by myself, I have never been on a solo trip. I never had to do it till now. Being from a family that loved to travel, I always had company whenever I wanted to go anywhere. I was born as one of a twin. So that meant I was always stuck with someone (just kidding, Ramya) for the rest of my life. Since I live in India, there never has been a shortage of friends. I have always been amused by the fact that some of my friends need company to go to the bathroom even when they are in office. Even at office, if I decide to have a quiet meal in the pantry, I am surrounded by at least 5 people who just can’t bear the thought of me eating alone.
So you got the gist, right? I was never encouraged and never had an opportunity till now to travel solo.
Then what changed this time? Ever since I started reading multiple travel blogs over the past year, I have always wanted to travel solo. I wanted to see what was it like to travel solo. Was it as liberating as they all claimed it to be? It was weird coming to this decision since I am in my early thirties and I was traveling alone for the first time in my life.
Another factor was the time I had. I wanted to take a break between my two jobs and no-one I knew had the convenience to take such a huge break. So then it was decided and I booked my tickets to Europe.
So how did my family take it? Surprisingly well. At least in front of me. I am pretty sure that my mom would have had some high BP issues when I announced it to them after booking the tickets. They did have a hint but they had no clue that I was going to do something this extreme. In the process I ditched my sister and brother in law. I was supposed to go to Tanzania with them to meet our friends (including the wildlife) but when I decided to go solo, they went ahead without me.
So now that the context is set. Let us see how the experience went.
I loved it. There is no doubt about that. In spite of the many hurdles I faced, I fell in love with traveling solo. Will I do it again? Well, that you would have to ask my mom. After this trip, she has already told my dad to look the other way if I ever talk about going alone again. But like my sister tells me, “As if you are going to listen to her? You will end up convincing dad and make him lobby to mom on your behalf”. Since I have a dad who travels more than anyone else I know, we still cannot rule out the possibility.
Now let us try to answer some of the queries people had:
Weren’t you scared?
I am not going to lie about that. I was s*** scared. But isn’t that what life is all about? Trying to embrace your fears and overcoming them? We have all been there once. Moving to a new city. Setting your life up in a new city. Making new friends in a new city. Travelling solo is very much like that. You are in charge of the entire trip and if anything goes wrong, you have only yourself to blame. But once you get past all that, you will realize how travelling solo can be an enriching experience.
Weren’t you bored?
I find this question strange. I went to see new places, meet new people, have new experiences and eat delicious food. How could I be bored? I did something new everyday and how could I be bored when I do that?
Weren’t you lonely?
Let me tell you something about solo travel. You are more likely to make new friends when you travel alone. When we go as a group, we tend to stick to our friend circle and then there is no way you are going to make friends. I did so many exciting things with my new friends and every time I think of all the fun times I had, I would remember them. Even age didn’t matter. I hit it off with twenty somethings and I even became friends with someone who was older than my parents. Nothing matters when you are one of the many travellers in this world. You realize the importance of fellow travellers and they sometimes can be the best source of information, after the locals of course. Unless you want to be alone, there is no way you will feel lonely when you are travelling solo. However goodbyes are the hardest part of travelling. You never know when you will meet them next. Even for an ambivert like me, it was not that hard to make friends once I allowed myself to do so.
What about all the bad things happening in Europe currently?
If it is in your destiny to die tomorrow, you will die. I have more chances of getting killed , abducted or worse if I stayed back at home. No one can protect you any better if you are sitting at home. As a global citizen, I refuse to give in to the idea of ‘bad people of this world’. And from all my travel experiences, I have learnt one thing – for every bad person in the world, there are a hundred good people who are willing to help you when you are in trouble. How can you judge all these people if you have never left your shell? Also stick to your gut and in most of the cases your gut will never be wrong. As a solo female traveler, it is important to always keep your wits around you. There are some stupid things you won’t do back at home if you are alone. Then don’t do it in Europe either. To all the people who thought I couldn’t make it in Europe alone, look at me now. I managed to vanquish all the naysayers. Didn’t I? 🙂
Did you make any mistakes?
Of course, I did. It is me, after all. I think you will never learn unless you make any mistakes. Even though I had kept money tucked in three different places, I did not have a backup card tucked somewhere else. Actually I did have a backup card but I kept it in my purse which was robbed. Which is ironic, since usually on all my other travels with friends and family, I always kept the backup card separate. I wish there were other things I should not have done. I wish I had calculated my finances properly so that I did not go almost flat broke in Prague. When you are alone, all these little mistakes can cost you heavily. Also I realised something. Even if you had planned A-Z of your trip, something will definitely go wrong. But those are the stories worth telling. Never give people the impression that you are single and easy to mingle if you don’t want to. I wish I hadn’t and it was difficult telling some guys off. That is the first assumption everyone makes when you say you are travelling alone.
Was it a liberating experience?
Of course it was. It was a high that I had never experienced before in my life. I had so many experiences and I wouldn’t have had them if I had gone with others. There was no one to tie me down and I could go wherever I wanted to. At the end of every day, I was amazed at the number of things I had managed to do by myself in that day. Being intentionally lost in the streets of Europe was something I enjoyed. I did nothing but eat, sleep and walk around in the rain in Paris. I realized early on that the sun sets only after 9:30 PM. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a morning person. Unless I had to catch a train, bus or a sunset, I never got up early in the morning. I went and wept alone at the Anne Frank house and I know that if I had gone with friends, I would have never gotten the chance. I went and saw an Opera at the Vienna Opera house. Even though I realized I was too young for opera, I would never have gone if I had gone with someone else. Learning how to navigate public transportation, learning how to sign to someone who doesn’t speak English, exploring new cuisines all by myself, making new friends and just soaking in the beauty of the place were things I cherished. The first time I filled up petrol by myself, when I drove all around Algarve by myself, when I went salsa dancing in Madrid with my new friends. The list of ‘firsts’ is endless. When you are lost in your own thoughts, you are better equipped to see the beauty of this world.
What didn’t I like about solo travel?
The luggage. When you are traveling all around Europe, then that means you would be catching multiple buses, trains or flights. Every time, lugging the luggage all by myself around European cities was not a fun task. Especially after I fell in Lisbon, it was not an easy task lifting the heavy luggage. Even if you had to pee, you could not leave your baggage unattended for more than 2 minutes in the restroom. Also when I was sitting alone in a Spanish police station at 2 in the morning, was one of very few times I wished there was someone with me.
Would I recommend solo travel for Indian female travellers?
Yes I would. As long as you are sensible and do not do anything utterly foolish, you will be fine. Be open to change and you will have a gala time. Just don’t wait until your thirties like me to start traveling alone. Yes as an Indian, I know we are conditioned to think that we cannot travel on our own. Why don’t you try it and see what I am talking about? After all we prove our worth every day fighting the gender inequality in this country.
I know I couldn’t have done it without the support of my crazy family. I know I gave my mom many sleepless nights but that she would have had that even if I was travelling with someone else. So thank you for being ‘My crazy family’.
On Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016, get a drink, swap more such stories and interact with a community of like-minded singles who are passionate travellers at The Dark Room, Bricklane Grill. To participate click here.
To steer the evening you will also get to hear enthralling travel stories from 4 intrepid Floh members who will be sharing unforgettable and often humourous anecdotes from the road. You will also get a chance to plan a trip to locations that you’ve always wanted to visit, but didn’t know who to travel with. 🙂