“You’re Here Alone?” Why Every Woman Needs At Least One Solo Trip
In my experience, if you can handle a solo trip – good, bad and ugly – you’ve won half the battle in the real world.
It was minutes into ordering the first bowl of Maggi. It was served in a stainless steel dome-shaped plate, with a stainless steel spoon, and oozed goodness – the kind of goodness you need after you’ve navigated four hours of hilly terrain in shoes that are really better fitted for gravelled sidewalks.
It was minutes into ordering that first bowl of Maggi – and seconds into ladling hot noodles onto spoon, when I was interrupted. I turned around to see two young men, dressed for a weekend in the hills – think backpack, glares, the right shoes, the wrong accent – watching keenly.
“Yes?” I asked. “I’m sorry – but are you here alone?” one of them wondered. When I’d let him know that I was indeed ‘here’ alone, the duo quickly proceeded to tell me where they went to college in Delhi (they’d figured that was where I lived, too), and why they were in Lansdowne, Uttarakhand, that particular weekend.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Being a Solo Female Traveller...
They watched as I nodded politely, grinned as they refused to believe I didn’t go to college anymore and shifted ever so slightly towards my Maggi.
“So… we’ll leave you to it, then,” they ventured, casting a glance at the rest of the bunch that waited outside the café.
“See you around,” I returned with a smile, and watched as they left, only half-dejected towards the parking lot.
I returned to my Maggi with renewed vigour and a little more understanding.
I had just managed to convey to a bunch of male travellers that I would rather eat my soup and twist my noodles in a knot, than converse with them beyond a point. I also wondered if this would have gone as seamlessly in the plains.
You see, solo female travel is one of the more romantic chapters you’ll read in the manual of travelling plans. Here’s a woman travelling alone. Here’s why it’s so liberating. Here’s how she fought her demons. Here’s where she set foot where no one else did.
All true. All incredibly powerful. But that’s not the whole story.
It hasn’t been too long since I began travelling alone – perhaps a couple of years; three, if I’m being generous.
But if there’s one thing I’ve realised, it is that solo travel for a woman is really the microcosm of everything she faces on a daily basis, the good, the bad and the ugly.
It is the compartmentalised edition of the universe handed to you on a platter anytime you say – that’s it, I’m off to see the desert/the hills/the beach and its bums.
And that’s what makes solo travel so powerful. Because in my experience, if you’ve handled this, you’ve won half the battle in absentia.
The Friends You Make and the Men You Avoid
I travelled to Lansdowne in Uttarakhand for a weekend and I experienced fear, anxiety, earth-shattering happiness, the jubilation of my own company, the satisfaction of making an unlikely friend, the residual and familiar looking-over-the-shoulder-for-a- harasser borrowed from the real world... and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
At one point, trekking through the hills, my path was impeded by a speeding car that slowed down just long enough for a guy to pop his head out and ask me if I wanted a ride downhill. Years of fingers-inching-towards-anything-shaped-like-a-crowbar-in-a-dark-alley were hard to shake off, and I said no.
I’m still not sure if this was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but my travels have always been about instinct, and my refusals and my overt displays of eagerness when travelling alone are all honed on a sharp sub-set of instincts sharpened specifically for that.
Within minutes, I had perched myself on a rock alongside a little winding path that led to a church and begun rifling through my vacation read. I was soon joined by a group of nuns who settled down on a nearby precipice, smiled at me and left me be in companionable silence.
On my way downhill, when I lost my way, I was offered a ride again, by an army-man on a motorbike. This one I accepted, because I trusted my gut. It was rewarding that I did, though, because a large part of the undulating ride against a kaleidoscopic, setting sun involved conversations about our hometowns and how much we missed them.
This one superseded my anxiety to ride with strangers – even if for a conversation-rich 15 minutes.
And that is what the entire experience of solo travel proffered to me, cancelling out the bad with the good, the fears with the robust smiles.
If waiters at the cafes you frequent look askance as you say, “table for one, please”, remember, there will also be the chai store that I discovered whose owner and I became fast friends over one cup of chai.
“You’re a journalist?” said this septuagenarian. “I used to be one, 20 years ago.”
This delightful anecdote was peppered with the information that he’d moved to the hills eventually and never looked back – the kind of information that leaves you wistful about a ‘plain’ life.
Such is the microcosm of a solo trip. It allows you to immerse yourself wholly in the community you’re visiting, and occasionally – when you want to – switch off and perch atop a rock, read a book and smile at strangers.
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.