Tread the solo route

July 23, 2014, DHNS:

The top most benefit of a solo holiday is finding out that you can do it! Also, that no one is present around you to dictate how your holiday should be is an icing on the cake, avows Reshma Krishnamurthy Sharma.

A recent blockbuster Hindi film, Queen, traced the story of a young woman, Rani (Kangana Ranaut), from a conservative family, who decides to go solo on her honeymoon trip, after her fiance calls off the wedding. Her journey of self-discovery, while making for a delightful movie, also drives home the reality of space, individuality and freedom that most Indian women crave for in our patriarchal setup.

There’s a lot of apprehension regarding a woman travelling alone. Indian parents, no matter how old and mature their daughters are, put their foot down on solo travel, and certainly don’t give in to their wishes without a fight. To add to it, increasing crime rate against women does not paint a happy picture for a lady who wants to go on a trip alone.

Few though they might be, there are Indian women who travel on their own. Says Shivya Nath, a travel blogger, “While on the outset it may seem like not many Indians travel solo, I think more women are taking the plunge, or at least opening up to the idea of travelling alone.

 It’s the reason why I took to blogging and writing, because I wanted to share the joys of going solo, of finding friends in strangers, of learning to trust your own gut, and the sheer liberation you feel when you discover a place on your own terms.” 

Another trend catching up with young women is that of going on a solo trip just before they get married. They believe that’s a privilege every girl should have before she goes from being a maiden to a wife.

Reminiscing her holiday in Singapore last year, Meghana Srivatsa says, “I knew I had to fulfill my dream of going on a holiday far away from home before I was married. With a husband, it will always be ‘us time’ rather than ‘me time’, and it was important for me to be on my own for once. So when my wedding was about to be finalised, I quickly chartered out my travel plan and took off to Singapore for a week. It was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.”

Karnataka, North Kerala, Meghalaya, and even the Spiti Valley in the Himalayas are amazingly safe for women travellers, as are Singapore, Southern Spain, Bahrain and New Zealand. True, few destinations might not be all that women-friendly, but they might not be dangerous either.

Contrary to the general notions, it doesn’t take a herculean effort to stay safe during a solo trip. Simple measures like staying at hostels or crowded hotels and not staying on the outskirts – especially while abroad – carrying pepper sprays, not wandering off alone in the dark, eating in a restaurant close to your booked hotel, keeping your family members updated enroute, using the services of a trusted travel agency and the like will do.

Travel enthusiast and blogger, Mariellen Ward, explains how to take baby steps on that all-exciting journey. “If you are a first-timer, begin with a weekend jaunt to a nearby town. It makes sense to pack light. You can repeat your clothes and not carry unnecessary items like makeup kits, jewellery and more than two pairs of shoes.”

The experience of going solo is sometimes mightier and more important than the destination itself. It does not even matter if you got around to doing everything on your bucket list while at the destination; the fact that you managed a solo trip in itself can feel like a huge achievement. The top most benefit of a solo holiday is finding out that you can do it! You will find that you are stronger and more capable than you think.

It will give you a huge boost of confidence and pride, making you feel more alive than you have ever felt before. An added perk, apart from discovering yourself, is that no one is present around you to dictate how your holiday should be; you may sleep like a log or wake up early and not miss a beautiful sunrise because of somebody else!

Says Padmini Balaram, who is in her early sixties, and indulges in solo travel every now and then, “After I retired from my career in banking, I wanted to travel around the world, a wish that had been long pending in my life.

When I found that my family and friends were not as keen, I decided to travel solo, and I am extremely glad to have done that. I can fulfill my travel fancies, without having to accommodate others’ convenience or budgets. It is quite liberating!”

Make a solo trip safe with a sound plan. Because when you have a plan, you will be confident about handling any emergencies that might come your way, and soon, you will be hooked to the concept. Even if you decide to never go solo again, it’ll be an experience to remember.

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