When you travel solo,
The cold air whispers in your ears,
The tall buildings signal you from the rooftop,
The food you taste kisses your sweet tongue,
And the stranger besides you instantly becomes your friend.
That is what solo travel does to you;
It digs deeper into you and gives you wings to fly,
Like a seagull over a vast sea of serendipities.
- Yours truly
Said some female solo traveller once, and the whole world thought how cool, courageous and mettlesome she was. But little do they know the downsides of travelling solo, and even more of being an ‘Indian female solo traveller’.
Travelling solo requires a lot of guts and to have the audacity to that as a woman is quite a feat. This write-up is an ode to all the daring and gutsy females out there who have broken the shackles and followed their heart. It is a shout-out to their adventurous spirits, it is a homage to their dashing personalities. We salute their admiration and love for travel.
Let's debunk the stereotypical image of a female solo traveller and the taboos associated with it.
1. It is not all that rosy, but it is definitely not that hard
It is not all that ‘Jab We Met’; you won’t just leave your house with a backpack and meet your Romeo. No, you may not find a lover and live a happy married life. But one thing is for sure, you will fall in love with yourself and you’ll discover things about yourself that you never knew.
2. We are not heart-broken or in search of love
As per Indian logic, if you are travelling solo (whether you are a man or a woman), you have just broken up or are facing trouble getting over it. Well, if you think this, you are definitely watching too much of Bollywood. We do admire Rani from the movie Queen. Her attitude to honeymoon alone in Europe is impressive. However, that's fictional. In reality, it may not be true. While there might be a few heartbreak-stimulated travellers, not all are the same.
3. We are not always available
This is the most common and most irritating stereotype a woman has to face ever. Being bold and confident doesn’t make us available; it doesn’t make us an easy target. We are not vulnerable, nor are we sensitive. It is time that people change the way they look at us and treat us with due respect.
4. We are as afraid as anyone else is
This is a very important point. We don’t mean that solo female travellers are timid. We are just stating a fact here. Yes, it does scare us when the bus suddenly takes a halt at an eerie looking dhaba and people around you talk in an alien dialect. Yes, it does scare us a lot, but what stands out is that we muster courage and follow our heart anyway. Here’s a message to everyone who’s scared - it is perfectly normal. Just don’t let your qualmish fears defeat your journey.
5. Solo travel is a choice, not an option!
It doesn’t mean that we don’t like people or find no company to travel, neither does it mean that we find it tough to get along with people. It simply means that we love travelling solo. It means that we love pushing away from our comfort zone and seek deeper sense in experiencing a whole new world all by ourselves.
6. We are as comfortable with ourselves as we are with others
Solo travellers are often comfortable in their own company. We don’t get bored even if we are alone. Our happiness is not derived from the people we are with, but with the experiences we share. We can befriend a local as easily as we talk to our lifelong buddies.
7. We haven’t abandoned our family / husband / kids / job or the like
This is an extremely annoying perception that a travelling-female has to deal with - solo or not. If you travel a lot, you don’t care about the conventional things in life. We haven’t abandoned our folks and friends. In fact, their undying encouragement and support gives us the courage to travel so much and follow our passion.
8. Not all solo travellers are hippies
Another preconceived notion that the Indian society holds is that all solo travellers are nonconformist. Well, while some do get joy in ‘hippy’ things, all may not be the same.
9. We are not ‘out of our minds’
Don’t you get that ‘are-you-out-of-your-mind-look’ everytime you tell someone that you are travelling alone? That can be irksome. People need to know and accept the fact that travelling solo is not madness or unusual. Agreed that it is not common, but people need to stop looking at us like we are imbeciles. We travel solo, because that is what we exactly want.
10. It’s time we stop judging them
Points 1-9, that is what we need to stop doing right away. We don’t need to think of them as heartbroken, mad, crazy, careless, misfits, introverts, extroverts or anything at all. Just let them be. Live and let live. C'est la vie!
Author: Winnie Karnik