As most people know, I love travelling on my own and it so happens that most of my travels have been solo travel. I had done an earlier post about how fun it is doing trips on your own. I do know it is not everyone’s cup of tea and that is perfectly fine! There are a few who keep talking about travelling on their own, but just don’t do it, cos they are unable to get themselves to do it. They need to accept it and let it be, instead of harping on it.
Another thing that most people assume is that just cos I travel on my own, it means I don’t have friends or am a loner. I am not, trust me! I plan these trips on my own cos I love it and I enjoy my space & freedom when I am off exploring a new town. I don’t get scared, or even if there are moments of uncertainty, I just take a moment, breath and figure out a solution. Nothing is rocket science or life threatening. If it does get to that point, am sure I will find someone to rescue me…
So, is there a flip side to travelling solo? Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it flip side, but yes there are a few sticky points in this. Actually I have so far faced only two issues.
1. Photographs –
Well, when you are exploring a new town, you go about enjoying the scenes, sights, and devour the local treats. There are bound to be a few landmark buildings that you click pictures of. But then when you want a picture in front of the place, it becomes a “what do I do now” kinda moment. There have been so many trips where I have not a single picture of myself at the location. But over the years, I have started asking other travellers or a local to click my picture. This time during my USA trip, I asked someone or the other at literally every spot to click a picture of mine. I did click a few selfies, but then am not comfortable with that and invariably the picture looks weird. And then there is the whole “is anyone watching me shamelessly click a picture of myself”… lol
2. Looking out for your things while you go do an activity –
I was in Goa, at Calangute beach and spotted a few parasailers and others on the jet skis. I so badly wanted to give both a shot but then I had my backpack with me which contained everything from cash, to room keys to my ID, cards etc. What do I do? There were no locker facilities or a safe place to put these. And so, I spent nearly an hour walking up and down the place, all the while my eyes and mind was keen on doing these activities. It did notice a family that was staying at the same place as I was, and smiled at them. In a few minutes, we were yapping away about how hot it was and so on. I don’t know if it was telepathy or the man had been watching me stare longingly at the para sailers/jet ski, but he suggested I go give them a shot. When I hesitated, he immediately said don’t worry, you can leave your bag with us. It will get wet and you wouldn’t wanna get your things wet/lost in the process. His wife chimed in and reassured me. I decided to throw caution to the wind and do just that. Phew, it was such a relief to come back to the shore and see them holding onto my bag.. God bless them! The kids were so curious to know how the activities were and we yapped a while before going our separate ways!! Not sure if I will trust people so willingly everywhere….
Shall also try to answer some of the other questions I have heard about solo travel….
1. Are there certain places in the country/world that you feel is best/suited for solo travel?
You can go anywhere you wish to, there are no set places that are suited for solo travel… I disagree with those who specify cities or countries saying they are better, others are not, etc.. I have travelled across our country, and outside been to 3 countries, and have found all suitable for single women/men travellers. Bottomline, it all depends on how smart and careful you are, so go ahead, pull out the map, plan a trip and go have a blast…
2. How scary is it to travel alone?
Again, why scary? What is the big worry that most people have when going away alone is something I cant wrap my head around. Having said that, I have come to realise that travelling solo is not everyone’s cup of tea, not everyone can do it and it is fine. Do not put pressure on yourself to travel alone just cos you are fascinated with someone you met/read. And when you do get away on your own, do not be afraid, do not let fear take over, and if it feels too much and you get overwhelmed, its fine, just chill at the hotel and fly back to your home/base. NO harm!
3. What kind of things [related to personal safety] should one carry when travelling alone?
I personally don’t carry anything… But have read about pepper spray and small pocket knives that you could carry along [just to feel safe, if not for anything else]. I rely on my intuition and am quite aware of my surroundings when out & about, and touch wood, so far, haven’t had any nasty experiences or unsafe moments. When back in the hotel/hostel, just make sure you know where your things are, and lock the room.
4. Is it ok to hang out with strangers when in a new town?
I have done this couple of times… as mentioned above, keep your senses alert, make sure you know your way back to where you are staying, and have a phone with enough charge to book a cab/call someone in case of trouble. The one thing I would advice is not get drunk or lose control of yourself when in the midst of people you have just met. At the end of the day, you have no one but yourself to blame…
When heading to Goa, I met this couple in the train. We made plans to meet up when in Goa, and spent a few hours hanging out.. I usually decide based on how I feel around people & how they behave after a few minutes as well. In New York, I was at a Jazz club, when a guy came over, asked if he could buy me a drink, I politely refused but did chit chat for a while…
5. Food and water- how do you manage?
When in a new destination, I like to try local stuff- food & drinks.But then it is a personal choice, so try whatever you are comfortable with. Water, I do regular water, but do carry a bottle which I refill from restaurants/wherever I am staying.. When going to try street side stalls, pick up a bottle of water before you get there, or grab one at the 1st place you visit.
When I was in Odisha, I happen to meet an auto driver who had grown up in Chennai, who invited me home and I got to try the Dahi Pakala with his parents. This time in Kolkata, I tried Egg tadka similarly in US, I tried churros, pretzels, pizza…. That apart, I also try local dishes, open to experimenting with flavours and cuisines. I don’t miss home food, so it works for me!
Similarly, when ordering food, enquire about spice levels… it is always good to have bottle of water with you, or order a drink/juice.. I have this habit of carrying cereal bars/chocolate, which come in handy when I am out all day exploring places. I take a small bite every now and then, keeps my sugar levels in check and helps when I don’t get to take a break for a while.
6. Interacting with locals/taking photos
I always ask permission before taking anyone’s photo, and show them the picture afterward as well. I remember asking this gypsy lady in Goa, for which replied “yes, you can , provided you buy something from me”… 🙂 But then In Jaipur, did see a bunch of local guys try taking picture with a white lady, telling her they wanted a pic with her and did not want her boyfriend in it… I have seen similar things in Goa as well. Don’t know why our men are fascinated with skin and white skin, but it just pisses me off.. especially when the other person does not get their intention or is aware of their crass behaviour…
When travelling to Delhi, have been warned way too many times to be safe, not go out at night… It is either my good luck or fortune, I have had good experiences, even been helped by random men at night [ that’s a story on its own, shall share soon]
What are the other issues[if any] you have faced when travelling alone? Any scary/terrifying/awkward instances ? Do share…