Travelling Solo that too by females in the conservative societies always raises eyebrows. Most people find it weird and not worth the risk involved. There are concerns on loneliness during the travel as much as on the safety and security. I guess a bit of that comes from the fact that traditionally women were not too well versed with the outside world, they were obviously lesser in number in places like hotels or lodges and the families were not confident if women can manage on their own. Even after so many of us have travelled alone for work or for pleasure, it still makes a curious case for most people when you tell them that you love to travel alone.
After I had travelled alone many times including to some remote locations, someone asked me what is it that I loved about travelling alone and that made me think about it. I took a step back and questioned why do I travel in the first place. Looking back I realized that I travel to cut off from my existing world and I travel to engage with a world that is very different from mine. I travel to meet those people whom I would never meet in my day-to-day life, where I mostly meet people who are more or less like me. I travel to find the basic common denominator shared by all living human civilizations and the to find the differences or characteristics that make each of us unique in our own ways. I like to sit back and observe the land and its people sometimes and at other times I participate in their lives through conversations.
Sometimes I am like an ethnographer, who likes to be a participant observer. At the same time I am also an ambassador of my own culture and land. I learn about the place I am visiting through my direct and indirect interactions while I also dispel myths about my city, country, community, caste, religion, and gender. There is some kind of osmosis that starts happening and the end of it I know a lot about the place I visited and a few people know me, or what I stand for.
Next I tried to find a logical, rational answer to why I like to travel Solo. I figured that biggest reason for my preference for Solo travelling is the fact that when you travel alone you are hundred percent in the place beneath your feet. There is no constant reminder of the place you have come from and you will be going back to. When you travel with your spouse, you may keep going through your to do lists and keep reminding each other of what needs to be done after you go back, or you may keep comparing this trip to the one of the earlier ones. When you travel with friends, you keep going back to the common thing that binds you be it the school you went together to, or the office you shared or the hobbies that you pursue. Even when you travel in groups where you do not know anyone on day one, by second day you would have found something common with everyone.
This focus on the common does not let you immerse completely in the place, and whatever extent you manage to immerse it is difficult to be non-judgmental. The moment you start comparing, the judgment creeps in and takes away the joy of sheer immersion. I have been able to suspend my judgment when I travelled alone, that in itself is a pleasure that we hardly get in our routine lives. In fact most of the times I try and travel without the gadgets that keep me connected to my home. Just make one call home a day to tell them I am fine and be ensured that everything back home is OK, and spend the rest of the 23 hours 55 minutes in the place you are. Stories can be shared once I am back. Internet is used only to get information about the place and not to engage with people and activities that will again pull me into my home world.
Next to the being bound to your roots comes the extent of freedom. We know that attachments always take away a bit of our freedom and more the attachments more the loss of freedom. No matter how considerate your co-travelers are, they do take away a bit of your freedom. Each of us has our own way of travelling, our choices of what we like to do and our own pace to see a place. I like to go for early morning walks, I like to see the place waking up, when people are yet to wear their masks, when they are yet to wear their roles and responsibilities, when their thoughts are still pure and when they are not really conscious of the world around them. Now to get up early morning is not an exciting idea for most people who travel to relax. I like to sit and chat with common people and listen to their thoughts, and it takes some effort to make people comfortable to be able to talk to you, and let go of the walls that separate you.
Not many people are willing to invest that kind of effort in opening channels with apparently insignificant people. Sometimes I want to spend whole day in a museum studying the artifacts and reading the material and talking to people who know more about the displays there. Museums are again not a great favorite with many people. The crux is that when I am alone I am in complete control of my time and can engage in activities that I truly enjoy without any need to oblige anyone or to return an obligation. Imagine studying a museum when you know someone outside is wasting his or her time because of your love for the subject. Even that guilt takes away some joy and you try to compensate it somewhere else, by going to places where you may not go if you were travelling alone.
An obvious corollary of the freedom is the flexibility. Real travelers travel with a curiosity in their hearts and minds, which means they keep their eyes and ears open for anything that they have not expected from the trip. They are always open to a new experience – be it a conversation about a subject they know nothing about, a new taste, a new place, a new perspective or just about anything. To truly experience this, the plans need to be flexible, you should willing to change your plans on the go, or trade off your existing plans for the new ones instantly. It is easy when you are on your own and can take all your decisions yourself without having to discuss or negotiate with anyone.
If you have travelled alone at some point in time, you would have experienced all my rational and logical reasons to some extent.
My next question was what do I really yearn for that a solo travel promises to provide me. Let me share a sensitive experience that I have had as and when I travelled alone. When I am plugged out from my routine life, in an entirely new setting where everything is new to me, I have all the freedom and control of my time and space, I see the birth of poetry in me. I do not make an effort, it just happens. The visuals and experiences just take the shape of rhyming words and flow on paper or the keypad. I just sit there like an observer through which the experiences translate themselves into words. Words that describe the place, describe the tender relationship between the place and me, the new realizations, new insights and the new feelings. Poetry happens when you are sensitive to the surroundings, when you can sense beyond the obvious, bond with the subconscious. For some reasons, it always happens when I travel alone. Does that mean that travelling alone makes me far more sensitive to the environment I am in? – Definitely yes. It lets me bond with the surroundings, it lets me be a part of it and somehow those days that I have spent there become a part of the place as much as they become a part of me. There is a sharing that happens. The place remains an alien when I am not alone, because I am not giving it my hundred percent.
Yes, there are some inconveniences in travelling alone, it can be boring at times, it definitely works out costlier but when I weigh them against the experiences that it gives me, I prefer to choose it over any other kind of travel.
About the Author:
Innovation Consultant (Hyderabad)
An avid traveler and blogger, Anuradha’s blog has been featured in the top 50 travel blogs in the world, and is regularly listed among the best blogs of the country. She used to be an IT professional working with global giants like Coca Cola and Infosys, before she gave in to travelust. In her own words:
“I am an eternal nomad, having lived in 14 cities across the country and couple of them outside. At the moment Hyderabad is home to me. I think I was born to roam around. If road was a city or a country, I am sure I would be one of its citizens.
Some accolades came on the way like this blog was rated as one of the 50 best blogs on travel around the world. It constantly features in the best blog lists of India. I was interviewed by the P7 channel as a Travel Guru.“