Let’s start with this proverb– You are never going to feel like stepping out of your comfort zone. A push is always to be required. If you are searching for that motivation to travel or restart the travel, I would encourage you to read my story below. Do not forget to write your comment below, after reading or relating with my story.
A little about me for you
I am an Indian woman who is on the wrong side of fifty. I have been traveling solo since 2015. I love to travel very much, and my parents also loved to travel in the same way. My father used to organize self-planned trips and I was always his assistant in my teen years.
Due to some unavoidable circumstances, I could not travel for more than twenty years. But I kept all my passion at the bottom of my heart. As soon as I became a little burden-free, I revived traveling.
A bit of travel in me
Being brought up in a conservative environment I was not much acquainted with the outer world. Initially, I started traveling with my son. But at a certain point in time, I had to decide to travel alone. At first, I sought help from travel agencies.
Although it is comfortable, with no burden to select the accommodation or arrange conveyance, I found them unsatisfactory. I found it expensive to travel through a decent agency.
At last, when a trip organized by Uttarakhand Government canceled, I took the initiative to undertake planning on my own. I needed that push.
Although I was very scared at the beginning of the journey, somehow, I managed to complete it successfully.
My realization after the first solo trip.
After my first solo trip, I realized that I could travel alone, and it is much more convenient for a travel freak person like me.
I always found most people cooperating with me. I had small but overwhelming experiences during my first solo trip.
When I reached Govind Ghat at dusk after finishing my trip, I searched for a hotel. I got a very good hotel room at a very low cost. The manager delivered my dinner to the room and arranged a car the next early morning to go to Badrinath. 4 sadhus hitchhiked in my car from Hanuman Chatti. When I got down at the jeep stand a person came to me and said he could lead me to the mandir and carried my luggage all along. I fed him breakfast. He dropped me at jeep stand in the end.
When I asked him, what charge did he expect, he said, “Jo aapki marzi”. I paid him 200 rupees. He was overwhelmed. Somebody told me later those 50 rupees was enough but carrying my rucksack walking more than 2 km, arranging “pind daan”, I could not think less than that.
On top of all his wide smile was my best gift. Hill people are not greedy. I found “pandas” greedier who arranged “pind daan” at Badinath Dham.
Help is always there when needed
I stayed one day at Karnprayag. In the afternoon few persons were sitting in the hotel lobby. I needed to buy some medicine. I inquired about the direction of the medicine shop. One person advised me to roam around and visit the places of attraction at Karnprayag. I told him that I could see it was raining in the nearby hills, so I did not think it would be wise to stay outside. He assured me that there was no such chance.
As soon as I went to the “sangam”, confluence of Pindar and Alaknanda river, it started raining cats and dogs. I waited almost two hours in a building at the ghat chatting with sadhus. Later I came back and finding the same person there I severely admonished him for misleading me. He grinned widely in response.
The next day after visiting all the places in the morning I took breakfast, and the manager asked an attendant to carry my luggage to the jeep that was going for Rudrapayag. I sat in the jeep comfortably and saw with astonishment the face of that man in a banner with Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi. I realized that he was the MLA of that area and the owner of the hotel.
The how and why of solo travel?
Normally travel agencies organize tours for some particular common itineraries. There is very little chance to include places of my choice in it.
Also, one has to pay extra charges if no other single female traveler is there to share a room. If one gets such another solo female partner, sometimes it is a bitter experience if the roommate is not cooperative and spoils the mood of the journey.
Finding a like-minded friend or a group of friends and adjusting vacation with them or finding places of common interest or being capable of affording the same budget is difficult.
Now I decide my itinerary, budget, timing, duration of the trip, everything on my own and according to my own choice. I love to travel in the interiors of the Himalayas where most people do not visit frequently.
How I plan a trip?
As I started traveling at a ripe age and I had lots of places on my bucket list for a long, I have no problem deciding the destinations.
For me, it is difficult to make frequent short trips. So, I cover a few places at a time. For example, when I visited Kalpeshar and Tunganath, I added Deoria Taal and Karthik Swami temple to my itinerary.
While coming down to Haridwar, I visited Khirshu and Kodiyala. Sometimes I choose new destinations too that I come across while planning my trips.
How I manage traveling solo in India?
When I revived traveling than I had finished all my duties towards my family and my son was financially independent. I have no desire left for dresses or jewelry like most other women and with my meager income, I never thought of buying my own apartment or car. So, whatever can I save I spend on traveling which is my only passion and desire.
I have seen young female mountaineers, who have a cooperating husband and family, manage to travel solo. Even nowadays I rarely meet young solo female or male enthusiastic travelers.
Conveyance during solo travel
Conveyance is an important issue for traveling alone. But one has to remember that there is always some means of public transport for the locals who do not have their own vehicles.
Maybe one does not get classy people to travel with, but one can come across a few hearty and helpful people.
I normally take public transport except for a few occasions. There is always a state transport communication system in every state.
But in the Himalayas, as the distances are too long and the roads are difficult, in some places only one or two buses are available for a whole day. They normally start early in the morning. In many places, there are shared Jeeps too. Conductors and drivers are also mostly congenial.
In Kumayun I found public transport scarce. However, at some places, locals gave me a lift for a few bucks.
Accommodation & Stay
During my initial two/three trips I booked accommodation in government tourist lodges from Kolkata. But I later realized that this is pretty inconvenient. Sometimes these lodges are quite distant from the local bus or jeep stands.
There is also a pressure of reaching there in time for the fear of losing advance booking amount. Nowadays I make spot bookings. I prefer to stay near the bus or jeep stands.
I have learned a little bargaining too, as I mostly travel in before or after the proper tourist season. During the season, due to great demand, it is difficult to get a concession.
Interaction with local people.
Traveling alone gives one a huge opportunity to interact with local people. They are also part of the place. I enjoy chatting with them and make my experiences rich by talking to them.
On many occasions, I have found them surprised seeing me alone. Some of them are very sympathetic to me for not having any companion and try to help me or protect me. It happened on quite a few occasions.
Once I was traveling to Gopeshwar (Uttarakhand) from Chamoli by shared jeep. When the Jeep stopped at a marketplace everyone got down from the car. I asked the driver if we had reached the destination.
A person who sat beside me in the jeep asked my whereabouts. Knowing that I was traveling alone he became very protective and advised me to travel with a guardian always.
He insisted and took me to the nearby GMVN tourist lodge saying that it would be the safest place for me to stay and requested the manager to look after me.
My experience with local people?
In Lachung (North Sikkim) my homestay owner was a woman. She was very good and helpful. In the evening her elder brother-in-law came from Gangtok with a group of tourists.
Hearing that I was traveling alone he expressed worry. He warned me that they would not accommodate me if I came alone again. During the time of departure, he came to escort me with my luggage up to the Jeep and asked the driver to drop me safely.
In Shimla, a Himachali family gave me shelter at night because the bus was late and there was no means to reach any hotel from the new Inter-state Bus Stand. I still feel love and respect for them for helping me in such a situation.
I have no bitter experience during my travel except a few on the train.
Taking care of my food during travel?
I have heard from many people that they have problems with food while traveling. I do not have any choice of food except they are properly cooked and hygienically severed.
I can eat vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian food. I enjoy local cuisine too. I always keep few packets of peanut chikki as backup food. Peanut is very nutritious, and Gur (Jaggery) gives energy.
Disadvantages of traveling solo.
There are a few disadvantages also for traveling alone. First, in some places, there is no one to keep custody of the luggage.
Second, some places can only be reached by car, and there is no scope for hitchhiking or sharing. In that case, one has to hire a full car which is not always affordable.
There is always a fear of getting severely sick, and though locals, drivers, hotel managers, etc. are helpful, sometimes one may feel the need of a proper acquaintance who can take you home or can inform home for help.
I am fortunate till now that I never have fallen into such a situation.
Once I became sick with a severe allergy at Barkul (Lake Chilika, Odissa). I had no medicine for allergy with me. I asked for help at OTDC help desk where I was staying. They took me to the doctor, and he gave me medicine at no cost.
Dos and don’ts in your solo travel
It is wrong to think that for a female solo traveler India is not safe. Most places are safe. Provinces of the Himalayas are very safe, except few crowded places like Haridwar where there are lots of people from other provinces. Kerala, Odissa are also quite safe for female travelers.
While traveling alone one should do some homework about the places and make an itinerary accordingly, though sometimes homework fails, and one has to use the presence of mind as per the situation.
One must carry minimum luggage and necessary emergency medicines. Power bank, torch, duplicate chargers are also necessary because they are not available everywhere. It is better to be self-sufficient as much as possible. In the interiors of India, there is always a chance of power cuts. BSNL and recently Jio, mobile networks work in the interiors of the Himalayas. One must carry some cash because ATMs do not work always everywhere.
One should not carry or wear costly jewelry. People in our country are mostly poor and we should not tempt others by showing off. We must remember that we are going to see the beauty of the places, but not to show ourselves.
While traveling it is always best to wake up early and sleep early. When I travel, I prefer to enter the hotel or homestay before it is getting dark. I eat dinner early and wake up early. A full eight-hour sleep makes me fresh to travel again the next day.
If you are traveling alone, it is better not to indulge in any kind of intoxication. I have seen many people go out, especially men in groups, for having things that are forbidden at home. If you feel to have some you may buy it and come back to your room and then have it.
While traveling alone one must always be decent with the local people and avoid unwanted arguments. The pilgrims and pilgrimages are to be dealt with with due respect and the rules and regulation of the places are to be followed.
Why I want to travel.
In my childhood, I traveled with my parents and enjoyed myself with them. I am a nature lover and a sensitive person with a poetic mind. So, I learned to enjoy and overcome the inconvenience of traveling since then. I could not travel for long, but I always missed it very much.
As soon as I got the chance back a revived the habit of traveling. I enjoy every part of it. Even the trouble I face while traveling does not make my spirit low.
Now I cannot go for a long trek due to my health issues but still, I can manage small treks and I think traveling rejuvenates my mind, and do not want to waste the opportunity that I got.
When I travel alone from place to place with my rucksack on my back, I feel as free as a nomad.
My future travel plans
I shall try to continue my traveling as long as my health permits, but I have to plan accordingly. Now I make an itinerary for 10/12 days to cover few places at a time. When I shall grow old and won’t be able to move that way, I shall go to one place and enjoy nature there.
I have few places on my bucket list abroad too. I am preparing and planning to execute them. Rest I leave on Almighty. Hey, have you read out my story and experience on doing solo trekking to the magical Valley of flowers?
Let’s finish my long article on solo travel in India with beautiful poetry. Please let me know, your thought on the state and experience of “solo travel in India” in the comment below. Also, if you can rate my article by clicking stars.
I shall be ever happy if I can inspire someone to travel alone.
“sair kar duniyā kī ġhāfil zindagānī phir kahāñ
zindagī gar kuchh rahī to ye javānī phir kahāñ” – Khwaja Meer Dard.