People who travel solo for the first time either describe it as a 'religious' experience or a scary one! Travelling alone can be very intimidating for someone who isn't used to it. Single travel does have its issues - safety, boredom, loneliness etc. However, it can also be a great opportunity for self-indulgence. You can do what you want to do, be flexible about timings and trip plans. Most importantly your failures are your own and your accomplishments feel even better. We have done quite a few solo trips between us - from my scary experience to Kolli Hills, to Archana's hitchhiking trip to the North East.
So from our experience we would like to share a few tips about solo travel.
The biggest concern during solo travel, especially for women in India is safety and emergency situations. So here are a few tips for stay safe and be prepared for anything.1. Keep your family informed of your travel plans. Your location, mode of transport, dates and contact numbers of hotels should be shared with them
2. Review hotels/homestays thoroughly before you book them. Stay in properties that are well-connected to the roads and have mobile connectivity. Use a mobile operator that has good network. We travel to remote places and have found BSNL to have the best connectivity
3. Learn a little about the culture, language and people of the place you are visiting. Some common words wouldn't be that difficult to learn and could help you out a lot!
4. Do not travel alone at night or in deserted places
5. Try and avoid flashy clothes/jewelery/electronics. Don't flaunt your belongings and be alert while using your wallet. Better to leave jewelery at home
6. Always be aware of your surroundings. Being alert helps in most times and is a habit that needs to be inculcated over time
7. Carry pepper spray or a pocket knife if you can
8. Don' get into tussles with the locals. Respect their space and privacy and you should do fine most of the time.
9. We also have the habit of sharing our location on WhatsApp with our family, whenever we can
10. Ensure location services are enabled on your phone with 3G/4G data turned on always, in the absence of wi-fi
11. Know your limits with alcohol. While travelling alone, you need to be in control of yourself at ALL times
When we initially traveled solo, we sometimes felt bored due to the lack of company. Over time we realised that solo travelling gives us an excellent opportunity to connect with ourselves and the locals. Some tips to stay engaged (without TV or internet).1. Talk to locals whenever you can. You will find that you will learn so much more about the place and the culture than the internet has to offer. Sometimes you will come across amazing people with fascinating stories to share. Most of us have reservations about talking to strangers and this is an excellent opportunity to step outside your comfort zone. You will find this helpful in connecting with people in your professional and personal life
2. Make a list of places/activities you'd want to cover. That way you don't waste time at the location and make full use of your time
3. Take a book or some videos with you just in case. I was once caught in a storm in a jungle without power and internet and the videos I had in my phone helped me pass the scary night! Read about that experience here
1. Power banks, even if you have access to plug points. Also carry a spare phone if you have access to one
2. Torch - although most mobiles have one built-in, they are nothing compared to an actual torch. Must have for people who travel to remote places and wildlife destinations. We spotted a leopard once by accidentally shining the torch lights on trees opposite our room! Having a torch also helps you save precious battery life on your phone
3. Spare specks/contacts, if you wear any
4. Medicines - we generally carry stuff for cold, headaches, fever and loose motions
5. Spare keys for your car/bike
6. Car/bike spares. We own a KTM and don't have access to spares everywhere we travel
7. Hardcopy of important phone numbers. Yes! I don't think a lot of us remember our family or friends phone numbers so do carry a printout of a few numbers
8. Packaged water, if your susceptible to upsetting your stomach with anything else
9. Spare cash/ID that's not in your wallet
10. A Matchbox and a candle. You never know when you would need to light a fire either to protect you against cold or at times even darkness
Advantages of Solo Travel
1. You'll become a problem solver - when faced with difficult situations you will automatically use your creativity and experience to get out of them
2. It will give you great professional skill sets like heightened confidence, ability to connect with people, dealing with ambiguity, adaptability, and the experience of doing something yourself
3. Improved attitude - since we started travelling solo, we realised we have become more open to changes, friendlier, calmer at the face of adversity and learnt how to bring out the creative side inside of us. We have become more accommodating, understanding and have learnt to let go of our egos
4. Decision making skills do improve more as you do solo travels. You are in charge of your own travel and every decision you make impacts the success of your trip
5. You become a story-teller. You will have so many experiences and fond memories that you will tend to share them with others. It happens a lot with us when we engage others in stories /pictures of all our travel destinations
6. You will become brave - with no backup around you, you will learn to take care of yourself and be comfortable making your own decisions
We hope this helps make up your mind about solo travel or prepare you better for it. We'll keep adding to this list as and when we go on more solo travels or collect info from others. Solo travel is highly underrated and needs to be experienced once at least. The experience is highly liberating, empowering and will leave you with increased confidence in yourself.