After all the posts and stories I had read on social media about more and more women travelling alone these days, I was not really prepared for the reactions that I got. One of the most surprising comments came from a guest house owner in a tiny town of Maharashtra. In his words, “It’s okay for foreigner females travelling alone in India. We have all seen that. But now when I am seeing an Indian doing it, it’s strange. You are brave.” He had a genuine smile on his face and even innocence in his thought but it was disturbing for me.
I had not gone on a trip alone until 2 months back and now I can’t imagine not doing it again. I am all for it and there are absolutely safe ways to do it – not foolproof of course – even a group holiday in Europe doesn’t come with a guarantee card. I have taken 3 trips in last two months, to Uttarakhand, Kerala, Maharashtra and Goa, for a total of 35 days. Each conversation I had, from the Airbnb host to fellow travelers, started with one common question, “Are you travelling alone?” and their faces suddenly started to look like a big question mark, even though the answer was a simple 'Yes'. It’s like when someone talks to me about ‘arranged marriage’ or ‘fashion trends’. The concepts will always remain alien to me.
I met people who could not understand the ‘yes’ and were probably expecting me to say things like – ‘No, my husband is around’ or ‘No, I am waiting for a bunch of friends’ or may be ‘Yes, because you know what, I am a lunatic!’. This is when I am only talking about the strangers. The people I called friends, reacted bizarrely – more on that later.
There were those who looked happy, even thrilled by the idea but they still had that weird expression asking “Why would you do that?” or “How does that even work?” Some people asked me these questions out loud and I was more than ready to answer. In fact by the end of a small talk, this guy in Varkala was actually pleased and told me he’s meeting a solo traveler for the 1st time as if it was an achievement in itself. A lot of people wished me luck but it was something new for everyone nonetheless.
I had thought that by now, at least a large set of people would be really comfortable with the idea of Indian women exploring their own country by themselves as much as they were comfortable about Indian women starving for their husband's long life, but clearly, I was wrong.
We really need to start travelling alone – both men and women actually, just like we really need to stop throwing garbage out of a car window, stop training children for a job instead of skills, stop producing kids at a speed of light and rather adopt the ones lying abandoned.
People need to know it’s completely okay to wander anywhere on your own. I know things are better than they were 8 years ago and it may not be ideal in the next 15, but just like several other developments our country needs, this could be a big one, if only we want.
Have you ever traveled solo? Why/Why not? Let me know in the comments.