“If you don’t get out of the box you’ve been raised in, you won’t understand how much bigger the world is!”
Few years back, I never thought I would travel solo. It kind of just happened and I am glad it did, because it changed my life, it completely changed me as a person.
I want to stress that however much people bang on their gap year and travelling around the world on their own, solo travel doesn’t have to be this long winded month at a time affair. Solo travel can be as little as a few days away by yourself. It’s simply about making time for yourself and enjoying exactly what you want.
How did this journey start?
3 years back, I went for my first trek with a couple of friends. We booked that trek online and started with a group of almost 20 people. As we started the trek, I felt a sudden wave of energy and happiness in walking through a lush green forest of tall pine trees. I was so lost in my own thoughts that I walked and walked for hours, I didn’t even notice that I was ahead of my group and now they were nowhere to be seen. I didn’t bother to wait for them and continued walking till I reached the top of the mountain where we were supposed to camp for the night.
I sat there for hours staring at those tall White Mountains. I thought how small, how insignificant we look in front of these mountains. Sometimes I wonder whether people conquer peaks for the views they offer or to become greater than the mountain itself. That’s how it all started; I realized that I can be happy and content on my own. I started my journey that day and never looked back.
The first step; the beginning of the journey of a lifetime:
2 months later, in February 2017, I booked my ticket to Rishikesh. You see, it’s always the beginnings which take all the courage that we have inside us. As it was my first solo trip so I was scared as hell, i pre booked everything online because I had to stick to my plans. I booked camping and rafting for myself because I wanted my first solo trip to be full of adventures. That’s the thing about firsts, we want it to be special and we try all our heart to make it special.
I reached Rishikesh, wandered around the city, went camping alone and did rafting with a group of strangers. I was enjoying myself so much that I didn't want the fun to come to an end so I did something strange, I went to do bungee jumping. That day I got to know a very interesting thing about myself, that I am a very spontaneous and a very brave person. That’s what solo travel does to you; it makes you love life a little more. It gives you the feeling of independence.
“As you travel solo, being totally responsible for yourself, it’s inevitable to discover just how capable you are.”
It’s been almost 3 years since I started travelling solo and now here I am, climbing mountains, roaming in a totally strange country and conquering all my fears.
People who supported me in my journey:
There are always some people who no matter what, will always be by your side. People, who will always encourage you, support you and sometimes will inspire you to be the best version of yourself. I got immense support from my parents, my siblings, my friends and some of my work colleagues.
I came from a small town, so in the beginning i was afraid to tell my parents about my passion for travelling. I was afraid of their reaction to my love for travelling. I was surprised when they didn’t even ask for an explanation when I told them I want to be a mountaineer, and i want to travel alone to all the places I’ve never been to. Now I am unstoppable because they believed in me, and most of all, I believed in myself.
And then there are people who told me scary stories about people who had their misadventures during travelling. They never fail to remind me that I am a woman and I should not go to places alone as it’s not safe for a woman to travel alone. They still tell me the worst scenarios that might happen to me but all these stories only keeps me going.
You see, the biggest misconception about travelling alone as a woman is that it’s not safe to do so. As with anything you might do alone, you just have to remember to be alert. Bad things can happen to us anywhere, anytime but we still leave our house in the morning because as a human being we always hope for good things. Hope is a good thing and no good thing ever dies.
While travelling I’ve seen it all, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the worst, but it never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do. I had my adventures and misadventures but I took it all as lessons. I learned more during my travels than my entire life of the last 25 years.
“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one woman are told. I decided I was safe. I WAS STRONG. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
How I managed to travel despite having a 9-6 job:
When people see my Instagram profile, they only see the colorful pictures but not the reality. People often ask me how I manage the leaves and the money. How is it so easy for me to travel? The answer is- No, it’s not easy.
For the whole year, I manage travelling during weekends, Long weekends and comp offs but every year I go for a long trip for which I ask for 15-20 days leaves. I easily get 15-20 days off because I never take extra leaves the whole year, no sick leaves nothing.
On the finances part, let me tell you that it’s not always fancy hotels and beautiful pictures. Sometimes It was the shittiest place that I stayed to save that extra penny and pitched my own tent taking all the risks just to be able to travel more. Most of the time it took many sleepless nights in a local bus on bumpy roads. It’s not that I don't like luxury, it’s just that I want to save every single penny so that i can travel more because you know in the end I’m not going to remember the luxury of the hotel but I’ll always remember the place, the people and the culture.
I also stopped going shopping and buying the stuff I didn't need. Now when my friends suggest me hit the shops together or get excited about new dresses/footwear, a little part of me dies inside. For I now know that these things mean nothing at all and that money can be used on experiences. So, I don’t travel because I have lots of money but because I prioritized what was important to me and what was not. So, from now on if you ask a traveler how we manage it so easily, instead of saying that rather appreciate and say we’re doing a great job. We all dream of one path to walk through, while only a few of us actually take that path and follow our dreams. To get something we want, we’ll always have to compromise with the other parts.
“Most of us grow up with checklists of what we are supposed to achieve by the time we’re thirty or forty. We forget its okay to mess up and live a little”
How solo travel changed me as a person:
Travelling solo is awesome. It’s tough, tiring and exhausting, but absolutely brilliant. If you ever have the opportunity to go off and explore a part of the world by yourself, I’d definitely recommend it. Here I am sharing some of the best things that I learned during my travels;
One of the greatest benefits I’ve found while travelling solo is the feeling of Independence. When travelling solo, independence isn’t something I tried to attain; it’s just something that happened naturally. I became more open minded after I started travelling solo. If I think about it, I feel closer and more empathetic to other people. When you travel solo, you get to open to new challenges and experiences and After a while you stop being scared of anything.
I stopped craving for material things. Not having anyone to impress or keep up appearances for is liberating. Solo travel strips you of your need to present yourself as a perfectly polished human as you quickly learn it’s what lies beneath that count. I also observed that it made me a good decision maker because when you travel alone you make your own decisions.
It made me brave because it takes courage to go alone to a new place, to a new country. Solo travel made me trust myself more than others. Many times I faced circumstances I’d never thought about but somehow I was able to get over it, completely on my own. I am a thousand times braver than I was years ago.
“I read somewhere, how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong. But to feel strong. To find yourself at least once.”
A few experiences from my memory box..
2 Years back I traveled to Meghalaya. It was September 1st week which is considered as off season because Meghalaya experiences the heaviest rainfall in India in monsoons. It's the wettest place on Earth. The forests are greener and denser at this time of the year. As I traveled to Cherrapunji, I stayed at home stays. Sometimes I was the only one in the whole house and I couldn’t sleep at night because I was scared. But, when people asked me who I am travelling with and I told them proudly that it’s only me, most of the people looked at me with an expression which didn’t need any explanation. The expression of appreciation and confusion. They told me I was brave and smart and courageous and there is nobody like me and that meant a lot to me.
Another incident happened when I did Everest base camp trek alone, on my own in the monsoons. And the other one was when I did Annapurna circuit trek on my own, without any guide or any company. The truth is, people don’t appreciate me because I was brave, they do it because they were not brave enough to take the risk. I follow my heart, I chase my passion and I do whatever it takes to make my dream come true.
A note to whoever is reading this:
Be spontaneous, courageous and brave enough to choose and live the life you want. The journey is going to be messy and sometimes difficult but I promise it’s going to be beautiful and rewarding.
You see, we are only going to be here once, so we better make it count. Because imagine what a terrible thing it must be to wake up one day only to realize you didn’t do all the things you wanted when you had the chance so wake up and follow your dreams because we only regret the things we didn’t do rather than the ones we did. People often ask me what I get from these adventures; I’d only say what i get is sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. I do not live to eat and make money. I eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for. So keep going, follow your dreams and Good luck!!