23 Sept 2015, Govindghat, Chamoli Dist., Uttarakhand, INDIA.
First night stay while going to the Valley of flowers.
An abstract from my travel journal.
I’ll be honest, solo traveling needs a lot of doing to master it. It is the 3rd time I am solo traveling and I am feeling the same discomfort like I felt the first time I solo-traveled. Fear of unknown, being worrisome of how it will be/can be, not living in the moment etc. After all this time I felt I have mastered the art of comfortable solo traveling, you know the one which is feels very regular but the thing is it takes time. Also, I believe the first day is generally like that, you are new to the environment and people, secondly if you choose a place like VOF in late September, it is going to be a bit empty here. Lastly, with all the travel your mind needs to relax. So, what I am doing to relax my mind? Well, I am writing. It is helping me release the tension, there is good music in the background (please carry good stock of music) and lastly you need to accept what’s happening to you and believe what will happen it will be for the best and you will find a way out. The first day is generally spent in uneasiness. One more reason is that there is no network in my mobile so maybe that’s bothering me more. :P. After writing all this I suddenly feel more relaxed, I am here to enjoy and live an experience very few get a chance to live.
Recently I was approached by a 19 year old student who was inspired by my blog on solo-traveling and wanted some tips. I was really happy that the blog was serving its purpose and inspiring more and more people for solo-traveling. It’s a very liberating experience and once should definitely experience it once in order to look into their lives closely. 🙂
“I meet a lot of youngsters of your age traveling alone.
Traveling the world is really ambitious even I want to do so but the thing about traveling the world is you need to start by traveling to the next city or next hill station to you or a next tourist destination and when traveling becomes a habit slowly you find you own ways to travel the world.”
Here are some tips for end for anyone who is looking to go for a solo travel.
1) You don’t need to be independent to travel alone. Infact to be independent you need to travel alone.
2) If you are living with your parents right now find a way to convince them to start with a small destination which is not more than 500–600 kms apart so that they feel safe about you.
3) Use Stay With Locals & Make Travel Friends to find some home stays.
4) Stay in Temples/ Dharamshala (Reasonable living stays provided by a particular regional community) if you have to. To save money. I learned this after my 3 solo travels. My first solo travel costed me around INR10–12K, I was stupid and my last solo travel costed me around INR 5K and it was almost of the same time duration. We are travelers, bag-packers we need to find ways to save money.
5) Don’t go for a big solo travel as of now. 2–3 nights should be fine. Don’t lie to your parents/family/friends.
6) Research about the destination well enough on Quora and google if it’s an unknown destination.
7) Carry a pen and a personal journal.
8) Don’t be in a rush to do things when you travel solo. Just sit in some cafe and enjoy the view.
9) No bookings are required just to go there and explore and find the place to stay, you will be fine. Trust your luck. 🙂
10) Lastly, donate some amount. God is helping you in some way, have gratitude and do more than just thanks for anyone who helps you in your travel expedition. 🙂
Please reach me if you need any help or suggestion in solo-traveling, or if you want me to showcase your solo traveling story on my blog/you-tube channel.
Let me tell you a small story,
In June of 2015, I was solo traveling to Rishikesh. Where I met Mathur, he was from Kolkata. He was a servant cum manager of this popular cafe called The Beatles cafe. As I was alone obviously it always feels good to talk to any person. I started talking to Mathur casually because I spent around 4-5 hours in the cafe that day, turns out Mathur was an athlete, 10th Pass, got supplementary in 12th, wanted to do, Hotel Management somehow could not then wanted to join the Police force but didn’t have the money for admission so he started with being a waiter. As times went by he met the owner of The Beatles Cafe in Kolkata, started working for him and he gave him an offer to come to Rishikesh for their new venture i.e. The Beatles cafe.
When I asked they give him 7000/- rupees and takes care of his food and accommodation.
So, what is so exciting about this?
When Mathur was telling me his story for almost half an hour, there was a sparkle in his eyes, a small smile, these are the key points he mentioned in our conversation
1) I never thought I would go this far in life. I am very thankful to God and my boss.
2) I learn so many things every day. I was not good in English, but talking to Foreigners had helped me.
3) I live in such a peaceful location, in front of Ganges that every morning is bliss.
4) They give me good money, that’s only 7000 we are talking about.
5) I love my work.
Mathur was happy. In 7000 rupees I could see the sparkle, the happiness, the feeling of being content, looking forward for everyday with an excitement. That was present in Mathur and not in me and I earn quite more than Mathur. So yes, Fuck with the money, I am happy being Mathur if given a chance with that happiness.
Recently, I connected with Ellen vrana on Quora and discovered that she has some amazing solo traveling experience. She is a former management consultant, now writer. and publishes fiction and non-fiction weekly mostly about the human condition and the writing process.
Talking about her experience in Solo traveling she says “I’ve budget-traveled alone throughout Europe, South America, Central America, Russia, Japan, wrote for a travel guide in Mexico, have done road trips through all 48 states plus 2,000+ solo hike of the Appalachian Trail.” That’s like some dream for me, honestly.
When I mentioned her about my blog and my initiative to inspire solo travelers and more over inspiring some female solo travelers, she really liked the idea and she very generously gave me permission to publish a tiny article from her experience.
You can read more about her and follow her blog here : http://therunciblegoose.com/
I’ve been accosted and threatened, but never hurt (except by goddam dogs). I’m careful. I’d recommend women to travel alone in any of the places I’ve been – IF they are careful.
The most important thing is never forget you are a female. It is hard to get used to. I don’t walk around thinking “I’m a female!!” – ever. I just don’t. I’ve the luxury of growing up in a place where it didn’t matter.
When you travel alone, you have to think;
I’m a female. Other people might see me as vulnerable. It is not the culture, it is the individuals within that culture. There are things I can do to mitigate it, including;
- Walk with purpose. Walk at a good pace, walk with a direction of where you are going. If you linger, do so near a wall, near other women or someone who looks older.
- Don’t hitch-hike. Ever. Ride on public transportation if there are other women/children on it.
- Don’t show all of your money in public.
- Don’t stay in dodgy hostels. Many times, other travelers are the biggest threat and hostels are notorious for non-secure rooms.
- If you need to ask directions, ask other women, people over 60, or merchants.
- Don’t show cleavage or upper thighs. Just don’t, its disrespectful in many cultures and not appropriate.
- Bring luggage that is easy to carry and move.
- Wear shoes that are comfortable and in which you can move. I always wear sneakers when traveling, always.
- Perfect and use the confident, polite, emphatic “No thank you.” Be rude if you have to, always walk away if uncomfortable.
- Don’t get drunk around people you do not know.
- Don’t tell anyone where you are staying or let someone walk you home unless you are 100% sure they are safe.
- If you’re going out at night, tell your hotelier where you are going. They are usually very protective, I’ve found. Ask them to call taxis and get the card of the taxi to pick you up.
- Always ALWAYS choose safety over saving money. It’s not even a question.
This all seems very prim and Victorian. To some, it might “ruin the experience.” No. Being groped, molested, accosted, or threatened ruins the experience.
There are malicious people everywhere and you are vulnerable because you are female and an outsider. These precautions help you get to a place where you can judge dangerous situations/people and then relax and enjoy those that are safe.
And don’t forget to ask someone to take a photo of you!
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.
Some other tips that follow as well, this can instantly help you in the middle of some situations.
-If you stop walking, lean against a wall – don’t stand in the middle of the sidewalk trying to take pictures of everything.
– Don’t wear t-shirts of the place you’re in when you’re there
– Pay attention to and even imitate the body language and gestures of locals
– Learn key phrases in the local language, and learn to roll your R’s (which helps in many local languages).
– Smile/eye contact with women around you
– If somewhere where no one speaks your language, look for a 20-year-old who is more likely to speak English, at least.
Hope you take that leap after reading this,
The thrill, the feeling of being unsure, the feeling of cynicism, endless questioning of what next to yourself & overcoming all those emotions and finally landing below the mountain, in front of Ganges, on the sand, with the wind. This is what solo-traveling to Rishikesh offers you.
Exactly after a solo trip to Mcleodgunj, I decided to take this thrilling ride once again and this time Rishikesh treated me with open arms and a mysterious smile.
It was something about this place; as if it has an own soul, a character, an identity and as if Rishikesh itself is watching you through chirping of birds, high mountains, the flow of ganga. It was mesmerizing and heart touching.
Initially you will feel this destination does not belongs to solo-travelers, but don’t underestimate Rishikesh, it offers you with a lot of freedom. A freedom to choose your own life, away from home, near the ganges, maybe river rafting, maybe practicing yoga, or taking a lesson on Ayurveda massage or just relaxing @ The Beatles cafe. You need to feel Rishikesh, pulse by pulse, sink in the aura, realize the purity, the beauty, start the expedition because Rishikesh has it all. A road from a small valley slowly expanding into multiple horizons of camping and group activities. Rishikesh will never disappoint you if you choose to explore it in the right manner.
There are 2 versions of Rishikesh and third one cannot be talked about 😉
- a) The adventurous Rishikesh.
- b) The spiritual Rishikesh.
Both of the two versions have different level of community of people to serve. While the former is for the families and friends to enjoy a weekend full of life, the latter is for the regular people full of life enjoying for some time. It is important to understand that both of these two versions have different characters and souls and both offers peace in the form of fun and adventure in its own way. You can choose to solo-travel for either versions or both as both of these versions offers a sufficient liberation from your worries in its own magical way.
Things to do
1) Solo Camping. YES! That’s the big step you would want to take. My solo camping experience was so breathtaking it just pulled me out of any possible denial left in me. It gives you an opportunity to meet some similar people and when asked ‘why do you travel solo?’ you actually get answers. 🙂
2) River Rafting: I don’t even have to explain this. Find a group and get along. Pro tip: – Get out of the raft during high rapids 😉
3) Meet other solo travelers . That is where the true magic of solo traveling comes alive, when you meet someone living the same story in a different reality. Someone is also running only to be found, someone is answering the call by escaping it. Someone is searching for you like you are searching for them.
4) Take Meditation/yoga classes: – Something that is on my bucket list. Is to stay in Rishikesh for a week and take the right classes and purify my mind and refresh my thought process.
5) Take a dip in the Ganges: – A fellow solo traveler mentioned ‘I don’t know what is it like to be in a womb, but when I took that dip I guess that’s the closest I can get to that.’. Enough said.
Some tips for ensuring an amazing solo traveling
1) Research for right Camps, do not stay in ‘camp colony’ as they call it, where there are 100s of tents. It won’t give you peace plus it won’t be worth it. Neither go to a forest camp. Personalized camps with 30-40 tents is what you should be looking into it. 1200/- maximum to pay for a night.
2) River Rafting is not risky. So relax.
3) Go to the other end of Laxman jhula and go and search for cafes you will get a chance to meet actual travelers there.
4) Visit places like Vashisht Gufa and hear stories of legends and ancient history.
5) Don’t forget to journal. 🙂