“My 1st solo trip!” This is like in the wish list of so many young women all over the globe and especially in India, where the stigma about girls travelling is subsiding slowly.
When we hear/talk about a girl travelling solo, the most general reactions we see are “Wow! She is one bold woman” or “Are you crazy! It’s so unsafe” or “She’s so lucky man; My boyfriend/parents would never let me go!” and also.. “Yaar, why solo? It would be so boring!”
Well, in the past year or so I have read numerous posts and blogs about girls coming across amazing experiences travelling solo! Like how a solo weekend trip changed their life forever! Or how someone met the “Raj” of their DDLJ lives in a trip! Or how people from strange cities have become BFFs!
While I would always feel proud that people from rather conservative backgrounds are coming up and travelling alone, I would also feel that it’s not that big a deal after all .. Or is it? Now the only way I could calm my curious mind was to strike off this “Take a Solo Road trip” wish from my bucket list!
It has been an amazing experience for me and I am so glad I took the trip. Despite of the constant fear of parents finding out it was Solo, being worried of getting lost, robbed or even worse! Though Solo trips are empowering and amazing, but please don’t keep Filmy expectations like it would change your life forever or you will meet the “Man of your Dreams” in the trip. While that may happen, Let’s keep expectations low and enjoy the smaller joys the trip has to offer. The most amazing part about travelling solo for me would be that you are on your own, you don’t have to compromise or plan as per somebody else.
When I decided to go break my “Solo Trip Virginity”, it was more of an impromptu and i didn’t find any advice on “Things to do or not to do“.. Most of the blogs I read were more of sugar coated experiences about the trips. But with the little knowledge I have gained with two of my Solo trips, I would wanna share some tips with any female virgin solo traveler, which might come handy!
1. Confidence is the key!
You have done so many things all by yourself, this is just one of them… So don’t worry, You will be fine! Just be sure you have things sorted and are ready to take the plunge! When you go out there, make your move with the confidence you always shine with… Even when you are a little nervous at some point of time, don’t feel scared, it’s common, even seasoned travelers get nervous many times.. Don’t let the people around sense your insecurity. All you have to do is trust yourself and keep your chin up and go for it! 🙂
2. Backpack.. The Lighter, the better!
“Do Not” I repeat Do Not carry a heavy backpack if you want to explore and enjoy in the real sense. It’s fine if you have all your pictures in the same pair of clothes, but there’s no point in carrying stuff which is more of a Liability than Asset. In case you go for a long trip and can’t avoid carrying a lot of stuff, then take a small day pack along. Even if you are going on a luxury vacation and staying at Porsche properties and don’t plan to carry your Luggage on your own, still keep your bags light. (I carried a 60L Quechua bag, fully loaded which weighed around 14 kgs. All it gave me was an ankle sprain and broken back!)
3. “Basic Essentials” are actually essential!
We tend to ignore when people lecture us about preparing for a trip, but carrying a few basics come in handy and are a must, especially if it’s a multi city/village trip or involves treks.
A small list of stuff which might be of use.. (You would want to thank me later!)
- Basic First Aid(Including any medicine you might need in case of an emergency, like if you are allergic to something.)
- Torch, Portable Mobile Charger, Umbrella, Few carry bags, Sanitary stuff, Any ID card etc.
- Keep a bottle of water, Some nuts, Energy bars etc with you. ALWAYS!
4. Backup Dependables!
In all the bags you carry, keep some money along with a list of written down Names and Contacts of any or all of the following: (For eg: One set in laptop bag, one in Purse and in Backpack!)
- Any Family members or Close friend.
- The places(Hotels/Camps) you are going to stay in the Trip.
- Any tour operator with whom you have made the bookings (if any).
- Someone you know from or has ample knowledge about the country or area you are visiting.
5. Pepper Spray, Pocket knife and Luggage lock- Check!
Sounds Cliché, but do carry a pepper spray! Alright the feminists would say stuff like, “Please! We can protect ourselves” or frequent travelers would say “The world isn’t a bad place”. But you never know. No harm in being safe! (Though, even a Hanuman Chalisa in the phone is a good option :p) And it is important to keep a check on your belongings and keep them locked if possible!
6. Know where you are going.
A little Research on the places you are going to visit is always helpful. Although sudden plans are amazing and gives you a kick, yet knowing basics about the place you are going is safer. Know about the basic safety issues and how tourist friendly the locals and the government there is. Also gather some information like the preferred season, modes of transport available, budget estimation etc.
7. Be adventurous, but not over ambitious.
Opt for places/activities you would rather be comfortable with. If you are a total non trekker and a lazy bum and you wish to scale mountains all by yourself, on your first solo… well good luck on that! Also, always keep a plan B or C or be flexible to change your itinerary. Being too ambitious and rigid to your plan will only stress you up!
8. Prior bookings!
I know, we plan a solo trip so that we can be “Free Birds” and just fly out in the world… But Dear Girls.. We can’t sleep on trees. And what if you reach a city at 10 at night and all the places to stay are booked! Refuge? At a stranger’s place! Really? That’s totally your choice then!
9. Check Reviews before Bookings.
So an amazing resort with luxurious amenities has an awesome discount and you don’t want to miss it, so you book an unknown resort for your 1st Solo. Perfect! NOT. You can’t do that. Always check the guest reviews and ratings on travel sites (not the property website) before making any bookings. Also I would suggest you to stay in a Hostel or a popular hotel where in you can meet people, have amazing conversations and make friends as well as feel safe. Don’t go for very secluded properties where you will be left to yourself.
10. Avoid Getting Drunk or Stoned!
11. Keep Someone updated about your trip.
12. Don’t boast about it being a Solo to everyone!
13. Blend in: Do it the Local way!
Dress up and do things like a local. You wouldn’t want to dress up or act very “touristy” and gather attention. Wearing a boy shorts in a city where people dress conservatively, it might get you unwanted attention. Also try and learn a few basic words of the local language; this won’t only help you during the trip, It’s also a fun thing to do! Also, try to travel maximum before it’s night. (Specially in Hills or a little suburban places). Going for a coffee at a nearby cafe after nightfall is fine, but travelling miles from a different corner of the town isn’t advisable.
14. Keep a “Regina Phalange” ready.
If you don’t watch FRIENDS, You might not have got the joke. So, basically you have to keep an “Alter Ego” or a fake identity ready in your mind. Say, you are traveling in a local transport and a creepy random guy starts a conversation with you, you wouldn’t want to share your personal details with him, neither show that you are nervous or “scared” to talk to a stranger, so put up a fake identity and be convincing about it. (Like my Regina Phalange identity is generally “A married girl from Kolkata, on a trip as a reunion with my School friends, who are waiting somewhere else for me”, and i would often fiddle with my phone texting or talking “I will see you in a while”.)
15. Keep up the positive spirit and Let loose!
Don’t be boggled up or scared by looking at so many “To do’s” and “Not to do’s”. You have always wanted to take this trip and you must! The world is an amazing place and the freedom of travelling alone is magical. embrace it! Let yourself free and live it to your Heart’s content. A little fuck up might take place. In fact it will, no matter how much we plan in advance! You just have to be calm and deal with it. After all that’s what we are here for!
Go ahead!! Take a plunge.. Dive in the pool of Solo travelers.. Empower yourself!! You will never have to look up to people now for making those long planned trips happen! Be You! Travel like You!! As i put it:
“Traveling Alone is an Amazing Adventure, and an Adventure is always worthwhile”