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This post is in continuation of my previous blog on PRACTICAL REASONS WHY I LOVE SOLO TRAVELING ACROSS INDIA.
Disclaimer: The pictures of me which I have shared here are from my group travels because I hardly take any self portraits on solo travel.
- AVOID TOURIST TRAPS DURING SOLO TRAVEL:
You can avoid the touristy frills. I have realized touts and agents harass me more with their offers when I have a company, especially a female company. No one really bothers when I am traveling solo.
However, it’s a different game when I am roaming around solo with a backpack. I remember: as soon as I stepped out of the rickshaw with a backpack near Char Minar, Hyderabad, an excited agent approached, “Money Exchange? Money Exchange?” Surprised, I said in Hindi, “Arre Indian hoon bhai!” (I am an Indian, bro!”)
But without a luggage, I mostly blend in when traveling in my country India. And if I have a female company, it’s a nightmare walking in touristy places. I am inundated with all the offers from ‘nada’ (String to keep your pyjamas on your waist) to ‘Psst, psst…Lodge, lodge?’ They would particularly ask the ‘Lodge’ question so surreptitiously that you would end up thinking booking a lodge is illegal in India.
That said, Solo traveling attracts its own set of pushy vendors. Sample This:
“Shilajit? Shilajit?” (Aphrodisiac) – Manali, Shimla, Kashmir etc.
“Massage? Massage? Nice friendly girls? – Goa, Thamel (Nepal)
“ Drugs?” That man in a dark corner in Goa. Avoid!
- PLANNING IS EASIER IN SOLO TRAVELS:
The kind of freedom solo travel allows you is unmatched. No other genre of travel allows you to do things at your own pace, whims and fancies. You are also spared the horror of co-ordinating the dates and the egos of your co-travelers. In my experience, 90% of them back out anyways 90% of time. And if I tell them about my solo trip once it is over, then they are annoyed that why didn’t I ask them. Trust me, every time, I have asked a friend, colleague or family to accompany me on a trip, the pattern goes something like this-
Day 1– “Wow, when, let’s do it.” After 5 hours, “Oh My God, I am excited!”
Day 2– Wait, lemme ask XYZ (Me-Oh NO) and her cousin and her cousin’s pet buffalo also. 3)
Day 3 – No reply bloody (I start checking ticket availability)
Day 4 – “Yaar actually the buffalo of my friend’s cousin has a tinder powered date on that day.” Me, “Oh, I totally understand!”
Day 5 – “Can we do it some other time?”
- Me, after 5 hours, “I am going, some other time may be!”
- SOLO TRAVELERS TRAVEL IN ALL KIND OF VEHICLES:
You can travel in whichever mode of transport you like, without bothering if your co traveler will be comfortable or not. This is my favourite part. One of the major reasons why I have been able to travel to more than 150 destinations across India and beyond since 2008 is because I don’t wait for a comfortable vehicle to arrive. I hop on to whatever vehicle is available. I have travelled in tractors, chakadis in rural Gujarat (a hybrid of bike and cart) atop buses, slept next to wash rooms in sleeper class Indian trains (Ugh!), hung from the rear of the jeeps on bumpy roads (and survived!), clung to buses and train’s doors and what not. I stood for hours in hostile climate (Rain/Heat/Cold) in over-crowded trains, buses, ferries without complaining. NONE OF IT IS COOL/SAFE/COMFORTABLE. AND I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. BUT I MADE MY CHOICES & TOOK CHANCE and survived to tell the tale. Solo Travel has not turned me into a SUPERHERO, it has made me resilient and strong.
P.S. Traveling on the engine of a rickety Government bus is my favourite.
- SOLO TRAVEL GIVES YOU LIFE SKILLS:
“I’ve got this light, I’ll be around to grow.
Who I was before, I cannot recall”
Song by Eddie Vedder from the Film: In to the wild
Solo travel helps you discover the sides you never knew existed. I had always been a clingy child. I would always turn to my parents or elder brother for any little job. That was easy. In my solo travels, I was the one who was managing everything. From pre travel research to tickets, hotel hunting, sight-seeing, hunting for cheap food, dealing with strangers, traveling in remote places, handling life threatening situations etc all were handled by me alone. Solo travel helped me metamorphosize from an under-confident, over protected individual to a person who is giving advice to others. Today, I am a very different person from what I was a decade ago. I don’t know what kind of a person I would have become had solo travel not happened to me. That’s a scary thought for me.
- 15. SOLO TRAVEL TURNS YOU INTO AN EXTROVERT.
When I still tell people that I am painfully introverted, they refuse to believe me. I lack social skills. I constantly look for escape from social situations. I am a born loner. However, people see me as an outgoing, people’s person when in reality it gives me jitters to talk to an individual, especially a stranger. But thanks to solo travel, even an introverted person like me has ended up talking to many people. I have no choice. If I don’t talk to people on my solo travels, I will get stuck. However, I still limit my conversations. And that bothers me. Because if I were a real extrovert, I would have ended up with better stories from a destination! Never mind!
- SOLO TRAVEL HELPS YOU BECOME WISE
My solo journeys have taught me things no book will ever be able to educate me. Thanks to my countless interaction with a variety of people, landscape and cultures, I have a better (not full-it’s not possible!) understanding of the world. Solo travel leaves you with a broader world view. Solo Travel leaves you with a wisdom which is hard to describe in words.
- I ENJOY MY OWN COMPANY ON SOLO TRAVELS
Most of my friends don’t like solitude. They like doing things in group. In fact, I keep chiding them when they plan a romantic getaway with 2 more couples. People from my country India love traveling in groups. Individualistic lifestyle is frowned upon and looked at with suspicion. Why I am able to enjoy solo travel all the time is because I am never bored. Even standing in a 2 hour ticket line in a new destination, I will find interesting things to do – people watching, reading about the destination on internet, talking to locals in the queue, catching up on new songs, the works! I am never bored because I know how to make my life interesting. I have an unlimited appetite to learn about new things, seek new adventures, be open to alien experiences. Not every-one has that inclination. All of us should respect each other’s style.
- SOLO TRAVEL MAKES YOU MINIMALISTIC:
I have been living a minimalistic life since 2007. Since a decade, my only belongings are – lots of books, few clothes, a laptop, a camera, a mattress, few bedsheets and some kitchenware. Only after moving to my own bachelor’s pad in Ghaziabad (Jan 2017), did I buy a real bed, an almirah and picked a foldable table from my parent’s home in Lucknow. I don’t think I will ever need anything more than this in my entire life. I had developed this approach towards material possession at a much tender age of 25, much before travel happened to me. However, solo travel further established the need to minimize clutter from my life. I never buy anything from my travels. I keep donating my clothes and gifts every 3 to 6 months. The ability to give up on materials has liberated me. How did solo travel help me in this? Do it for at least a year on low budget and you will understand!
- SOLO TRAVEL MAKES YOU COURAGEOUS AND FEARLESS:
“Have no fear, For when I’m alone
I’ll be better off , Than I was before.”
Song by Eddie Vedder from the Film: In to the wild
During my solo travels, I have been in many unpredictable situations and escaped unscathed each time. With experience, I have learned to trust myself and the people I meet on the road. Most of the strangers I have met on my travels have helped me. Solo Travel has made me a risk taker. I have shared room with strangers, indulged in life threatening treks, jumped in the middle of a violent river (holding on to rope as I don’t know swimming), hopped on vehicles in a very unsafe way.
For a long time, I was a shy, over protected kid, whose parents would make him sit on a chair and fetch food for him at parties.
I fail to relate when people ask me if “XYZ place is safe? This friendly? That Friendly?” However, with time I have started to realize that travel may not treat everyone equally. And people have genuine concerns. I realized this when I was foolishly trying to apply my solo travel style as I started to travel with parents. No wonder I have started writing blogs like, Is Gangtok a senior citizen friendly place?
As eminent travel writer Paul Theroux writes about a bloddshed he saw during the match between El Salvador and Mexico, “Travel is pointless without certain risks.”
- WHAT HAPPENS IN SOLO TRAVEL, STAYS IN……..
Your secrets, if any, remain with you. Ah well. No-body will ever discover that you don’t change your undies for 3 days, you eat candyfloss for dinner (I don’t. Stop concluding!) , you read trashy novels, you ate that Happy Pizza in Cambodia or you wasted a night on booze and fooled around. Solo Travel saves you from a lot of judgment and embarrassment. I can also look shabby for days without anyone bothering me to shave/comb/blah.
- SOLO TRAVEL IS FART FRIENDLY:
I like to fart alone, in peace, without being judged. Phew!
Disclaimer: This is a male, Indian solo traveler’s perspective. A female perspective will be much different.
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