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Travelling solo is more fun

Travelling solo is more fun
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Travelling solo is more fun.To the woman of the internet era, the term ‘freedom’ doesn-'t merely mean freedom from male dominance or relief from...

Why should only boys have all the fun? Definitely not! Today’s girls are increasingly travelling alone or with their buddies, going on treks, indulging in skydiving, bungee jumping and white water rafting. In a nutshell, they are dabbling with everything that men typically do on holidays

To the woman of the internet era, the term ‘freedom’ doesn't merely mean freedom from male dominance or relief from household duties. To her ‘freedom’ also signifies the liberty to take off on her own and go places, literally. Armed with a pepper spray in her pocket, she like never before is embarking on trips to explore unconventional places, sample new cuisine and conquer the unknown. The financial independence enjoyed by many of the women today has been crucial in empowering them to pursue their passion. The concept of ‘women-only travel’ is fast catching on.‘Women can never be safe in India’. This is an oft repeated proclamation. But that has not dampened the wanderlust of many young girls.

Mithi, a young software engineer says, "A journey can become a life-changing experience. I went to Rajasthan all alone. Before I embarked on the journey, everyone said it would be unsafe and advised me against it. However, I was determined and went ahead with my plans. And I didn't regret a bit during and after the trip." “For women, travelling in a group or with a male companion definitely ensures safety, and safety is a priority for any traveller. That being taken care of, I feel much more confident in undertaking a journey alone,” says Manisha who takes at least two solo trips a year.

 Shivya Nath zip lining over the Indian Ocean on the remote Rodrigues island (left) and at the Mediterranean Sea in Ibiza!  Photos: http://the-shooting-star.com

“While planning a trip, I research the place well. Every place has its dark corners and one should be aware of them and try to avoid them,” she shares. “It is better to be cautious rather than get so scared that you forget to enjoy the experience!” Manisha adds. Mithi, Manisha and many women travelers like them are unanimous in their opinion that these unaccompanied journeys have nothing to do with rebellious attitude or loneliness. Mithi says she prefers to travel alone as she feels solo expeditions are a great way to rejuvenate the mind and soul. As she sums it up, "My driving force stems from a strong desire to indulge in what I love the most –Travel."

So how does it feel like travelling in a country not exactly known for gender-equality? While the women who travel solo and in groups are quite forthcoming in sharing their colorful experiences in vibrant anecdotes, they also add words of advice and useful tips.When it comes to travelling solo or with a female companion, convincing family and friends continues to be an uphill task for women. Owing to the concerns about safety and security, still most guardians (read fathers and husbands) do not allow their wards to travel alone. "Their concerns are genuine. As the number of sexual assaults on women is on the rise, they fear for our safety," admits Jayita, a young manager who works in a private bank and is on the go at almost every opportunity.

"Women travellers are usually bombarded with lewd remarks and stares, and even at times get groped by strangers”, she admits and advises: "With a set itinerary, women-only expeditions can be fun and safe. It is always better to avoid travelling at night. You can be adventurous, but recklessness will invite unwanted problems."Jayita along with her friend Nisha has toured almost three-fourths of the country with a gusto that consistently overpowers their fears. "We started travelling on our own in 2004. Our first trip was to Karwar (Karnataka), near Goa. It was a short two-day trip just to test the waters." Jayita reminisces.Thankfully they passed the test and since then there has been no looking back.

In 2006, Mountain Shepherds, an organisation involved with sustainable tourism development in the Himalayas, announced the first ever Nanda Devi Women’s Trek in which 17 women from India and abroad came to the Nanda Devi region in the Himalayas to take part in the organisation’s inaugural trek.Prerna Raturi, who had been travelling alone for quite some years, was one of the Indian women who took part in this trek. She shares her enriching experiences and feels that the trek gave her the experience of a lifetime and the confidence to embark on more such journeys.However, the same free-spirited lady, narrates with full blown frustration and a tinge of amusement how on another occasion, while on her way to a Himalayan hill station with her daughter and sister, she was stopped by a burly policeman at Delhi's Anand Vihar railway station for carrying a bottle of red wine in her suitcase.

"Now, if you ladies do this, how will it work?" the policeman handling the scanner pointed out accusingly in a reproving tone."But what's the problem?" Prerna retorted, as her five-year-old daughter tugged at her shirt nervously. "Is drinking wine a good thing? Don't you have any 'gents' with you?" the policeman suddenly began to act like their moral guardian. At this point Prerna’s sister steeped in to salvage the situation. "Sirji, this is for the retired brigadier we know in Ramgarh," she said. "Ok... but don't give it to anyone on the way," he finally agreed to release them.25-year-old Rekha Mishra has the travel bug in her soul. This gypsy first backpacked in Uttrakhand for about 15 days in 2010, followed by her first big trip to the North East. Touring that part of the country for two months, she encountered a lot of foreigners who she says were amazed at the sight of an Indian woman backpacker.

Travelling to the heart of villages has proved beyond memorable for her. "I remember once I was to visit a village a few hundred kilometres from Guwahati. There was just one bus going there every two days and I missed it. My alternative was to wait for another two days or travel in a delivery van that was going to the village. I chose the latter. The van was stocked with all sorts of goods – even hens and goats and I had to squeeze in between them.” she giggles.Rekha, Mithi, Manisha, Prerna, Jayita and Nisha are certainly not alone – today's women, in their 20s and early 30s, are pursuing their passion of globetrotting with great seriousness. Like the 23-year-old, Shivya Nath from Dehradun, who quit her corporate job to travel the world. Young, energetic and of course financially independent, their community is growing by leaps and bounds. To read more about the experiences of Indian women travelling solo.

By Sriparna Saha

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