“I was on one of my trips when I met an an avid traveller. I was mesmerised by his stories of nomadic travel, of his bike rides, of the three nights he spent on the road with truckers surviving on nothing but Maggi! I was in awe of his tales of travel, but that was not all - my competitive side was rearing its head. If he was a good traveller, I wanted to be better. If he could do it, why couldn’t I?
In the same moment, I also wondered about the safety of venturing out by myself, of going to distant locations far from my comfort zone. But I am not one to dither, and I did not want to sit at home and wonder how unsafe the world is. I wanted to go out and find out for myself. I wanted to push the boundary; I refused to accept what had been handed down to me. And thus began my journey as a Solo Woman Budget Traveller. With this, it is my sole purpose to demystify solo travel and to inspire fellow women travellers to claim the public space.
I follow some very simple rules - travel by local transport, stay in hotels that cost Rs 500 a night, and visit offbeat as well as tourist places. My thirst for adventure has taken me from the Pushkar Camel Mela in Rajasthan to the cold and dry mountains of Leh. I have travelled to the remote village of Tanakpur in Uttarakhand as well as to the boisterous holiday destination of Goa.
On one of my trips, I was waiting at a village bus stop where I met another solo woman traveller, an old, wrinkled, rural woman travelling in the same direction. Our conversation, guided by curiosity, led to the woman asking me about my solo presence and purpose in those parts. Where one would expect judgement, the old woman was full of admiration and praise for me. “There’s no fun in marriage. You are doing a very good thing, the best thing in fact,” she said.
Though I have been in a few hairy situations, my experiences as a solo woman traveller have been exciting, fulfilling and safe. I have discovered that most people are there are to do business, and aren’t out to harass women. Instead, they are out to do their own thing. The world is not as bad as we imagine it to be. I believe that the act of travelling is an act of change, of breaking stereotypes. When a woman returns from a new space, she leaves that space safer for the next woman who will visit.”