Who says India's not safe for women to travel? Definitely not this young woman!
We’ve all made ‘pacts’ with our friends to go exploring the world, only to have our hearts broken when they bail on our plans. The looming ‘trip to Ladakh’ that we’ve talked about, seen pictures of, even made decisions on the things to be done and seen. The trip that doesn't materialize because of work schedules/lack of vacation days or simply because we can’t sync our calendars with our friends. All the while, we desperately wish that we could just take off on our own. However, we have to deal with comments like: "How can a woman travel alone?”, “It’s too dangerous!” , “Don’t go alone, wait until the holidays - I’ll come with you!” It seems to be almost objectionable for a woman to make a solo trip in India-but is it really so impossible?
We spoke with a young woman from Lucknow who’s proving everyone wrong! A biker and a traveller, Oshika Pandey from Lucknow shares with us her journey. Learn more about Oshika’s travels through her web series - Escape.
In conversation with Oshika…
Polka Café: When did you first ride a bike/ how did you learn?
Oshika: My first bike ride was when I was in class 10, around 15 years old. My grandfather was scolding my cousin for roaming around the city on the bike. I laughed at my cousin for getting all that scolding and he replied “you won’t ever understand the joy of riding it”. It was then that I decised to learn how to ride a bike and soon planned on taking a trip.
Polka Café: What made you want to escape?
Oshika: I think there comes a moment in everyone’s life when they want to break away from their daily monotony and go out to find time for themselves. I wanted to break free and escape all that mental and physical stress in my life, be it professional or personal. I wanted peace of mind.
Polka Café: What was the influence of Lucknow on this free-spirit nature?
Oshika: What I am today is all because of Lucknow. What I love about Lucknow is that it is of the same nature as me. Lucknow ain’t too big, ain’t too small, it is neither very Hindu nor very Muslim, it’s neither very modern nor very orthodox. Oshika is also similar, she is a mixture of the extremes. My free spiritedness, strength and courage are a gift from Lucknow.
Polka Café: How many kilometres did you travel ? What were the places you covered?
Oshika: During Escape the total kilometres I travelled was 1900kms. I started my journey from Lucknow and reached Dehradun. From there I travelled to Rishikesh where I spent two days, went ahead to a place called Chopta in Uttrakhand, came back to Dehradun and then went towards a place called Chakrata.
Polka Café: Have you travelled alone before this?
Oshika: Yes, I have travelled alone many times. last year in December, I went to Dharmshala and Mcleodganj.
Polka Café: What was the place you could connect with most and why?
Oshika: Chakrata was where I found peace. It has a very different charm and those specific hills kissed and caressed me like a lover. I painted, I wrote, I sang. Things which I would never do in my normal life. I was myself in that place.
Polka Café: What were some of the most amazing experiences you’ve had?
Oshika: The whole journey was full of breath-taking experiences, mentioning one might do injustice to the others. Memories of the policeman who dropped me at Dharamshala, or the experience of sitting with Chetan bhaiya and just talking about the environment and its protection, or the bus ride to Chopta or sitting in the kitchen and cooking with Manoj Bhaiya’s wife, or the sunrise at Chakrata, or the memorable moment of listening to the band Bhairavas. The complete journey is still fresh in my mind.
What about safety?
Polka Café: What were the things you did to make sure you were safe?
Oshika: I have a basic, simple rule – I live by the laws of the land. When last year I went to Mcleodganj, I asked the owner of my homestay about all the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ of the area. I traveled there during the off-season and the homestay was bit far off from the market area, so he told me the safe time to be back was by 5.30PM. For next the one week I was back by 5.00PM. One should always keep their guard on and listen to their instinct and heart.
Polka Café: How often did you feel helpless and what did you do overcome it?
Oshika: Quite a lot of times! I felt helpless as I was facing a lot of challenges in my personal life for which I wanted to escape; but then I did nothing. I just spent time with myself and travelled and travelled and realized that one should love himself/herself first. Spending time with yourself is really important for you will get to meet YOU.
Polka Café: Did you ever get lonely and wish for a companion?
Oshika: Frankly speaking.. NEVER! I go on solo trips to be with myself. What I can offer myself is the best – my own company.
Why you must embark on solo adventures?
Polka Cafe: What would you say to other women who want to travel alone?
Oshika: You should step out with your bags right away! Nothing can give you a sense of freedom and empowerment the way travel can. It is such a liberating feeling. Go out meet new people, learn about different cultures and lifestyles. It makes you adaptable to different situations. It gives you strength and experience to fight the odds. Travelling alone also teaches you to love yourself and the fact that a woman doesn't require a man always to keep her happy.
Precautions to take: live and stay by the law of the land, protect and guard yourself. Trust your instincts.
What do you think? Travelling alone sounds good? Which are some of the places you’d love to travel to alone? Share them with us in the comments section below.