Ever since I watched Eat, Pray, Love, the one thought that's been eating me is how does solo travelling really feel. Do you discover more because you are on your own, far away from being distracted by others? Do you make new friends because now there is an opportunity to do so? And what about the safety - how do you ensure you feel safe at all times? Does the worry about safety affect your spontaneity or even your planning of the itinerary?
To answer all those questions, we have 10 women travel bloggers from India, who prefer to travel alone, and are clearly having the time of their lives. Read on for some much needed inspiration.
Elita – Have Feet Will Travel
Elita started travelling when she was a kid and she says it was natural she would take it independently. After spending two years juggling travel and a full time job, this travel bug decided to quit her sedentary desk life in December 2014 to give more to follow what she loves. As she states in her blog, “While travel fuels my blog, my travels in turn need to be fuelled to. So ever since I have joined the tribe who've quit their 9-6, I've been freelancing my way through.”
Elita doesn’t just travel solo, she has done a good mix of mostly solo with group trips. “Sometimes with a bunch of people I have never met or known before (so it's felt like a different kind of solo - but only initially) or sometimes with a friend/friends (if schedules are easier to work out),” she says.
Memorable Experience: Travelling alone was definitely my first - to Trasi in coastal Karnataka because from there began this love affair with travel and more specifically 'solo travel'.
Safety Factors: When I am travelling - whether solo or in a group - I am attentive to my surroundings at all times. And I am careful about the amount of information I divulge to those around me as well as on social media (especially if I am travelling solo). I also keep my family and friends in the loop on where I am.
Itinerary: I mostly have a fair idea of the places I'm going to hit because of my never ending travel bucketlist. So I employ the intelligence of TripAdvisor, Google Maps and IRCTC (because I mostly travel by train) to help me out. And because I have no one I have to answer to, I plan them out the way it pleases me!
Follow Her Here: nomadicthunker.blogspot.in
Namita Kulkarni – Radically Ever After
Namita Kulkarni has travelled to around 14 countries, creating adventures, reading and learning new languages. Through solo travel, she states, she has chased her fears and gotten to know them better with every (mis)adventure.
She travels solo, as well as taken group trips. Though Kulkarni adds, “I travel solo because it’s the closest I've gotten to feeling like a bird in the sky. As every solo traveller knows, there’s a particular high that hits you when you stand amid the sound and energy of a new place, not knowing a soul or having any agenda beyond the next meal.” She has done a couple of group trips such as the G Adventures tour in Bolivia. “And I loved how it brought together 12 random strangers from 7 countries. We went from strangers to friends very quickly in the bizarre beauty of that country,” she says.
Besides being an avid traveller, she is a trained yoga teacher, writer and an artist.
Memorable Experience: There are way too many but I love looking back on the time I got cycle-chased while cycling on an island in Bali. I was enjoying my ride on the mud roads when I somehow realised that there's an angry local chasing me because he thought I was stealing his cycle. I loved the adrenaline rush of the chase and finally he caught up to me when I reached a huge puddle and had to stop to avoid a fall. I explained to him as best as I could with the language barrier that I was just testing the cycle before renting it. I'd asked another guy if I could do that and he had agreed but turns out this guy was the owner. If I could speak enough Indonesian though, I'd have said 'that was fun, can we do that again sometime?' (laughs).
Safety Factors: I took a few krav maga classes a couple years ago and I'm fairly quick with my reflexes so that helps.
There's almost always pepper spray in my bag but I haven't ever felt the need to use it on my travels - as yet (smiles).
Avoid walking in deserted streets alone late at night, wherever you might be.
Also, make sure at least one other person knows your whereabouts in case you're headed somewhere remote and networkless.
Itinerary: This is one of the major reasons I love solo travel - it's all up to me! I can be a total control freak and plan every detail if I wish and then also feel free to tear up the plan if my whims suddenly point elsewhere on the road. Finally, I follow what really excites me, on the road and off it.
Follow Her Here: radicallyeverafter.com
Deepti Asthana – DA Travelography
Deepti Asthana is a photographer who documents all her travels in the form of photo stories and travel pictures. She was an engineer by profession and quit her corporate job to follow her passion. “From an engineer to a self-learned photographer, photography changed my perspective towards life. After a few years of traveling, I wanted to find a deeper meaning out of my journeys. The small creative challenges of photography, the urge to see the new places, weaving the interesting stories, to meet new people bringing new ideas keep me going in this profession,” she states.
Though she travels solo mostly, at times she travels with friends and family. But she quickly adds, “When I am traveling alone, I can experience much more than when I am traveling with friends, partner or family. I am more flexible to change my plans; I have a free mind to see things, smell the aromas around and just be with nature.”
Memorable Experience: Some of the greatest treasures are safely tucked away in distant corners of India’s lesser known regions, and Meghalaya is one such place where I enjoyed traveling a lot, visiting living root bridges, monoliths and the crystal clear Dawki river at Bangladesh border. Meghalaya is a land of folktales, and searching for these stories and portraying them in the images was probably the highlight of my trip.
Safety Factors: I prefer homestays over standard hotels, I feel more safe and connected to local people. But the most important thing is to ensure the place has been reviewed by some of the solo travellers. Also, enquire about the family, and the caretaker before making a booking.
Itinerary: I am a big time planner, I research a lot before traveling specially when I plan a shoot. I research about places, opportunities where I could get good travel pictures. I don't want to be in the situation, where the place I am visiting is closed or I reach there at the wrong hour.
Follow Her Here: datravelography.com
Lakshmi Sharath – A Travel Blog Of An Indian Backpacker
After doing a desk job for 15 years in several media organisations, Lakshmi Sharath decided to travel and see the world. She started blogging in 2005, and ever since her blog has won several accolades.
A media professional, a traveller, travel writer, blogger and photographer, Sharath says she loves to travels, period. “I don’t believe in solo travel or group travel or women travel or any such tags. I do family trips, trips with friends and family, trips with strangers, trips alone, it just doesn’t matter,” she adds.
Memorable Experience: My most memorable trip travelling alone is the visit to Cannes and to the Ile Sainte Marguerite, where I went to explore the tryst with Man in the Iron Mask.
Safety Factors: I try to blend in, I arrive and depart during the day, I always ensure that I stay close to a metro station and in a bed and breakfast or with a family.
Itinerary: I do a lot of slow travel when I am travelling solo. I don’t really rush. I plan most of my trips on the go even when I go on my personal trips with a friend or family.
Follow Her Here: www.lakshmisharath.com
Swati Jain – Buoyant Feet
Though solo travelling happened to her by chance, Swati Jain says she doesn’t regret it at all, especially quitting her job of 8 years. Her fascination to experience and explore every corner of India and rest of the World, led her to 20 states and 2 Union territories, which she solo backpacked in a short span of 18 months. It’s only recently that started traveling in groups, post meeting few beautiful crazy souls on road. “So though the first preference remains solo but I am not shying away to experiment with group travels. After all, sometimes you meet and make the best of friends on road right,” she says (smiles).
Memorable Experience: I remember during my initial period of travelling, I met a couple who helped me get out from a secluded place in Rajasthan when my taxi broke down and I was absolutely clueless on the way forward. I admit that I was initially scared but I am glad I was proved wrong because they not only helped me in getting a convenient accommodation for the night, but also made sure that I catch the right bus.
Another instance is when I was treated like a family member in the guest house I chose to stay in Zanskar Valley. I have seen how a policeman helped a barefooted homeless man with shoes; warm clothes and food in freezing winters. I met people who pay visit every weekend to old age homes and play with the oldies to bring a smile on their face. There are people and may be far more in number who do all this without any intention or interest.
Safety Factors: I highly play by my gut feel while I travel solo. I prefer merging with the destination so that I don’t stand out. I am always vigilant and alert of the surroundings I am traveling to. Honestly, you can’t afford to ignore, too.
Itinerary: I usually go unplanned or you can say that with time I have learnt to go unplanned. For me this is the best way to travel and explore. Planned itinerary kills an essence of the place or that is what I feel. For me the best thing is to land at a place and explore. Also, since I have the luxury of days. Now I only research the basics, which include the route, weather and things to take care. Since I slow travel, I love to explore on foot and by talking to the locals or fellow travellers I meet on my way.
Follow Her Here: buoyantfeet.com
Rutavi Mehta – Photokatha
From riding an auto rickshaw from Jailsamer to Shillong for 3,000 km to staying for months on Lakshadweep island, Rutavi Mehta has done it all. Mehta loves exploring new places, meeting new people, learning their stories and most importantly, venturing into the unknown. She quit her job of seven years and went backpacking around Europe to discover serenity and ways of living. Since she believes in giving back to the society in some way or the other, every year for about 2 months she goes to Ladakh to teach children.
This travel afficianado travels 90 per cent solo unless if she travels in a group for Tourism trip or invitation. “I travel solo to check my level of dependency, understanding of handling the situation, and finding serenity,” she says.
Memorable Experience: I was travelling from Mumbai to Kerala via train in second class as I couldn't book AC seat in the last minute. Unfortunately, I forgot to withdraw cash from the ATM for the AC ticket, which could be transferred after giving extra payment to TC checker. Since I was sick I wanted to move to AC compartment. A gentleman who was sitting there, was observing everything – that I was trying to explain my situation to the TC checker. He lent me Rs. 3,000 for the AC ticket, and I was surprised as I was not sure about his intentions. Fortunately, I was wrong as he was only trying to help me, the same way somebody had helped him while he was travelling. He gave me cash without any security of guarantee and I managed to take his bank account and transferred the money to his account after reaching Kerala. This is why I feel India is safe to travel.
Safety Factor: Always carry less luggage so it is easier to shift to different places. Download local numbers of police station and hospital, and check by dialling once if they work. Wear appropriate clothing, depending on the region you are travelling If required keep pepper spray handy Keep your family and friends informed about your whereabouts.
Itinerary: I usually read blogs and posts on Tripadvisor to know about the place in detail. I usually book first 2 nights in a hostel to get an understanding of the location. Staying in a hostel is safe, and this way you can have an understanding of the place.
Follow Her Here: www.photokatha.in
Medhavi Davda – Ravenous Legs
From being a high altitude trekker to a certified Advanced Adventure scuba diver, a state champ and national level Badminton player to working in a corporate job for 9 years, a trained dancer in various dance forms to last but the most important – being an avid traveller – Medhavi Davda definitely is an all-rounder. But travelling will always be her first love. “I have traveled extensively in India, 20 states and all 7 union territories. I have recently started exploring international destinations,” she states.
This travel blogger only travels solo. “I like to go with the flow and that attitude of mine reflects in my traveling style, too. I don't like to compromise on my mood and my flow during my travels. I totally enjoy the freedom and flexibility that solo travels offer me. Having said that, I would like to mention that when it comes to trekking, I trek with groups most of the times. Trekking is better done in groups. There are a couple of treks where I have trekked solo,” adds Davda.
Memorable Experience: It was my first international trip and I booked my flight to Bali a week before I left, and that's the only thing I did. I ended up backpacking solo through three islands in Indonesia.
I hired a bike in Bali and moved around with my backpack. I rode through the villages, saw some beautiful temples, lakes, volcanic mountains, rice fields and met lovely people in the northern part of Bali. I then went to Gili Islands in Lombok for my Scuba Diving Certification. This place had a vibe which made me fall so much in love with the it - starting from exciting speed boat transfers, to the warmth at the hostel, my daily Scuba Diving Routines to the massages on the beach, and the vibrant nightlife at Gili Trawangan. After this, I trekked to the strenuous Mount Rinajni, second highest active volcano in Lombok. It was dry, barren, rocky, sandy, hot, cold, insane! It was not glamorous like the Himalayas, but it was an experience of a kind!
Safety Factor: I always need to be alert and use my brain much more when I am alone. I believe my instincts. If I feel something is wrong, there is a high possibility of it being wrong, I don't force myself to anything.
I carry enough cash in different compartments, I never know when I'll put myself in difficult situations.
I carry light. I need to walk with my backpack when I travel solo.
I research a lot about the destination before I land there, but never plan my trip. Solo travel brings lots of surprises and it's fun solving them on the go. I avoid planning and booking everything beforehand, so that I can move around freely.
Itinerary: I generally backpack and have no planned itineraries, to an extent that I would never know where I'm going to spend my night. I enjoy solo travels mainly because I don't like to chalk out plans. I love the flexibility of not discussing and finalising itineraries with anyone. I am always ready to explore and experiment with stuff on the go. I like to surprise myself on the travels.
Follow Her Here: www.ravenouslegs.com
Priyanka Dalal – Maproute
Travel blogger, Priyanka Dalal, loves travelling and exploring different places, especially when it’s done solo. She likes meeting new people, seeing new places, the choices and exposure that travel brings. “Also, just being on my own, the silence and solitude,” she states.
Though she travels solo as much as possible, sometimes she becomes a part of small group trips. “Or parents or friends may join me for few days during my longer solo trip. But most often I find my social circle proposing travel plans and me telling them that my solo quota is not yet done. So I am traveling solo instead, she adds (smiles).
Dalal is the marketing head at a fin-tech startup and does some independent projects in online marketing.
Memorable Experience: Solo cycling on my first trip to Europe. Berlin to Copenhagen, 550km in 17 days was awesome. Cycling in the European countryside and camping in the nights - totally wild, tough and relaxing at the same time.
Safety Factors: Usually I maintain early nights and remain aware of my surroundings. I also maintain a rapport and build conversations with people especially if I feel the situation might be awkward. One can never be sure of how to be safe actually. Once in a small town in Himachal Pradesh I was heading back to my stay at 8.30 pm, which is early by any urban standards but by this time all street lights were off. So the path leading to my accommodation was pitch dark. I was walking towards it and there was a truck driver also going the same way. I just started chatting with him and that’s when I felt safer.
Itinerary: Traveling solo is awesome for many reasons. One reason is that you can travel at your own pace. I often prefer a completely unplanned itinerary. Just reservation to a place and book a stay because that is important for safety. But other than that no plans. Often I have landed up at places without any research at all. Anyway even if do plan, for example, the solo cycling trip in Europe, I did quite a bit of planning - so and planning for myself makes things so much easier.
Follow Her Here: travel.priyankawriting.com
Shivya Nath – The Shooting Star
Shivya Nath hails from Dehradun, a small town on the base of the Himalayas. After completing her schooling, she went to Singapore for further studies. “I landed a job with the Singapore Tourism Board, which is where I learnt everything I know about social media, and started following the journey of travel bloggers across the world,” she states.
In 2011, she took a 2-month sabbatical from work and went flash-packing across Western Europe with a friend, and volunteer-travelled by herself in the high Himalayas of India. She adds, “In those two months, I saw, experienced and lived more than I ever had before, and decided to quit my first and only corporate job with the dream of travelling the world on my own terms.”
Safety Factors: I usually pick up a local SIM card to get internet access if I’m staying longer than a week in a place.
Stay with a reviewed local host.
Have easy access to a weapon, preferably a taser .
Keep money and bank cards in the front pocket of your jeans.
No one knows a place better than the people who live there. Speak to locals wherever you are – your host, your co-passenger on a bus, the lady who runs the cafe, the old man lounging in the warm sun.
Itinerary: I like to stay in experiential accommodations (think home-stays), travel impulsively and to places that have seldom been written about, and don’t believe in counting every penny I spend. I like to go slow, get under the skin of a place, talk to locals and experiment with the local cuisine (I’m a vegan by choice); I mostly travel solo or with a friend; group travel with a fixed itinerary is just not for me.
Follow Her Here: the-shooting-star.com
Leena Bansal – Miss Walking Shoes
Leena Bansal, or Miss Walking Shoes, as she calls herself, quit her job in 2014 to travel around the world. Since then she has travelled to 32 countries across three continents covering some 79,827 kilometres (49604 miles), which is roughly equivalent to circling the Earth twice! “All this on budget and using minimum air transport,” she states.
From trekking up the Himalayas to deep sea diving in Atlantic Ocean, climbing Mayan Pyramids to paragliding up in the air, camping on roadside with gypsies to bumping into her lookalike in Berlin (laughs), losing her camera lens to almost dying of snake bite twice, climbing active volcano in Indonesia, and witnessing two natural disasters – cyclone in Gili Islands and Nepal earthquake were just a few of things that had happened to her while travelling. “All these travels were self-funded and self-organized. I travelled on the budget using overland transportation when traveling within a continent, shared rooms with unknown travellers in the dormitories, and cooked my meals (wherever possible),” she adds.
Bansal quickly adapts to a place and none of the factors like – traveling solo, being a woman, tight budget and safety bothers her much during travels. “In fact, all these contributed to making my journeys even more enriching experience. There are not many solo travellers on the road. And the small fraction that makes this class is usually welcomed by all. And as far as safety issues are concerned, I was born and raised in Delhi – one of the most unsafe places for women, so frankly I felt safe everywhere,” she concludes.
Follow Her Here: www.misswalkingshoes.com