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Riding high on solo travel

Rachna Verma | Chandigarh |

‘Solo’ travelling is increasingly the trend in India. And despite the perception that it’s not safe for women to travel alone in the country, female travellers are breaking this myth by exploring the remotest of tourist destinations and using solo travelling as a liberating experience.

When travelling solo, one has to take responsibility for each and every decision or arrangement made, make up one’s mind to face difficulties and challenging situations in an unknown terrain. But apparently, many females are taking up this challenge without hesitation and motivating others to go out ‘solo’ and explore new horizons.

A student of Punjab University (PU), Parvinder Kaur, said solo travel not only boosts one’s self-confidence, it also makes one learn new things not just about the outside world but also about one’s own personality. Kaur, who is pursuing a Phd in law from PU, however, said it is never easy to travel solo. “It takes a lot more planning and mental preparation for solo travelling. My brother was the first person in the family who motivated and supported me to travel. My first trip to Amritsar was not actually solo, but with a friend, Jyoti Vashisht,” she said.

Kaur said this trip helped her to trust her own capabilities and after that there were no limits. Giving a few instances of her experiences and trips, the Chandigarh resident said she had a life-changing experience when she travelled solo for 12 days to Kinnaur, Spiti valley, Manikaran and Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh.

She added that different people have different meanings of travel but for her it’s a ”learning” experience, as it helps her come close to the world. Kaur, however, listed a few precautions that every traveller should take. For example, she said solo travellers should avoid taking private buses if government buses are available. Likewise, while hiring a private taxi, one should travel in a registered commercial vehicle and check the genuineness of the driver or the service provider. “Avoid night travelling as much as possible,” she added.

A marketing professional in FM Radio station in Chandigarh, Dipika Mahajan said for her, “travelling is refreshing, not escapism. It’s (solo travelling) a very beautiful, confident feeling to be free, independent during the tour.”

Mahajan said for a successful solo journey, one needs to be a good planner in an organised way. “Before planning any trip anybody must access the basic information of that place,” she said, adding that she ensures her travel bookings and connectivity in the concerned place before leaving.

An employee of a public sector bank, Gurjeet Kaur (34) said she was 32 when she thought of solo travelling following a breakup. “I was going through a tough period in my personal life after the breakup, so I chose travelling as an escape from my problems and depression. But somehow my whole perspective towards life changed following this. I became aware of the unique pleasure of travelling alone. I had a fortuitous encounter with other travellers who not only delighted me, but also provided useful information during the tour. My soul is ignited by surprise discoveries. Travelling alone makes me feel strong as an individual, more than just being a daughter, sister or a working woman,” Gurjeet said.

She said from her very first solo travel trek, Khir Ganga in HP, to conquering Gurudongmar lake (Sikkim) ~ one of the highest lakes in India located at an altitude of 17,800 feet ~ was an unexplainable experience. “Solo travel requires a different sort of adventurousness. It demands an open spirit, a desire for authentic connection, a belief in one’s capabilities,” Gurjeet said.

A Chandigarh-based travel company owner, Deepak Verma, said women are increasingly taking to solo travelling for more than a reason. “Now women are breaking the set norms when it comes to travelling. They are coming forward to break the traditional and narrow mindset. Going by this trend, I believe in the forthcoming years, women will lead the solo travelling trend,” he said. Verma said earlier it was difficult to convince women to travel alone because of safety and other concerns, but now things have changed. “They are filling their bucket list with lots of adventure and thrill,” he said. Verma said a big reason behind travelling is that people want a break from their monotonous routine. “They want to spend time with themselves,” he said.