My experience as a solo backpacker in India
I never planned to quit my job; It just happened. It was, as if, something was beckoning me to give up on my mundane existence and to experience something more fascinating in the outer world which I realised was welcoming me with wide open arms. After eight years in the corporate sector I quit in 2013.
In fact I didn’t even have the required savings but I still went ahead with my decision to quit. I believed in my dreams and took a leap of faith. I decided to travel solo and discover myself and India.
My first independent travel was to Coorg in 2011.
As they say ‘That a man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”
I was tired of accommodating other people’s change in itinerary, or last minute cancellations in travel plans. Also I felt the need to jump into solo traveling because I wanted to spread out my wings.
After I quit I have only been travelling. I believe one of the main reasons why we opt to travel solo is to challenge ourselves, to see how far we can expand, to try something different which is out of our comfort zone.
My nomadic life has taken me to the Northern, Western and Southern parts of India covering about 20 States and 2 union territories in a short span of 18 months. I have been to remote places like Zanskar Valley in Ladakh and have even roamed the streets of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar solo.
Invariably, there are only a few destinations which top the list for going solo and are actually preferred by travellers. For example a traveller might show interest in going solo to Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur or Leh because these are destinations known for solo backpackers. But very few would actually opt to go to states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Today, I feel proud that I am managing to explore every street of India on my own, and creating a wealth of wonderful memories in the process. Woman can travel solo and when it comes to travel in India, it’s a land of many hidden jewels with beautiful hearts.
Almost 95 percent of my travels so far have been self-funded. Currently I am working as a freelance PR consultant and a travel writer. My earnings allow me to travel with ease.
Solo travel is an opportunity to explore your personality, just as you would explore the world, away from all the stress and hustle of daily life. It’s a chance for you to break-free from a monotonous routine, and introspect on your thoughts, dreams, strengths and limitations. How about exploring on feet, how about staying with the locals, how about getting a chance to form new friendships, how about travelling in shared taxis. Doesn’t it sounding exciting?
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to experience the life of Kung-Fu Nuns (Nuns who are trained in Kung-Fu) not once but twice. I met them during my solo backpacking trip to Ladakh and Nepal. Living with them, I realised that their smiling faces and calm demeanour mask a roaring sea of immense energy and strength.
I trekked in the remotest part of India covering the most stunning monastery called Phuktal Gompa in Zanskar Valley. As I was trekking, I realised how humbled mankind is and despite living in extreme conditions they are always happy to serve you with a smile. I spent a day with the Kids in Druk White Lotus School, Ladakh, and could feel the brimming energies in them and eyes full of dreams. I survived accidents which made me value life even more. I travelled on the world’s most treacherous roads, gone rural, practiced Yoga with Yogis and interacted with army personnel who live in extreme conditions to keep us safe.
Travel has made me realise that life is not about living in luxury. Life is only about being happy.
My nomadic life has given me terrific moments to keep for my entire life, which has built me into a strong yet compassionate person by heart. Today, I am grateful for even the smallest thing I have in my life.
Travel has helped me to open up my mind and accepts things the way they are. When you see people living in extreme conditions and still courageous enough to survive, you tend to stop making excuses for your own life.
The turning point
As far as I remember, I always loved travelling but I never thought that it would become my passion one day. It was my trip to Ladakh which changed things for me. I don’t know what but something stuck my mind that made me realise that the world is a better place and it needs to be explored in the best way. There is beauty, magnificence, splendour and all I want today is- to be a part of it.
When you set out to travel, make sure you are well versed with the place before you venture out on your solo trip. Do the required research, read blogs, find out people who have been to the place before, talk to them. Getting to know the place beforehand is an absolute must.
My journey as a solo woman traveller was not an easy one. I faced many challenges to keep my passion alive and I would be lying if I say that I am not facing them now! Coming from a traditional family background, where travelling solo is unheard of, I got through many hurdles to keep my dream alive. Yes this did bother me a lot initially but I also understand that when you try to seek something different yet worthwhile, there will be resentments and people pulling you down. It’s normal to be misunderstood. There were times when I fought, rebelled, struggled but I never gave up.
I think while we decide to go solo, the biggest challenge or the things which come in our mind is loneliness, security and of course managing the budget. But then, this is why you travel solo. To open yourself to the world, to test your wings and learning to live a new dimension of life with limited means. It changes your priority and attitude towards life. If I can handle all this, you can too.
Guest Author Swati Jain is a solo taveller who works as a freelance PR consultant and has recently started her travel blog too.