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Women on solo travel: What's driving them around the world

To these women travelling solo, away from the people and environs they are familiar with, travelling is not just about the destination. It’s also about accumulating valuable experiences and creating everlasting memories—with freedom, choice, and confidence.

Women on solo travel: What's driving them around the world

Friday October 28, 2022 , 10 min Read

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover," goes an inspirational quote.

And that’s exactly what some women are doing—exploring, dreaming, and discovering the world, one trip at a time, on their own—with a spring in their step and maybe a song in their heart. Giving them company on their solo journeys are their desire to experience the world through their own eyes and the confidence to tread unchartered territories.

YS Life spoke to a few women travellers who have done solo trips to understand what drives them around the world, literally so. Many of the women said travelling solo makes them feel empowered and allows them to push their boundaries. Some women also love the peace and solace that travelling on their own provides.

Swagata Gupta, a corporate communication professional based in Mumbai, who recently went to Udaipur, likes the no-strings attached experience that comes with solo travel. “Travelling solo is so liberating. You can plan on your own and do things the way you like,” she says.

And she did things her way as she wandered around Udaipur, absorbing its rich heritage and savouring the food and colours of the vibrant city.

For Divya Iyer, a management consultant in Mumbai, travelling solo awakens her inner mojo—her ability to be independent and solve problems on her own.

It all began about five years ago when she was looking for like-minded groups to travel with. But it wasn’t easy to match schedules and interests. That’s when Divya decided to take charge and go solo, to see if she could “survive alone”.

Survive she did during her first solo trip to Georgia in 2018, and since then there’s been no looking back. Of course, there was some fear initially, during her first trip, especially as she was landing in the country at 3 am. But her apprehensions vanished after she met her chauffeur, who helped her with a local SIM, an ATM, and the luggage up the stairs.

Now Divya does both solo and group trips and is ready to pack her bags and explore the world whenever she can. So far, she has travelled solo to Romania, Portugal, Uzbekistan and the Balkans around the world, and Leh, Varkala and Sariska in India.

Solo travel is a journey of discovery and self-growth, physically and emotionally away from the people and environs one is familiar with. It also provides a welcome break from the challenges of work and home.

Swagata went to Udaipur leaving behind her six-year-old daughter in the care of her husband and in-laws. She believes she is raising an independent person by doing so. “Women should travel solo, more so if they have kids. At the hostel I stayed in, in Udaipur, I saw a lot of women travelling solo. We need this break—to sleep, wake up late, eat what we like—with no responsibility,” she says.

Dr Suprriya B. Bhatia, a dentist based in Delhi, who goes on all-women trips, says women need to sometimes “drop everything” and take off on a travel, as they often put their needs on the backburner. “When I was trekking in the Valley of Flowers (in Uttarakhand), I came across two young women who’d come there leaving their husbands behind … I encourage women to do this.”

Trekking in Shogi Himachal

Dr Suprriya B. Bhatia during a trek in Shogi, Himachal Pradesh

The Hosteller, a chain of backpacker hostels across India, says it has a large base of solo women travellers and almost 10% of them are recurring clients.

“Back when we started (in 2014), female travellers were much lesser in number, especially ones travelling solo. But now the picture is much different. We have more female solo travellers and also a lot more female group bookings. Post COVID, we’ve seen a rise in bookings by female travellers, encompassing 30-40% of our total bookings every month,” says Pranav Dangi, Founder and CEO, The Hosteller.

Bonding and forging friendships

Solo travel doesn’t always mean being all on your own. There are plenty of opportunities to connect with people—be it fellow travellers, travellers on guided tours, guides, locals, or hostel mates.

Solo travellers can be solitary wanderers or also travel in a group. For women who wish to travel on their own, without family or friends, but still prefer the safety of numbers, all-women group trips are a good bet.


Content creator and solo traveller Nidhi Khurana (centre) at Tosh, Himachal Pradesh

According to Sumitra Senapaty, Founder, WOW Club, which organises trips for women, and an avid traveller herself, an all-women platform gives women comfort. WOW Club strives to build a community of like-minded people and nurture a support system for women travellers.

When Suprriya connects with people during her trips, she is interested to know how they have negotiated life. “This learning helps me grow,” she says.

Nidhi Khurana, a freelance content creator and a social media strategist from Delhi, has been travelling solo for three years now, but she is not completely cut off from people. “I may leave my place alone but I meet people on the go and develop nice bonds. Some of them even join me on my trips.”

During the lockdown, when Nidhi was in Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, staying in a hostel for 1.5 months, she met people from many cities; some of them have even become her friends and travel buddies.

In 2019, when she was waiting for a bus in Nainital to go to Mukteshwar, she met a brother-sister duo and got chatting with them. They happened to be locals of Mukteshwar and they invited Nidhi to their house. She recounts eating the simple food of kadhi-chawal sitting on the floor. “When the girl got married, I was even invited to her wedding,” she says.

These are the kind of experiences that leave a lasting impression on one’s mind and help forge bonds for life.

Staying in hostels can help tackle the boredom or loneliness that may arise from time to time. Hostels also have a lot of activities that can help you get acquainted with other people. “This way, you get to travel solo and also meet people from everywhere. It’s a win-win. You can sit together and chat in the evening and share experiences,” reasons Swagata.

What women want

Different women look for different things while travelling solo—culture, food, adventure, solitude, or wellness. And there are different reasons that keep them going. Some like it quiet, some like an adrenalin rush. Some like to shop, while others prefer to grab a drink and relax.

Suprriya loves nature and adventure travel, while Divya tends to choose places with culture and arts. Divya likes to pick up authentic souvenirs such as trinkets, ethnic stuff, and ceramics during her travels. She also tries out local foods—be it Khachapuri in Georgia, Pide and Gozleme in Turkey, apple/cherry strudels in Romania, and creamy, warm Pastel de Nata (custard tarts) in Lisbon.

And, at the end of each day, she documents what she did on her Instagram stories. “It’s like a journal entry for me; it helps me replay everything in my head. And, years later, when I revisit the stories, it all comes flashing in my mind,” she gushes.

global cuisine

Exploring global cuisine (from left to right)—Khachapuri, a Georgian cheese-filled bread; Pastel de Nata, Portugese custard tarts; and Gozleme, a Turkish stuffed flat bread

According to Sumitra of WOW Club, women are also keen on wellness trips, “as they help them relax and discover their inner self in solitude”.

Another driving force for solo women travellers is “workations”. High speed wi-fi, speciality work spaces, dorms, and, of course, scenic views are the top draws for women opting for long stays in hill stations.  

“With the advent of freelancing and hybrid work models, more women are opting to work from a scenic destination and not from an office,” says Pranav of The Hosteller. According to him, The Hosteller’s properties in places like Bir, Mcleodganj, Shimla, Manali and Kasol are popular among women ‘workationers’.

Question of safety

When one talks of solo travel, invariably the question of safety comes up.

Swagata shares her experience in Udaipur, where she stayed at a popular hostel around Lake Pichola, which is in the heart of the city. “I walked around early morning and also at night. I didn’t find it unsafe. The locals were also helpful,” she says.

Divya too had a safe experience in Romania. Once she was travelling in a taxi along a zigzag highway to reach a glacier lake. “It was foggy and getting dark and the taxi driver was on his phone … Turns out he was talking to his mom, checking out the last train for me to leave the place ... My advice to travellers is to trust a little more; the world isn’t such a bad place as we think it is.” 

However, not everyone has the same experience. Nidhi advises women travellers to be cautious. “People think travelling solo is all about taking a backpack and enjoying all the time. But there have been instances of inappropriate touches in buses, etc. So, when something like that happens, be ready to change your plan. Trust your instincts; they are always spot on.”

solo travel tips

Slow, immersive travel

Women travellers are staying away from standard fare and opting for offbeat experiences—from Egyptian hammams, hot air ballooning in Turkey, and massages by visually impaired people in Vietnam to vineyard and wine-tasting tours in Porto (Portugal) and rhododendron treks in Sikkim.

They are also not in a frenzy to tick tourist spots off a list or pack their day with activities galore. Instead, they are choosing wisely and taking their time to savour the place and interact with local people, who are generally warm and welcoming. For example, a visit to a village of porters in Peru, who have done the Inca trail to Machu Pichu. Or watching an Inca ritual, with coloured corn and twigs, to keep away bad spirits.

Inca ritual

A scene from a village in Peru, where locals weave textiles using local and natural ingredients. Photo credit: WOW Club

Suprriya seeks unique places in India and exotic, far-off destinations such as Kilimanjaro, Egypt, Madagascar, Argentina, Peru and Chile. “I have such a great affinity for South America that I think I was Spanish in my last birth. South America was a soulful experience; I was there for almost a month. The people, nature, the Inca culture, and the food exceeded my expectations,” she says.

Sumitra, who has been to 66 countries, across all continents, has fond memories of her trip to Antarctica—a place where “glaciers are as big as buildings”. She marvels at what early explorers would have undergone, back when equipment and gear were not so advanced.


Divya Iyer at Murmansk, Russia

Divya describes her trip to Murmansk (Russia), in the Arctic circle, as one of her most memorable experiences. “The two days I spent here was almost like being on the sets of Frozen with thick, white snow all around and crazy cold temperatures (-20 degrees). Meeting the local Sami tribes, sheltering from snowfall in their tents, riding sleighs driven by huskies, feeding reindeers, and catching the Northern Lights at night …” she narrates with joy.

She also recalls her trip to Sariska in Rajasthan, known to be one of the darkest places in India, where the stars are more visible than in the pollution-ridden skies of the city. “Seeing the galaxy of stars and identifying planets in the pitch dark with no one around was a surreal experience.”

Here’s to more such surreal experiences and more solo travels for women—across the wide, wide world! May their feet take them where their hearts want to go!

Edited by Teja Lele