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Solo travelling: Unlock adventures and lessons in self-reliance

Statistics show more people embracing the solo travel trend. Lounge shares tips to help you plan a great solo trip

More people are embracing solo travel for the sheer convenience it affords.
More people are embracing solo travel for the sheer convenience it affords. (Unsplash/ Timo Stern)

Solo travelling is a wellness travel trend from 2023 whose popularity continues unabated. An idea that has been propagated by books and movies for years, more people today are opting to travel by themselves for the convenience it affords them. Not to mention the undiluted experience of freedom or lessons in self-reliance it proffers. 

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Saloni Kapoor, had a life-affirming epiphany on her first solo trip to the US, after being asked to stand aside by a TSA security personnel at a domestic airport there for lack of ID proof.“I have never travelled on my own within or outside India but after attending a wedding in New Jersey along with a friend from India, I was encouraged by my hostess to go see a few places within the US. I decided to go to Chicago to meet my school friend. And then, this happened!” she says. What has left Kapoor stunned about the experience is how calmly she handled the situation. 

“This incident has given me so much confidence in myself, I now go on trips by myself,” says Kapoor who is seemingly unworried about things going wrong. “I know it can be seen through. After all, I reasoned it out with a TSA security personnel, didn’t I?” she laughs before describes the trip a ‘rebirth’.

 That’s also probably the phrase Ashalatha Srinidhi would pick for her first solo trip to the Himalayas. Having lost her husband a few years ago and spending a few tough years alone, Srinidhi signed up for a trip to Rishikesh for a yoga camp. It was a transformative experience. “Although I stayed largely to myself, the interactions I had with others helped me discover myself. I found talking to strangers relaxing because I could control my narrative. It helped me get back to mainstream life when I returned,” she says.  

Avinash Kumar, a lawyer from Bengaluru, advocates solo travel for battling one’s issues. Having missed several trips with friends and family all these years because of his paranoia for public bathrooms, Kumar recently decided to drive down to Coorg to attend a friend’s wedding. “If I had gone with others, I would have been on the defensive and frustrated. On this trip, I promised myself that I would turn back if it got too difficult. But I persevered and that was life-changing,” he says. 

Call it life-changing, a rebirth or an inward journey, solo travel is a mindset. It has the power to help you discover yourself, take responsibility for your choices and be at peace with them. To paraphrase a cliché, the destination isn’t as important as the journey itself.  So, if you are planning to visit few places on your own, here are few suggestions on how you can get the most out of  your solo adventure: 

Embark on a simple start
It’s best to keep the first solo trip uncomplicated. Carolynn Ray, who runs JourneyWoman, a website for solo travellers, asked experienced solo travellers advice on planning the first solo travel. Most women respondents recommended starting in their own city. Being a tourist in your own city helps you see things differently and solo travellers recommend booking a staycation in a different neighbourhood. Alternately, the trip should be to a place which is easy to reach, preferably by public transport, and to a place where you speak its language. “Although language is not a barrier nowadays within India at least, since most can speak a smattering of English, it’s advisable to go to a place where you are familiar with the language,” says Pawan Singh Choudhary, co-founder of Solo Travel India. 

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Choose a relatively safe destination
For her first solo travel, Bengaluru-based Neerja Rao, 27, decided on Kolkata. “My friends were puzzled by my choice but I had visited Kolkata with my family briefly on our way to Darjeeling. I decided on a three-day holiday for sightseeing and shopping. I stayed at the same hotel as in the last visit. So, it was a good experience,” she says. Her tip? Plan on a (slightly) familiar destination so that there will be no rude surprises. “What’s safe for one person may not be safe for the other, so plan your destination weighing in all your considerations and requirements,” Choudhary advises. 

Book your accommodation well in advance
This is a crucial step which paves way for a trouble-free solo trip. “Many people like to wing it and think they can book something when they reach a place but it is best to book your overnight accommodation in advance,” Choudhary recommends. Searching for a hotel after reaching a place could leave you at the mercy of vendors who may suggest accommodations for their own commissions and there won’t be time to look up the reviews.  

Join group activities
Even though you are travelling solo, it’s best to join groups for sightseeing and adventure activities. UK-based Alison Tarpey, 31, visited Jaipur last year for a two-month sojourn. An intrepid solo traveller, it was her first solo trip to India. “I took group tours to see places in and around Rajasthan and even my visit to Taj Mahal was through a group tour,” she says. “It’s a nice and stress-free way to see places when travelling alone and I made a few good friends on those tours. Besides, it is cost effective this way.”  

Indulge in experiences
Tarpey says she had already planned the Indian experiences she wanted before she embarked on the trip. “A short-term yoga course at Rishikesh, learning block printing in Jaipur and teaching English at a local school – I had already finalized everything beforehand. At the end of my stay, I felt I had not visited India as a tourist but had immersed myself in the local culture and ways.” 

Connect with the local people
Choudhary suggests staying in homestays for a better way to connect with the local people. “By engaging with the local people of a place, you will be able to glimpse their culture more closely,” he says. According to him, it’s advisable to stay in homestays that are recommended by the tourism department because they are vouched for in terms of safety and hygiene. Puri-based tour guide Tushar reminisces about a solo traveller from Germany who had just one request. “He asked me to take him to one of the remote tribal villages for a week. It took us more than a day to reach a village that I had heard about. For six days, the tourist stayed with the villagers in their huts, partaking in their food and learning about their customs. Since I was the translator, I too learned a lot.”

Stay aware
Tarpey talks of an incident that could have escalated in a dangerous way. During her time volunteering at a Jaipur school run by a NGO, she befriended a lot of people. She says she was politely friendly with the school bus driver who used to take her on errands in the city. “One late evening, he bought some food and alcohol and showed up in front of my room which was within the school’s premises,” she recounts. “He knocked on the door and when I opened it, he just entered the room. It happened so quickly and that evening could have easily gotten ugly. I thought on my feet and called a local teacher who lived in the school premises to join us, which she thankfully did. Although my quick thinking helped me, I realized I should have been more aware and not opened the door at all.” 

Rao, who has now done several solo travels to national and international destinations, adds another tip: Don’t overshare. According to her, solo travellers can feel vulnerable and overshare with others, be it at a restaurant, bar or co-travellers. “I keep the conversation general and fun. I make it a point to tell people that someone back home is expecting my call each night. If I go out in the evenings, I always tell someone trusted, usually my family back home or the hotel desk, so that they know I am outside. And, I later-gram rather than posting my location live on social media.” 

Jayanthi Madhukar is a Bengaluru-based writer.

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