Someone once asked me, “What would you’ve liked to be if you weren’t a woman”.
And almost instinctively I said, “A bird. I want to find the highest peaks to fly over and the tiniest crevices to poke into”.
I found the freedom of every solo flight the bird took totally mesmerizing. All I needed to do was take the 1st one and it has been a terrific journey ever since.
We all know there are tons of women who love going solo on little trips. Big trips. But we also know tons more who feel it way cooler to do that with a sibling, friend or partner. What’s the fun of doing things alone when you can do it with company you love, no?! But that’s precisely why it’s a revelation of sorts when you travel with yourself. It’s not just an outer journey, but an inner journey too. Besides, think of all the new stories you can bring back & share.
SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER & VEGETARIAN
I started going solo by default some 10 years back. On impulse I had felt like a holiday, but friends & family were just too caught up with their lives. So I took the plunge as I had nothing to lose. Initially I took trips to places that I felt would not have a cultural dissonance, with a single female traveler.
I struggled big time with food too. The classic vegetarian battle for a good meal especially at lunch & dinner. So finding a place or a cart to pick up food other than salad used to get mighty tough when I began traveling in mid-2000. But you do learn to adjust over time and get smart especially at dinner time when you don’t want to roam the streets in the night alone & hungry. Pick up extra food at lunch or then pack in some RTE (ready to eat) from the local supermarket. Of course options today are plenty. Vegetarian food is easier to find in many places. If not, there is always good old pasta & cheese.
I also needed to feel safe in my head. But here’s the simple truth for any land. The most basic thing about travel is to ‘adapt’. And the same ground rules apply when going solo too. Respect the land, its traditions, its gender dynamics…then take the plunge. It will respect you right back more often.
Well the fun thing is solo has taken me to all kinds of places. Ones that have stayed evergreen, ones that were wounded in war but filled with hope, ones that have been built on a rich 3000 yr old heritage & much more. Truth be told, I’ve felt amazingly welcome across. So if you ask me how will it change your life, here’s the win-win deal. It’s rewarding from the time you plan your journey & then you relish forever the perks that come with it.
(Mess up the itinerary. Do stuff at your own pace. Stumble upon the corner surprises)
What you’ll fall in love with is:
You get to decide! Think about how often you get that chance when you are with family or friends. Going solo means you can opt out of a plan or then just decide on whim too. I did that in Switzerland. I was living in Zurich. A trip I’d booked seemed not so exciting as compared to an impromptu idea that crossed my path. So I cancelled it, went to the train station and took a 1hr trip to Basel for the day. Not the most oft visited place but I saw some beautiful architecture. Of the town hall/council house (Rathaus Basel), of churches and even made a buddy en route. Pleasant surprises was much of what I carried back.
That’s the over riding emotion the 1st time you do it. It simply fuels up your passion to go anywhere, without wondering whether something will go awry. Fearlessly. When I decided to go to Israel, due to tons of media reports, my family was sitting on the edge. But we all do know how much these reports are exaggerated. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Rosh Hanikra grottos, Haifa & also Ramallah (Palestine) were totally safe. And so hospitable. It was one of my most memorable trips. I am now toying with ‘so what next’? Should it be Mongolia or Iran!
Not so surprisingly you will meet many more solo travelers who will just warm up to you with little effort. I’ve made some lovely friends on my trips and I am planning a journey soon with one of them.
That’s not all. The best part is you get to meet some amazingly helpful souls. Locals. When I remember Paris from my 1st trip 14 years ago, I bring back memories of a baker, a cop and an utterly romantic couple who chose to stop their amorous expressions on the street, only to help me find my way to the then coolest pub in town.
I’ve always found travel has taught me tons about appreciating the differences. And people so not like me always bring in the new. You do grow as a person faster than many others when you truly enjoy the dissimilarities.
Actually you are grateful for all that comes your way. And because you are figuring out your highs & flaws yourself, you hardly have the time or inclination to judge. You simply have to think on your feet, find ways to solve your problems & watch your back.
If you ask me, do I revel doing a duet or traveling with a bunch of people, I’d say yes I do savor both. But what do I really really love? Cruising Solo.