Imagine this—you with your rucksack and your guidebook (the only two things you need to look after this time) standing at the precipice. At the other end, a new city that’s just waiting to be explored.
This isn’t the beginning of a journey, it’s the start of an adventure!
First things first—this is going to be nothing like going shopping solo or eating a meal by yourself…though you might end up doing quite a bit of the latter, so prior experience sure will help.
While you might be a bit cautious about starting a conversation with a stranger in India, let us break it to you, that fear will follow you all the way to well… whichever part of the globe you’re in! And there’s only one way to deal with it—give it the cold shoulder, head to the local café or pub, exchange a few smiles and begin polite conversation with the bartender, the waitress or if you’re lucky enough, the cute guy at the table beside yours.
Now here’s the thing—if you’re an introvert, the very thought of this has made you panic, but this is exactly where you can challenge yourself. I distinctly remember this one time, I was camping in Himachal Pradesh and it was biting cold. At first, I was extremely hesitant to talk to other people because everybody had their own little groups so it seemed rude to intrude. But then I heard that voice of reason—“what do you have to lose?” The chances of me meeting these people again were rather slim, and well, it’s terribly sad to be sitting by a campfire all by yourself when you could be sharing embarrassing stories with a bunch of total strangers and have your laugh echo into the dead of the night, right? As it turned out, that is exactly what happened and in fact, we’re in the midst of planning an encore on another camping trip this year!
When you travel solo, expect a major boost to your self-esteem! You have no one to rely on but yourself—right from waking up on time for a cycling tour to figuring out the in-bound and out-bound transits lest you travel in the wrong direction, which neighbourhood is safe for a nightcap and which seemingly harmless stranger you shouldn’t have revealed the name of your hotel to—you’ve got no one but yourself to hold accountable! The downside is that you can’t blame anyone for those tickets you misplaced, but the upside is that it’s totally legit for you to be selfish, do as your heart pleases, wander where your feet take you and come back with your confidence soaring. And if you’re as careless as me, a degree in crisis management too!
In many ways solo travel is like a crash course in self-discovery! It’s like holding up this magic mirror that suddenly reveals to you new likes, dislikes and interests you didn’t know about or perhaps those that you paid no heed to basis the preferences of others. The more you talk to people who don’t know you, the more you’ll become aware of the kind of person people think you to be. For me some of these learnings came as quite a surprise—I dislike small talk so it was fascinating to see where all my conversations lead me when I chose to steer clear of weather, politics and football chatter. People have some remarkable stories to tell, we just need to know how to reach them!
No amount of journaling can capture the essence of travelling solo—when you’re all by yourself, far away from home, you can make every single day memorable. I left home nervous and slightly wary but returned with feet that were happily exhausted, a full heart, a lifetime worth of stories and many new contacts in my phone book! Will I do this again? You bet!
Saakshi Bhat is a freelance illustrator whose to-do list features taking two vacations every year. She is based in Mumbai.