Travelling by ourselves doesn’t come naturally to most of us. And now and then I get mails from readers who share their apprehensions on this subject or who are looking for tips while planning one. This post is for those who think that travelling alone is somewhat like a superpower (sadly, it’s not) and for those who want to take their chance at it.
Warm your cold feet
For starters, we all have doubts and hesitations. Universally, I suppose we’re united in our fears more than any other attribute! And now that we have established that, let me assure you it’s absolutely all right to have those questions. Before I travelled by myself for the first time in August 2013, I did not overrate or undermine any of my doubts. I feel it is important to prioritise our fears and not blow them out of proportion. So important decisions like: destination, duration, time of arrival, mode of transport, confirmed tickets, accommodation and drop to accommodation are imperative. Pre-planning in these matters is key as these form the foundation of our trip. Once you have this arranged, it will shield you against your mandatory fears.
Develop your mind
I have always felt more confident once I have set my foundation because, in the process I have learnt more about the place and probably spoken with my homestay hosts, or any such tangible source of confidence. Depending on your destination, you will ideally want to engage in some form of activity. This can be an adventure, exploring the local life or just soaking up some sun. Focus on what you want to do there and get your mind (and body) prepped for it. This does not require concrete planning but it is important to visualise yourself there. For instance: if you’re planning a trek in Himachal Pradesh, get outdoors and start training yourself physically. Alternatively, if you’re planning to laze around by the beaches of Goa, visualise yourself there and virtually familiarise yourself with the cafes/shacks in the area.
At this stage, also get an understanding of the available resources (medical aid, ATM, police station and anything else you need). Write the important numbers in a notebook which will be with you at all times during your travel. Read up about the place but don’t let your mind get clogged up with unnecessary information. Sieve through what you need to know and not. This stage is essentially to make you comfortable with the plan.
Safety tools equate to confidence
Always keep a weapon of self-defence with you. Choose from a Swiss Army knife, pepper spray or electric Taser, whichever suits you. Chances are that you may never have to use it but the amount of self-confidence they bring along is unfathomable. I keep a Swiss Army knife with me and in my countless solo trips, I have seldom brought it out unless it was to cut a fruit or file a wire!
Sharing is caring
Before travelling out, share a detailed mail or written note with all information of answering the where, how and when of your travel plan. This note should include where you will be staying, for how long, details of your travel information to and fro, complete addresses and numbers of anyone you will be associated with during your travel (start with your hotel/homestay hosts) and if you will be going off connectivity, do mention that as well. Since I have a knack of travelling to off-beat places, I go off network often and my mails always mention expected days of silence. It gives our family and friends a good amount of assurance when they know of our whereabouts and that it is a well-thought-out plan. This in return will allow you to travel stress-free.
Never question your instincts
I always save the best for last. As first time solo travellers, never, ever question your gut. It will speak to you often and listen to it every time. One of the best things travelling solo has taught me is the heightened accuracy of my intuition. And after your first unaccompanied trip, it only gets better. If you feel uncomfortable in the company of that cabbie, get seats changed or change the cab; if you don’t like that overfamiliar manager, voice your discomfort; if you feel you should’ve taken that right turn you missed, turn around and take it. However, this tip is often coupled with say-what’s-on-your-mind. In the sense, if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, tell them so. A lot of our problems are resolved if we put words to our feelings and communicate them across. Also, while communicating with someone or even walking through a quiet lane, don’t shy away from making eye contact. It is a great tool of self-awareness and let’s everyone around you know that you’re not fearful.
Disclaimer: Solo travel is addictive. Are you ready?
All images and text © Amrita Das.