The Solo Traveling - Truth Or Dare10/13/2014 03:26:00 PM
I have been getting quite a few questions about Solo Travel and Safety measures around it, So rather than responding individually which I have done in the past and found it very difficult to do, I thought I'll share a quick post on it with everyone.
This is not the first time I have received this type of question and not the first time me writing about and emphasizing on different aspect of it every time. A lot of time focus is on female solo travelers, but this time, I have got many messages and emails from male travel enthusiasts, interesting.
For me more than traveling, its the idea of the travel that's intriguing. Imagining yourself in a strange surrounding, contemplating what and how'd you feel and absorb the the atmosphere and interactions with the strangers. Experiencing any place, with all your heart and mind, without certain fears and inhibitions is what is truly a travel experience, not just visiting a place and worrying about numerous things, and safety as one of them. That means one shouldn't travel unless s/he is comfortable doing it but isn't that the contradiction to what travel is all about? - leaving your comfort zone and venturing into the unknown.
I have been traveling and living internationally since 2006, and domestic travel should've been about 10 years back. and I can assure you its not fun all the time. What we see in facebook pictures and tweets is all the nice memoirs, I don't think anyone wants to hear your bad experiences and go sad, de-motivate themselves from what they're currently dreaming for. fair indeed, but Lets be real, You don't see the mountains of garbage bags on the streets of new york in the movies, nor you smell the horrible smell of burned oil thats in the air every evening, its the city of your dreams after all. right? But thats how every place is, with few pluses and minuses. and we should be ready for it all.
The second and most important thing is trust. Honestly I do have trust issues, but I don't think twice before trusting strangers, I feel I am pretty good in judging strangers, totally opposite with those around me, or may be I know who they are and I sort of ignore it and not let my reasoning prevail but anyhow here is the truth about travel, You are your most humble-self and trusting when you travel, if you're not, you should be. Be open and nice and strangers are most likely to be nice to you, other than those owning business, no one is gaining anything out of you honestly, at least in short term, why leave a bad impression?
While being a good judge of character helps, I wouldn't ask you to go unprepared anywhere, and there I go back to my first point.
Its always a good idea to map your travel and study it. commute, surroundings, food, i.e. your basic needs. If I am taking a taxi from point A to B, I always load the map on my phone and GPS it once every few minutes just checking if I am going right towards my destination. Internet and a Smart phone is not very expensive these days, or save some from your lodge/hostel/hotel budget, take local transport instead of taxi and you can very well afford it.
I am not someone who'd encourage facebooking or excessive tweeting, though I am both a culprit and victim of both, but checking-in to places is actually a good thing IMO, and that's where these apps like foursquare which is now Swarm I guess, come very handy, You know where all you've been and what time and most importantly you're friends and family know your whereabouts, easy to track incase of emergency. I in fact check-in my local check-ins not for the reviews, just to keep a good tab on me, on how much i am spending. I can be pretty spendthrift so give me a good idea on when I got my grocery last time. point is, put technology to your own personal use, so that it helps you experience a place better.
I was talking about overcoming fear earlier. One of them could be traveling or rather avoid traveling in wee hours, or not wandering around quiet areas in the dark and alone specially. I feel you can always take calculated risks and then be more confident next time you travel. for example, I may have been petrified when I was in Kargil, 4 years back, looking for the scheduled Taxi that was to leave to Padum Zanskar, in the dark and dusty and a ruin like bus-stand. At least in my mind I was, No electricity for days, no mobile reception, an STD phone that works or doesn't at its own wish, and very congested looking place, add it that no information about if or where is there is any bus or taxi to where you want to go. I am crazy, I thought a few times but it was actually not scary, not even heading to Zanskar in a stuffed taxi at 2AM after that moment was passed. My point, gift yourself an adventure once in a blue moon. Get to basics when you're scared, What are you scared about, People? Animals?
Well a Place won't eat you, unless you're on top of a volcano or under the ocean. There are hardly any Animals left on the planet, who can actually eat you, Jokingly yes, so It goes back to planning what people you can trust and what not. How to be careful in the crowd, mob & markets, and how not to care at small places. trust me, small towns/ villages are beautiful w/ lovely people who' are as curious about you as you're about them, and most helpful at the sametime. taken, there are always exceptions, but let say, mostly.
And if you're in wilderness alone, plan your trip properly, Don't make 124hours just because you' think you can become a motivational speaker if you come out alive. Honestly Planning is the key, and going little overboard and a contingency reserve IMHO is good if its you're first time.
Now two points : the first - where are you getting you motivational details from?
Please do not just jump from the plane because everyone else is doing it. Please do not walk in to dark because someone else has conquered it. Do you really have to prove anything to anyone? - The Answer is a big fat NO. and I tell you why.
Its your life and you are allowed to take all the time in the world for what adventures you want to do, and how you do it is up to you. I never thought I'd do alaska when I saw "In to the wild" in 2012 just wished to, and made it there in 2013 but what i explored and how was totally me, no mimicking the movie. When I traveled to Ladakh solo, in 2010, I went alone, because everyone else bailed, and I had made up my mind by then. I left my job because If I wouldn't I have gone mad, It was a torture but not all work places are or are they? I lived there for more than a month, because I did not want to rush and I wanted to may be contemplate life and what better place to do that then in Himalayas? so everything fell in to place. that experience made me a stronger, a feeling that I can survive anything, delved deep with in me.
मुक्तो भवः यत्रसि - be free wherever you're.
and Not necessarily in the himalayas all the time. I think my experiences in last 3-4 years prove that, though I agree I get jumpy sometimes when I spend too much time on social media. What I am advocating is, - believe but not blindly.
Decide on your own, the same process that worked for someone else might not work for you, "Just as One size doesn't fit all". when you plan, you dream - and day dreaming is good and fun too. work is fun too when you know you will get a hefty pay-check that will felicitate, many things that you can't do otherwise. So don't put your backpack on your shoulder and leave home just yet, because it looks attractive and daring, plan it. choose your destination based on kind of experience you want and afford, and duration what brings freshness and doesn't become a tiring misadventure.
If I have not busted your bubble yet, and if You still feel that I am not discouraging you but only trying to make you refine your thoughts, You realize there is no Truth or Dare. Truth is Dare.
and second point : If you really need to travel solo. Do you? if yes, why? Ask yourself this question. - What sort of company do you want or like? Do you have one? or not?
Traveling solo is not at all difficult, at least not in this age and century. ask any business travelers, with a 24X7 schedule. all you need to do is to get your pleasure/adventure/business scheduled all jot down well on paper. There are places which you can do solo, things you can do alone, e.g. if you're a professional or just photographer you may need your time alone, and however long you need at certain place, you should plan your travel alone. if you want to make friends along the way, have certain conversations, go solo, but If you develop an understanding with someone, and you can respect each others space. you can very well go together. I feel people are more vulnerable when they are thrown out of their comfort zones and thats why friendships and relationships are built and broken usually while on the road. and I may have come to the world alone, and I will be going alone, but while I am here, I am not alone, So why pretend to be one?
PS This write-up is for first time travelers mostly, I am sure once you have a few experiences you' will be just fine, in company or solo. Have a good trip.