So on my trip to Pondicherry, everything that could go wrong apparently did. I met with an accident on my very first day here. I ended up with a bump on my head, a knee so damaged, I couldn’t even look at it for days without recoiling in horror, a cut lip, and a few scrapes and bruises all over. *cue dramatic expressions of extreme tragedy*
I was cursing myself for my stupidity. Cursing Pondicherry because they don’t give helmets here. Bummed about the fact that I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted, wasn’t able to take any good photographs, wasn’t able to walk around as much as I liked (and I’m a BIG fan of walking). For the first time in as long as I’ve been traveling, I wanted someone with me. I didn’t want to be alone, I wanted someone to rely on, someone to fuss over my injuries and make sure I was ok.
But here, I didn’t have that. I had to fend for myself, which I can do normally, but this situation felt like a bit much. I had to fix my own dressing, get my medicines, call my means of transport, make sure I was eating and getting my meds on time, when all I wanted was to be babied a little. Someone to hold me when the nurse ripped the dressing off my wound, taking skin with it, and tell me it would be over soon 🙁 It’s childish, I know, and I’m used to being independent, but the very thought that ANYTHING could have happened on the road was enough for me to feel a little sorry for myself and want someone to tell me it would be okay.
I moped. I cried. Quite a lot, I’ll be honest, because the pain in my knee and head was unbearable for the first few days. I spoke to friends, who made me feel better and offered words of support, but obviously couldn’t do anything because they were MILES away. I didn’t want to tell my parents, because they were traveling themselves, and I didn’t want them to flip out (any parent would). But then, as I lay in bed that night, unable to find a position to sleep in that didn’t hurt, I thought to myself ‘Oh well, it could’ve been worse. At least there wasn’t a car coming from behind that could’ve blown out your brains all over the road. At least there was a family in the next car who took you to the clinic and got you patched up. At least the folks at the guesthouse were kind enough to make sure you could get by.’ It wasn’t a magic fix, but I sure felt a little better 🙂
Things don’t often go right when you’re traveling, and it can feel like a bit much if you’re traveling solo. I don’t want to put you off solo travel with this article, FAR from it, but there are risks that you need to be aware of, and so, prepared for. There are times when having someone with you can be an absolute blessing, although it’s not absolutely necessary. Here are a few downsides to traveling solo that I have experienced, and am now mentally prepared for –
Theft / loss of belongings / untoward incidents
I’ve never been mugged, but I did lose my phone in the Netherlands. It must’ve fallen out of my jacket pocket on the train back to Amsterdam, and I didn’t realise this until much later. I was GLAD I had a friend with me, who kept me calm, acted as my emergency contact, and took charge of the situation like a boss. And the entire story above is only an example of why one might need support sometimes.
I try to save money when I’m traveling. I stay cheap, eat in local places, travel by public transport or by foot. Some of the costs get split, though, if you’re more than one person. Like food. Cab fares. And heck, half the cost of a double room at a hotel is sometimes less than a bed in a hostel dorm or a BnB!
Losing your way
Now, I don’t actually have a problem with this, because this is where the best stories come from, but not everyone likes getting lost 😛 I’ve been lost twice so far while traveling alone, and I usually talk myself into staying calm. That may not work for a lot of people, who need someone else to do that for them. It is SO IMPORTANT to have your wits about you when you’re stranded, or lost! Two or more people, usually, keep each other sane 🙂
Basically, emotional support
Traveling can get hard. Early mornings, late nights, injuries, hangovers, unwanted advances, theft.. Staying alert all the time is exhausting, and it’s nice to share the load with someone sometimes 😀
This is by far my BIGGEST grouse, lol. I have SUCH FEW photos of myself! I lug my tripod around everywhere I go, so that I can set it up and take a picture of myself that I am happy with. Come on, how often have you asked a stranger to take a picture of you, and actually been happy with the result? 😛
I’m reading the list again, and I honestly can’t think of anything more. Does this dissuade me from going solo ever again? Hell no! Because every situation that I’ve been through has made me a stronger person. Every instance has been a test of my will, and I’ve found ways to deal that have become memories for me. Sure, you can only do so much about the cost aspect, but I’ve had people I met an hour ago holding my hair back as I threw up after a night’s partying. I’ve hitchhiked with people who have been nice enough to offer me a ride after seeing me hobble down the road with a busted knee. I’ve learnt how to keep calm when I get lost, and have faith that I WILL find my way. And if Pondicherry taught me anything, it’s that I am capable of being self-sufficient, whatever the circumstances, whether physical or emotional, I CAN AND WILL GET BY.
This post isn’t to discourage you in any way from traveling solo. Heck, I’m ALL ABOUT traveling solo! I’ve done it so many times and I’ll keep doing it! Can’t stop, won’t stop!
I just want YOU to be prepared, so that when you DO take off on that epic solo adventure, you’re armed for any and every eventuality, so that IN CASE anything goes awry, you can handle it like a boss.
It’s also for you to know that traveling solo is not as glamorous as social media makes it out to be, so don’t expect it to be so. It has its own ups and downs, and quite frankly, the pros outweigh the cons. It will be one of the most enriching, rewarding, liberating experiences of your life.
The biggest danger is – you may never want someone traveling with you again (save for the one-off instances like this one :P) Take it from someone who’s been there, done that 🙂
So while I could say this has been a disastrous trip, I won’t. Because even though shit happened, I got by. I found help in the unlikeliest of places. My faith in the world is restored time and again when I find people going out of their way for me, and to me, that makes traveling worth anything and everything. And the truth is, how will you ever know how good or bad it gets, unless you get out there? 🙂 I spent 3 days in Auroville and Pondicherry, and while I didn’t do everything I wanted to, I brought back memories that sure are ones I will smile over when I look back at them a few weeks, months, or years from now.