YOU ASKED. So here goes.
I got a TON of questions from you guys, related to my travels, where I go, how I do it, how I manage the pre-, on-, and post-travel phases, budgeting, funding, traveling solo, safety, blogging, photography, and SO MUCH MORE, that I thought I’d split it all up into a series and share it here bit by bit, part by part, so that you find your answers, but don’t get bored with one super-long monologue (there’s THAT much to go around, trust me, even I was surprised).
I’m starting off with EVERYTHING you wanted to know about TRAVELING SOLO. SO here goes! 🙂
Q. Do I travel solo?
I travel solo quite a lot. I’ve traveled solo within India AND outside, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. It allows a sense of freedom that you can’t understand till you do it yourself, and no one is lying when they say solo travel ‘liberates’ you.
That being said, I do enjoy the company of a few, really good friends who I know I can travel with (loving someone and being able to travel with someone are two VERY different things), and who KNOW what traveling with me means. As a creator, travel is also hard work for me. I’m up before dawn so I can catch a sunrise. I spend hours in one location waiting for that perfect shot. So it’s difficult, and there are few who understand that. As a solo traveler, I never have to feel obligated to anyone, nor do I have to feel guilty about having to make them wait on me, or wake up and sleep with me. With my inner circle though, I know I can take them for granted 🙂
Q. How did you convince your parents to let you go solo?
I understand that solo travel, especially among women, is not a very popular concept here in India. It is a very common concept around the world though. Which is why, the minute you step out of your country, you’ll meet A LOT of like-minded young women.
India is different. Our upbringing has been different, and even that is so, so contrasting to the environment our parents were brought up in. I have been brought up in a protected environment myself, and NO ONE would have though that I (of all people) would even WANT to go on a solo trip.
So when I broke the news to my parents, they stayed silent. Over the next few days, they gently tried to steer me away from the idea. ‘Oh, look at this kid, traveled alone and got kidnapped!’ Or ‘Preethi, have you seen this all-women tour group going to Europe? Why don’t you join them?’ I knew these were ploys, so I let it lie for a day or two, and then had a frank chat with them, where I told them that I wanted to go alone. They weren’t happy, but they knew if they said no, I wouldn’t be happy. So we reached a compromise. I could go solo, if they picked the destinations.
AND I WAS PERFECTLY HAPPY WITH THAT!
The parents suggested Hungary, Czech Republic, and Austria. And that was my first solo trip.
It takes one trip to convince the parents that what you’re doing is FINE. Once you’re back safe and sound from the first, the rest are easy. I’ve been to Europe again, Australia, Southeast Asia, even within India, all by myself, and while they worry, they trust me enough to know I’ll be fine 🙂
Q. How did you plan your first solo trip? How do you plan your trips now?
I’ve already told you how I picked the destinations. The next thing was planning. I planned my first trip to the T – made an Excel sheet and all 😛 I had everything done – internal travel, hostel stays, tours, daily plans, where I wanted to go, what food I wanted to eat, how much a day would cost me.. You name it. It’s a lot to spell out, so I’ll pen down a few resources that will help you for sure! (keep in mind that these are all related to my first solo trip, which was to Europe. I became much less of a planer after that, and more of a free spirit.)
Tours – Tons of free walking tours around Europe. Sandeman’s is good and reliable. A lot of hostels organise tours too, you can figure out when you get there if you like 🙂
Food – Hostels will tell you about good places to eat, but I used TripAdvisor and other local culture websites to find places suited to me (vegetarian food, cheap food, local cuisines, the best hot chocolate, the usual)
Internal Travel – I never used the Euro Rail, found it too expensive. Local train networks are the best. www.seat61.com is an AMAZING site that tells you the cheapest and best ways of getting around Europe.
Now, I’m not much of a planner. I don’t like rigid schedules, so I READ A LOT. I try to understand everything I want to do in a certain place and roughly how long it will take. Then I add a day or two to it and budget the time required for a destination. Why? Because you will always find the amount of time you have to be less and leave a place wishing you were able to do something you just found out about that morning.
However, it’s always good to know where you’re staying in the first leg of your trip, and it’s always good to check internal travel (trains in Italy sell out like crazy, it’s always better to prebook. Southeast Asia is chill, though) and plan where you want to be around what time.
Q. Who clicks your photographs if you travel solo?
One of the BIGGEST challenges I face, tbh.
I lug around a tripod everywhere. I set up my phone or camera on self-timer, set the desired frame, and run in within 10 seconds to actually be in the frame.
Sometimes, I ask fellow travellers to click me. This doesn’t always work out well, because it’s never the frame you want, even if you try to show them how you want your photo to look.
I also meet a lot of people when I’m traveling, because I stay in hostels. We team up and go exploring together, so you end up clicking each others’ pictures, and these are way better than what a random tourist does, and way less tiring than lugging around a tripod.
Q. How do you manage your safety? As a blogger, you disclose your location most of the time, AND you’re traveling solo. How do you know you’re safe?
You don’t. But you design it such that you are.
- Pick hostels that are well-located.
- If you’re going drinking or partying late at night, go in a group, you’ll always meet fun people at your hostel
- Don’t go skulking around deserted or notorious places, especially after sundown. That’s not very smart.
- Carry some form of self-defence. Pepper spray is an option.
- BE AWARE. I cannot stress how important this is. KNOW your surroundings, READ people, STAY ALERT of what is happening. Stick to crowded areas as much as you can and you WILL be fine.
I have been followed in Italy, but I was aware enough to be able to shake him off. I’ve been approached by random people, but most of the time, you can sense their intentions.
And yes, TRUST YOUR GUT. If it’s telling you something is off, SOMETHING IS OFF. Act on it. Traveling solo has made me trust myself in more ways than I can imagine.
Q. Do you meet a lot of people when you travel solo / Don’t you get lonely when you travel solo?
I’m clubbing these two questions. Because even though they sound diametrically opposite, they have the same answer.
Every single time someone asks me this question, I only say this –
When I was in the airport, leaving for Hungary (the first solo), I bought a book, thinking I’ll get lonely during, say, commutes, and I’ll need something to keep me occupied. That book is lying in my shelf today, unopened.
There has not been a single time that I’ve been lonely. I’ve met so many lovely, beautiful, amazing people, be it at hostels or at tours or as an unexpected traveling companion. I’ve heard stories, told some, created some.. Made some unforgettable memories in the most fleeting of encounters. I’ve traveled with people I’ve met the previous night, because hey, we’re all travellers and looking for a fun time!
So in a nutshell, yes, I meet a LOT of people when I travel solo; and no, I don’t get lonely.
I do hope this answers all your questions about how I travel solo. I think 1500 words is a GOOD amount of reading for you today 😀 I KNOW you asked me A WHOLE LOT MORE, and it’s all coming up, so stay tuned!
Oh, and if you have any more questions, feel free to drop them in the comments section below 🙂