By Malvika Sehgaal Kaura
I used to travel a lot with my kids when they were babies. My arms and suitcases full of strollers, Disney merchandise, and other sundry kids’ paraphernalia, I checked myself into wonderful child-friendly hotels, exploring new cultures, foods and destinations. I just loved the idea of showing my children the world.
Then, the kids entered their pre-teens and the complaints began pouring in. They didn’t have the same travel goals as I did, and our monthly getaways soon dwindled to once a year. I grew edgy and restless. Last summer, as my two children and I sat down to book our summer holiday, we faced a quandary: they wanted a relaxed vacation in Greece. I wanted to see Europe.
Finally, they pushed me to do part of the journey alone. Their suggestion, frankly, sounded like Greek to me! Me – this fearful woman who stays up while her kids sleep to ensure all’s safe – explore Europe alone? What about the language barrier? My excuses went on and on.
To cut a long story short, I did do Europe alone. And whoa, I’ve been a different person since.
As in everything in life, there are pros and cons to all journeys, but the personal growth you undergo during a solo trip – especially an international one – is immense. Experiential confidence is a lesson well learnt and I’d advise everyone to do it.
If you want a recommendation, the safest place till date for me has been Japan: it has breathtaking views, warm people and is easiest to navigate. Be prepared for pangs of doubt, loneliness, and men trying to get chatty, though.
What worked for me was to connect with Indian friends over a meal in different cities, take a day group tour or guided tour, and doing things I enjoy when I’m low, such as trying new food, shopping, and sometimes staying in with a book or Netflix.
As a female solo traveller, here are few more tips that I swear by:
Pack extremely light, and ensure you carry along sneakers with a good grip, along with all medicines and supplements from India.
Buy your local currency from India as well at least for the first couple of days, after which you can withdraw from a local ATM.
Keep the roaming on your phone activated from India (it is quite affordable, actually).
Avoid alleys or deserted areas. I don’t step out late at night post 8 pm. Pack dry munchies for evenings, so that you don’t need to step out of your hotel in search for dinner.
Dress according to the local customs.
Always, always ensure that your phone is charged.
Fix your daily sightseeing route and map it out in advance so that you don’t need to grapple for locations and stop strangers for directions. It causes unnecessary stress.
Allow yourself one indulgence daily: a dessert, shopping (it can be cheap), taking a cab when tired, and so on.
I try to pack clothes for 25 percent of my trip’s duration as they can be worn repeatedly and I always end up shopping.
I research A LOT prior as if I am planning to move to the country. I join all possible groups for my destination on Facebook and follow all relevant accounts on Instagram. YouTube is great research tool too, as it helps me zoom in to the places I want to cover. One doesn’t have the time or inclination to do all this during the trip.
Travel needn’t be extravagant; budgeting is quite possible. I now have smartened up (or so I’d like to believe). I spent prudently in my own city, Delhi – I’ve cut down on lunches, coffees and shopping as I’d rather save up for my next trip. That lets me spend generously on whatever I wish.
You can also be frugal while on the trip: Though admission to several tourist attractions can be quite expensive, many spots are free to visit. I’ve often researched and found interesting spots even locals were unaware of.
Food can be a major expense too; I usually do one lavish meal (such as late lunch) every day to pamper myself, and keep it light the rest of the day.
Solo travel is my time to talk to myself. My only regret is that I wish I’d started sooner!
Malvika Sehgaal Kaura is a travel enthusiast, fashion designer, marketeer and artist.
wonderful Malvika ji ,its very intresting to hear your travel expireinces ..Wish all the very best for new journey .dont travel abroad ,corona will follow you ,you travel within the country ..come to bengaluru .Will give gokd comany with you madam
Do you have your website
Thank you 😊
A few of your tips reek of a paranoia that makes me, also a seasoned solo female traveller, rather uncomfortable. I’ve been travelling solo for a few years now and have backpacked, hitchhiked, couchsurfed, volunteered, hostelled my way through most places; more often than not relying on the kindness of complete strangers. I’m down 27 countries in the last 4 years and the only tip that I give people is to throw away the planner, get over any fear/preconceived notions about a place and to truly open up to what your journey is going to throw at you. Of course being cautious and sensible is necessary, but being overly cautious is only a hinderence. Even the strangest, most uncomfortable situations that I’ve managed to get myself into over the years, now make for the most interesting stories. Most of the best memories from my trips have been made post 8pm with absolute strangers who’ve now become great friends. The quicker you learn to give up on you inhibitions that are in place due to preconceived notions about how things function, the quicker you’ll see that most people in the world are actually absolutely lovely and greatly outnumber the occassional asshats/ miscreants.
To each their own! I’d rather maximise my day. Pubbing, clubbing aren’t my calling! I rather keep 12-14 hour days exploring! What you perceive as paranoia is my conscious choice! Since I haven’t questioned yours or lack of them , I’m not giving you or anyone the option of questioning mine 😊. Happy travels !
But of course you yourself should spend your days exactly the way you wish to!
I’m simply countering the “tips” that you’ve offered up to other solo women travellers. “Dress according to local customs” or “budget it” would, for example, be handy and valuable tips as those are universal. But the idea of restricting communication with strangers and/or setting time/area limits on yourself derived from preset inhibitions are not handy tips. They are personal choices, yes. But not good tips as you reinstall the idea that the dark of the night or talking to strangers are things to fear. No one said anything about clubbing/pubbing. I’ve been to multiple cultural festivals in the night. Night markets. Scuba diving in the night. Outdoor screenings in the night. Watched the Northern lights in the night. The Milky way too. Star gazing usually happens at that time of the day too. And some of the best views that you can get of a place are very often in the nights from hills nearby. Ever walked down the narrow lanes of a historical town in the night? It is otherworldly. The idea that being out post 8 pm made your mind instantly think of clubbing/pubbing is the issue I’m trying to address. There’s so much to do and see that happens exclusively in the nights .
And why limit talking to strangers? Why would you recommend not asking for directions or ways of reducing human interaction in general? That just seems silly. How else do you really learn the culture and behavioural traits of a people?
It’s a weird thing to recommend or to be in favour of missing that side of travelling to people looking to venture out and do this for the first time. It reinstills the idea that there is, by default, something to fear.
Wonderful Malvika. Wishing you many more journeys….All filled with happy memories and adventure. May you return from each visit more enlightened!!
Thank you 😊
Lovely post, Malvika!
Loved the write up and has inspired me to do some travel alone as well!
That’s was from me, Seemeen
I’m so glad. Please do