India’s first online solo traveller community conducted a survey with India’s top 100 solo travellers to understand their quest for exploring the world outside the comfort zone, says Shefali Walia
In a country like India which is enrooted with centuries’ long traditions and culture, speaking about something fervent and exhilarating like solo travelling can be perceived as a threat to the customs and values of the nation. But over the past few years, our society has been generating numerous solo travellers, both men and women, who exhibit a new-found passion for exploring the world outside their comfort zone, all by themselves.
WeTravelSolo, India’s first online solo traveller community is on a platform that organises special interest tours to quench the thirst of a perfect solo trip. It recently conducted a survey with India’s top 100 solo travellers to understand their personal accounts.
Asking about “when and where was their first solo trip”, 31 per cent named foreign locations like Europe and East Asia as their first solo trip destination, 29 per cent listed Indian mountain beauty, especially in Himachal Pradesh, as their first solo trip expedition, while 27 per cent preferred to visit coastal beaches of South India. The remaining 13 per cent chose to visit Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Northeastern cities.
When enquired about what made them travel solo, a whopping 25 per cent attributed it to self-discovery and travel for recreational purposes or lack of company, 35 per cent said a simple getaway or a sabbatical from a mundane job or simply to feed their curiosity, while 21 per cent just wanted to break free of self-imposed shackles and meet like-minded people.
Among the top Indian and international destinations, solo travellers showed a higher preference for northern, southern and western India within the subcontinent. For South-East and Eastern Asia, neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh were chosen as preferred locations, and Europe, US and western Asian countries for international travel. Some travellers confine themselves to exploring the remote pockets of India and country life alone.
When asked about their reaction to people asking questions like “what makes you want to travel solo?” or “log kya kahenge”, the travellers seemed unperturbed and said they don’t really pay attention! They supplemented the answer with a few tips to budding solo travellers: Travel light, befriend the locals for a better insight of the destination, stay alert, be armed with safety gear, travel with a zest for exploration, and relish every moment of the experience.
When asked about the challenges faced during journeys, 32 per cent solo travellers said that feeling lonely in terms of lack of support, homesickness, feeling alienated from co-travellers and the localities. Another 17 per cent were female solo travellers who felt insecure due to eve-teasing, ogling and suspicious behaviour. Then there were 21 per cent solo travellers who felt the budget pinch.
Other challenges included following culture codes, dealing with unpleasant eventualities, finding vegan food items, overcoming boredom etc. In times like these, solo travellers advise the aspiring ones to be highly circumspect by carrying the required safety gear, such as pepper sprays, avoiding strange solitary lanes, conducting a thorough research about the destination and planning well, carrying phones, portable chargers and GPS to track locations and maintain communication with family back home, and the handiest tip by far is to keep one’s equilibrium in inopportune times.
When asked about places they’d like to be stranded in, about 17 per cent travellers preferred mountains (Himalayan ranges), followed by 10 per cent of them longing to be marooned on an island like Jeju Island and Golapogas island. Among other places of interest was the countryside to revel in the bucolic beauty of the enthralling landscapes, countries like North Korea, Buenos Aires, Italy and intriguingly enough, haunted places.
WeTravelSolo endeavours to popularise a concept that’s still taking its baby steps in a land where independence is at a premium given the vicissitudes of the changing times and hence, aims to know from its populace what it feels about solo expeditions.
Most of the respondents agreed that it’s a great new way of forming interesting and meaningful connections with people who share your interests and shake off the threads of complacence that bind you and your experiences. While many approve of the concept as being solo travel-friendly, there are some who expressed their misgivings about the same. It certainly does purge you of your fears regarding travelling solo but packs difficulties within.
“Strangers are only strangers till you’ve met them,” as put by one of the respondents. And how true! Finding life partners or life-time comrades is another gift that the practice offers; you never know who you might run into whose life becomes interlaced with yours.
Solo travel holds a much wider scope for exploring the places, cultures and communities better sans the interruption caused by companions. One does not merely travel but ‘learn’ on the go. Overall, the concept is thriving and thriving well and in times to come, it might just be a regular travel pattern. Who knows what tomorrow brings?
The writer is founder and chief traveller, WeTravelSolo
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