Initial Challenges of Solo Travel:
1. People’s Reaction: The biggest challenge with Solo Travel is to face the reaction of friends, families and colleagues. Solo Travel is still a big task in India. We live in that society, which is based on the strong personal bonding, and people can’t digest an idea of Solo Travel. If you are unmarried, having no family responsibilities, then there reaction will be like,
“How can you enjoy your travel Solo?”
“How will you pass your time during travel?”
“Don’t you get bore during the travel?”
And if you are married, having a family, then the idea of Solo Travel is the greatest sin, a married person can do. This is the typical reaction from the people around me, when I plan a Solo Travel:
“Travelling without your partner or kids? Hey, how can you afford that?”
“Don’t they say anything? My wife will kill me, if I will go Solo.”
“I will buy a separate ticket and go to another destination, if my husband will do this to me.”
Is it really a sin or is it all about following your dreams…It depends on you. I don’t care what people think about my trips without my wife, because I know, I am chasing my dreams one by one, year after year and my wife supports me well to follow this passion. Travelling around the world is a nice idea for everybody, but for many people, it is not a passion of life. To me, it is the way of life. I live, to travel, to explore, to see what is there around the next corner of the street.
2. Loneliness: Loneliness is another problem during the Solo Travel. In the initial days, when I didn’t have an affair with the camera, it was a miserable experience to explore a destination alone. But, once this love with camera started, all the feelings of loneliness wiped out instantly. I enjoy clicking pictures on the road and there is no feeling of loneliness now.
3. Destinations: If you go to the metro cities or popular destinations and stay in the hotels rather than the hostels, it is very difficult to find the new friends on the road. It only adds to the misery of loneliness. People at smaller destinations are more open towards the traveller, so you can make friends easily.
As Solo Travel increases, the challenges increase like,
1. Personal Safety: As I gained more and more experiences in Solo Travel, I inclined towards the off-beat destinations. The travel lists include the remote places, wilderness, forests, hills, deserts, disturbed cities etc. However, I never had any external threat at any destination, but there are instances when people had their life on stake at some places. Since, we are alone at those places, personal safety also becomes a critical issue.
2. Gears Safety: With more and more involvement in the blogging and social networking, some gears automatically included in the backpack like laptop, tablet, DSLR, trekking gears etc. While travelling to the remote and off-beat destinations, safety of these gears is also an issue. There are instances, when the people got robbed or their belongings was stolen by the thieves. Leave the off-beat destinations, I was about to lose my DSLR camera in the busy street of Luxor to a con.
3. Emergency Situations: While travelling in a group, you always find some people to help in the emergency situations, but while travelling Solo, you are on its own. Sometimes, a situation arises, where you have to manage all the things in by your own without any help.
At a hotel in Bangkok, I felt down from the second floor to the first floor, and injured myself in the middle of the night. Without any known person there, I helped myself with the first-aid box. However, I had minor injuries that night, but anything was possible in that incident.
While riding solo in Rajasthan, during the day, my bike got punctured at a remote place. Luckily, there was a puncture shop within 2 kms, so I was able to push my bike there. Again, on the same day night, I had a major accident and my color-bone got fractured. Then, a friend from Delhi rushed to brought me back.
4. Concern of the families and relatives: Families and relatives are more concerned for the safety , if you plan to Travel Solo. There concerns are very genuine, as many of them don’t have the idea of solo travel. For many of them , Solo Travel is a risky and crazy adventure.
5. Trip Planning: If you wish to Travel Solo, you have to do all parts of planning related to the trip by yourselves only. Nobody is there to give a second opinion in any matter. All the decisions, right or wrong, belong to you only.
How to Deal With These Challenges?
1. People’s Reaction: You can’t really deal with everybody. They will never shut up. Just avoid them . Or, if possible, request them to go on a long solo trip to an off-beat destination at least once and then, ask for their feedback about Solo Travel.
2. Loneliness: Develop a sense to enjoy yourself. Listen songs or read books to avoid boredom. The best way to avoid loneliness is to enjoy photography. Invest in a good camera (not necessarily an expensive DSLR), learn basic photography and enjoy your new hobby by clicking lot of pictures. You will never regret a decision of Solo Travel. Instead, the people, who accompany you on any travel, will be so bore with your new hobby, they will regret that why are they traveling with you.
3. Destinations: During initial days of Solo Travel, go to the off-beat locations visited by few tourists. Enjoy the wilderness, forests, rivers, hills around you. Relax and sit for few minutes and speak with your inner soul. There is nothing that can beat the experience of soul searching. Slowly, with every solo trip, you will develop a sense to enjoy yourself, your hobbies, your passion, even while travelling solo.
4. Personal Safety: Always carry a first-aid box and regular medication kit. Stay alert always. Enjoy your daring adventure, but know your limits. Avoid travelling to the remote and isolated places after the dark. Avoid unpleasant discussions with the locals. Respect their local cultures, traditions, dressing senses and religious beliefs.
5. Gears Safety: Since, you travel alone without the help of a tour company, you can’t get rid of your gears. Always stay alert and don’t leave your backpack unattended on the road, except the hostels/hotels.
6. Emergency Situations: Just remember, a situation can arise anytime and anywhere in the world. Have a backup plan for such situations. My parents don’t have the passport or the resources to track me in a foreign land. So, I always give them the contact details of my nearest friends to the proposed destinations, who can help them in any emergency. I always buy a good travel insurance with the options, for the worse. I prepare four copies of the itinerary with the hotel bookings (wherever possible) and expected mode of transportation details and share them with my parents, my sister, my wife and the nearest available friends. Always have the local contact details of the Indian Embassy, while travelling abroad. While traveling to remote places or landslide prone areas of The Himalayas, keep a buffer day to avoid inconvenience.
7. Concern of the families and relatives: Try to communicate daily with at least one person within your family or relatives. If you are expected to enter in no mobile network or no internet zone for more than two days, always inform them in advance, so they do not expect a communication from you in that duration.
Internet is available almost everywhere nowadays. If phone seems costly, drop an e-mail to your family members or somebody else on daily basis, who can communicate your well being with your family.
8. Trip Planning: I don’t plan each and every thing in my trip extensively, unless it is a special trip like high altitude trekking, that require each and every details about the availability of route, food, water and accommodation. But, its always better to make a rough itinerary, so that you should know what are you expecting from your trip, and that itinerary will also help your family to keep a track on your movement.
At last, after so many solo trips, I can say that travelling solo is a fun, but with all its associated risks and challenges. We don’t have much choices during Solo Travel. I develop a mantra that while travelling Solo, be vigilant, remain extra cautious on the remote places, keep calm in all situations and have confidence in your ability. You will easily navigate through most of the challenges.