In the days before the lockdown, the sun shone brightly above the Kaveri river in Coorg. While I was giggling in a boat, a young lady asked me with a hint of admiration: “Solo-travel?”. In India, which is considered the most dangerous country for women, many female travelers are willing to risk the thrills of traveling alone. Female solo travel is increasingly being referred to despite the perceived and real dangers. The voices of solo women travelers are heard on social media and blogs. Travel companies are also listening to their concerns.
Why do these women choose to travel alone? There are many types of women who travel alone. Some travel only when they have the time. Others retire to travel. Still others, despite having a partner or husband, prefer traveling solo. And still, others, quitting their desk jobs and traveling full-time for a livelihood, stopped bravely. These women are mostly digital nomads who travel as writers, bloggers, storytellers, and photographers. These solo female travelers are driven to leave their offices and explore the unknown by the confines of the office. They travel alone not only because they enjoy it but also because it gives them meaning and purpose.
Most of these women travel alone to create awareness about conservation and eco-tourism and build their brands through television and print media.
Shivya, 33, from Dehradun, gave up her full-time job to travel, becoming what she calls a “nomad” and selling most of her possessions. She even wrote a book on her solo travels around the world and created merchandise in order to raise money for afforestation. She mainly funds her travels through her Blog, The Shooting Star.
The majority of women who travel alone do so for the thrill. They are unable to stop. Sharanya, a Mumbai travel blogger who has dived with turtles, explored shipwrecks, and skydived from Dubai to Dubai, wrote in her blog, Truly Nomadly, “I became smitten by the travel bug. Once it takes hold, the disease is incurable.” After three solo trips, I have discovered a new love – my own company. Many women say that traveling alone is a way to relieve restless energy or scratch an itch.
What about those women who have traveled alone their entire lives?
Sujata, a Mumbai-based 50-year-old singleton and longtime solo traveller, says: “I was tired of having to coordinate leave and plans with other people. Solo travel is liberating. I can do what I want to without having to consider others. I am a single person and do a lot of entertainment on my own. Chakraborty says, “Travelling solo is an extension of living alone and being single.” She also states that there are many pleasures to traveling solo. She says that one can become accustomed to the freedom of choosing activities or taking a break whenever one wants to. Manisha Mangret is a 33-year-old IT professional who lives alone in Noida. She told BL Ink she chooses to travel solo as it “connects me with me and allows me to experience my perspectives.”
Single scholars have observed the stigma associated with being alone in public. As a female solo traveler, it is easy to feel discriminated against and excluded. Chakraborty said, “It is funny when people can’t handle the fact that a woman travels alone and chooses to provide you with (unasked for) company in a restaurant. It is natural to be curious. Visitors, family, and friends wonder why I am single and not married”. A boy at a tea stand in Arunachal’s Sela Pass asked where her husband was. She was also once questioned by police for about 30 minutes in Kashmir’s Anantnag District.
There are some inspiring stories about solo travel. Mangret is a longtime singleton who recounts a time when her bus left at 3 a.m. without her. “I could have cried, but I chose not to. I hopped on another bus and knew that my luggage could be lost if it was on the previous bus. “I was surprised to see the first driver of the bus who drove back after me,” she says. There are many more stories like this in the travel blogs of women. They make for great adventure tales.
The market forces may drive the growing acceptance of women traveling alone. This could encourage women to buy travel packages and spend more money to travel. Solo women travelers don’t fall into that trap. They travel to discover themselves, create meaning, earn money while they travel and live their best life.