“If you Never Go, You’ll Never Know” – Anonymous
Rising gradually but still way behind our western counterparts, solo travel in India remains a matter of many raised questions and concerns. No one is to be blamed, for the root lies deep within our social structure embedded with traditional fear and insecurities of the unknown. Sadly enough, the unknowns are never about how wonderful it can turn out to be.
This is not exactly where it all began – but for me, yes, in a way, it did. For long, I was comfortable travelling with friends and family. Though deep down, always resided the need to set out on my own, a thought which for numerous reasons have always been placed on hold – procrastinating to someday.
Why not TODAY – is the question?
The best decision ever taken for myself – it was all about me from the beginning till end. It was my time and opportunity to be the hero of my own story. As I ticked off “GOING SOLO” from my bucket list, my idea of the world and people in general, changed. I lived every moment in the company of friends I never knew existed.
Selecting the Destination and Stay
After doing my share of research on the safest places for women to travel solo in India, I chose Dalhousie. A well known tourist destination, it is the perfect weekend getaway and one where you can still be connected back home.
An overnight bus from Delhi would be the most hassle free way to reach Dalhousie. Alternatively, a train till Pathankot and from thereon, a shared taxi/ cab till Dalhousie can be taken.
Over a stay of four nights at a backpacker’s hostel – Zostel Dalhousie, I had a pleasant experience. One look at the property and I knew this was it. Choice of accommodation entirely depends on personal preference; however, if setting out alone, a renowned backpacker hostel chain would be a great option. Easy on the pocket, they are safe and have an underlying youthful, vibrant energy with their unique concept.
My Days in Dalhousie
When I stepped in, I was welcomed by a warm smile which I might not have responded in a similar manner as I recall now. For beginners, I made a mental note to keep minimum interaction with strangers, only as needed. It was not until the gentleman nicely introduced himself as the property owner, I relaxed. Ravi and his team acted the perfect hosts for everyone stationed in the hostel.
Within an hour, I was introduced to some fellow travelers and we were on our way to Dainkund Peak – Jot trek. It couldn’t have started on a better note. By the end of it, I started to ease a bit and figured out that all those who ventured alone formed a union of their own like pieces of a puzzle falling into place – somehow connecting on a similar level. There was never a dull moment around. By the shouts and energy of it, it was difficult to tell who accompanied whom. This was followed by days, when I had my share of silent mornings with a cup of coffee and lone walks doing nothing. On others, I was mostly invited or accompanied by roommates and strangers I met at the hostel.
Often sitting quietly at a corner, I watched while people argued over – where to go, what to eat, what to do next? Then, I realized the bliss of being in one’s own company. And did I miss mine – maybe momentarily, when I would hear those nonstop laughter pangs over irrelevant talks and so on. But I knew, when I went back, I would be back to that comfort zone with stories to tell 🙂
A Village Walk to Remember
It was a Sunday and in particular, I had no plans of sightseeing. Declining invitations to go around, I decided to explore the nearby village. The property is at a distance of 3 kms from the mall road area and extremely peaceful with nature as the only distraction around. You can walk hours on end, without any rush or immediate errands to run. Reaching the other side, I could get a clear view of my hostel.
My roommates left early morning for Sach Pass and for once, I felt left out. I had an evening bus and had I accompanied them, there was no way of coming back on time . The previous night, there was an ongoing gaming session until dawn as everyone simply refused to sleep – and one after the other, they left. Through breakfast, lunch and evening – I sat there gazing at the mountain peaks, enjoying the rain, flipping through random pages of a travel journal, jotting few lines occasionally. New faces were walking in with anticipation of some time off.
And then it was time, I had to leave.
It would be a lie to say I didn’t fear anything. Everyone does – not necessarily in the same way. I would rather name mine as anxieties – of an unknown place, of being all alone in moments when one might want company. At the end, it is not about what others say but putting your own doubtful voices to rest for once and all. I don’t know whether I would be going mostly solo in future. I will keep exploring alone or with others, no set rules. But I know for sure that at least no amount of self – doubt will ever stop me.
My experience taught me “Being surrounded with FAMILIARITY is COMFORTING but being on your OWN is LIBERATING”.