Why women travel solo
Travel and Leisure  
thehindubusinessline

Ladies are boldly exploring the world to find meaning and purpose, catching the bus on their terms

 

* Solo women traveller’s voices are heard everywhere, on social media, in blogs, and are being heeded to by travel companies who are now designing packages for solo travellers
 
* Travelling solo for most of these women is also not just about going from one place to another, but also about creating awareness for conservations, eco-tourism, and building their own brands by being featured on television and in print media
 
***
 
Not long ago, in a pre-lockdown era, it was morning and the sun was shining bright above the waters of the Kaveri in Coorg. As I gleefully sat in a boat with some strangers, a young woman asked, with a glint of admiration in her voice: “solo travel?” In a country that is ranked as the most dangerous for women, female travellers in India are risking the thrills and pleasures of going solo. Despite the real and perceived dangers, female solo travel has become increasingly referred to as “sexy”. Solo women traveller’s voices are heard everywhere, on social media, in blogs, and are being heeded to by travel companies who are now designing packages for solo travellers.
 
Why do these women travel solo? To start with, there are various kinds of female solo travellers, ones who travel when they find the time, ones who retire and travel, ones who despite having a husband/partner prefer going solo, and yet others who, bravely quitting their desk-bound jobs, travel full time for a living. Many of these are digital nomads, travel writers, travel bloggers, storytellers, travel photographers, and travel entrepreneurs who earn most of their living through travel. The narrow confines of an office drives these solo female travellers to quit their regular jobs and seek the outdoors and the unknown. These women are choosing to travel solo because it doesn’t just give them joy, but because it is the way they find meaning and purpose in their lives.
 
Travelling solo for most of these women is also not just about going from one place to another, but also about creating awareness for conservations, eco-tourism, and building their own brands by being featured on television and in print media.
 
Shivya Nath, a 33-year-old from Dehradun gave up her job to travel full time, became what she calls a ‘nomad’, and sold most of her belongings. She wrote a book about travelling solo across the world and even created merchandise to raise funds for afforestation. She funds her travels primarily through her blog, The Shooting Star.
 
Most of the women who travel solo do it for the thrill it gives them. They fall in love with it, unable to stop. Sharanya Iyer, a Mumbai-based travel blogger who has been inside a volcano in Iceland, dived with turtles and intimidating shipwrecks in Indonesia and skydived in Dubai, writes in her blog, Truly Nomadly: “I was smitten and bitten by the notorious travel bug and once it does, boy is the disease downright incurable! Three solo trips later, I’ve discovered another new love — my own company and the freedom it came with.” What might have started as a bucket list becomes a veritable passion. Many of the women describe travelling solo as a form of restless energy, an itch.
 
But what about the life-long single women who travel alone because that is how they live?
 
Sujata Chakraborty, a 50-year-old long-time solo traveller and singleton from Mumbai says, “I got tired of coordinating leave and plans with others. Travelling solo is very liberating. I can spend time doing exactly what I want without taking into account others’ considerations. I live alone and take care of a lot of my entertainment alone. So travelling solo is just an extension of that.” Chakraborty also says that the pleasures of travelling solo are aplenty, similar to the pleasures of being single and living alone. “The freedom to choose activities, or take a break when I wish to, not having to share the car or the hotel room, etc,” she explains are some of the things one can get used to. Manisha Mangret, a 33-year-old IT professional and animal activist living alone in Noida, told BLink that she chose to travel solo because “it connects me to myself and lets me experience my own perspective”.

 

Scholars of singlehood have noted the stigma of being alone in public. It is very easy to feel excluded and discriminated against as a solo female traveller. As Chakraborty says, “It’s amusing when people cannot handle the fact of a woman travelling alone and opt to give you (unasked) company at a restaurant. There is always curiosity. Holidaymakers, friends and family wonder why I’m alone and not married”. A little boy in a tea stall at the Sela pass in Arunachal asked her where her husband was and she was once also questioned for about half an hour by the police in Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
 
But there are also some heart-warming stories of solo travel. Mangret, a long-term singleton, recounts an incident where it was around 3am and her bus left without her. “I could have been terrified but I chose to remain calm and hopped into another bus knowing all my stuff could be lost because it was in a previous bus. To my surprise I saw the first bus driver who drove back to find me,” she says. Other such stories abound in the blogs of women travellers making for veritable adventure tales.
 
The growing acceptance of female solo travel might be market-driven, designed to sell travel packages to women, urging them to spend more to experience more. But solo women travellers aren’t falling for that trap. They are boldly exploring the world to find themselves, to create meaning and purpose, to earn as they travel, and to live their best lives solo.

 
 


 
 


 
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