Yes, it is still a big deal in India. The concept of single women travelling alone for leisure (and not for work) is still like swallowing rocks for everyone who has nothing to do anything with it – neighbors, relatives, society !
But we do it anyway. Period.
Here is how a badass, single, Indian woman travels alone to Europe:
1. She doesn’t lie
She doesn’t lie to anyone or hide about her lofty girly plans of travelling alone to an international destination. She tells everyone upfront. No, she is not booking package tour, she is not going with friends, she doesn’t want to take her siblings, boyfriend, husband, or neighbor with her for ‘safety’. No, she is not going to where her uncle stays or cousin is studying so that they can ‘take care’ of her ‘during an emergency’. She simply wants to travel alone. By herself. To a faraway strange land. Difficult to come to terms with it? Too bad.
2. She does everything herself
Right from researching where and when to go, finalizing the destination, doing the paper work, applying for visas, to short listing cities, number of days to spend, ways to commute within the cities. She does it all herself. How much ever annoying or difficult it gets, she stays strong and ensures that she takes care of every single bit, herself. It warms her up for what she is getting into, makes her aware and wiser.
3. She plans ahead and saves up
So as the plan doesn’t come crashing down because of some unforeseen surprise like not enough leaves from work, a distant cousin’s wedding, insufficient funds, the destination overbooked or overpriced because of the (unheard of) annual carnival; she plans well in advance. After everything is booked and all expenses factored in, she keeps a rainy day fund aside to be able to shop or get that unplanned spa treatment while travelling.
4. She packs the load she can carry herself
Nothing sours a solo trip more than impractical luggage. She reminds herself a hundred times that she will only have one pair of hands and feet to carry whatever she is taking and bringing back. She doesn’t get overambitious. She reads enough about the art of backpacking and travelling. She doesn’t want to get stuck with asking strangers for help or getting too tired every day. The last thing she wants is to be unable to enjoy the vacation because of things she carried she doesn’t even need.
5. She absorbs the experience
Eventually, when she lands at the destination, she knows the journey has just begun. She absorbs the culture and experience that she has been planning for so long. She takes tours to know more about where she is. She gets lost and found in the streets of this alien city she got herself to. She smiles at people and monuments. She gorges on the wonderful local cuisine without thinking of how fat she will get. She strikes conversations with them to hear the accent and giggles later. She walks around, sits on park benches, smells the new fragrances. She imprints every visual in her memory so as to remember it forever. She asks strangers to click pictures of her so that she can remember years later, the brave and wonderful solo adventure she embarked upon.
6. Stays safe, learns to say no and takes no shit
Being in a new city by yourself can be scary. But she doesn’t let this freeze her in her room. She makes herself aware of the ‘infamous no-no’ places. When being asked out or insisted upon against her wishes, she says a firm no. If someone does bother or trouble her, she doesn’t lay low. She makes noise about it, asks for help and asks the person to buzz off.
7. Lastly, she looks hot (or not)
It’s her trip. She get to decide what she wants to wear, where she wants to go and what she wants to do. She chooses if she wants to feel comfortable today or look head-turner; take it easy or do that 60 mile bicycle trip.
That is the whole deal of travelling alone – you get to decide. You get to be the badass, single, Indian girl who travels alone to Europe (or Madagascar, Great Wall of China or Cuba !)