Travelling alone can be liberating and extremely insightful. There are things you can discover alone – about the place and about yourself – that you would never pay heed to, while in company. Most of my solo travel experiences are dotted with stories about some family adopting me for duration of the train journey or a stranger giving me a friendly advice. And I have been inspired to write much more during my solo sojourns.
I won’t be too simplistic and will not paint an overly rosy picture of travelling alone, though. There can be challenges ranging from louts to molestation, especially when you are a woman. Everything has to be doubly or even triply checked and no matter how confident you are, you have to keep caution right under the skin.
My post, however, is about those hardly expressed aspects of travelling alone. Even if every one you come across has been decent to you, there is a sense of being adrift while being on your own. The new sights, information and conversations can as easily overwhelm you as they can delight. Outside the comfort zone of your own town, and without the comforting company of your friends, family or partner, even a slight derailment of plans seems incomprehensible.
I have recently interacted with a lot of solo woman travellers – different nationalities, age group and professions. While they all have various amusing stories about their times in India (none of which is horrible), there are a few common feelings they all expressed. And I, having done my share of solo trips, understand what they really meant.
The first common thread was about being overwhelmed and wanting to leave. Now, nothing untoward happened to these ladies to spark such an emotion. It was just the mixture of being so far away from home amidst alien language and culture, not being able to share it with people you know, and general sense of travel weariness that comes with too much information.
Shaina, a journalist from Canada and now a dear friend, confessed that she cried after talking to another solo traveller and sharing her sense of overwhelm. The tears were more about the outlet than any hardship.
Another common theme was the lack of human touch. I remember that after my first solo trip, even the touch of the security woman at the airport felt welcome. I never felt so good while being searched for weapons! It was after I boarded my flight that I could understand that the sudden feeling of relief I was experiencing was from being touched by another human being in over 10 days.
Felicity from UK, a vivacious lady, spoke to me about why she would hunt for massages at places she visits. More than the rejuvenation, she too craved safe touch.
So next time you meet a solo wanderer who welcomes your touch, do leave him/her with a pat on back or a friendly hug.