Free Solo: 42 Women On The Freedom Of Travelling Alone  | Nat Geo Traveller India

Free Solo: 42 Women On The Freedom Of Travelling Alone 

On International Women’s Day, our female solo travellers share their tales filled with equal parts thrill, bravado and solitude.  
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Laos. Photo by: saravutpics/Shutterstock

Heta Patel, Mumbai 

Favourite solo trip destination: Gokarna, Karnataka

My first solo trip was to Gokarna in 2016. I was walking back post-sunset on the beach one evening, when a group of dogs crowded me and I got a little scared for the first time. However, I later realised that they were only protecting me back to my rooms. That being said, travelling alone as a woman came with a set of challenges: planning ahead for safe hostels/Airbnbs and panning out most of my itinerary over daylight hours. 

 

Nandini Nag, Delhi 

Favourite solo trip destination: Shoja, Himachal Pradesh

A wrong booking led me to change my solo trip route from Jibhi to Shoja. I had booked my stay at The Hosteller in Shoja insead of Jibhi, where I only reached after dusk. Panicking, I started asking around for a second bus, but it turned out that I had boarded the last one. I was alone and my phone was dying. A man approached me to ask if I was in trouble and after hearing about my mishap, he arranged for me to be dropped to Shoja on a scooter. No sooner had we gone a certain distance, that the scooter broke down. Desperate at this point, I waved down a car that was approaching and the two men inside agreed to give me a lift.  I was petrified but I had no choice. After a point, they stopped by a roadside shack to eat and I ran down to the shack owner who assured me that the men were known and I would come to no harm. Later, when the men finally dropped me to my hostel, they refused to take any compensation for it. To them, I was a young woman travelling alone and it was their duty to help me. Being a woman travelling alone, all the things that could have gone wrong on this trip did at first, but I wasn’t at risk for even a second. 

 

Free Solo: 42 Women On The Freedom Of Travelling Alone 

Manali, Himachal Pradesh. Photo courtesy: Deepashree Bharathish

 

Khushboo Goyal, Dehradun 

Favourite solo trip destination: Tel Aviv, Israel

I visited Tel Aviv solo in September 2017 and came back with the best memories. I was amazed that one could walk over from a historical port like Jaffa to the popular neighbourhood of Rothschild Boulevard without even glancing at the clock because there’s just so much to see on the way! One night I was walking back to my Airbnb around 3 a.m., when I realised I had to cross a group of ten inebriated men. I automatically increased my pace, which they noticed. Instead of being offended, they asked me to not worry or feel unsafe in Tel Aviv and even invited me to join them if I liked. They ended up walking me back to my Airbnb and we established a bond I carry even till now. 

 

Lorraine Yip, Tokyo 

Favourite solo trip destination: Northern Siberia, Russia

The best solo trip destination for me will always be the Yamal Peninsula of northern Siberia, Russia. In the March of 2019, I spent two-and-a-half weeks travelling alongside Nenets, a group of nomadic indigenous reindeer herders, on a migration route that took them across from the frozen lands of Siberia to greener pastures for their herds. Out in the wilderness and on the tundra (where temperatures could drop as low as -50 degrees Celsius), the harsh winter condition is the biggest threat to your safety. I found myself surrounded by the comforting presence of the reindeer and a white snowy landscape. Despite language constraints, the Nenets always made sure I was treated with nothing but warm and familiar hospitality. I have never felt safer. 

 

Deepashree Bharathish, Bengaluru 

Favourite solo trip destination: Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Manali features as my top solo travel destination for a bunch of reasons. A solo monsoon trek along Jogini waterfalls followed by a solo hike in the pine forests of Manali during peak monsoon made by 2018 what it was. I was crossing the Brighu river using a manual pulley as the bridge connecting us to the other side of Manali had broken due to the heavy rains. A middle aged fruit vendor saw me walking alone to the waterfalls and insisted on accompanying me, so he could protect me should I come across any wild bears. He made sure I got home safe and I will forever be indebted to that moment of kindness. 

 

Ajita Mahajan, Bengaluru 

Favourite solo trip destination: Bled, Slovenia

The smaller the town, the kinder the people. Bled, Slovenia was one of my stops during my backpacking through Europe trip of 2018. I decided to lodge at the Back hostel and had the greatest hosts who saw to my every whim. I’d decided to go solo hiking on the Straza trail and later to Ojstrica one of the days. Here, I lost my way and ended up in a large and unfamiliar meadow. Fortunately, a local woman, whose farm was nearby, spotted me and helped guide me to the correct route.  During another hike, I’s slipped down a muddy trail and might have broken a few bones had another local hiker not lent me her hand and stopped my fall. Another time, I had a late-night bus from Bled to Vienna. The streets were deserted and everything closed, but I was hungry. One restaurant owner was kind enough to welcome me in and even prepared a small meal just for me. He even offered to keep his restaurant open until my bus arrived. It’s these little encounters that strengthen my faith in the goodness of the people.

 

Madhumita Bishnu, Kolkata 

Favourite solo trip destination: Osaka, Japan

I’ve visited Osaka three different times but my trip from 2018 was the most special one, since I celebrated my 50th birthday there. I keep going back to Japan for my solo trips, because not only do I feel safest there, everyone is just willing to lend out a helping hand. One night, I was returning to my hotel in Kyobashi, Osaka in a taxi and had an insightful conversation with the friendly taxi driver, even despite the language barrier. 

 

Pooja Shah, Ahmedabad 

Favourite solo trip destination: Southern Italy

My six-day solo trip to Naples, Capri, Amalfi, Sorrento, Ravello and Positano was exactly what I needed. I prefer solo trips anyway because firstly you are at ease and can travel without any time restrictions, and secondly you can explore every nook and cranny and form as many friendships with strangers without having to keep up with anyone else. That being said, there are of course many challenges that come with being a woman and travelling alone. For instance, I had to be on high alert while walking through the streets of Naples past midnight, just because I was on my own and a tourist unfamiliar to its dark corners. 

 

Saba Khan, Santa Clara, California 

Favourite solo trip destination: Costa Rica

The first thought in my head when I landed in Costa Rica was that its people are so warm and welcoming. I flew into San Jose and travelled to La Fortuna, then Monteverde and finally to Quepos. Initially a bit hesitant, I booked only A.C. luxury buses that cost me a significant sum, just to commute. But soon, I realized that this country was very safe for women and people here were always ready to help with directions. More confident now, I began to commute in the local buses. Despite the language barrier, a lot of people thought I was Spanish! I stayed at hostels, which was very convenient because it allowed me to meet other tourists and form a group to travel with. 

 

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Barcelona, Spain. Photo courtesy: Sanjana B Laobangdisa

 

Sanjana B Laobangdisa, Eindhoven, Netherlands 

Favourite solo trip destination: Barcelona, Spain

It was Barcelona, which I visited as a part of a road trip from Brussels, Belgium to Porto, Portugal that had my heart. I luckily managed to make this solo trip right before the pandemic hit the world. I felt so safe here, especially due to the forthcoming and warm nature of the locals and my Airbnb hosts. This being said, there are of course many hurdles that have to be crossed while being a solo woman traveller. For instance, I was almost robbed at the Brussels station, but I held on to my backpack with all my might and kicked the person trying to grab me. I saved myself that day, and that was special indeed. 

 

Charlotte Kay, Cyprus 

Favourite solo trip destination: Laos

After landing in Luang Prabang in the winter of 2015, I stopped by to catch up with a dear old university friend for a few days before heading north towards Muang Sing. I wanted to visit the villages where some of the Akha people live. My interest in Akha traditions and customs piqued from the fact that I had visited their villages in Thailand and Myanmar. I rented out a  little scooter and paced out my journey through small trips. As I was based in India during these years, it was a different experience to fly straight to Laos, a country where I felt safest not only in the bigger bustling cities but also in the remotest of towns and villages. Laos does not encourage a culture of open stares, so people, (including men), get on with their daily business without paying you the slightest attention. As a woman travelling alone, I did have to make sure that I asserted myself in all situations: at bus stops asking for route advice, at eateries asking for the details of dishes and demand that cockroaches be removed from my room!

 

Sophia Michelen, New York City 

Favourite solo trip destination: Perth, Australia 

My favourite solo trip adventure was in Perth, Australia, paired with an off-shore trip to Rottnest Island. The city of Perth is exquisitely clean, well-labelled, and the people (and animals!) were the friendliest of any of the other spots in the land down under I’d visited. I didn’t know a single person, but I needn’t have worried. At the local coffee shop, they learned my name and said hello every day I went (and remembered my ‘usual’); the Airbnb landlords were concerned I would be stuck in the rain one evening and insisted to pick me up and bring me home; the local Mailman remembered me visiting the Post Office to mail letters home and confirmed their shipment the next day while he saw me walking in the square. Even the infamous Quokkas on Rottnest Island were so friendly that they would join me as I ate my lunch or just sat by the ocean. To be in such an isolated place and feeling like I was home was a testament to the humanity and kindness that the people of Perth exhibited. 

 

Neeraj Verma, Delhi 

Favourite solo trip destination: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

After turning 60, I decided on a solo road trip from Delhi to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand hoping for some grand adventures. I’d been told that bungee jumping was a common activity in the city and I wasted no time in signing up for it. On hearing my age, the man at the counter was a little reluctant to let me sign up. He said he’d return my money if I wasn’t allowed to bungee jump. Later, I crossed paths with a Moroccon girl, who was also travelling by herself and we’ve been friends ever since. 

 

Muktadhara Ray, Pune

Favourite solo trip destination: Fort Kochi

Famous for its Chinese fishing nets, brimming markets and crafts shops—Fort Kochi is my favourite solo trip destination till date. The beautiful coastal landscape, ayurvedic spa centres, yoga and meditation workshops and amazing food make this the perfect spot for a party of one. My last visit was here during the monsoons of 2019, and here I crossed paths with a yoga teacher from Bangalore and a 19-year-old student from France who had come to India to volunteer to work in an NGO. The last day of my trip turned into a girls night out, where we shared our stories and busted some Indian myths. We walked back to our hostels at midnight giggling like a group of high-schoolers!

 

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Puducheery. Photo by: Sun_Shine/Shutterstock

Krithika Arun Kumar, Bengaluru 

Favourite solo destination: Puducherry

People in Puducherry are just so friendly! I had to hire a bike and initially I was a little worried about going out and about at night by myself. But I soon realised that I had nothing to worry about. My three-day trip was ripe with good food, travels and warm conversations with strangers.

 

Suruchi S, Bengaluru 

Favourite solo trip destination: Lake District, U.K. 

My visit to the beautiful Lake District in the summer of 2019 gave me my new favourite solo travel destination. Not only is the popular holiday destination as safe as it can be, it is also well organised and sparklingly pretty with many activities on offer: hiking, trekking and a visit to William Wordsworth’s house nearby. With only a few days and a limited budget to steer me through, I discovered most of the region on foot and local transport. The district made such an impression on me that I had half a thought to “lose my passport” and just start a life there. However, my home in Bengaluru beckoned. 

 

Susmita Dey, Kolkata 

Favourite solo trip destination: Kashmir

My month-long solo trip to Kashmir in 2019 was everything I thought it would be. The mesmerising hills and lakes, the friendly smiles of the locals and the stories they shared, their livelihood and culture made a deep impression on me. I was welcomed into the home of a local family, and even if for a little bit, became a part of it.  

 

Malavi Zala, Mumbai 

Favourite solo trip destination: Andaman & Nicobar Islands

I am a certified scuba diver and that’s just one of the many reasons the Andaman and Nicobar Islands feature as my favourite solo trip destination. I planned a 12-day sojourn in the islands in October 2019, to celebrate my 25th Birthday in style. To most people, the islands offer an escape from their busy city lives and offer a chance to rest and relax, but there is much more to them. For instance, when I visited the Zonal Anthropological Museum which showcased the culture of the aborigines and tribes of the islands, I understood the true meaning of diversity. My favourite spots in the islands were the Jolly Buoy Island, Chidiya Tapu is (the southernmost tip of the South Andaman region), Cellular Jail, Havelock Island, Neil Island, Ross and Smith Islands, North Bay Island, Kala Pathar Beach and the Radhanagar beach. I tried my hand at all of it: snorkelling, scuba diving, jet skiing and came back with the most amazing stories.

 

Avidha Raha, Kolkata

Favourite solo trip destination: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

I was travelling solo across the Western Ghats for a few months in 2019. One evening in December, I stopped at Thiruvananthapuram because I was tired and needed to rest for the night. However, I couldn’t find a single decent place because I had arrived during the peak of tourist season. As I murmured “God please help me”, I thought why not literally go to God? So, backpack in tow, I arrived at Padmanabhaswamy Temple and asked to be hosted as a pilgrim. My bed was in a shared room in the ancient Varma Palace inside the temple complex. A month-long festival, called “Lakshwadeepam”, was ongoing so the entire temple complex was lit with thousands of lamps while devotees performed classical Carnatic music and dance. It was a magical experience. I was supposed to stay there just for a night, but I extended my stay. I became a part of the temple family, cleaning the floors, eating prasad and talking to the priests about the origins of the festival. 

 

Dency Mathew, Mumbai 

Favourite solo trip destination: Hong Kong

When I was 20, I visited Hong Kong, which was also my first international solo trip. Since I didn’t know quite what to expect here, I was a little anxious, to say the least. However, the destination, the people and the infrastructure was so amazing that I didn’t feel overwhelmed or unsafe for even a second. I recall taking a taxi from the airport to my hotel and despite limited communication with the taxi driver, I felt safe while he drove me through unknown lanes and bylanes. He dropped me safely to my hotel at Kowloon. This trip made me believe in myself as a solo traveller and I spent the next few days travelling like a pro and even taking local trains to commute within the city!

 

Kakoli De, Kolkata

Favourite solo trip destination: Gujarat

Gujarat has been my favourite solo travel destination till date. In December 2016, I hired a car from Ahmedabad and set off for the journey. My first stop was the Rann Festival in White Rann of Kutch, where I stayed in a tent in the middle of the desert and immersed in the region’s cultural celebrations through Indian folk music and dance. My most cherished memory, however, is that of the paramotoring ride. The pilot even allowed me to take over the steering and I sliced through the sky whilst feeling like a braveheart. A safari in the Gir Forest allowed me to catch glimpses of lions. A visit to the magnificent Somnath and Dwarka temples put me in touch with my faith. The climb to the latter was rather difficult owing to the uneven steps en route to the top. But the breathtaking view of the ancient Dwarka city and the glittering waters of the Gomati river were worth it. After a few other pitstops, I reached my final destinations—Lothal, an archaeological site of the Harappan Civilisation, and the Adalaj Bawdi, a stepwell in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. As a female traveller, I was met with questions about my family and why I had undertaken the journey alone. I knew I had found power in solitude. 

 

Komal Jain, Jaipur 

Favourite solo trip destination: Kashmir

In September 2020, I had spent 25 days backpacking in Pahalgam, Kashmir. The state has faced much controversy owing to its political climate, and safety during mobility remains a concern for tourists. But I had to be there to believe it. Kashmiris are absolutely the best hosts, and they go out of their way to help travellers. The Indian Army were positioned at regular intervals and I felt completely at ease while moving around on my own. I met a local boy and we ended up travelling and embarking on treks together for 20 days. His family even hosted me at their home. 

Low network connectivity was the only challenge I faced in Kashmir as I couldn’t reach out to my family back home to keep them in the know of my whereabouts. 

 

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Bhutan. Photo courtesy: Dr. Monalisa Borgohain

Dr. Monalisa Borgohain, Bokakhat 

Favourite solo trip destination: Bhutan

On a warm, humid summer morning, I took the early morning flight from Guwahati to Paro in Bhutan. It was my fourth visit to the Himalayan Kingdom, and this time the destination was the beautiful Phobjikha, Gangtey Valley, in Central Bhutan’s Wangdue Phodrang district. The valley is best known for its marshland and richness in faunal biodiversity. Apart from the annual winter migration of the globally threatened black-necked crane, it is also popular for its scenic splendour and cultural uniqueness.

This part of Bhutan is also known for bomena, which literally means “going towards a girl” or “night hunting.” The courtship practice involves a boy secretly entering a girl’s house at night for courtship or sexual unity. It is basically an institution through which young people find matches for each other for marital union.

When such tales abound the course of the journey, some apprehension about safety was natural. But Bhutan is a country where Buddhist philosophy is a way of life and there’s a general sense of respect for women. The sense of reassurance was hence immense. The moment I landed at Phobjikha, I was transferred to an altogether new level of self awareness.  Fear turned into freedom, and to me, that was empowering.

 

Tanisha Kalra, Delhi 

Favourite solo trip destination: New York City

My favourite solo trip was to New York City in June 2016. It was both exciting and nerve-racking. I was born and raised in New Delhi. So seeking another city came instinctively to me. NYC is pedestrian-friendly and safe at the same time. I remember watching my first Broadway show, An American in Paris, in a chock-a-block Times Square. It was past midnight by the time the play wrapped up, and I walked and took the subway back to reach my accommodation. I don’t think I would have been at ease commuting so late all by myself in another place. 

There are several challenges that come with being a party of one. I am hyper vigilant about my surroundings, and I always try to explore during the day so that I am back by the time it gets dark. I always chose the more crowded subway.

 

Kavya Bhat, Bengaluru 

Favourite solo trip destination: Kasol, Himachal Pradesh

In November 2020, I met fellow travellers and hiked to Grahan in Himachal Pradesh. It’s a slice of mountainous haven amidst Kasol’s crowds. We wound up at the village’s guest house, where I was the only female traveller. There was no network either. I don’t think I would have taken that chance elsewhere. But I had faith in Himachali hospitality. The following day, our host took us on a hike to Grahan waterfall. I ended up staying there for over a month and hiked extensively. There was not a single moment in which Himachal Pradesh made me feel unsafe.

 

Niharika Priyadarshini, Guwahati

Favourite solo trip destination: Rajasthan

I took a midnight train from Jaipur to Bikaner in Rajasthan. Except for five odd fellow-passengers, the bogey was empty. And I had a severe case of food poisoning. There was plenty that could have gone wrong that night. But to my surprise, I was treated with much kindness from complete strangers. The old gentleman near my seat gave me remedies to curb my symptoms. A group of girls took care of me until the end of the journey. Nothing has made me feel safer till date, and I’ll always be thankful to those people.

 

Shrutha Manjunath, Bengaluru 

Favourite solo trip destination: Yercaud, Tamil Nadu

I went on a month-long solo biking trip to Yercaud in Tamil Nadu. It was easy to trust the locals with their sense of direction. At one point, however, I lost my GPS connection and lost my way in a village. There was no gas station for the next 20 kilometres. I spoke in broken Tamil broken Tamil. The villagers helped me out with their reserve of petrol and I made it back safely. The real challenge? I was working on this trip. So it was difficult to make it to meetings with no internet connection. 

 

Jaya Balakrishna, Bengaluru 

Favourite solo trip destination: Bhutan

I visited Bhutan a couple of years ago and everything about that place is beautiful. Its people, their culture, and the breathtaking Himalayan terrain. I learnt to make a stamp with my own picture on it and posted it back to family and friends. I especially enjoyed visiting the monasteries, palaces and market places in Thimpu.

There are some really beautiful and safe bnb’s where you meet lovely hosts and fellow travellers. I based myself close to Paro, the airport city of Bhutan,  and was especially lucky to have stayed in a quaint village lodge with Ama and her daughter dressed as Spiderman. Staying in such village homes and spending time with the hosts was a pleasant experience.

Trying my hand at archery, the kingdom’s national sport, was the highlight of my trip. Walking through the lush green rice fields of Sopsokha village and the sight of Punakha Dzong remain etched in my mind. A 20-minute uphill walk through the rice and mustard fields surrounding Sopsokha village leads to the famous Chimi Lhakhang monastery, commonly known as the fertility temple. Along the way,  you simply cannot miss the pink, red and blue ejaculating penises painted in formal Buddhist style over local house fronts.

For me the temple was all about unusual rituals and colourful legends. I carried a giant golden phallus and went around the temple three times as a fertility ritual. Although I have decided to not have children of my own, I did not want to miss the opportunity of performing this unusual ritual.

 

Pranshu Soni, Mumbai 

Favourite solo trip destination: Denmark

Having extensively travelled across the country and abroad, Scandinavia remains my favourite solo travel destination. On one such trip to Denmark, I was looking for a train station while returning from Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerod near Copenhagen. I spotted a local walking closeby and asked him for directions. He offered to accompany me to the station, for the fear that I might miss the train. My apprehensions ebbed slowly when I realised that true to the Scandinavian hospitality, the gentleman was ready to go beyond his way to help out a stranger. The incident really touched my heart. To my luck, I met more people like him during my trip to Sweden. To them, happiness lies in helping others. 

 

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Tel Aviv. Photo by: MWPHOTOS55/Shutterstock

 

Moksha Hegde, Delhi 

Favourite solo trip destination: Spain

For my birthday in 2019, I gifted myself a two-week solo trip to Spain. I visited a few cities across the European country, but Seville really stuck out for me. I spent a few days there walking around, basking in the culture, savouring delicious food and drinking wine by myself in picturesque cafés. The main highlight from this leg of the trip was skydiving in wee hours. But the location was 30 kilometres in the outskirts of the town and there weren’t many options to commute. Trepidation kicked in and I didn’t catch a wink of sleep all night. After two cabbies cancelled on me, one accepted the 45-minute ride. It was 4 a.m. An hour later, I jumped out of a plane and felt a rush of excitement and accomplishment. I had overcome my inhibitions of being alone and of heights. 

 

Alokananda Nath, Frankfurt 

Favourite solo trip destination: Cologne, Germany

My first solo travel was to Cologne, a vibrant city in west Germany. While studying in Germany in 2016, I was invited to attend a conference in the quaint city nestled along the river Rhine. I took the opportunity to plan my first ever solo trip. I took a leap of faith and got into an ICE Train from Berlin to Cologne. The most famous tourist attraction of Cologne is the Cologne Cathedral, locally known as Kölner Dom, located just beside the main train station.

I remember stepping out of the station and immediately feeling awestruck by this stunning UNESCO World Heritage site. It was springtime in Germany and the weather was particularly pleasant. I stayed in the city for three days and made new friends, ate by myself at restaurants, walked around the city, checked out the love-lock bridge (Hohenzollern Bridge), and made memories for a lifetime.

 

Anshika Singh Bais, Belgrade

Favourite solo trip destination: Kedarnath, Uttarakhand

What was supposed to be a short trip to visit my family in India, turned into an indefinite, pandemic-induced homecoming. I visited Kedarnath in October 2021. After much apprehension from my parents and refusal from my friends to accompany me on the trip, I decided to go solo. 

After landing in Dehradun, I made a pitstop in Guptkashi before heading to the main destination via a helicopter ride from the village of Phata. Safety protocols were in place throughout my journey. 

Upon my arrival, I scouted the place thoroughly: Kedarnath Temple, Kedarnath Gufa and Bhairav Mandir. I sat in the company of sages as they swapped stories and shared humble meals of chai and paratha. Later that evening, I attended the temple aarti, which in itself was a powerful experience. The 16-kilometre trek was quite a challenge as I also carried the weight of my backpack. But the soothing sound of the waterfall made the journey better.

 

Anjali Menon, Bengaluru 

Favourite solo trip destination: Meghalaya

In 2019, I set out on a solo trip to Meghalaya for nine days, hopping from Mawphlang to Cherrapunji to Nongriat to Dawki and then back to Shillong, all on shared public transport. But it’s the trip from Nongriat to Cherrapunji that I remember best. In Nongriat, I climbed over a 100 steps down into a secluded valley with root bridges. One morning I trekked alone from the root bridges to the rainbow falls. 

A lot of the public shared transport in Meghalaya are yellow jeeps, not buses. And these are often at full capacity. A group of us backpackers had just climbed back up from Nongriat to the main road and were exhausted. The jeep was full and the driver made space for me atop the jeep. That ride to Cherrapunji, winding down the mountain roads, watching the valleys, surrounded by friendly strangers was the best!

 

Mrudula Prasad, London

Favourite solo trip destination: Laya, Bhutan

In November 2019, I attended the fifth Royal Highlander Festival, hosted in Laya, Bhutan. I was welcomed with inquisitive, smiling and rosy cheeked locals (because of the altitude). They let me stay in their homes, served me food on their table, let me share their fireplace for warmth with unlimited butter tea, and encouraged me to dress up in their traditional attire and jewellery so I could blend in. It was one of the most memorable experiences I have had.

The only challenge I had faced was to hire a trusted driver/guide. And most importantly, trek with me to ensure that I reached this remote corner of Bhutan. Being in close proximity to the Chinese border, he had to make sure that I had all my paperwork in order to cross the army encampment, put me up with locals and ensure our safety during the trek. 

 

Aditi Khavnekar Pandit, Mumbai

Favourite solo trip destination: Thessaloniki and Athens, Greece

I have travelled solo since I was 22 years old. But it was in Greece’s Thessaloniki and Athens that I felt completely safe for the first time. It’s where I learned of the real me and of my strengths and weaknesses. The destination wasn’t my first solo trip. Nor was it the first non-English country I had visited. The Greeks are easy to make conversations with. But the metro line is notorious for pickpockets. While returning from the Archaeological Museum of Athens, I realised I was being followed in the subway tunnels. I gathered my bag close to me, moved at varying pace, and even stopped to read a poster. But the person wouldn’t stop tailing me. I spotted a middle-aged fellow lady passenger and asked her for directions that I already knew the path to. She did not speak much English and decided to walk me halfway to the platform. The person disappeared almost immediately. I was lucky, but a friend I met for dinner got  pickpocketed on the same metro line, losing her money and her passport.

 

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Java, Indonesia. Photo courtesy: Ramana Shah

Ramana Shah, Mumbai 

Favourite solo trip destination: Java

A video of Indonesia’s Borobudur Temple compelled me to take up my solo trip to Java in 2018.

This trip was unique since I decided to travel without a SIM card. I was shopping at Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta. Since I didn’t have a phone with a network, I could not book myself a cab. I turned to the woman street seller to book a cab for me to return to the hotel. Even though communication was a barrier, she kindly helped me out. I felt immense gratitude and love for Indonesia.

 

Maha Kamal Khan, Islamabad 

Favourite solo trip destination: Paris

Paris was a relaxing experience for me. I stayed at a youth’s hostel in central Paris. I found people on the whole to be pretty honest, friendly and helpful. The city was fairly easy to navigate and pretty organised. The tourism industry is so developed that I had no trouble putting together my itinerary for museums and food recommendations. There was nothing that a man could do, that I couldn’t do. I could have even used a male washroom and no one would have batted an eye! I really love how non-judgmental and non-gender-biased the French are.

 

Meghali Ghosh, Pune 

Favourite solo trip destination: Switzerland

Travelling on the Bernina Express across the snowy landscapes had always been a dream. So while planning the journey,  I also packed in Rome owing Italy’s proximity to Switzerland. In January 019, I boarded the Bernina Express from Tirano station and reached St.Moritz in Switzerland. For the entire ride of 2.5 hours I was transfixed by the snow-clad mountain views outside my window. I immediately realised why going on this trip was one of the best decisions of my life. I stopped by at St.Moritz’s Gourmet festival and dashed to the Indian food stall. I dug into butter chicken while overlooking the snowy Alps. I found myself in Rome the following day and ticked off another of my childhood dream of visiting the Colosseum.  I took pride in travelling across foreign lands without any idea of the culture or the language.

 

Pritha Sinha, Düsseldorf, Germany 

Favourite solo trip destination: Puglia, Italy

My favourite solo travel destination till date is the small port town of Bari in the Puglia region of southern Italy. While working onsite in Germany, I found out about an upcoming long weekend and I didn’t wish to stay cooped up in my apartment. But by the time I decided I wanted to go, it was too late and all ticket prices had soared. So I turned to a blind booking concept of Eurowings and took a chance. And it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. I ended up getting return tickets to Bari from Stuttgart for €75/Rs6,500. I had not heard of Bari before and I had to plan quickly. I visited the village of Polignano a Mare that is known for its colourful-pebbled beaches, and helpful locals who gave me directions to places I wanted to go to by drawing them on pieces of paper. I walked for almost two hours by myself to reach Grotte di Castellana. But a wave of calmness washed over me along with the soft spring breez.

 

Satabdi Mitra, Bengaluru 

Favourite solo trip destination: Sikkim

It was my birthday and I wanted to spend the day exploring nature by myself. So I treated myself to a holiday to my favourite solo travel destination—Sikkim.

It was December when I went to Zero Point. But got stuck there for two days due to heavy snowfall. I panicked initially, but soon enough the Indian Army along with the locals came to our rescue. 

 

Paromita Bose, Hyderabad

Favourite solo trip destination: Kochi, Kerala

My favourite solo travel destination is Kochi in Kerala. It was also the first place in India that I had travelled to by myself. 

In a conversation with the cab driver from the airport to the hotel that I was staying at, we got talking about women travelling alone in the country. And he very interestingly told me that Kerala is one of the safest places to travel to as they believe if they misbehave with female travellers, it only affects their reputation and in turn tourism within the state takes a beating. It all made so much sense!

On another such ride to catch a sunset at Cherai, my driver got talking to me about how Cherai is a hyped and actually perhaps not the best place to catch a sunset, if solitude is what one is seeking. Instead, he suggested visiting Kuzhupilly beach. There was not a single soul on that beach. I, however, also insisted that he take me to Cherai. He did take me there, and it took me exactly 10 minutes to tell him that I wanted to go back. He smiled and drove me back, shooting a told-you-so glance. Perhaps, it’s important to let down one’s guard at certain times. 

 

Dr. Kabita Chiring, Guwakati

Favourite solo trip destination: Divar Island, Goa

My favourite solo travel destination is Divar Island, Goa that I visited in the early days of January 2018. Little of the new year festivities that Goa is known for affects Divar even though it lies on a spot on the Mandovi river just a few kilometers from the mainland.

It was a bit of a challenge for me to plan a trip to an offbeat island on my first solo trip ever. The free ferry dropped me at the mouth of the island. After waiting for some time, I realised that the best way for me to explore the island would be on foot. I traversed the length and breadth of Divar, mesmerised by the colours and architectural style of the houses there. Hardly a soul in sight, I was told they are owned by rich men who mostly live abroad. 

What a secluded place and yet I felt so safe! One of the very few encounters I had there was with the owner of a homestay. I rambled in, carried away by the ebony woodwork of the inner building and the green spaces on offer. The owner served me their specialty coconut drink and told me that many poets and writers come and stay there for creative inspiration. I left the place with a vision of intellectuals scattered around the pool gathering their thoughts.

 

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