Being a solo woman traveller often invites several unsolicited comments. The most popular one being “why do you do it?” as many people expect women to be chaperoned or to flourish into the domestic goddesses that we’re expected to be. But sitting still and waiting for things to happen for you is boring.
Himadri Garg and her sister wanted to experience life beyond the patriarchal lens, and they believed their home country was the perfect place to start. India is a thriving nation; filled with delicious food, gorgeous terrains, a melting pot of cultures, and festivities that were waiting for them just beyond the gates of their home.
One of their most memorable plans was visiting the Great Himalayan National Park. The set off on a four-day trek of the UNESCO site and had various activities planned including camping and trying not to get too drenched in the monsoon weather. While not an ideal time to visit, the girls picked this period simply because it would save them on money and having to share the area with hundreds of people; it worked out to be a perfect trip in their minds.
Unfortunately, upon arriving, the rain was rather heavy and the guide was a little apprehensive about taking them on the route. They went with it regardless and the guide brought his brother along too. The girls were a little sceptical to be in the jungle with another man they didn’t know well. A feeling that’s fairly normal, but they didn’t stay in their heads for too long. To get out of feeling uncomfortable with the unknown, they started having conversations with the boys. Trying to get to know them better, and as it turned out, things seemed fairly positive.
They helped each other cross over various paths, and as soon as they arrived at the camping site, the rain poured down on them and it became a blessing to have been a group of four instead of three as extra help was very much appreciated. The boys then cooked them a three-course meal which took the girls by surprise but also made them feel truly grateful for the hospitality they were given. And that’s the same experience Himadri had on her various excursions.
Like her trip to Bangalore. They had planned to visit for a week and took an overnight bus to reach the city. It was supposed to reach at 6am but they arrived four hours earlier, and being a quaint town, nothing was open at that hour.
With no hotels booked and only the salty wind brushing their faces, the sisters took it upon themselves to walk the quiet streets in hopes of finding a hotel or a taxi to get them to a taxi they knew of further out of town. They were in a different state so there was a bit of a language barrier, Himadri stresses how important it is to learn a handful of phrases for when travelling to a foreign country; something that can be overlooked quite easily.
On the upside though, the beauty of travelling with someone you’re close to is that you don’t need to speak your mind, you can simply read one another’s expressions and body language. The girls knew that whatever they came to find or price they were given to get to their desired location, they wouldn’t fight it. It was late, they felt vulnerable, they just wanted to get to where was comfortable.
And to their surprise, the driver they met didn’t try to rip them off with an exorbitant fare and he was very helpful too. As a woman, our cynicism is often heightened when we’re alone. We constantly have fear in the back of our minds because we know the possibility of unfortunate events happening to be very real. But a dash of optimism won’t hurt the soul, and Himadri is a testament to that.
She says the best tips she’s learned herself is to keep calm and always ask for permission before taking photos of someone. If you start interacting with the locals, they’ll be more comfortable with you and in return, you’ll feel safer in the area in which you’re in. She also advocates for learning the basics of self-defence as our safety is in our hands. Lastly, she says to share the basic research and tentative plans we have with someone we can trust that’s not part of our trip; just so someone else is aware of our whereabouts.
Watch her set below entitled Why India is Safe to Travel Solo for Women below:
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