Click here for article (Interviewed by The New Indian Express)
I have been travelling solo from the day I realised I could depend on myself far more than anyone else.
There are, of course, many myths about single Indian women backpackers – basically because it is a new concept and the lack of knowledge of the same makes it seem very daunting.
I have been asked a lot of strange questions – with regards to intentions, integrity and morality and often made out to be a weirdo, but I just laugh it away. The reason for this is that I have been where many haven’t and travelling all around the world on my own has taught me that people will behave and ask questions based on the limitations of their understanding about traveling.
To me backpacking denotes freedom – as it would to women who have ventured out alone. Wanting to travel alone doesn’t make you “a weirdo” nor immoral. Today’s woman is fiercely independent and to me, travelling is an extension of that freedom to do what one pleases.
How safe is it to travel alone? Well, to that I have only one thing to say. How safe is it to eat at a restaurant? We don’t go into the restaurant thinking we will be poisoned, right? Travelling is similar to that. Travelling alone is about shedding inhibitions and mental blocks and go all out to do what you want – and the ability to enjoy yourself in the process.
I have never regretted the time and money that went into my travels, be it walking the infamous Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea or being held at gunpoint in remote Africa – I think of those incidents with much fondness. It is the life I have chosen and no matter what, I will stick to it. As long as I can put my left leg in front of the right, I will continue to do what I want to do.
That however does not mean that I am not concerned of safety – Heck I wanna live too don’t I? Naturally a good amount of caution is advisable. But not to the extent that I am wrapped up in my fears so much so that I cannot see the beauty outside. I believe that if I can do it, others can too. Being free to travel or backpack doesn’t always mean you have to take on dangerous tasks, there are other ways to do it. But I would say – do it. It’s the best way to understand the world around you.
What are your safety tips for women travelling alone?
*Don’t flaunt too much jewellery, money, camera.
*It is ok to ask for help, but trust your instincts.
*Wear sensible shoes, carry your humor and attitude and be prepared to use all these when occasion arises.
*Women are prone to women-issues – so if you feel burnt out or drained, rest. You need to be as fit as you can.
*Speak to fellow travellers – or even locals, but don’t be too naïve and reveal the truth about everything.
*Show that you trust your fellow-traveler or local or whoever you are in interaction with – and they will definitely trust you in return.
*There is nothing like being too careful, a lot depends on your ability to use your common sense, given the situation.
*Travel light – always helps when you need to run.
(The writer is a former journalist and author of the just-released book ‘Almost Intrepid,’ a collection of her travelogues. Based out of Dubai, Anjaly is always on the move.)