This story has been featured in ‘Womens Era’ April-2015 issue.
I started my solo travel journey in 90’s in India when women were not even allowed to step out of the house alone (in the night) , let alone for travels. I hailed from a conservative Marwari family from Pune ( a small relaxed town,while I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s).Although I was always bold , where I was raised the society was very conservative especially towards women , they never expected girls to get educated and even work ,I was not even allowed to travel outside my hometown for work and travel.
As a youngster in my school days I was always intrigued to see places, but never had any exposure about how I could do it. I always told my parents about my desire to see places, and we did go visit some, but they were mostly religious tours. In those days people hardly travelled with friends, and most tours were either honeymoon tours, or family tours. I used to tell my family about travelling, but it used to always get postponed as none of my family members had the time and inclination for travels.
I didn’t want to wait for anybody and let life pass me by and so I decided to embark on this journey on my own. There weren’t many travel companies in Pune back then and I wanted to travel to Sikkim, Nepal, Darjeeling. I zeroed in on a company from Mumbai and I remember back then there weren’t any online payment channels ,even banks were not centralised so I had to do hawala to pay the booking amount via my brothers friend in Mumbai . The travel agent obviously was not comfortable with a woman travelling alone, but nonetheless it was business for them so they didn’t refuse. I knew I would get many stares from people wondering “Why this girl is travelling alone, doesn’t she have family ?” and all other questions, but I was prepared for it. I remember how most people on the trip had booked their tour only upto Gangtok ,and I wanted to also visit Yumthang ,so I was the only one and the tour guide (should have been with me till the end of the trip, part of his job) left me with one family (who were uncomfortable with me travelling alone) to cover that part of the trip. I was all alone in the hotel and coming back from Silliguri midnight at 4:00am by train was not an easy task either, but I managed.
After that I travelled alone to visit Taj Mahal –Agra when attending a friends wedding in Lucknow again in 2001. Trust me it was not at all easy to travel to places like that alone as I didn’t know anybody over there , I just overcame my fears .Many people would think I’m mad to be going alone to see places, but I didn’t have company (of travellers) and didn’t want to wait for anybody. I was always interested in adventure tours but in India and Pune in particular back then, there were hardly any companies doing such things and unlike today there wasn’t anything on the internet too.
In 2002, an adventure tour company started in Pune, and I planned my first Himalayan adventure trek with them, and I enjoyed it the most as it was my kind of travel.
Since then I’ve been travelling to many places and countries alone and it has become a habbit now. I’ve done mostly adventure tours. I have now travelled to many countries across continents alone and have learnt a lot about different people and cultures around us. I have had the best time of my life while travelling solo. I travelled to UK, Scotland, 17 countries in Europe, SE-Asia, Australia, Turkey, Egypt, Dubai, Africa, Zambia, Botswana and more.
I did a trip to Egypt in October -2013, and as you know there has been a political unrest in Egypt, but yet I decided to go alone. It was scary to go to a country with political unrest as there’s this constant fear. Even while I was in Turkey some people joked that when I go to Egypt they may see me in news as being abducted or killed. I laughed it out, but yet went there alone. When I went to ‘Tahrir Square’ in Cairo it was completely deserted with police and military cordoning and yet I managed to visit the Egyptian museum.I then proceeded to Luxor and Aswan and did the ‘Nile Cruise’ and first time in history a cruise was sailing with just one passenger on board and that was me. It was privileged in a sense that a cruise was sailing just for you, but at the same time very scary to be alone on the Cruise for a night. I was all alone that night on the Cruise in a politically disturbed country like Egypt, and I would lie if I said I wasn’t scared. First time ever I was scared to be alone ( due to political unrest) but fortunately next morning I met a couple from New Zealand and was relieved to know they would be onboard.
I have done most of my foreign tours where I’ve met people from different nationalities and it has been fun. A Swedish couple pictured above (whom I met in Cape Town) and me hired a car to drive around the scenic Garden Routé in S-Africa, and had Dan not driven the car I don’t think I could have gone there alone, as it’s a very remote place to find public or local transport. It was just by chance I met Danielle and Malin and started a conversation with them and we decided to travel together. Everywhere I went I met strangers who became friends later. I’ve always been told that I’m the only Indian woman they have come across travelling alone.
One of the biggest challenge as a solo woman traveller from India was getting visas, as the visa officers didn’t believe that a girl from India was going to travel alone (as nobody or hardly anyone was doing it back then). Also coming from my background nobody I knew was abroad, and I had no source of information so had to largely rely on my own research.
But regardless of all the challenges I’m glad I travelled solo , as it has taught me to get out of my comfort zone and be independant. It has enabled me to see the world differently and face challenges,today I feel like I belong to the world .
I hope you all get a chance to go on atleast one solo trip to experience the world .I’ve also compiled a book called as ‘How to plan your travels abroad’ By Suejata London that has some more anecdotes from my travels and also gives details about planning the journey yourself.
The digital book is found on this site in shopcart, as well as on Amazon.
books are found on
or on Amazon
Please also Like my FB page Suejatas-Lifestyle to stay updated
I hope I can inspire some of you to just go out there and explore the world on your own, as it will develop a lot of your skills. You can check my other article here
Here are some quotes from my book . Enjoy and have fun!!!
“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”
— Henry David Thoreau
“The adventures that seem the most scariest, difficult and dangerous are usually the ones that you will look back on, smile and remember forever.”
(P.S Nowadays I’ve heard of a few girls from India going solo (still not even 0.01% of population I guess,need data) and kudos to them, but when I started I didn’t have exposure of media, online and social media channels as well as support of society, I didn’t have anyone as a role model and the whole path I had to carve myself, and hence it was a tough task compared to today, when everything has become easier. Girls from towns didn’t have as much exposure as girls from metro cities, and internationally girls went solo as they had a lot of exposure and many there seemed to do it )