I still remember that look on your face when I told you for the first time that I wanted to travel solo. Was it concern, were you feeling horrified, or just trying to pull off that poker face, I will never know. But I want to thank you for agreeing with me at that time; or like you say, ‘You left us with no choice.’
What might seem like another form of rebellion by your single and unmarried daughter, it isn’t. Your permission to allow me to explore the world on my own, see things with my own perspective and learn by my own experiences have changed me and made me the person that I am today.
Many parents do not realise the importance of letting their daughters be. What can be learned from your own mistakes, is something that you can never learn from others. In all those family functions and social gathering I tried to propagate that thought to many of those who had adolescent daughters, who wouldn’t even allow their child to go on an all-girls trip. I know you too had to curb your inhibitions, but you still let me go on my own. And I want to tell you, here’s what you did for me with that one nod: you changed the ABCs of my life! You made me….
To go on an off beaten path and try the things that I never have. Put an unexplored town on the itinerary or cover the peninsula of Republic of Ireland by road, in three and a half days; my journeys will never be the same again.
For knowing when to defend myself. When I was being passed racial slurs during my time in New York, I could stand up for myself and not just cower in a corner.
For not getting bogged down when I lost the plot during a trip. When I was faced with a roadblock, all I knew was I had to breathe and find a solution. That time in Scotland, when I couldn’t figure out how to return to London because all trains and buses were booked, I sat down and found my way back home.
Let’s talk about the time when I decided to go skydiving. I didn’t realise what I was doing until the door of the planes opened at 11,000ft. I agree it wasn’t right for me to inform you what I did, after what I did do; but honestly, you wouldn’t have allowed it in the first place.
Remember the time when you would struggle with waking me up early in the morning? Solo travels taught me that no one is going to be that assertive about morning hours. Starting my day early to complete all that was on the agenda, made me realise the importance and the beauty of sunrises. And hence I didn’t see the night sky, even a singly day during my 5-day trip to Scotland.
To not feel alienated in a new town. To walk with confidence and not care about ‘what people thought about me’; because I was from another country, or because I was a woman! Every time it snowed in Leh, I would head straight to Khardung-La. Many people thought, I should be careful, because I didn’t have the stamina to hold my breathe, at 18,000ft for too long. And there I was, on multiple occasions, proving them wrong.
When people help you, you help them out. No one does an act of kindness with the hope to get reciprocated, but my travels taught me that being grateful only gives you good vibes. The time when the Scottish AirBnB host in Fort William came to pick me up from the train station, because he thought I would not be able to find way to home; I thanked him by making a portion of veg pulao for all the guests at the house. The next morning, the Canadian-French couple decided to drop me to the bus stop.
Honesty is the best policy. Don’t try to act smart when you are travelling all by yourself, you will only get in more trouble.
Because I was on my own, I knew how important it was for me to make the right bookings, for the right cost. Not get fooled into paying something more for something else. You asked me to be wise, and wise I was.
In making the most of every moment. Even if it meant walking back to the guest house during rain, or dancing with an old Irish-man at tiny Irish pub located in a village.
To help someone out when they were in trouble. While on a train, the ticket checker overheard my conversation with a fellow passenger about how I was trying to figure out a cafe to sit at until I caught my train next day in the morning. She then walked up to me, told me about a place that was open till 3AM and also offered me free food coupon that she had cut out of the newspaper for herself.
When you are travelling alone, specially when exploring international destinations, the family is not really available on speed dial. In fact, you end up missing them a lot more. So when I saw that old couple sitting in Central Park, I just walked up to them to have a conversation. And for a brief while, I forgot that I was on my own in an unknown town.
Yes, you are not going to have anyone to just pass on your documents to, or passport too. Carefully counting the currency and keeping it safely is something that I became extremely careful about.
When all I had was internet and Google Maps… add to that a language that I did not speak, I figured out my way to navigate around a new town. Yes that involved getting lost and discovering new places, but it definitely enhanced my navigating ability.
Also read: Six Tips To Make Your Child Travel Friendly
I travelled to a few places where I was hosted by family or friends. It taught me how to respect them and be obedient so that they don’t feel that you are disrupting their routine or making life difficult for them. On the other hand, when things went well, I was invited by them again! Having another home in Singapore or London, doesn’t sound like a bad idea, does it?
Travelling all by myself, exploring new places and meeting new people, soon became a way of life for me which then got converted into my profession. It changed the course of my life and probably my destiny too.
I am now able to guide people who decide to travel solo. You have given me the opportunity to be an inspiration and probably an encyclopaedia too!
Not every thing will go as planned, so I learnt how to be reasonable. I couldn’t get a ticket to head on time, I lost out on cancellation costs because I didn’t get the visa; I couldn’t even get that perfect photo opportunity with my favourite minion at Universal Studios in Singapore, but then, I had to not sit and ponder over it. But just think about the next best thing that my trip had in store.
Trying to help out others and to be able to sympathise with them is one of the greatest learnings I have had. There no greater deed than being rescued by a total stranger when you are in trouble. I was in a similar situation once, when I got a ride to Pattaya so that I could take a bus back to Bangkok. That seemed like a better option than being stranded in a small town with barely any connectivity.
I wouldn’t call myself an introvert, but I would often have a difficult time in walking up to someone and having a conversation. But once I travelled solo, that inhibition went away. The gate keeper, the lady at the Starbucks became my new friends in the city.
One of the best things about travelling solo is that helped me rediscover myself and helped me restore faith in how unique I am. There is something that makes you stand out from the rest out of the crowd, and the only way you can do that is when you get a chance to see the rest of the world.
Vegetarian (only in a few countries though)
Yes, most people believe that when you are travelling to international countries, it is important for you to try different kinds of meats, but have you ever thought of trying their vegetarian options? Yes, I agree they often weren’t enough, but having a vegetarian pita wrap from the corner store at Times Square in New York was quite a tasty experience.
Compassion and warmth turns some of the coldest and lonely evenings into a sweet memory. Being good to al living beings, goes a long way. Like the time when I was in Mussoorie and I pet a baby goat on my way to trek, and then it followed me all the way. I was not alone anymore.
The fun of the unknown! Every trip that I have embarked on, has something in store me. A surprise, good or bad. So the x-factor here, doesn’t stand for that one thing that makes me awesome. It stands for the element of surprise, that I will always be prepared for during my journeys.
Young and Youthful
There is no age to travel or explore whether you are with someone or not. You are travelling alone or with your friend, with your family or with a group that you have just met, there is nothing that can stop you from travelling around the world. During my solo travels, I have met so many people who started their journeys after 40 or 50 years of age. Travel always makes you feel young. Just not in high-altitude areas, when you run out of breath.
Also read: Romantic Quotes About Love And Travel
With so much enthusiasm and excitement, my zeal for travel grows with every trip. It starts when the last one comes to an end. And there is no stopping me now!
And this not just me. Many women have travelled solo and explored the world on their own. These are one of many qualities that they learn during their journey by meeting new people, finding their way back when they get lost. I urge all parents to let their daughters travel solo. Their relationship status shouldn’t matter, it’s what they achieve and absorb.
Thank you mom and dad for letting me travel solo, and I know you will continue to let me do that (whether you like it or not)… because you know it makes me happy!