Notriphobia is the fear of not having any trips booked, and this is something that I constantly suffer from. Having solo travelled most of the times, my goal is to cover 25 countries before I turn 25 years old. I am Ankita Chatterjee and I am a risk consultant with a Big 4 professional services firm in Bangalore. I have travelled to 20 countries so far and I’ve 5 more countries to cover in the next 2 years. Travelling for me has always been a self-exploratory process. I travel to learn from new cultures, languages, heritages, architectures, cuisines, histories and people that I find across the world and at the same time I end up learning things about myself that I didn’t know were a part of me all along. So how you can go solo travelling? Well, here is my solo travel experience, travelling to 20 countries to date. You can even find some tips on planning your solo travel trip along with budget, which I have penned down from my personal experiences.
How Travelling Became My Passion
I was 15 when I first saw Prague on television and since then I’ve always wanted to go. It was a strange calling that I needed to respond to. It was almost like I had some unknown connection with the red-roofed houses and the chimes of the church bells echoing from every direction of the city. I finally made it to Prague this year and words are not enough to express the equanimity that I felt.
It felt like I’ve known those people for years now, everybody smiled at me as if they were awaiting my arrival for a long time. In a day I made so many friends in Prague and some of them got so close that the next time I go I wouldn’t have to stay in a hotel. I remember I walked into a café to grab some coffee and since there weren’t a lot of other customers I got talking to the owner. He was a warm, wrinkly man in his 60s from Milan and he owned a chain of cafes across Europe.
We spoke about our countries, our professions, our cuisines and about our traditions, we spoke for an hour and a half without even realizing that time moved so fast (After all time is just a human-made concept). To my amusement at the end of the conversation he offered me a job, in his lilting Italian accent, he asked me to do what I do for my clients for his chain of cafes and offered to take care of everything else. He even said I could live in Prague as long as I wanted and could travel whenever I wanted to visit his other chains of cafes. Although tempted, I had to refuse considering my responsibilities to my employer back home but this incident got me thinking, opportunities for a whole new life are waiting for us everywhere, we just need to walk in and ask.
Solo Because Yolo!
People say You Only Live Once (YOLO) but I beg to differ. I feel you only die once, you live every day! I was never going to go if I waited for someone else to come with me. There’s so much to see in this world, so many people to meet and so many experiences to have. Honestly, if I were to run all my plans by a travel partner to incorporate their preferences as well, it would’ve taken centuries to plan a trip. Besides, I detour A LOT. I just randomly walk into unknown alleys or trek to unfrequented slopes to catch a sunrise. A travel partner or even a group of your best friends will not always be up for such “not so appealing” detours and I’m too bent on ensuring that I go wherever I want to, because FOMO is a real thing you guys! Too much millennial lingo? We are just a product of our times, apologies!
The Countries I’ve Visited
I’ve been to Dubai, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Finland, Estonia, Sweden, Abu Dhabi, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Holland, Austria, Munich, Berlin, Czech Republic, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Malaysia, Qatar, Norway, Switzerland and Indonesia. I have my list of countries and the itineraries in place for the next 2 years and I will book whenever the prices hit their lowest! I know a lot of people don’t plan their travels so much in advance but hey! I have a goal to achieve remember? #25countriesbeforeiturn25
How To Plan Your Trips?
I always make it a point that I prepare for my trips well in advance. What people don’t often realize is that behind those well-curated, picturesque insta posts is A LOT of hard work. Months of saving up, days of figuring out logistics and hours and hours of research goes into planning a perfect trip. Keeping oneself abreast with the recent flight and hotel deals always come in handy while planning a budget trip. While I plan I also prioritize. What do I want most from this trip? If it’s exploring the place then I keep a shorter duration because I know that I can cover a lot in a day based on my travel stamina. On the other hand, if I want to experience something like a festival then I spend more days at a location just to get the entire experience. Similarly, everybody has their priorities and it is essential to know yours before you plan a trip. Here is All You Need To Know Before Planning A Trip To Bhutan
How To Go On Budget Trips?
Most of the times there are 3 undeniable expenditures that you will have to incur and I will break them down for you so that you plan better:
Transit: Apart from flight tickets a lot of money is involved in planning the transits within the country that you choose to visit. The best way to arrange your transit is by pre-booking tourist buses that will show you around the entire day or by buying train passes. You can also use the subway facilities in most of the countries, they are impeccable when it comes to time and cost-saving. You can also book experiences on Airbnb which come with a guide who will show you around for that day and take care of all your travel requirements from your hotel to all the destinations you choose to visit and back. However, if you are travelling to a South East Asian country, never pre-book for ferry rides to an island. You always get cheaper, negotiable rates at the port.
Food: This expense is totally subjective. If you’re a foodie then you wouldn’t want to compromise on this one at all. However, considering that we all like to eat the best food that is available I would suggest talking to locals. They are the best in recommending restaurants per your budget. Most of the cafés and restaurants have a menu displayed outside so you can decide.
I suggest avoiding having meals at popular sightseeing places because they are costlier, I remember having insipid cup noodles worth Rs650 once, just because I was not aware enough. You can avoid these scams if you visit local cafes that are not in very popular places. You can also buy your meals from departmental stores and carry them around and I do this all the time. Honestly, I have no idea how to cook so I just buy pre-cooked sandwiches and salads and a lot of desserts to go with it when I know that I have a long day of travel and I wouldn’t really get to stop a lot of times for a proper meal. Also, when outside India, PLEASE AVOID eating at Indian food joints. Indian food is treated as exotic food outside India which makes it costlier than local food and the taste for the price you pay won’t suit your desi taste buds.
Accommodation: It’s a general perception that hotels outside India are very expensive which accounts for the most money to be spent on the trip. What if I tell you that’s not true at all? Don’t blindly book hotels, look for alternatives. As a solo traveller safety is my biggest concern and I always book places based on recommendations by previous guests. Airbnb will again save your life when it comes to accommodation they have some really beautiful properties listed that are centrally located and have some of the best hosts. Couchsurfing is another great option I’ve heard. Do explore all your options before blindly booking a hotel that you always stay with.
Tips For Solo Travellers
- Never eat alone: People might think that solo travelling can feel very lonely but once you experience it yourself you’ll know that it’s just the opposite. It’s your best chance to go and make new friends. People are inherently good-natured (of course use your common sense before approaching someone) but try and come back home with as many new connections as you can. There’s always a reason why you met who you met so do not take that for granted and use your opportunities to befriend as many people as you can.
- Never buy Indian stuff when out of India: I’ve mentioned this briefly previously but I cannot stress on this more. Our country is exquisite and therefore anywhere outside India availability of Indian commodity is a niche which makes it costlier. Don’t waste money on something that you’ll get for cheaper back home.
- Never shop at tourist attractions: We all know basic rules of demand and supply (fret not if you don’t, I’ll explain). Due to high demands in the tourist spots the prices of anything that you buy from there are higher. You will find plenty of overcrowded souvenirs and chocolate shops but trust me all of them have “SCAM” written all of their faces. They will charge you if not a lot but definitely a little extra than what you should be actually paying. So explore your options, opt for more local and authentic options.
- Never hire a guide: Everywhere around the world, the “tourist guide” concept is booming and although a lot of people find it very helpful but hiring one at the location is not a very good idea because they charge a lot for providing you with information that you have access to for free. Talk to locals, they’ll give you more authentic and real information. Trust me you’ll always find such people who have a lot to say about these people. They’ve grown up in these countries and are just waiting to be approached
- Never pay for using washrooms: A lot of you might be thinking that this is a negligible amount but the money you pay on throughout your trip on these washrooms has an opportunity cost i.e it can be used somewhere better. Here’s what I do, I use washrooms at restaurants and cafes that I visit and at the stores that I shop from. Also, if there is a hotel that you spot you can just walk in and use their washrooms for free and that my friend is a law all across the world, no registered hotel can ever refuse you your right of using their washrooms!
- Always buy local sim cards: If you take an international roaming pack from India, you’ll come back and regret that a lot. Never trust your service providers when it comes to international roaming packs. Buy local sim cards once you reach your country of choice instead. It’s not a lot of hassle they just need a copy of your passport and visa that’s about it. These sim cards are WAYY cheaper and have better network coverage.
- Always carry a power bank: If you travel solo you have to take care of yourself which means safety comes first. Never ever travel without a power bank, your phone will always protect you as long as it’s up and running.
- Always be alert: This goes for most countries in Europe. You’ll see boards everywhere which say careful of pickpockets but what they don’t know is that we are from India. Protection from theft is an art that we are born with. Jokes aside, never leave your luggage un-attended even while using washrooms and NEVER let your passport get out of your sight.
- Always eat local: This is common sense but we often forget to do this. For example- don’t eat Oriental cuisine when in Europe simply because that is not their specialty. Eat food that they are known for making. Trust me a lot of people make this mistake while travelling which not makes you regret your choice but also costs you heavily.
- Always carry a tripod: If you are travelling solo you’ll soon realize that there is absolutely no one to volunteer to click your pictures and how many selfies can someone possibly click? You’ll have to rely on strangers who may sometimes deny clicking your pictures and even if they do, you have to understand that not all of them are Pros and you’ll be stuck with a picture which probably doesn’t match your travel fanatic standards. So the only solution to this is carrying a tripod. Place it where you want, set a timer and get yourself some amazing pictures. Warning: Tripods are not allowed at all places for example: Disneyland charges you an extra amount if you need your tripod, so you might have to research a little before you go.
Things You Can Learn From Solo Travelling
I think the most important lesson that I’ve learnt from travelling around the world and the one that I’ll hold on to with my dear life is the importance of connections. I feel in this world nobody is self-made anymore, behind every milestone we achieve there are a lot of people involved. People who think we are worth it and people who care about us. So obviously the more the number of such people, the merrier it is for us. I make sure that I increase my social circle by at least 2 people every time I am in a new country. They can be anybody. From travellers to locals from entrepreneurs to shop keepers, literally ANYBODY. I’ve learnt that you never know who you may need in life and it’s always a good practice to ensure that you have plenty of people all around the world who recognize and acknowledge your vibe. Also, check out 7 Life Lessons Solo Traveling Taught Me
Message For Travel Enthusiasts
Apart from all that there is to say and discuss about solo travelling, there is one basic thing that you should ALWAYS remember- Don’t miss a chance to discover yourself. More often than not when we are travelling we are so caught up with our itinerary, pictures, Instagram stories and the other millennial hassles that we forget that the purpose of travelling solo was to learn things. Most importantly about yourself. You’ll realize things about yourself that you had no idea about while you were busy coping with the hustle-bustle of your daily schedule.
I know someone who realized that they were in love with someone they met two years back while travelling solo. I mean imagine that! You love someone and you did not even realize it? So yeah! Solo travel can be a meditative experience if you want it to be one. You can always reach out to me if you have any travel-related queries (If googling travel suggestions like a maniac doesn’t suffice). Don’t hold back. Explore, learn and love a little more! Who knows maybe our paths will cross someday? See you in the real world!
This article was contributed to Curly Tales by Ankita Chatterjee. If you have an article or similar experience to share, do write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org