I still remember that day in December of 2017 when I just packed my bags and left my home in Pune. Earlier that day at the office, all I could think of was an escape. I was just 4 months into my new job, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was in my head and I wanted a change of environment to settle the unsettling thoughts. So I turned towards solo travel, I was so much looking forward to. In 22 years of my life until then, I haven’t been on a single solo trip. But somehow, I felt it was the only thing that could bring solace. What followed although shaped the travel life of mine, there were reasons for how it turned out the way it did. The reasons that let me conclude that solo travel isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Check them out and let me know if you’re ready for solo travel yet 😉
Following the unsettling thoughts and my longing for a solo trip, I quickly looked up on the map. My eyes gazed towards the coast, at Goa, my second home. But I explored too much of Goa already, plus that second home had a lot to do with the unsettling thoughts themselves. I followed the coast further south and found Gokarna. I knew this was an under-explored place back in 2017 and was only an overnight journey from Pune. So, I quickly booked a one-way ticket, and off I went.
With zero planning and research, it turned out to be exactly what I wanted. Call it magic or Maya or just the way of the world, but it worked. I explored Gokarna for a day, hiking up random hillocks, watching the sun paint the ocean in myriad shades of oranges, while I sat by a cliff, all alone. It felt as if it was a theater playing the most beautiful movie ever, yet, I was the only one to sit and appreciate the beauty.
Contrary to my introverted self, I met a person (or two?) whom I felt lucky to have been introduced into my life. The following day, went to Murudeshwar on a local bus, then another bus or two to Jog Falls and another and another until I landed in Bangalore. After celebrating the NYE with my friends and sharing some of the thoughts (or puzzles in my head?) I put together throughout the trip, I left for Pune.
Looking back, it was a trip of momentous importance which later enabled me to get closure on a lot of things in life. But the conditions to making this such a momentous one were sown years before it all started. But what if any of those conditions weren’t present? would the trip have turned out in the same way? I don’t think so. So here are the conditions that made it a momentous event.
Keeping Your Money & Yourself Safe
In one of my bike rides to SRS Hills around Bangalore, I lost my wallet on the way. Not knowing this, I kept riding ahead and reached the destination. It was a sunny afternoon and very hot. So I proceeded to the nearby sugarcane juice stall and ordered a glass of sugarcane juice. I sat down and downed it in one go. I asked him, in my broken Kannada, “Anna, eshtu?” (Brother, How much for this?). He replied, INR 20. I reached out for my wallet and realized I’d lost it. I was lucky to get it back from a stranger who saw it on the road but it could’ve gone another way as well.
And the same goes for your own safety. When you’re out there, anything can happen. But I would say the chances of incidents relating to money would be more common than physical incidents. So learn to manage your cash when you’re on a trip. Spread your cash around your luggage and the dress you’re wearing. Be aware of surroundings and avoid places that scream trouble. If you’re clumsy with your behavior or money, then solo travel isn’t for you.
Company Of My Own Thoughts
For better or worse, I have developed a comfortable relationship with my thoughts. They come when they wish and no matter how uncomfortable, I welcome them with open arms. Greet them, serve them coffee, and ask them the reasons for their sudden appearance. This helped me during the trip as my own thoughts occupied my mind than a friends’ chatter or a girlfriend’s laughter.
This isn’t something that everyone is capable of. So, if you’re not comfortable with the eerie silence of your own thoughts, then don’t force yourself into solo travel. How do you know if you’re comfortable with your thoughts? Well, test it yourself today. Grab a drink of your choice and sit out in the balcony. Leave the phone, book, music, Netflix, or anything that usually grabs your attention behind. Observe how your mind behaves.
So if you’re not someone who can’t handle the company of your own thoughts, then solo travel isn’t for you.
Being Aware Of Situations
Probably because I leaned towards pessimism more than optimism, I was very aware of my surroundings. Observing every movement around like an eagle from up above. I still remember this one particular incident during the trip to Gokarna on Kudle beach. It was around 8 PM and there was an open bonfire, people playing music, and a few others that gathered around them.
There was no patrolling whatsoever, unlike beaches in Goa. My homestay was another 2 KMs from Kudle Beach on a flightless stretch of road. No matter how muscular or strong I was, it was risky to stay up late. So I left the place.
This quality is particularly helpful on solo hikes, local bus journeys. So if you’re someone who is always scrolling away without paying attention to the surroundings, then solo travel is, perhaps not for you.
Being Your Own Decision Maker
Because my trip was an unplanned one, I had to take a lot of decisions myself and spontaneously. When the bus driver dropped me off on the Mangalore- Mumbai highway, asking me to catch a ride for the rest of the journey to Gokarna, I was struck. Autos were charging a bomb for a 5 KM ride but it was too early (5 AM) to just stay put on the highway. So pay more and reach safety or stay put on the highway? Another decision was, look for accommodation first or later once you’ve explored the village?
Every single thing from where to stay, where and what to eat, how to get around, which places to explore, and then using the situational awareness to judge the riskiness. All of them involve decision making and yes, people often say just go with the flow. While I do agree partially with that, there are few low-probability and high impact events that need you to focus and take decisions appropriately. Read my Kodachadri trek where I talk about the impact of these low-probability and high impact events.
So if you always relied on someone else to make all the decisions and plan the trip out. Then I recommend you to stead cautiously on your solo trip.
Your Own Personal Photographer
Ah! This is my favorite. Why do we go on trips if not to show off the pictures to our dear ones? While I wasn’t much of a photo freak earlier, I never miss taking pictures on my trips these days. What changed? Well, I am a content creator now. I need pictures to put on the travel blogs I write and to post them on social media channels to build a brand. But the trouble with traveling solo is that you can’t take good pictures of yourself. Of course, you will find a generous stranger once in a while, but hey what do you even know about an introvert’s troubles.
Of course, there are tripods, selfie sticks, drones, and whatnot. But hey, they don’t do things like saying to your face how awkward our smile is or suggesting which pose would match your personality.
While this seems trivial, it is important for many. So, if you’re someone who wants a lot of pictures clicked with suggestions on poses, then probably solo travel isn’t for you.
Watching The Magic Unfold! Alone
The sunset I saw in Gokarna from that cliff was so magical. It was after a long long time that I did and it was worth it. But why did I climb up a cliff to watch it? Especially since I emphasized so much about safety? That’s because I couldn’t bear the couple-crowd on the beaches.
Although I outgrew myself in that aspect today, it wasn’t unbearable for me those days. Perhaps, it made me miss someone or didn’t give me a chance at living with myself, I hated it. So, if you want to watch the beautiful sunset or stare at the starry sky, wishing someone was there with you. Then solo travel isn’t for you.
Thanks a lot for sticking through till the end. Hope you learned about the qualities that are needed to get the best out of your solo travel adventures. No one is perfect and you can always pick up skills on the go. So, don’t be disheartened if you don’t have all of them already. Keep an open mind, be ready to transform yourself if needed. If not for solo travel I would’ve remained in my safe cocoon and miss all this beautiful nature and life had to offer. Tell me in the comments about your experience with solo travel or travel in general.
That’s all for today folks. Thanks for reading through. This is the 11th post in the ongoing streak :D. It’s been close to 3 months now since I’ve been posting regularly. Check out my other travelogues on Karwar, Kudremukh, Kheerganga, and Triund treks.
I’ll be back soon with another blog post.
Until then, be in touch.
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