Dear girls of the world: Let’s celebrate change, travel and women empowerment in India

Dear girls of the world,

‘Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One.’ This is exactly how long it will take for you to press click and book your tickets to confirm the best decision of your life of traveling solo. Don’t worry as I won’t turn this into a cliché – I will not ask you to quit your job, overlook your career, be lost or take up a fancy travel-friendly profession. Honestly, I did none of the above and still ended up traveling on my own terms and finding my true self in between sabbaticals. So I will rather try to make this as REAL as possible…

I am 27 years old, Indian and I went on my first solo trip when I was 25 to never stop since. Also, I won’t deny that the whole Solo Travel concept in easier said ‘and’ done in the West than in India. But the wheels of this fortune are certainly turning – by choice. ‘By choice’ I mean the choices Indian women are making today to travel all by themselves and to adopt a lifestyle which is rather liberated. Now I may be talking about a very small percentage of women here whom you might rule out as privileged, but the point I am trying to make is – that to travel solo in India is no longer unusual, thanks to the choices more and more of such women are making today.

Beyond these choices, let’s talk about reality. Flip the pages of the daily newspaper, and you will only end up believing that traveling solo in India is unsafe. And trust me I come from the same school of thought.

I am no dreamer and no rebel; neither would I ask you to be one. But I am also someone who believes that the best experiences in life only come with faith, a little bit of risk and lots of courage.

Being really reasonable, we do beat India a lot for its unsafe territories, but on the brighter side it is also culturally rich, with places that can’t be safer for a woman. With caution and precaution you can enjoy a mesmerizing solo stint in India, as up into the Himalayas, volunteering in and around the valleys of Leh, Ladhakh and as free-spirited on the beaches of Goa.

Only once you have made your decision, will then come the most difficult task of convincing everyone and anyone who will tell you ‘not’ to travel solo. This will include your employer, so apply for a much needed sabbatical or a holiday but you don’t have to quit. Then it will be your friends – assure them they will know about every single step you take on your trip. Last will be your husband or parents – sit with them to plan your trip and reason with them why visiting that place is totally safe for you. Apart from these three sets of people, take my word on it, no one else matters and never will.

Flipping over Orlando Florida Flipping over Orlando, Florida.

This is the time, when I will make my most crucial argument. Married and travelling solo? Yes. Neither is this unreal, nor is it impossible. I am married and I travel solo, simply because my husband understands that I need these experiences as much as I need the air to breathe and an adventure to keep me sane. But this story is not only about me. I know a lot of married Indian woman who travel solo and balance a lovely travelling life with their hubby too. All you need is the right life partner who chooses to live with you and love you for your solo madness.

Now I am taking the privilege of asserting to the rest of the world, that yes, today I come from a country which is undergoing a slow and steady – dynamic change.

We are building hostels, adopting couch surfing, hosting travelers, developing better and faster online reservation systems for transport, constructing metros and trains with dedicated women compartments, servicing cabs and taxis with perfect fare meters and are decorating even our most budget hotels. Above all we are making our country safe for solo travel, thanks to the welcoming home-stays, thoughtful voluntourism programs and increased travel awareness.

So dear girls of the world, let’s take a minute and celebrate women empowerment in India.

And if you think you did nothing to bring this change, let me tell you – you did a lot by just existing, writing, reading this and inspiring me to travel the world solo, when I thought I couldn’t. Your travelling stories changed mine, because you made me believe that it was possible, only if I tried and did it right. And today I hope that most other Indian girls reading this will aspire to do what you and I did. Fact is that a country or a place is only as safe / unsafe as we make it, for real or in our head. And if we together changed what we choose to be different in the future, even though the change will be slow, it will surely manifest one day.

In the valleys of Kashmir - streettrotter In the valleys of Kashmir.

On a parting note, let me get real one last time. No one ever said that you need to quit what you have in order to travel the world. Instead I believe that a ‘whole’ woman is one who can balance work, family, relationships and travel as a part of her daily lifestyle. Travel is a matter of choice, be it in India or abroad, only with an exception that this choice will never let you down. And a solo travel experience is the time you give to yourself and only yourself, once in a while to drop your blues and prepare yourself for the world again. So trust me on this little secret that I learned at 25 – in the end ‘Travel’ will never be just about a hearty bucket-list, but it was always be about ‘YOU’.

From the heart of a proud Indian wanderer,
Shraddha
who is currently gearing up for a graduate program at Boston University

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Dear girls of the world

Shraddha Gupta is the Founder and COO of streettrotter.com, a travel, culture & fashion blog that inspires people every day with real stories to look good, live healthier and travel even better. Founded in 2012, the blog is all about experiencing new things in life, be it a daring mountain trek, a frugal backpacking trip, a runway look made local, or simply anything that scares you enough to live deeper. Shraddha went on her first solo trip in 2013 to volunteer in Mcloedganj, India, teaching English to the Tibetan-in-Exile. Earlier last year she dared to complete the Chadar Trek through the Himalayas, considered to be one of the wildest frozen river treks in the world.

Comments

  • August 16, 2015

    You’re an inspiration, Shraddha. Loved reading this piece, and hoping to take the plunge myself. Right now I am still struggling with the idea of solo travel but the urge is getting stronger, day by day. I know I will conquer my fears someday soon.

    Loved this post, it’s such an honest piece.

    Cheers
    Akanksha

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  • September 10, 2015

    That is one great write up…I wish to take some solo travels too besides the ones with family…hope to achieve that some day.

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  • January 9, 2016

    This is so exciting to read! My first contact with Indian culture was with a family in a small countryside town and the women situation made me feel a little sad. It’s great to read that there are liberated women such as you. I think you are opening the path for many others to follow and it is so inspiring <3

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  • May 13, 2017

    This is a great perspective. It’s up to each of us as women to start making our own choices and not listen to what the world and everyone else is telling us to do. You are the only one who can make decisions for your own life.

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  • May 13, 2017

    You can ask me to quite my job and travel the world, because I’ve already done it! I love travelling and I find that when travelling solo you connect in a much deeper way. I’m also married and still travel solo regularly. Why not?

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  • May 13, 2017

    I don’t mind the idea of travelling solo when it comes to exploring a place, but I always get hung up on the fact that I’d have to eat dinner alone! lol

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  • May 14, 2017

    Great story, indeed, and a huge inspiration for sure. I just hope more Indian girls follow your steps to freedom and happiness.

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  • Indrani
    May 14, 2017

    Great to read you here Shraddha! And I liked the picture you painted of travel in India here very much. Still a long way to go, but yes a start has been made. Commendable!

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  • May 15, 2017

    Inspirational, indeed, Shraddha! It’s so good to hear about the progress being made for travelers to India. Even more, though, is the increased idea that traveling solo as a married female is absolutely ok. Like you said, the right partner will love you because of your motivations. I hope your post inspires all who read it.

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  • May 15, 2017

    I think solo travel is a mindset, not just for women but equally so for men. Its an individual travel style for people who are as comfortable in their own company as with their significant others/buddies. If it works for you, why not?

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  • May 16, 2017

    Wonderful post! I like what you said about being married and still traveling solo. It’s freeing to know that travel and independence are both possible – even in a committed relationship. I love solo travel. I won’t be stopping anytime soon!

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  • May 16, 2017

    You’ve definitely touched on a subject that needs mentioned and tried. Awesome encouragement for those about to embark on solo travel. While I have never desired to do so (I have tons of friends who want to go along anywhere I go), I would be perfectly fine in doing so, and wish everyone could be that independent. Life is short, we have to enjoy everything while we can.

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  • May 17, 2017

    This is really cool Shraddha that you got out and experiencing the World! Enjoy your journey and show other women in India, that they can do it too!

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