Scourge the internet, and you will find several articles and blog posts with titles along the lines of ‘Tips for women travelling solo in India’ or ’10 ways you can be safe travelling solo in India’. These do not seem out of place- women are always advised not to stay out too late, or go places alone- whether they are children, adolescents or adults. It is deemed as completely natural- of course a parent would want their child to be safe and secure, free from all harm.
We are so used to this situation, this constant need for vigilance, that it becomes an inseparable part of the female psyche. A permanent fear of being alone in public places, or while travelling alone on public transport is ever present at the back of a woman’s mind. No one thinks about how sad that is, how utterly unfortunate, that one half of humanity can never feel like they belong completely in the place where they live, where they work. The scenario gets worse when it comes to travelling solo around the country. No matter how many articles we consult, this fear will never dissipate. A solo woman traveler may have the time of her life, but at the back of her mind, this fear will make itself known.
There are a number of start-ups working in this area. Women on Wanderlust, Girls on the Go, Diva Odysseys, and Women on Clouds are some travel companies that cater exclusively to travel companies. Many female travelers are able to enjoy the benefits offered by them, often in the company of fellow woman travelers. But why do we need such companies? Why do we continue to do next to nothing to change a society where the people are able to make money off people’s fear of being assaulted? It is deeply unfortunate that we have accepted this as status quo – as something we have to live with.
Nevertheless, there have been many women who put their fear aside and traveled around the country or around the world alone. Anita Mahabir, Shivya Nath, Amrita Das, Supriya Sehgal, Jai Bharathi, Renuka Singh, and Elita Almeida are some of the many Indian women travelling solo.
According to them, some common issues they face are people’s reactions (including their family’s reactions) when they hear that these women are travelling solo, as well as finding accommodation that guarantees safety and comfort. Indian society at large, still somehow finds it hard to accept that a woman may have the desire and the capability to go on a holiday by herself. What a man may do without thinking, a woman has to think through a hundred times.
Solo travel facilitates growth, leads to new interactions and enriches life in unexpected ways. It is undeniably a great a way of meeting new people, discovering the world and exploring oneself. Do women not have the right to decide to travel solo, without having to wonder whether their bodily autonomy will be violated; without having to wonder if they will be stared at, talked about, harassed, berated and questioned?
Written by Proiti Seal Acharya.