“How did you go?”
“Well, I bought a ticket.”
“How did you know where to stay?”
I didn’t. It was a risk worth taking.
“How did you eat alone?”
Just how I eat in someone else’s company, with my hands and mouth!
“Did you ever step out of your room?”
“What did you do?”
“How did you roam around?”
Sometimes, I roll my eyes on these questions before answering. Yeah, I can be rude.
These are a few eternal questions I’ve been asked. In fact, one of my friends was requested by someone else to gather all this information secretly from me, so she could follow it too. Before anyone else goes into a serious detective mode to find ways around planning a solo trip in India, I’ll try to make it easier for you by disclosing how I did it.
In sequential order:
Bought the flight ticket
I had resigned from the desk job, was serving the notice period and was sent to Hyderabad for delivering a training session. Sitting in the hotel room, I was browsing through the flight tickets. It had become a daily activity now – to open SkyScanner and find cheap flights to anywhere from Delhi. The wish to escape was ever-increasing as the last working-day approached.
Also read: Hyderabad – From Indifference to Love
The only two filters were that it should be relatively safe and shouldn’t be somewhere I’d been. As soon as I saw an affordable flight to Kochi (40-50 days from then), I didn’t think twice before buying the ticket. If I’d have given it a second thought, it may have never happened.
Made a rough itinerary
By itinerary, I don’t mean a day-by-day plan of activities. I had only identified the towns I’d want to visit. Kochi, being the first stop, I decided to spend 3-4 days there. While gathering information through blog posts and travel websites, I got to know about Alleppey boat race (famous among photographers) which coincided with my travel dates.
I had discarded Alleppey assuming it would be all about expensive backwater houseboats, but this one-of-a-kind looking event made me consider it. Also, on the first solo trip, being surrounded by a crazy crowd somehow sounded a better idea than wandering around in a dense forest. For the 3rd stop, I had too many options to choose from – Kumarakom, Vagamon, Varkala, and so, I kept it open.
Quick search on Weather, Food, and Region/Season based tips, if any.
Until now, I was unaware that August was an off-season for Kerala, being the monsoon time. So, now I expected better deals, less tourists along with frequent rains and constant humidity. I packed a few stoles to wipe off the sweat and an umbrella. Since I was on my own, I had to keep a pepper-spray, a back-up phone, extra medicines, additional munchies and a few books to keep company.
Next, I read about food in the region. Any specialties I may want to try/avoid. (Already drooling over filter coffee, Appam and Meen Pollichathu). I even attempted to learn a few Malayalam words though I failed at it and communicated in English throughout.
Booked the accommodation
While travelling alone, I’d never reach a place first and then look for accommodation. The panic can be too much to deal with. So, I opened AirBnb, my most reliable stay-booking resource. After reading and re-reading the guest reviews, I decided on a private room in a home, owned and occupied by a local young couple in Kochi.
Travel with AirBnb and get INR 1,351 credit from me on your first trip.
For Alleppey, I stumbled upon Johnson’s houseboats offering boat race arrangements and affordable stay options. I got in touch with them over e-mails and booked a spot by paying partial amount in advance.
The way I had initially dreamed about it, there was no place for a return ticket. I could’ve lived in an unnamed village on the southern tip of the country or hopped on to Sri Lanka from there. The international flight tickets are ridiculously cheap from Kochi. So the temptation was on an all-time-high. But, I knew I needed to come back. For starters, baby steps!
So, once I was clear on spending 10-12 days in Kerala, I bought a train ticket from Thiruvananthapuram to Delhi. The charm of leisurely wading through the farms and towns for 50 hours still doesn’t beat the urgency and convenience of a 3 hour flight.
Bought a backpack
I didn’t want to lug around with a bulky suitcase. Specially, after I had imagined everything that could go wrong with it. Like being chased by a gang of creepy men on a dark lonely street and not being able to run with a trolley bag on my side. With a backpack, the chances of getting away are higher, no? The brain acts funny whenever you’re taking a plunge.
So, just 10 days before the trip, arrived my 55 Liters Wildcraft rucksack. Ten months on, it appears to be a decent choice for a first-time-carrying-a-backpack traveler.
Yes, I was anxious throughout. I didn’t even close my eyes the entire night before I had to take off. I questioned my decision but went ahead with it, anyway. A few uncontrollable things went wrong. Like I got food poisoning in Varkala, something I thought I was immune to.
But, it was one of those best things I have done for myself. A few more solo-trips later, the way of doing it remains more or less same except I have learnt to slow down with each one.
Have you been on a trip by yourself? Share a few planning tips, maybe?
P.S. Please travel alone ONLY if you want to. Not because it has suddenly become this ‘COOL’ thing everyone seems to do.
© 2016, Swati. All rights reserved.