Myths about (Solo) Travelling!
Let’s get down to basics — Comprehensive & Detailed
Human Beings have thrived on curiosity from the beginning of time. Curiosity has led to invention of fire and the wheel. Curiosity has taken us to unexplored places in search of the unknown (and known). Social communities have been established, trade routes have flourished, globalization has taken shape the way it is today.
It has never been easier for human populace to navigate across borders of their civilizations and comfort zones as it has been in this day and age, so much so that in most places around the globe, point to point travel is taken for granted.
The definition of Travel has drastically changed over the years. What once used to be reserved for the elite, businessmen, traders, or some round pegs in the square holes, has now opened up for the masses.
I will now be inserting a cliched travel quote on a dreamy background to add weight to this thought. Hold onto it!
There are more than handful of countries and regions around the world whose economies are directly dependent on tourism. Tourism is often seen as a major source of revenue in regions where either there is no agriculture or there is a lack of natural resources (bunch of other factors also play a role).
On the other hand, humankind in the 21st century is now more eager than ever to travel the world and absorb new experiences. With the explosion of technology and internet, the borders and obstacles to travel have started to diminish. One can now experience places virtually even before they begin to travel.
There are bunch of Myths that always find their way to cloud one’s beliefs and assumptions about travel. These myths are something that are clearly believable but at the same time, most of these myths have been debunked time and again. These myths largely vary in terms of impact depending on which part of the demographics you belong to.
I have been raised around Indian middle class millennials, therefore my list mainly addresses the myths from that standpoint. These still hold true for most other demographic sections though. Take everything with a grain of salt. For ease of consumption, I have bifurcated the myths into a) General Travel Myths & b) Myths specific to Solo Travelling.
Without further ado, let’s get down to the real deal.
1. You need to be rich to travel
2. You need to quit your job to travel
3. Guided/Packaged Tours are best way to travel
4. It is unsafe to travel alone
5. It is easy to travel
(Obvious) Common response to all: NO!
a) General Travel Myths
1. You need to be rich to travel.
(The most common one)
The only thing you need be rich with, is the intent to travel!
Not anymore. You don’t need to be rich to travel. In the most literal sense, non-leisure travel is performed by billions on a daily basis and that too in a budget. I understand, a sense of splurge emerges when you intend to travel. However, there is always a trade-off when you choose travel above anything else.
To make it simple, let’s have a look at a trade-off framework when it comes to travel (the irony, this is what MBA does to you).
You have three components to choose from — Comfort, Time & Cost.
If you are compromising on time, you gotta cough up the cost for the required comfort/convenience, if you are maximising on time and cost, you got to give up on comfort, so on and so forth. (Exceptions exist)
I believe the common preference would be of saving on cost component while traveling. The disbelief has been majorly cemented by the over advertised and marketed concept of luxury and glamour linked to travel.
Once you have decided to travel and if you plan it well based on your preferences (realistic), your travel expeditions can be easily budgeted. But irrespective of anything else, the intent needs to be transformed to prioritization for all things travel.
For instance, in the summer of 2016, I was able to travel from Pokhara, Nepal to Gurgaon, India (~1100 kms) for as low as ₹ 936 (~$13). I will be writing more in future on how can you save on costs and make your travel free of financial worries.
Work. Save. Travel. Repeat.
2. You need to quit your job to travel.
Speaking of work, this is another popular belief that holds back people from initiating travel.
It has been an on and off trend these days to quit your job and travel the world for the millennials around the globe. It has been slowly catching pace in India as well and there are multiple traveling souls out on the road doing this full time while running an online mode of income a.k.a. Digital Nomads. I thoroughly respect these folks for their strong will to see the world on their own terms.
However, for the masses, this doesn’t appeal to be the most plausible option to pursue and sustain. The good news is that you ACTUALLY don’t need to quit your job if you intend to travel and I wouldn’t recommend otherwise if you haven’t planned out your alternate source of income to support your travels. If you choose to do so, there are also ways to earn abroad once you have exhausted your savings but it becomes all the more challenging with an Indian passport (sad but true).
Easier said than done, but all you need is to prioritize your time and funds and direct them to your travels. Once you are conditioned to constantly travel, this will become an unconscious habit. In my first year of intensive travelling, I was able to make 8 trips on a tight budget while working a full time job.
Even two years of rigorous schedule in my MBA did not restrict me from traveling more than couple of times each year and not just within India but also abroad.
It is not easy but definitely possible to travel the world without compromising on your professional and/or educational engagements.
3. Guided/Packaged Tours are the best way to travel.
For some they might work well.
Packaged tours and trips has been the conventional way for Indian middle class to travel. Until the arrival of internet and OTAs, family trips were largely dependent on the recommendations (and vested interests) of the local travel agent. A lot of families also had a designated family travel agent similar to the concept of family doctors.
However, The Times They Are A Changin’
The travel agents have now transformed into OTAs (Online Travel Aggregators) with packages being broken down into modular components for a tailor made travel booking experience.
The best way to save cost is to NOT buy guided/packaged tours. Also, guided tours are largely restricted by their fixed schedules. Travel should not be treated as one-size-fit-all and packaged tours do exactly that.
They definitely help you make your trips cost effective and make things convenient for you. And this exactly makes the experience incomplete rendering your travel experience a rather fabricated one.
b) Myths specific to Solo Travelling!
“The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” — Henry David Thoreau
4. It is unsafe to travel alone.
A shady alley in your town is as unsafe as a shady alley in another town.
Being alone as a human being is a frightening thought in itself. However, that is a discussion for another post. Travelling alone is easier for people who enjoy their company by themselves but it is not completely impossible for strong extroverts either — It is easier for them to instantly bond with the locals.
Of all forms of travelling, solo travelling is my favourite kind. Not because, I want to keep travel a personal affair but because travelling solo helps you absorb experiences to the fullest — raw and unfiltered.
While travelling in a group, you are constantly distracted which hinders your travel experiences but when you completely immerse yourself in a new destination that’s when you make the most out of your travels.
“Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it. “— John Mayer
It is advised to exercise common sensical approach to any given situation like you would do back home. For instance do not wander off in a shady area after dark, respect and follow local customs, smile (doesn’t work everywhere) and be polite. Do some research before you go to a new place and be prepared accordingly.
Media plays a significant role in painting an image of any given country/ region as unsafe to travel whereas real time travel experiences account for safer encounters as compared to experiences in global cities such as New York and London. One similar classic example from back home is of North East India — It is safer to travel there as compared to most metropolitan cities in India today.
Some places with limited tourism infrastructure definitely pile on some extra cost on solo travellers but that doesn’t hamper the safety concern in any way.
5. It is easy to travel.
A difficult one to grasp but a genuine myth.
All that glitters is not gold. #AnotherCheesyQuote
With all the flowery & shiny posts and stories on social media fuelled by advertising of glamorous locations, it makes travel appear a rather relaxing and luxurious affair.
Travelling solo to a destination with languages, food, and customs unknown to you, travel can be intimidating at first sight and some experiences require more courage than others. But that’s what solo travellers feed on — Courage.
Travelling is a perfect analogy to life. It comes with its share of ups and downs. Not all travel days are the most convenient ones. You are often thrown out of your comfort zone into courage zone. Unless you have travelled solo, you have not travelled.
I would like to close this by a quote that I live by:
“Travelling is something that is entirely mine. No one can take it away from me. It’s a state of zen in the purest form that can be only felt. The feeling in itself is unique to each and every individual. Don’t live to travel, travel to live.”
If you have read this far, I would like to thank you for your patience and time. Leave a 👏 if you enjoyed reading this. This is my first time writing at this scale and I intend to continuously become better at this. Your support and feedback will help me go a long way in pursuit of that.
Footnote: For the uninitiated, I am Akshay Seth, a 26 year old male from India, about to wrap up MBA and soon-to-be an HR professional. When I am not going to school/working, I am on the road travelling as Urban Khanabadosh. I post my travel updates on my Facebook and Instagram. In my Journey So Far, I’ve traveled to 108 destinations across 8 countries 🇮🇳🇬🇧🇦🇪🇳🇵🇻🇳🇹🇭🇷🇺🇮🇩 (India: 88 destinations, 24 States, 4 UTs) — as of December’18.
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Medium Publication: medium.com/urban-khanabadosh