2 years ago
ENTICING IDEA OF TRAVELLING SOLO
Pemba Sherpa and Jason Shah, better known as Sherpa Shah, were avid travelers who went around travelling solo in different parts of the country. Wanting to expand the culture that had taught them to be independent and confident, Sherpa Shah in March 2015 had introduced a concept ‘Why I Travel?’ and challenged women to travel solo. All women had to do was to devise an itinerary for their trips which would be sponsored by them. Their ultimate goal was to encourage women to take charge, travel and empower them.
But a month later, earthquake struck and the plan got postponed. When the situation got settled a bit, they continued with the concept and sent two women on sponsored trips. In the consecutive year, the challenge was modified as ‘Solo Women Travel Challenge’ and, with Facebook as a platform, applications flooded in. Eight women embarked on their solo journeys in cooperation with Women Lead, while 18 others travelled in 2017 with full and partial funding from Sherpa Shah. To continue their vision, in 2018, Solo Travel Nepal has announced three different competitions for the year; Solo Travel Expedition, Solo Women Travel Challenge (Nepal chapter) and Solo Women Travel Challenge (South Asia Chapter). The organizers said they are expecting even more participation.
Chances of finding a lone traveler or finding a woman travelling are rare, whereas women solo travellers are countable in our hands. My City’s Nasana Bajracharya talked to three women solo travelers and discussed their trips from the planning to their expectations and challenges they faced.
South India (2015)
Pre-Trip: The trip actually happened on a whim. We were chatting one evening, I blurted that I’d always wanted to go to South India. To which Pemba dai said, ‘So why don’t you go?’When I replied it was because I didn’t have the money, he proposed that he would give me the money needed and challenged me to leave for India in the next 24 hours. I said yes, and he handed me the money the very next day and I decided to take on the challenge.
The Trip: By the evening, I was already on the bus to Nepalgunj and off to my first solo travel. I had no planning or expectations; I had my bag packed with few essentials and just decided to go with the flow. I had no idea where I wanted to go until I reached Nepalgunj. I discussed few destinations with the travel agent who had helped me with my ticket and started by trip to Lucknow and from there went to Kochi, Kanyakumari, Bangalore and Ooty.
Post-Trip: I travelled India for 12 days. While I was there, I spent most of my time on trains, buses and autos to travel from here to there.I felt like I did not do justice to the challenge as I could not explore the places much. Considering it was a spontaneous trip, I got to see many places and experience the thrill and the uncertainties of my first solo trip. But if I had a more concrete plan, it would have definitely made my trip better.
ACAP area (2016)
Pre-Trip: For the challenge, I applied to go to Mustang on my mountain bike. It took me two-three days to make a fairly perfect itinerary with some help and a lot of research. I was shortlisted, and then we had to garner maximum votes in Facebook. I re-serviced my bike, packed my bag with all things necessary for a comfortable ride. Organizers briefed me about safety issues, gave us first aid and self-defense trainings, and suggested to get more involved with locals.
The Trip: Two days into the trip, I felt as if my backpack was a lot heavier than I had planned and riding uphill alone was hard. I eventually took a lift in a tipper to Tatopani and rode ahead from there.The trail ahead was beautiful and I connected with the nature, which is a very different experience than riding in a group. I was often misjudged as a male by locals because I was riding alone but when they came to know I was traveling alone, they encouraged me. Making small conversations with locals was really fun and helpful. I felt like a part of them, tried their dresses, their food and even visited a nearby village with them.
Post-Trip: My trip did not go well as planned, but I do not regret those moments. I learned to never give up keep going on, no matter and how hard it was. Also that bag packing was crucial in such trips and so was interacting with locals. Travelling solo helped me feel more confident about myself, become open-minded and tackle problems in a calm manner. I had applied not just because I would get to travel for free but also to break the stereotype and, if possible, motivate other females to believe in themselves and explore new things or places.
Manaslu Circuit (2017)
Pre-Trip: My parents were very reluctant to let me go first as I had never even been out of Kathmandu Valley alone. But it was more difficult to convince the organizers. I had only seen the place inphotos; I was completely unaware about it. I searched every post, every photo online and called trekking agencies for details. I prepared my itinerary after asking friends and other travelers who had been there about their experiences. But, they asked me to get more details about emergency local contacts, planned budget, alternatives, safety issues and every little detail.
The Trip: My trip was 12 days long. I was nervous at first but I met a lot of nice people, who guided me and helped me along the way. There were narrow routes where it was risky even to walk. At times I felt lost and suffered from back pains every now and then. I used to think the organizers were very tough with me but half-way into the trip, I realized how important the details they were focusing on were. I remembered their words and it made my journey easier. We got visual story telling workshops which helped us document our trips.
Post-Trip: I came to know Nepal was a very safe place to travel, even for girls. I wanted to give myself that time and learn to be independent. I was able to explore myself in the trip. I am thinking of applying again and explore even more.