During my very first backpacking trip to Kashmir and Laddakh, I got stuck at Patnitop, near Vaishno Devi, due to floods in Kashmir.
Solo Travel

Challenges you face while traveling alone – Part 2

Social media paints such a rosy image of traveling, especially solo travel, that most of us only get to see the “picture perfect” moments of solo travel. But, before becoming envious of people who travel alone, you should also become aware of the hustle behind it. So, here I am listing various challenges you face when you travel alone.

This is a two-part blog post. In Challenges you face while traveling alone – Part 1, I have already discussed top four challenges of solo travel and ways to deal with them. This is the second part and it elaborates the other five challenges you face while traveling alone.

5. Health

How do you behave when you feel sick? I have seen people generally behaving in two ways when they get sick – they either become so silent and secluded that you won’t even realize their presence/existence, or become extremely annoying and harass everyone around them. I come under the second category.

Although I love being all by myself, when I get sick, I can’t stay alone; I need someone with me all the time; I can’t even stay silent. So, it is a nightmare for me to fall sick during my solo travels.

So, if by any chance you fall sick during your solo travel, it can become one of the toughest phase of your journey. No amount of love and help from strangers can comfort you enough; you always crave for your near and dear ones during that phase. And when you are alone out there during your weak moments, you feel extremely lonely and helpless.

The best way to deal with this challenge is to take precaution. Remember, precaution is better than cure. Although it is a constant struggle to maintain your health when you travel, be very cautious about it. Always be careful about what you are eating. Check if you are allergic to anything. Listen to your body. Don’t exert. Take proper rest. Carry the medicines you may require.

Take care of your body, because no one else will!

Pic - Panikhar, Suru Valley, Laddakh - By evening I got high altitude sickness, which only got worse with time; thankfully, I was not alone! Challenges
Pic – Daak Banglow, Panikhar, Suru Valley, Laddakh – By evening I got high altitude sickness, which only got worse with time; thankfully, I was not alone!
6. Romeos

One of the major problems, faced especially by female solo travelers, is harassment from romeos. Who are these romeos? They are eve-teasers and over-friendly strangers.

The problem is that, when anyone travels solo, people assume that he/she is SINGLE and so, AVAILABLE. So, there is no dearth of morons who take that as an opportunity to try their luck. And while doing so, they actually end up harassing the poor solo traveler.

This kind of harassment comes in many forms. It could be direct harassment like cheap or unwelcoming comments or advances; or it could be something as subtle as over-friendliness to the point where it becomes uncomfortable.

As a solo traveler, your safety is your priority. So, judge the situation and respond accordingly. Always stay alert and don’t hesitate to call your harasser out loud. Tell them clearly to back off. If need be, don’t hesitate to seek help from public and police.

I didn't experience any harassment in New Zealand. Less people, more sheep :P Pic - Whangarei Falls, North Island, New Zealand.
I didn’t experience any harassment in New Zealand (less people, more sheep). Pic – Whangarei Falls, North Island, New Zealand.
7. Money Matters

Imagine a situation where you are traveling with your family/friends/partner, and your debit/credit card gets blocked because of some reason. Does that scare you? Now imagine the same situation when you are traveling alone. Does that scare you even more?

Even though both these situations look scary, I am sure you would still prefer to face such a problem when you are not alone. In such panic situations, company of your family member or friend seems like a boon. This is why solo traveling is more challenging.

You may become a victim of online fraud; you may run out of cash and online payment is not available; your debit or credit card might not be working. These are genuine problems related to money that you may face while traveling; and being alone only amplifies your difficulty.

So, the only way to deal with such problems is to know beforehand – what should be done in such cases. Be prepared for it even before starting your solo journey. Always carry the contact details of the concerned persons of your bank.

For example, one of the methods I have adopted to make sure I don’t run out of foreign currency while traveling abroad is that I carry both foreign currency and forex card. And, I leave few signed cheques at home with my husband, so that, if need be, he can fill in the required amount and submit it to the bank.

Always be extra careful about money while traveling alone. Pic - Wandering in Chilphi Valley, Kabirdham District, Chhattisgarh.
Always be extra careful about money while traveling alone. Pic – Wandering in Chilphi Valley, Kabirdham District, Chhattisgarh.
8. Natural Calamity and Political Instability

Recent incidents at famous tourist locations around the world have once again brought to focus the real possibility of having to face a natural disaster while traveling. The latest examples being Kerala floods and earthquake in Lombok, Indonesia, severe tremors of which were felt even in Bali; all these places are popular tourist destinations round the year.

Tourists are also not immune from the effects of political instability. I was about to travel to Turkey when the political upheaval happened in 2016, which prompted me to cancel my trip as I was not ready to take the risk.

Imagine yourself on a solo trip and getting stuck in such a natural calamity or a political upheaval. Scary, isn’t it? But possible nonetheless.

I am aware of how terrifying it can get! When I was in Bali for my solo trip in Oct-Nov 2017, the island was on high alert because of the possibility of eruption of an active volcano: Mt. Agung. Thankfully the volcano erupted only after I had left the island. Had it erupted during my stay, don’t know for how long I could have got stuck there!

Mind you that volcano eruption is something relatively predictable, but other natural disasters are a lot more sudden, and hence, much more dangerous.

So, always keep a check on weather reports, current political situation, and sensitive developments of your chosen destination for solo travel.

If, unfortunately, you get caught in such a situation, try to reach a safe location as early as possible. Wait for proper instructions from the concerned authorities and follow their directions. Also, always keep emergency contact numbers handy.

During my very first backpacking trip to Kashmir and Laddakh, I got stuck at Patnitop, near Vaishno Devi, due to floods in Kashmir.
During my very first backpacking trip to Kashmir and Laddakh, I got stuck at Patnitop, near Vaishno Devi, due to severe floods and several landslides in Kashmir.
9. Odd one out

Even though you will find a lot of solo travelers outside India,  it is still not the norm in India. So, if you are traveling alone in countries where solo travel is not the norm, you will be the odd one out.

In this world where peer pressure defines your acts and where you try to blend in, it is a challenge to be an odd one out. It is not easy and not everyone is comfortable in being the isolated one. You are under constant pressure of continuous scrutiny.

You will find people who are curious and might ask uncomfortable questions out of curiosity. Do check out my blog post – 10 Awkward questions a married female solo traveler needs to answer – to know the weird questions I have been asked.

So, if you really want to travel alone, be aware that it is not easy to blend in. Both your friends and strangers will always judge you for your decision to travel alone. Accept it, and then move on. Do it for yourself, not for anyone else.

Don't be scared to stand out. Pic - Hiking and caving at Kalaroos, North Kashmir.
Don’t be scared to stand out. Pic – Hiking and caving at Kalaroos, North Kashmir.

Without a doubt, solo travel pushes you to your limits and beyond. You get to know your own limitations, both physical and psychological. Solo travel throws you out of your comfort zone. It challenges you on every aspect of your life. It makes you more aware of your strengths and weaknesses.

So, although solo travel may seem glamorous and adventurous, it is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But then, nothing worth having comes easy!

Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” – George S. Patton

If you are interested in doing a solo trip, then do check out my Solo Travel Series for other blog posts related to solo travel; I am sure, it will be helpful!

What challenges have you faced while traveling alone? Which part of solo travel do you find the most challenging? Are you willing to face these challenges? Let me know in comments.

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