Women On The Move

The 15th-century Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand (Pg 40)
The 15th-century Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand (Pg 40)

My mother took her first solo trip 35 years ago. She travelled from Kolkata to Darjeeling on an overnight train, followed by a four-hour taxi ride to the hills. It doesn’t seem all that meaningful now in the era of solo travel, but those were pre-mobile phone days, and there were many anxious moments till we got a “trunk” call from her the next day when she declared, “It was easy; there’s nothing much to it.” Like everything else in her life, my mother had taken solo travel in her stride. It was the start of many more journeys, each more adventurous. But that’s the thing about solo travel; you’ll never know what you are capable of till you venture out.

This Special Issue of Outlook Traveller is dedicated to all those glorious, empowered, curious “Wander Women” who stepped out of their safety nets and quelled their fears to explore new frontiers: women like the indomitable Jessica Nabongo, who is the first black woman to have visited every country and documented it to friends Sehba Imam and Preeta Pradhan, who made the long train journey from Kashmir to Kanyakumari to Outlook staffer Nabiha Tasnim who decided that a solo sojourn across Uzbekistan was the best way to celebrate a birthday.

To commemorate this Special Issue, we commissioned an exhaustive survey of the travel preferences of Indian women. The Outlook Traveller-Toluna “What Women Want” Survey has thrown up very interesting findings. For instance, 57 per cent of women travel alone even though they worry about harassment in public places (43 per cent) and their safety, especially at night (24 per cent). Also, travel businesses should note that 57 per cent of women are the key decision-makers when making travel plans for themselves and their families, from making transport bookings to zeroing in on places to stay. Flights (39 per cent) and good, secure hotels (34 per cent) are where they like to spend their money.

There’s plenty more to read from tribal women chefs bringing their culinary delights to the world, the travelling Ayahs of the Raj, and the fearless women who are reclaiming public spaces.

“To travel alone, or alone together, for pleasure is a significant step towards claiming freedom,” says Jasmeen Patheja, founder of Blank Noise, that works with communities to design and innovate methodologies for social change, in her interview in this issue.

We couldn’t agree more. Happy Women’s Day!

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