Learn The Secrets Of Solo Travel From These Pro Travel Influencers

From Akanksha monga to Shivya Nath, read how these pro-women travellers go beyond the norms to discover the world
Shivya Nath also runs a travel blog called 'The Shooting Star'
Shivya Nath also runs a travel blog called 'The Shooting Star'Shivya Nath

"I haven't been everywhere, but it is on my list." When I stumbled upon this line by author Susan Sontag, I felt seen. And I am sure I am not the only one. There was a time when women travellers, who were simply out there to explore the world, were few and far between.

Not because they didn't want to see the world. Instead, they had their bucket lists ready, but the wish to check things off them always came with conditions. Sumitra Senapaty, who founded a leading women-only travel group, WOW Club, all the way back in 2005, says, "When I started this community, such a concept didn't exist. Not only were women hesitant to travel solo or with a group of strangers, but even their families needed convincing."

However, times have changed, and so have women. NomadHer, a global female solo travel community app operating in 190 countries, has reportedly recorded a twelve-fold increase in Indian female travellers.

Women-only travel companies offer group trips for women wanting to travel solo but not alone
Women-only travel companies offer group trips for women wanting to travel solo but not aloneCourtesy: Wow Club

In these 19 years, Senapaty has observed a remarkable shift in attitude and what motivates them. "Earlier, women needed an alternative social network, something they could rely on for their social needs away from their professional and family circles. But now, since women have gained financial independence, they have become more confident and are not scared of calling the shots."

Despite this, Senapaty is unsure if the tourism landscape has evolved enough to make women feel safe. "It is still a top priority," she confirms. Even NomadHer's Head of Content, Soyeon Bae, says, "As a female traveller, the most common question heard during travels is, 'Isn't it dangerous for a woman to travel alone?'"

Surprisingly or not, this rings true even for the travel influencers we women look up to for inspiration. But like women do, they have all found their way around it to go around the world.

Aakanksha Monga on her trip to Sri Lanka
Aakanksha Monga on her trip to Sri LankaAakanksha Monga

Go Solo But Not Alone

A popular Indian travel influencer, Aakanksha Monga has been around the world—from Finland to Fethiye in Türkiye—but her first-ever solo trip was closer home and familiar. "The first time I travelled alone was to Udaipur when I was 19. On that trip, I volunteered at a hostel, helping them create content," says Monga. Though going alone to Udaipur was a big deal for her back then, Monga's decision was led by taking it one step at a time.

Having already lived in Jodhpur, Monga was familiar with travelling across Rajasthan. "I didn't want to take a huge step of going to an unfamiliar place. But despite that, it was memorable for me as I got to experience the true meaning of travelling solo: the whole process of figuring out things all by yourself. It was liberating," says Monga.

While she discovered a new side to herself and freedom on that trip, the biggest takeaway for Monga was her friends—which hasn't changed since. "Of course, I worried about safety, but I also feared loneliness. But little did I know that I would meet people who would become friends for life. Since then, I have always said that travelling solo is just an opportunity to meet friends you haven't met yet," says Monga.

Even though Monga has travelled far and wide since her first trip to Udaipur, bringing stories from all over the world to her social media followers, she admits that she still gets nervous before a trip alone. "When travelling solo, I still have inhibitions because I have to figure everything out independently and am responsible for myself. I have to always be alert. But there's also an excitement. The good thing is that when I started travelling, I hardly came across Indian women solo travellers, but that has now changed," says Monga.

She attributes this surge to the availability of real-time information on social media and the rise of travel groups that enable women to discover newer places by themselves, but not alone. When Monga began travelling, such groups hardly existed. But now, according to her, they make for a good starting point for first-timers as they combine the experience of travelling solo with the comfort and security of having company.

For Monga, solo travel has been worthwhile for the connections she has made. And for those looking to embark on their first-ever trip, she recommends choosing accommodations that provide the opportunity to meet new people. "Besides checking a destination's crime rate and their general attitude towards women, I prioritise places known to be solo-travel friendly and boast stay options like hostels and homestays, where it is easier to meet new people and participate in group activities," advises Monga. According to Monga, the best place to find such information is across digital nomad platforms, such as nomadlist.com and meetup.com, which link you up with local groups and events or activities.

When You Know, You Know

When sustainability advocate and author Shivya Nath embarked on her first solo trip to Spiti, little did she know that her life would take a new turn. "I was working as a full-time corporate in Singapore when I decided to take a two-month long sabbatical from work to travel. I decided to visit Europe till I came across an article about a social enterprise in Spiti run by Ishita Khanna called Spitiecosphere, which was leveraging tourism to bring about sustainable development in the region. I decided to skip Europe and spend a month with the organisation volunteering," says Nath.

Left and right: Swathi Hariharan in Egypt; Radhika Nomllers in Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan
Left and right: Swathi Hariharan in Egypt; Radhika Nomllers in Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan

Like all first-timers, Nath had to try hard to convince her family and herself as doubts about going so far all alone clouded her mind. "I was very nervous, and I feared things would not go according to plan. But when I reached Spiti, it all faded away in front of its beauty," says Nath.

The month-long journey in Spiti was special in more ways than one. Not only did she discover her passion for sustainable tourism that she now champions, but also how travelling alone can empower you across life's different spheres. "When you travel alone, you realise that you can make important decisions on your own and take care of yourself, which is a very empowering feeling as a woman because we are always taught or expected to rely on others," says Nath.

However, this feeling of independence is cultivated over time. For somebody who may have never taken a solo trip before, Nath recommends starting small. She says, "I think getting comfortable with spending time on your own is crucial to enjoying a solo trip, but that doesn't come easy. I always advise people to take it slow and begin by exploring something nearby, maybe over a one-day trip. It is important to learn how to spend time by yourself."

Through all her journeys in India and beyond, Nath has learned two critical hacks she follows every time she travels solo. She says, "There are certain things I always ensure. Firstly, I always pick a stay that is run by locals (preferably homestays) and get recommendations from them as they are always more accurate. And secondly, I always trust my instinct—if I feel that I am in an uncomfortable situation, I don't hesitate to get out of it. Sometimes, staying in your comfort zone is okay."

Take To Tech

For travel influencer and frequent solo traveller Swathi Hariharan, apps that connect to local tour guides are a great way to familiarise yourself with a place before you begin exploring a destination on your own. "One thing I have realised about solo travel is that you are hardly alone. You get to meet so many new people. Apps like NomadHer, Withlocal and Sandemans are great options if you want to meet fellow travellers and acquaint yourself with a place via group tours," says Hariharan. In addition, Hariharan also vouches using AirTags for valuables and SOS apps. Meanwhile, travel blogger and influencer Radhika Nomller recommends finding local content creators across social media platforms to seek out authentic information and downloading region-specific transport apps and booking apps while travelling internationally.

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