“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”
— Maya Angelou
There’s something incredibly fascinating about a woman who believes in herself and that’s how fascinated I was when I first spoke to Devika. In my writing career of over 7 years, I’ve come across many women who, you can say, inspired me to be fierce and undaunted. So when I took up this project, I didn’t know it would be something that would actually move me so much.
I wanted to solo travel myself, last year I had it all planned. I was planning to go to Kochi and explore my writing in the vivid bylanes and art cafes of Fort Kochi. The flights were booked, a bed in the hostel was reserved and I had seen all the bus routes and timings to live like a local there. Only few days before my travels…I chickened out! Not that I haven’t travelled, I have. In fact I’ve seen and even lived in the mountains. But there was something about going to another city all by myself and the fear of safety or boredom clouded my thoughts. Some other day, I believed!
Talking to Devika who is a Brand Strategist and a Content Head from Delhi made me feel I need to do it. I’ve known her for some time but when I spoke to her about her experiences, I knew I must tick it off soon. So maybe wait for my story? Meanwhile, here is what Devika told me that made me want to do it all over again! Read on…
1. Tell me a bit more about yourself
After being bed-ridden for almost 2 years, I found myself finding comfort and peace in travelling. Though I don’t have deep pockets, however, I have been able to manage travelling every time I had a long weekend or a few spare leaves or whenever I wanted to take a break post quitting a job. I work as a brand strategist and content head which helps me pay off the majority of my chai bills at fancy cafes, and credit card bills.
2. What made you travel solo for the first time?
I felt my body and, especially my back was ready to support me for a nice, long trip. (FYI, I had slipped disc, nothing serious!) After being at home in bed for a long time, I wanted to feel independent and free. My time at home made me strong enough to not depend on anyone to keep me entertained, or motivated. I had fallen in love with myself and I had a spiritual connection with myself. Some personal losses also made me tougher than I was.
3. What were the things people said to you when they got to know of your solo plans?
My mother was scared and so were my siblings, but they knew I could not be stopped. I also wanted to let a few people know that a woman is never dependent on anyone, most importantly men to take them anywhere or give them experiences she desired. My friends were scared about my well-being but very supportive of my decision. The rest of the world who tried giving me their piece of mind, did not matter at all.
4. What’s the best thing about solo travelling as a woman?
“As a woman!?” I do not think solo traveling is gender-biased. Traveling has all the best things to offer without being gender specific. As one starts to travel, one feels more confident about their choices, decisions and emotions. Yes, emotions! You go through many emotions when you set out and take the road. You start seeing the best in people, become more accepting and care less about wealth and class.
5. Where all have you solo travelled?
I went to Leh on my own, I did find someone on Facebook who also wanted to experience the freedom that I wanted. We decided to bunk together while we did things individually. The trip ended with a finale where we hitchhiked in a truck from Leh highway till Manali, Mall Road. The second time, I went to Bir Billing to live in a Buddhist institute and to experience paragliding. I made a few great friends who ended up exchanging farewell gifts before parting and are still connected.
6. Tell me an unforgettable experience
Hitchhiking in a truck from three villages before Sarchu! Though my back was not so happy with the jerky ride, it was amazing. Saif Ali Khan in Dil Chahta Hai wasn’t kidding about it! I was surprised to find out that the front seating area of a truck can very well be transformed into a make shift resting area with a kitchen. The 11-hour-drive was beautiful, the driver and his helper showered the best of Indian hospitality, from tea, to blankets to sleep to a nice hot rice meal. The only time I was a bit worried was when the driver got down before reaching Manali to pick up his favourite orange-flavoured local whisky. That too was not that bad until it got dark and he switched on the red lights telling us we should not worry about our safety as we travelled with him. My Vodafone connection did not work and now I was praying for the alcohol to not make him drive rash and doesn’t alter his intentions. As we crossed Rohtang Pass, my phone connection came back and I was able to inform my friends about my safety and about my drive till the Mall Road. The driver drove more playfully after being drunk and narrated many stories that lead to deathly accidents. It was as adventurous an experience as it was funny.