I arrived in India in the spring of 2016 and stayed for one year. At the beginning, I was a little isolated because I was one of only a few volunteers in Bangalore. I waited 4 months until starting my first trip since first I wanted to gain some overall experience about the country and its people.
Besides a few tours together with Johanna (she also wrote a blog about her travel experience) I did all travels on my own. Yes, I travelled on my own in India but what does being alone in India mean when you always have millions of people around you?
Pondicherry, Mahabalipuram, Mysore, Madurai, Kodaikanal, Rameswaram, Allepey, Kochi, Munnar, Hampi, Goa, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Agra, New Delhi, Amritsar, Varanasi, Darjeeling, Kolkata – these were my travel destinations.
At the beginning, booking train or bus tickets seemed to be difficult and sometimes overwhelming, but once you find out how it works you will find yourself smiling about your former worries. Everything works differently in India, but it works! The destinations in South India I visited on weekends or on festival days. I travelled to North India and spent a whole month there. By traveling alone I always made sure to stay in public places and asked for help whenever I needed it. I met so many helpful and warmhearted families who kind of adopted me for that specific train ride. No matter if I walked on the streets of Bangalore (where I lived), Mumbai or Delhi – I was always a stranger to everyone everywhere. So if I would be afraid of traveling to these places I should also be scared walking through my “hometown“, shouldn’t`t I? I felt safe in Bangalore and so I felt safe in the other cities too. That’s my opinion, but I can understand if other volunteers feel in a different way.
In Germany, many friends and also some members of AFS (my sending organization) told me not to travel alone. All of them heard more bad things about this country than good ones. “For women it is just too dangerous to travel alone“ – I think this is what every girl hears when leaving Germany and heading for India. Traveling in India isn’t that easy and everyone should decide for themselves if they feel safe enough to start such an adventure. All humans think and feel differently and so I am just sharing my point of view with you.
In my mind, it’s a great pleasure to see all the wonderful places and to meet so many new people even if some travel days are just tiring. Sitting in a train for hours or even days, having incalculable delays or being ill – sure, all of this can or even will happen but in comparison to all the experiences you can gain, these problems sound tolerable don`t they? Furthermore, by traveling in a group you tend just to follow your friends instead of meeting new people. In my mind, being on my own makes every experience more intense. According to the old motto ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’, you should always have in mind where you are, especially when thinking about how to dress. For example, showing to much skin as a girl in India means‚ I am available.
Walking through the streets at night in light party dress means you are out for adventure. If you want to be on the safe side, you always look at how the Indian women dress and behave and do the same. While touring around, hitchhiking should be a no go as well as accepting private offers to drive you around. You always should organize your accommodation in advance, because this way you can check the comments of earlier visitors. Following the advertisers that will be at each destination you go to means that you have no idea where you will be at the end, and no one will know the address of your hostel. Before starting your trip, make a schedule, showing the route, all addresses and if possible, how to contact you. Give this to a friend before you leave. Your first trip should be a short one, not too far away, to give you the chance of becoming familiar with the way of traveling in this country. Never listen to all the people telling you how difficult everything is in this country. More than a billion Indians manage to live their lives day by day, so don’t hesitate. As I said before, things are working differently here, but they are working.
If you are travelling alone, you will find other single travellers whom you can chat with and who will help you because wherever you want to go there will be people who have been there already.
No matter where you want to travel and with how many people around you, always make sure you are safe and feel comfy. If you feel confident you will look self reliant and that makes you even more safe. You can find upsetting situations, evil people or dangerous areas all over the world, even at the place you come from, so why be afraid of traveling in India?
At the end I can just share my motto with you: “While traveling in India don`t take risks or be careless, but be brave and courageous!!“
Of course, I was touring a lot during my time in India and was I scared being on the track on my own? Not a single time! I hope I could help you out a little by telling you to be confident of yourself and make your trip a memorable one.