A Tamil Woman’s Guide to Solo Travel

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My bucket list – like many others with wanderlust – consists mainly of countries I want to visit one day. Most are exotic, far away lands. To me, travel is the only thing you spend money on that makes you richer. I certainly haven’t seen it all, but travel has helped me develop a worldly perspective while also being equally introspective.

But what do you do when you’re not interested in renting a beach house this summer with your friends or going to a rave in Miami and want to visit that exotic place on your list instead? Go alone!

There are probably two main deterrents for young Tamilians.

1. PARENTS

I am fortunate in that my parents would rather let me travel internationally than let me rent that beach house. Reason being? Because travel really does make you richer. You quickly kinesthetically learn about culture and history. Try that pitch on your parents. Show them the museums you want to go to. They’ll eat that right up.

2. MONEY

Next is money. There are plenty of blogs out there that can teach you how to save on travel. Credit cards with reward miles, hostels, eating in, etc. Read up and your trip to Europe really can be the same as a trip to NYC. Here’s one of my favorite posts www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-tips/travel-hacking-guide

Once you’re done with all that planning, here are some of my personal tips from experience!

It’s OK to feel whatever you’re feeling. My first time traveling by myself was when I was 17 to Peru. I thought I was this super independent-trekking traveler chick. So when nerves and loneliness overwhelmed me, I thought I had failed.  Only after many more trips did I realize that that feeling is a demonstration that I was outside my comfort zone – where all the learning and fun happens!

Contrary to popular belief, it’s fine to look like a tourist sometimes. In fact, in how many countries can a Tamilian really look like a local? So use a map! When do you ever get to do that at home? Often, locals might see you with your map and offer help and advice.

But purposely get lost sometimes. Just walk around town. Hop on a bus if the destination’s name sounds cool. You’ll have a thrill trying to find your way back. On rainy days that might hinder your plans, hop on a bus and just look out the window. Eavesdropping and people watching is surprisingly a great way to understand a culture.

Wi-Fi is everyone’s best friend. In Europe recently, I basically chose my dining spots based on whether or not they had Wi-Fi. Not because I wanted to Instagram all my pictures (that too though), but because it’ll help you plan during your little break. Hop into Starbucks, find directions to wherever you need to go, screenshot it for later use, and BAM! – you’re on your way. Going into a Starbucks might also give you some familiarity and comfort for a short amount of time. You can also send a quick email to your parents!

I suck at directions. When someone says “Take a left after 500 yards, then take 3 consecutive rights, then a diagonal” I just nod, say thank you, and find myself lost again. I do however work very well knowing that there’s a pink house at the corner, or a shoe shop right next to the hostel. I like going on a run when I first get to a destination to familiarize myself with the area around where I’m staying. It’ll make a planning easier and is a very smart way to stay safe.

Our generation is made fun of for documenting every moment of our lives. Expert travelers and nomad types scorn on this behavior. Find a happy medium. Learn how to ask “Do you mind taking a photo of me?” in the local language. You’ll be really happy that you have pictures that aren’t just selfies. And sometimes it’s special that you have amazing memories that are only in your head.

Finally, the best safety advice I can give is “don’t be stupid”. Walk with your head up. Hold your belongings close to you. Use your intuition.

So find some time off, do the planning, and check something off that bucket list! You won’t regret it.

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Related:

Letting Strangers into your Home – It’s called Couchsurfing!
2 Weeks a Year: How a Trip to Sri Lanka Changed My Outlook on Life
How I Met Your Motherland: Experiencing Culture Shock in Your Own Country

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Aria Srinivasan

Aria Srinivasan

Financial analyst trying to use her know-how to make the world a slightly better place. Travel addict and beauty not-so-guru.

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3 thoughts on “A Tamil Woman’s Guide to Solo Travel

  1. “So, on a whim, I decided to embark on a solo trip through Tamil Nadu. I wanted to see some of the state’s temples and my husband wasn’t interested in joining me. Plus, I wanted to experience what it would be like as a single white female traveling alone and on a budget.
    …Within a couple of days, I felt myself relaxing and all tension dissolving. Even though I was alone, I felt secure, safe, and confident. It was a strange and unexpected feeling. People spoke good English and were helpful. I was easily able to find my way around bus stations, which had been one of my biggest concerns.
    People also tended to mind their own business. They seemed simple and dignified. I felt like I had some dignity too. I wasn’t constantly being hounded by shopkeepers or having to keep my guard up against sexual harassment. At one destination, Chidambaram, I didn’t see another foreigner the whole time I was there. Yet, I wasn’t overtly stared at or bothered.
    Did men approach me during the trip? Yes, a few times. Although, more often than not, they wanted to pose for a photo by themselves. Elsewhere in India, I’m used to finding cameras pointed at me instead of the monuments. If the men of Tamil Nadu did photograph me, I didn’t readily notice or feel uncomfortable about it. On the whole, they were very respectful towards me.
    I carried out a bit of research to try and discover the reason why Tamil Nadu seemed to be a better place for women. Apparently, it can be attributed to as far back as the Sangam era of Tamil literature, from around 350 BC to 300 AD. This literature championed the education of women and their acceptance in the public sphere. They had considerable freedom to choose their own partners, and participated actively in the social life and work of the community. Although there has been a decline in the status of women since then, clearly Tamil Nadu is still well ahead of many other places in India.”
    http://goindia.about.com/b/2013/12/17/my-experience-as-a-solo-woman-traveler-in-tamil-nadu-india.htm

  2. Good one!! Thanks for sharing, Gayathiry Ramalingam… Loved the little tips which some of it I’ve been doing, mostly unintentionally, like eavesdropping locals conversation and getting lost 🙂

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