Girl, uninterrupted

Young women are hitting the road alone and finding it a therapeutic experience.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2006 02:44 IST

Think backpackers and what comes to mind is hordes of dread-locked, baggy-trousered, ganja-scented drifters. But look around and you find most backpackers are oh-so-ordinary women, gearing up for some adventure.

“I’ve been travelling on my own since the age of 12. Back then I was part of a travel group. Now I take a break every three months — away from the city, friends and family. It’s just me and myself,” says Smita Goyal of Narsee Monjee College.

More and more women are going backpacking these days, calling it a therapeutic experience. Fearless and daunting, these lonely escapades are the best way for them to bond with their inner self. “After my second year exams, I was off to the Palasdhari. I usually love travelling to the hills or some obscure town with a small population. One can’t sit alone in a Mumbai cafe without receiving a zillion inquisitive looks or worse a guy walking up to know if you need company!” says Goyal.

But some, like Anumeha Yadav, have a different tale to tell. Having travelled across the country, the 23-year-old scribe says, “There is no place for us without the predatory men.” “My dad being in the armed forces, I’ve travelled considerably. It depends on the region you are travelling in. Usually people in the north don’t leave you alone. People strike vague conversations when you are seated on a footboard. But down south, nobody bothers much and let one be.”

Bidding goodbye to ‘two-is-company’, Yadav rejoices in the company of a good book and her Walkman. “For me, maximum thinking is during journeys. It gives me time and space for some reflection.”

When friends don’t share your enthusiasm, it is best to navigate on your own, is the woman backpacker’s motto. “It’s difficult to find a travel partner with similar goals, time and money. More importantly, I can’t think of anyone I would like to spend my entire vacation with,” says Tamanna Viswas.

Viswas has travelled alone from Bhutan to Thailand to Leh and Siliguri. The 25-year-old creative writer works for months together and hibernates for the rest of the year. “It’s not as easy as it sounds. In many small places, even getting a room alone is a difficult task for a single woman.” About the journey as a path to self-exploration, Viswas mockingly says, “I spent six months on a beach in Thailand staring into the depths of my self — it wasn’t a pretty sight.”

Others like 28-year-old housewife Vinita Nanda wish to undertake such adventures. “Though I’ve always been out with my family, I would like to go alone. When out with a companion, one gives in everything to suit his/her comfort and your enjoyment is killed.”

Viswas concludes, “I’m a nature’s baby. I need some time alone in the open to be alive and more importantly be myself.”

First Published: Feb 27, 2006 02:44 IST