The solitary travel stories of women travellers

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Travel is no longer a man's privileged domain. Gone are the days when the distant skies opened up only for those women who were lucky enough to have adventurous men in their lives. Today's women no longer wait for the men to quench their thirst for travel. 'Pick up a bag, pack and go' seems to be their motto. From ordinary housewives to celebrities, many are hitting the trail of solitary travel.

Once upon a time

When just getting permission to go on a routine study tour or excursion from the school or college is a Herculean task – "Is it proper for the girls to travel all this way, all by themselves?" being the standard question that dashed the dreams of many girls. Even assuring that all the other girls in the class were going, would fail to make an impact. The last word would be, "Wait till you get married, then your husband will take you anywhere you want." Or, at least, "Wait till you get a job and then you can travel anywhere, as part of the job!"

The reality would prove different. In the midst of the hectic responsibilities of the wedded bliss who'd get time for travel and sight-seeing? The job responsibilities would add to the burden, with a whole life getting burnt out shuttling between the office and home. Sometimes, there would crop up a rare chance for a pilgrimage tour to Pazhani or Velankanni, with the whole paraphernalia of family and close friends. The travel dreams usually end there.

The present story

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Those days are of the past now. Even husbands and children tell the women to take a trip and get fresh. Options for travelling alone or in groups are available. Both housewives and the employed women are setting out in search of sights and sounds. There are many women travellers in Kochi who undertake journeys lasting between a couple of days to week-long adventure trips.

The paths tread by women differ drastically from those travelled by men. For women, each travel means one more step closer to higher levels of confidence and self-fulfilment. The experiences revamp and refresh them, encouraging her to take up new explorations.

Let's meet some of the Kochi women and find out their travel experiences

Trips that reduce your age

"Grab the chance for any journey at the first opportunity," is the advice of Mini Sukumaran, an LIC employee and housewife in Kochi. "I'd never postpone any chance for a trip. Usually, when I get an opportunity to travel, I'd set out immediately, adjusting the office work and domestic responsibilities. We’d never be able to travel after completing all the chores at home and the duties at work," Mini says.

She usually travels a lot on official purposes, apart from family trips. Tours with friends are also a must. "Each journey makes me fresher and fills me with more energy. And it helps to put myself completely into any task afterwards." But she loves the journeys with women. The close interaction and camaraderie that happens between women during such trip are quite precious. These trips help women to unwind completely, taking themselves off from the worries of having to manage home and work together. The trip would wash away the tensions. She’d grow at least ten years younger.

Women should shoulder all responsibilities related to travel all by themselves. Only then can she reap the full benefits. This independence is important right from the start including the booking of tickets, finding accommodation and choosing the menu. For many women, this very experience of making their own choices would be a novel experience.

Travel as a personal experience

"Travel is a personal experience," says Prasanna Varma, a Tripunithura housewife who is a regular traveler. "I've made many trips both by myself as well as with family. Whether solitary or in company, to make the journey fulfilling, you need to identify completely with it."

Prasanna used to dream of visiting the Himalayas right from her college days at Govt Maharaja's College, Ernakulam. After getting married to S Anujan, who was working with the Cochin Refineries, he too agreed on a trip to the Himalayas, and both of them set out on the trip together. However, as Anujan's blood pressure levels varied, he had to cancel the trip. And he suggested Prasanna to take the trip by herself.

The Adi Kailasa trip, which was her second journey, still remains etched in Prasanna's mind. The visitors for the 22 day long journey through Nepal are selected by the Indian Army. The travellers have to be physically and mentally fit. The route was quite tough and hazardous. The climate would keep changing, there would be snow storms and avalanches. Only those who had a great will power could sustain through that trip. Each one would have to be on their own, and there would be no one else to help. Prasanna remembers how exalted she was feeling on completing the trip.

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Prasanna has the habit of keeping notes on the experiences of the journey. She would usually do her homework well before setting out on any trip. Talking to other travellers who have traversed the same routes would be helpful in preparing well. Collecting useful information like telephone numbers and contact details of hotels would also be helpful. Keeping the luggage to the minimum was also important.

A willingness to take risks

"You just need the courage to take risks, and the right planning. Then, any woman can travel anywhere," says P M Sona, who works at the Central Bank of India, Kadavanthra branch. Sona loves journeys, either by herself or with friends or family.

"The journeys that women undertake should not be labelled as 'Women's journeys.' Women set out on these journeys in order to overcome the limitations set to her world by the society. No women can set out on a journey like men do, just setting out one fine morning, throwing a bag across your shoulders," Sona points out.

She recalls a Hampi trip which was fraught with dangers. "The road was blocked for hours following an accident. It was getting late into the night. No vehicle could move an inch. Though attempts were made to hail a taxi and move through the side roads, it didn't work. At last, the only available vehicle was a container truck and the trip was completed riding on top of the truck." Travelling alone would automatically include meeting with such challenges, Sona says.

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