Guide to travelling solo on a budget

Traveling solo is the buzz word these days and everyone wants to try it out, especially college students.  Lucky for us, we go to a college where the erstwhile Dean of Academic Affairs, Professor Jonathan Gil Harris, routinely encourages us to not worry so much about our GPA and go travel, take risks, and find ourselves instead. We are also lucky that we live close to Kashmere Gate in North Delhi, which is one of the busiest bus stations in the city for tourists who want to go to serene hill stations in the North.

If you’re planning to travel solo, here are a few tips you could use:

  1. Travel light- Since no one will be there to hold your bags for you, it may be a good idea to carry what is absolutely essential. Especially if you’re going to a cool place with a tough winter, chances are that you’ll need a few thick jackets and boots; therefore, too many outfits may just be a waste of space. Travelling light also enhances your experience as you’re less worried about losing your belongings and can instead focus on walking, finding places etc.
  2. Be open- Talk to new people. Vibha Ramprakash, a current first-year student spontaneously took a trip to McLeodganj this November to attend the Dharamshala International Film Festival. As a Tamilian in the northern hills, she did not expect to meet anyone else from the South and so, was delighted when she heard an individual nearby speak in Tamil. She met someone new and ended up having a really great conversation. She also ended up meeting a lot of Korean people at the festival and appreciated the fact that the festival attracted so many diverse people.
  3. But, be careful- Not everyone who is friendly has the best intentions,so always trust your instincts. One thing I do to stay safe is to carry pepper spray with me. Also, make sure to count your bags and lock them and keep an eye on your precious belongings. Travelling solo is a great way to learn responsibility--there’s no one else to take care of you.
  4. Stay in a place with a ‘youthful’ atmosphere- If you’re going away without any company, it could be exciting to live in a youth hostel, especially the new kinds that are coming up, such as Zostel, or Backpackers Hostel. These are quite cheap at Rs500 or less, for one night in the dorm, depending on the time of year. Keep in mind that they don’t allow people under the age of 18. They usually also have a lot of art and music. These hostels are specifically meant for budget traveling and meeting new people. They also routinely organize sightseeing tours or visits to important places, treks, host parties etc. Hostels also make it a point to not allow a group of more than 4 people to stay together, because they understand the importance of  new connections. They also have common areas and board games where people can get to know each other over various activities. I lived in 2 hostels in Goa this summer--Funky Monkey and Prison. Funky Monkey was right at Anjuna Beach and, hence, was close to all things lively--Curlies, tattoo parlours, cheap food stalls, etc. I ended up spending all my time there with two guys from Bombay who were best friends. They were my neighbours and we bonded over our love for the same music. Prison was supposed to be India’s first ever party hostel, and it had an amazing aura. I shared my room with two British girls and met a deaf German solo traveler. He was an inspiration to me because he was travelling the world with so much fervour despite his disability.
  5. Plan some individual activities- If you’re traveling alone, chances are that you’re not only doing this to meet new people, but also spend to spend some time by yourself. In such a case, it would be advisable to carry a nice playlist of songs with you, or a few books that you want to read. You could also journal your interesting encounters, experiences, and feelings while traveling. Rashmi Shetty, an ex-YIF who has travelled extensively across North India warns that one should be aware of potential feelings of loneliness that may arise during solo travel. For Vibha, however, some of the most enjoyable parts of the trip were when she walked, did some sightseeing, and shopped alone as they were less stressful than the intense time she had at college because of her involvement in the annual production and the BITS Goa festival. She deeply cherishes this alone time that she spent reconnecting with herself.
  6. Do meaningful things- Though this is assumed, it is actually something that is not emphasized upon enough. For example, one might end up just going to the top sightseeing spots, rather than actually looking for ones that may be of particular interest to them. To do this, make sure to look up the events happening in the place you’re visiting, pick the ones that mean something to you and plan your day according to them. Different events attract people who are passionate about them, so this would allow you to meet like-minded people. Vibha and Ritwik Upadhyay, another first-year student, both went for the Dharamshala Film Festival and noted how many film-makers held workshops and mixers to get to know their audiences. Riwik fondly recalls sitting next to an Oscar award-winning documentary film director and sharing a meal with him. His favorite movie was “The land of little people” by an Israeli director, and “Abu” by a Pakistani-Canadian director. They also watched various short films by Pakistani directors. Vibha watched a total of about 5-7 movies. She says there was large variety of films being screened, including children’s films and animated movies as well as short ones. There were 2 main types of short films screened--large short films, and just short films. She was rather disappointed with the collection of short films and wonders if it was just because of her inexperience with films, but she couldn’t fully understand the storyline and found the films becoming hard to interpret and at times, even boring. Vibha’s favorite films were “Anukool”, “Grandfather” and “Abu”. Abu is a documentary film about a gay muslim man and the tension that this identity creates between him and his father.
  7. Hitchhiking- While in Goa, if I had to travel short distances within Anjuna during the daytime, I’d ask a local who was going in my direction to give me a lift, and I’d offer to pay a small amount as compensation. To my delight, most people never asked for any money and even exchanged meaningful stories with me. Ritwik also never ended up paying for any transport while in Dharamshala. He hitchhiked everywhere. Since we were not asking people to take a detour, hitchhiking was more like car-pooling then.
  8. Green travel- eco-friendly travel is a huge concern and is something worth keeping in mind while traveling. As a solo traveller, you could do small things, like making the effort to pack your leftover food so that it isn’t wasted. If you don’t want to eat it, you could give it to someone in need or use it to feed dogs instead. Wasting food would also lead to a waste of money, which isn’t the best thing to do when you’re on a budget. You must also make sure to not litter, and respect the beauty of the place you’re visiting.

Edited by Gauri Jhangiani

All images are curated by Aanchal Setia