I love road tripping. I love meeting new people. I love staying at places no one has heard of and finding beauty there. I love the smell of earth and the cool blowing breeze. Sometimes, this is not possible with friends because everyone these days has a busy schedule, or they cannot travel grunge like I do. Money is the last thing I want to spend traveling. I want to come back home and say, “yea, what a trip it was. What amazing people I met and they cooked me awesome meals.” So, I am mostly a solo-traveler. On days when the city is filled with plans and activities, like the New Year’s Eve, or Christmas or even my birthday, I take my car and zoom out of the city, as far as possible from the festive hustle-bustle. Many times friends and family are surprised at my “guts” (they call it) to travel alone and meet strangers and sometimes stay at their homes. With the increasing fright that the media is creating with rapes, lost commuters, and like, it does affect the mind to certain extent. I, however, think that if you follow certain basic rules while on a solo-run, you could have the most awesome and memorable trip ever!
Here are my 5 points to remember as a solo lady traveler-
1. Be Comfortable With Your Vehicle
My car is my companion. She is my best friend. I know her in and out. I know how she feels and when. Most women I have spoken with about my travels tell me they are not confident about driving. Confidence and unity in and with your vehicle will take you miles.
My car has a name. She is Marie Charlotte. She is an i10. Tubeless. I trust her completely and I know if I need help, she will be there to protect me. There are many times on my journeys when I have decided that if I don’t find an accommodation where I reach, I’m going to use her as a shield and sleep on the back seat. *touchwood* it hasn’t happened yet. Marie charlotte has saved me more than once.
Two epic episodes – When I drove from Bangalore to Pune with a stop-over at Belgaum she had a flat. My route out of Bangalore had no mechanic shop. So I filled in some air and I drove her straight to Belgaum. She kept up with me, not giving in. Then my very recent lone ride from Goa, and we drove all the way back to Pune safely. The next day, her battery died. There could be a high probability that I could have been stalled right on the Golden Quadrangle, asking someone from Pune to ride…I don’t know…300kms to get me back home, but no! she kept up with me. We drove a straight 120kmph back home. Wow! She’s a friend, surely!
Bottom line, trust your vehicle. Become one with her/him. Listen when she purrs and fix her when she chocks. Keep them in a tip-top shape. When that is done, you will reach places, literally!
2. Carry Protective Gear
God forbid you’re stuck in an uncomfortable situation, you should know that you will be able to get out of it without looking for help. My best defenses on road trips – tinted windows and pepper spray. A knife in the glove compartment, just in case, or a Taser too (if you like).
Tinted windows, although against the law, have super advantages when driving. No one knows who’s riding in the car. If riding after sundown, the car lights will further refrain from exposing your identity. If you have light tinted windows, a cap should make do. Definitely safety before hair style! Ok, that’s done. What if you need gas or directions and have to stop over to ask someone? You lower the window and ask, but what if they want to give you more than just directions? Voila, you got your pepper spray at hand. People generally ask me how effective a pepper-spray could me… Very effective!! Pepper spray can blind a person from 8 feet away. They are potent! When I bought my 1st pepper-spray bottle, I sprayed some (by ‘some’ I mean a teeny-tiny bit) by mistake. The room was a stench the whole day, and my fingers burned for 3 days. It’s very potent! Trust your pepper-spray completely. Tasers and knives are secondary options.
3. Be Alert:
Sometimes on roads, especially the State Highways, it’s difficult to know who can help and who can be dangerous. If you stop over for directions or food, you want to know who to trust and not. I have my own personal trick. I always wear an accessory when I get out of the car; could be a stole, a cap, or glasses. It helps save identity to certain extent. Go to a restaurant with a large number of people. Of course, this is subjected to what kind of people. Like a bunch of angry looking men, no way! I’d rather go to an empty place. Also, I generally carry chips or savory and a couple of water bottles, just in case. And stop only for chai. Loo time also can be a real bitch when traveling alone. I have learned to pee in the bushes, and solid food intake is nil so that I don’t get long calls.
4. Be Nice
As women in India, grown up with protective brothers and guy pals, we’ve often been told to not be nice to strangers. “Be curt.” “No need to be so nice.” “Don’t be so friendly.” “Speak in English so that they know that you are not to get too close to them.” Doesn’t always work when you’re solo-riding! When you need help on the road, any help is good. And if you act like a snoot, there just might be negative repercussions or no help. And trust me! flaunting a Rs.100 note in their face doesn’t really get the best of help. Not everyone wants to do things for money. Being nice and humanitarian is what is generally expected. On the road, it doesn’t matter if your dad is a billionaire or you have a high title in the corporate sector. It’s down to basics- Human treat human well.
The recent Goa solo trip, I was stopped by the cops everywhere. They spoke to me in Marathi and I replied in the same. They asked me weird questions and then for my phone number. I gave it to them and they rang my phone up. Then they left me with a, “You have the number now. You need any help till Pune, just call. We’ll send you help.” Wow! Who’d figure?! Plus, they didn’t check my bags or anything.
Another episode that is close to my heart cos it was a ‘destination or lost’ kinda situation, was a truck driver who spoke to me nicely at a tea stall and I paid for his tea. Later I met him near the Amboli Ghat, admits the fog at 1030pm and he guided me through and stayed till I was at a safe place. That’s humanity. Gratitude begets gratitude…. Always!
5. Have Fun
You are driving for a reason. To enjoy the journey. Enjoy!