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Travelling Solo Isn't About Being Alone

15/11/2016 2:33 PM IST | Updated 16/11/2016 10:12 AM IST
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Dennis O'Clair
Representational image.

Over the past year, I've ridden solo through several parts of India on my motorcycle. During these travels, I've frequently been subjected to several questions from people that I've met along the way. Given that the curiosity of the average Indian is piqued quite easily, I guess it is to be expected that a person wrapped up in motorcycling gear from head to toe and riding a motorcycle loaded up with stuff enough for it to be mistaken to be a moving shop would attract a fair amount of attention.

While the strange outfit and the fascinating machine might have grabbed attention, I realised over time that what surprised people the most was the fact that I was travelling alone. If I had kept track of the number of times I was asked a particular question, I am fairly certain that "You're riding alone?" and "Aap akele hain?" (and the same question in other languages) would be the one that I've encountered most frequently. This despite the fact that I was travelling on a bike in India, meaning that people also had valid reason to ask what I believed to be this country's favourite question —"Kitna (mileage) deti hai (How much mileage does she give)?"

I've discovered that travelling solo can often be more "social" than travelling in a group.

I would have brushed it all off as being merely conversational if it weren't for the fact that confirmation of my aloneness was usually met with much surprise. It set off a full flow of conversation related to loneliness, boredom and the like. Nine times out of ten, travelling solo is instantly associated with being lonely and nothing else. I think about it differently, of course, and here is why it works for me.

I like to travel by myself because it lets me remain fluid. I get to choose when I go, where I go, and most importantly, the pace at which I go. It lets me prioritise my preferences without affecting another person's experience. It allows me the freedom to have my fill of a place (a town, a monument, a view or a particularly scenic road), before I decide to move forward, and also leaves me the option to blitz through places without even turning to look. I like to travel by myself because it is phenomenally convenient.

I've discovered that travelling solo can often be more "social" than travelling in a group. It leaves me open to meet and interact with far more people than I ever would have if I had taken company with me. It's not familiar conversation like one would have with a friend, but it is informative, relevant and, quite often, enjoyable. Rather than it being something that I do alone, I look at it as a trip that anyone can be a part of (axe murderers and the like excluded, of course). When I was sitting down to make some notes after a recent trip, I realised that I had more than 75 people to thank for having been a part of it all. That's more than six times the maximum number of people I've ever travelled with. Some of them were friends (old and less old), others were absolute strangers, but each of these people had contributed to my trip in a very tangible way.

I travel alone because this way I get to travel in the first place. Looking back, there have been countless occasions when I have not ended up doing something simply because the schedules of my desired travel companion(s) didn't match. This way, at least, I do go. It may not be the same as it would have been with those other people, but it's also not the same as not going anywhere at all. Overcoming the hesitation (or fear?) of doing this alone opened up so many more opportunities and possibilities for me.

There have been countless occasions when I have not ended up doing something simply because the schedules of my desired travel companion(s) didn't match. This way, at least, I do go.

Be that as it may, there is no denying that there are periods of time (some long, some short) when you do things all by yourself. I use these times to collect my thoughts and digest my experiences. I know that I would seek out this time for myself even if I had company. I realise that this is probably the part that does it in for most people. What's important to know and remember, though, is that it isn't that way all throughout.

How you travel or who you travel with is a matter of personal preference. I certainly do not believe that there is any one better way to go about it. I do, however, believe that what matters most is that you go out and do it, even if you have to do it all by yourself.

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