“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.”
“You can’t leave! Stay one more week. No, one month! No, no, stay one year!”
This family, like many others in the country, tried hard to get me to permanently move into their small farming village. When I announced it was time for me to continue my journey after two weeks of enjoying their astounding hospitality, they tried everything they could to get me to stay.
During my visit I had been presented to every family member and neighbor in the village, and I still couldn’t walk down the little dirt paths that connected the houses without being invited in for tea, a meal, and a night’s stay.
It didn’t matter that I didn’t speak more than a few words of Hindi and they didn’t speak a word of English; I was still treated like a queen. They fed me a new delicious dish every night, explained their traditions as different festivals arose during my stay, and brought me along to not one, but two traditional weddings.
Best of all, I was completed adopted into the family I was staying with. I called the girls my sisters, and the grandmother my ‘gramma.’ I truly felt part of the family.
All of this took place in India, the last country on earth you would expect a solo twenty-year old female (and a blond haired, blue-eyed one at that) to cycle across, especially given the current stories about safety in India circulating on the news.
And those stories aren’t false. India is unfortunately a land of gang-rapes, ignorance, inequality, and fear. It is also a place of kindness, vibrant colors, innovation, hospitality, and happiness.
Unfortunately, the media only paints half the picture of this diverse country, so I am here to tell you the truth: the beautiful, chaotic, horrible, and wonderful truth about India from the perspective of a solo female traveler.
There is no better and no worse place for a solo female than India.
You will be treated as second class, as that is still how women are viewed there. You will be harassed and stared at incessantly with an evil, soul-piercing stare found no where else in the world. You will probably begin to avoid men all together, and you will learn how to stick a rock in each pocket, just in case.
But it is all worth it. As a solo female you will be taken in by the wonderful women who call this chaotic country home. They will invite you to cook with them. They will teach you to make roti, a small circular bread, over an outdoor wood stove, and laugh at you as you attempt to eat rice with your hands for your first time.
They will dress you up in their traditions clothes, suits and saris alike, and you may even receive a few as gifts as I did. If you get lucky, you will spend a day or two cutting grass with the ladies, and you will surely end up spending at least half the time just drinking chia in the shade and dancing with them. They will introduce you to their neighbors, their families, hell, just about everyone they know.
You will connect immediately with the children in every village and will quickly realize that children everywhere in the world want the same thing: to laugh, run, and play. The women’s place in India is in the home, and so, as a female, so is yours. By traveling solo you will experience the real India and the beautiful heartwarming hospitality it has to offer to us women.
So don’t be deterred by the media and their take on safety in India. They only know half the story.
Go for it. Travel through India alone and soak it all up. Take the opportunities that present themselves and appreciate them to their fullest. Cook with the women, run with the children, and learn to appreciate your position as a woman. Visiting India is a life changing experience you will never regret.
Shirine Taylor is a regular contributor to The Happy Passport and is currently cycling around the world. Follow her journey at awanderingphoto.wordpress.com.
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What you've heard about India is true - it can absolutely be dangerous for solo female travelers.
At the same time, it is perhaps one of the most rewarding, life-affirming places a solo traveler can visit.
Want to dig deeper? Go for it!