Of all kinds of travellers in the world, it is the solo travellers who have emerged as the slick new winners. You’d spot them miles away in the form of gorgeous, inspiring silhouettes with backpacks. You’d see Facebook photos of them posing with ‘local children’ from Bihar to Kashmir. They are the ones who play volleyball with Thoreau quotations, unaware of the fact that the American author was borderline misanthropic and would’ve shrieked in horror at the idea of updating a daily blog and polluting his hideout with the hum of a machine. The only creatures Thoreau in fact liked interacting with were birds and insects!
But too much has been said about going solo. The world is full of advice from daring women who suggest carrying bubblegum-pink pepper sprays to use on ‘dangerous looking’ men, completely forgetting to mention that if you are stupid enough to spray a drunkard on a windy beach, you are very much asking to get blinded and shoved. In short, a bagload of inspiring advice that tends to fall flat when faced with real-life obstacles.
What most gung-ho travellers forget is that the times have changed. Marco Polo probably didn’t have access to like-minded people before he set out on long voyages. But today, tailor-made companions are just the click of a forum away. Here’s why travelling with friends is in fact a more logically sound choice.
1. Friending vs Unfriending
One common reason given in favour of travelling solo is that you’d end up making a horde of new friends. Now wait a minute, wasn’t the point of going solo to connect with your own self? And maybe there are people out there who don’t want to break their heads trying to become good mates with a stoned bedsheet peddler in Jaisalmer, maybe some of us just wish to bond with friends chosen after years of experimentation.
2. Solo or Sulky?
You’ll never hear a solo traveller admitting that it got lonely along the way, but the truth is that after days of wandering alone you end up becoming more solemn and opinionated. You start harbouring unrealistic expectations even from a potential date – Is he/she wild enough? Will he/she bind me down? Can he/she carry their own backpack? Do they know how to climb vertical cliffs with a beer in hand? Did you know Thoreau was unmarried, childless and possibly suffered from conflicted sexual desires?
3. (Sh)It Happens Only In India
And I don’t blame a solo traveller for sulking if his/her choice of destination falls within Indian borders. Since our railway stations don’t exactly function like western airports, chances are no solo traveller, however brave or cool, can leave their backpack unattended while tiptoeing into a public loo. I have a friend who spent 4 hours at Gokarna police station filing a complaint against a ‘sadhu’ who lunged at her from behind a temple wall. Solo travelling in India is strictly for those who fancy being interviewed by idiots every waking minute.
4. Technology To Iron Out Social Creases
Leroy, a 28-year-old media strategist from Mumbai, recently returned from a very comfy 2-week trip to Dharamsala with six of his friends: “This was a first for me. My main problem with travelling in a crowd was the awkward part of dividing expenses, which obviously get all mixed up with too many wallets and general chaos of a new place. But the friends I went with were using Splitwise, and that just made the whole trip real smooth.” Like I said, Ibn Battuta just didn’t have the apps to pull off!
5. The Good Old Joy of Sharing
Ever climbed up a peak and stared at a spectacular valley spread below, thinking, damn! I wish someone was here to hug and leap with! All Into The Wild fans out there would recall Chris McCandless’s last words before he succumbed to a solitary death: “Happiness is real when shared.” And so it is.
Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar