Yes! I know what you’re thinking! Isn’t the title a little too melodramatic? Well , yes it might be! But here’s the thing .. in a country where going out alone past 11pm raises eyebrows, solo travel is a big deal – whether it is abroad or within our own country.
Now, at the turn of 2015 , I had “yet another” life crisis. (I dont know what the one in between quarter and mid is called 🙂 ) . I was inching towards 30 and I felt I needed something to give me the personal sense of achievement, so the seed had already been planted .
Everyone I spoke to about my trip asked me at least three standard questions –
- Why Cambodia?
- Why Solo?
- Aren’t you scared?
Before you jump to conclusions – it was not because of Lara Croft or Indiana Jones! (I still haven’t watched those movies actually and I probably wont- now that I have seen the real thing! 🙂 ). Although Cambodia is a very popular stop in the backpackers’ circuit (Thailand-Laos-Vietnam-Cambodia), not too many Indians have tapped the travel potential of this beautiful country – which in many ways is so similar to our land in the ancient times. The seed of the dream to visit Cambodia was planted in my head a few years back when I took up a course in Indian history and sculpture. One particular session on Greater India opened my eyes to the massive and mysterious temples that this land has hidden in it’s folds. So , being the history and travel buff that I am , I figured a solo trip to this magical country would be perfect. While most people club Cambodia with other countries, however, in the limited time that I had and the objective that I had gone to Cambodia with, I still feel I could not do justice to the country.
My question to them was why not!? Why should you always have to travel with a partner or a group, where you have to wait for the other person’s coordinates to match your own and what are the odds of that happening in tandem , right! And finally, have to deal with the disappointment of the trip not working out at all. Solo travel, like living alone, teaches you so much about yourself – opens you up as a person, helps you deal with your fears and insecurities and exposes you a whole new set of experiences and also gives you an opportunity to meet new people.. And like living alone, you also have days when you worry if you have enough money to last you the entire trip! 🙂 While you should obviously take the basic precautions (like not venturing out alone too late), I have felt safer in my entire two weeks as a solo girl traveller in Cambodia than I do in India on many occasions!
Aren’t you scared!?
Well, yes Mister. Thanks for reminding the crowd of butterflies in my tummy about the fact that you will be travelling all alone in a foreign land with no connection to anyone you know whatsoever. But I used to smile bravely and say no , and believe in my decision with even more conviction! 🙂 The little fear that I had subsided and I was filled with the thrill and anticipation of the two weeks ahead had in store for me, when I touched Cambodian soil for the first time! Also, as a female travelling alone in Cambodia, I felt safer in the entire two weeks that I was there , than I did on an all girls trip to Goa that I went on, right after my Cambodia trip!
First step was to make a travel plan . Step 2 and here’s the toughie is convince the parents ; I even rewatched the DDLJ “Jaa Simran jee le apni zindagi” scene to get tips to convince them 😛 But I realised my parents are way cooler than I gave them credit for sometimes! 🙂 Anyone who is a part of the corporate rat race will know, the next big step was of course getting leaves, after a LOT of bargaining and shuffling. While I am known to be a detailed travel planner, this trip was a little different . Once I had my arrival and departure date sorted, I almost had no plans for myself. All I knew was that I wanted to make the most of every minute of the trip and do it for me! A few days, before my trip I dug into my Lonely Planet, Tripoto for travel tips. I also spoke to a friend who had done a similar trip recently , which gave me a lot of reassurance about my trip.
Through the course of the trip, I chose a fun mix of accommodation options- from boutique hotels to a lodge tucked amidst paddy fields. But probably the best accommodation option that I chose was choosing to stay in a backpackers’ hostel , where you meet scores of people like you from across the world who have the same mad passion for travel and adventure like you do. This was definitely the cherry on the top for me- in my entire solo travel experience. I also had some crazy first – of – its – kind experiences ranging from kayaking solo along a river and getting lost after nearly two hours out there and tasting frog meat – creatures that I am dreadfully frightened of! 😛
So, in conclusion , while the title of this blog post does sound a little dramatic – it certainly justifies the drama and adventure that was my two weeks in Cambodia! 🙂