Why Visiting This Country Was My Favorite Solo Trip – TravelAwaits | Dauktion

Snapshot for solo travelers

Usha at the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico

Copyright: Usha Srinath

  • Surname: Usa S
  • Age: 72
  • Location: Mysore, India
  • Marital status: Married
  • Favorite solo trip: Vietnam

Usha enjoyed a long career as a doctor in India, which gave her the opportunity to travel alone. When she retired, it was natural for her to keep traveling. Her adventures have taught her much about the world and what she is capable of on her own.

Inspiration for solo travelers

Travel waits: What inspired you to travel alone?

United States: I took early retirement because my full-time job as a doctor didn’t leave me much time for travel and other interests. Having previously taken several solo trips both in India and abroad during my work, it seemed only natural to continue planning solo trips for pleasure as well.

First solo trip

Travel waits: What was your first solo trip?

United States: I went to college and have lived my entire professional life in my home state of Karnataka, India. In 2000 I got the opportunity to work in Oslo, Norway for a few months. This was my first solo trip anywhere and it spanned two completely different worlds – India and Scandinavia! It was still the early days of the internet in India, so I had a travel agent take care of the arrangements. I remember it was so confusing as I had to get used to everything from buying a new wardrobe for a cold country to flying twice to mastering unfamiliar culinary terms. But I survived; mostly because I’m a comfortable English speaker. And with every ride, my confidence grew until it just became routine.

Favorite aspect of solo travel

Travel waits: What is your favorite part about traveling alone?

United States: I’m a fan of solo travel. I advise everyone to travel alone if they really want to get a feel for a place. I love the feeling of freedom and the uninterrupted attention I can give to everything around me, absorbing the sights and sounds. I can organize my day according to my interests. I can change plans in between. I can stop whenever I want. I can eat wherever I feel like it. I often book Airbnb accommodation with families when I travel abroad. It has given me unique cultural insights into every country I have been to. And I have all these wonderful hosts to chat with in the evenings and point me to non-touristy spots during the day. Some of them shared home cooked meals. In Dublin, my hostess took me to a play with her friends. I don’t think I could have had such diverse and wonderful cultural experiences if I had stayed in a hotel with my own group.

Favorite solo trip

Travel waits: What is your favorite solo trip so far and why?

United States: Hands off – Vietnam. I was in Cambodia for a few days with a small group of family and friends. Everyone had to go back to work. I thought, arrived at the border I’m not going back without visiting Vietnam. It met all my expectations and more.

It seemed that Southeast Asian cultures respect and care for their elders. It’s part of their cultural makeup. As an elderly woman traveling alone, I could feel warmth and caring from everyone I met. In my hotel in Hanoi, the young woman at the reception volunteered to show me around the night market after work. In Hue, the young people who work at the hotel invited me to a homemade dinner. Elderly folks would draw me into their circle for their morning gymnastic dance routine on the lakefront in central Hanoi. A young woman sent by a nonprofit organization that trains college students to be local leaders took me to her family temple and left a coffee at the hotel as a gift for me. I was her first tourist and made sure she was comfortable.

Vietnam ticked all of my criteria: the nicest people, history, cuisine, coffee, culture (dance, music, water puppet shows), diverse natural beauty, unique handicrafts, silk, and a sense of comfort and safety. The list is long, with a bit of adventure too. I went kayaking and enjoyed boat trips. There is much more like caving, mountaineering, biking and other activities for the more adventurous.

Biggest concern for solo travelers

Travel waits: What was your biggest concern before your first solo trip and how did you overcome it?

United States: I think it was how I get to my accommodation after landing. Signage was all in Norwegian but people spoke English so I could just ask. Remember, it was before the days of the ubiquitous internet. Now I usually ask the hotel to send a car if I arrive in the middle of the night. If I’m not staying in a hotel, I plan to arrive during the day. My favorite line is if you speak English you can survive most situations in most places in the world – at least the places I’ve been.

Group or individual travel

Travel waits: Are you traveling with a group or alone and why?

United States: For all of the above reasons, I prefer independent travel, but as I get older I travel to some places in groups. I have only been once on an organized group tour. I find that people’s interests in a group tour are different and we need to approach things in a structured way to serve the interests of the majority. I accidentally found great fun groups a few times; once when I traveled to Tanzania and another time to Sikkim.

I’ve only been on a cruise ship once – to Alaska. It also worked quite well as we unpacked the first day, repacked the last day and each day found ourselves in a new place where each of us could choose what we wanted to do that day.

favorite travel product

Travel waits: What product can you not do without on your travels?

United States: Cell phone and internet connection. With these, I don’t need much other help.

Best advice for solo travelers

Travel waits: What advice would you give to someone considering a solo trip?

United States: Read a lot about the place you are going to. Pay special attention to safety, including travel and commute safety, food safety, insect-borne diseases, etc. Read your and local government recommendations on these things. The US government travel advisories are helpful.

If you want a deeper understanding of the place, read well-known novels and stories set in this geography before you travel. Leave valuables in the hotel safe. Carry only a minimum amount of cash and a credit card in a shoulder bag. Be friendly, confident, considerate and respectful of other cultures in a new country. Be aware that unexpected cancellations can happen and consider alternatives. Personally, I get home at 7:00 p.m. or at the latest at 8:00 p.m. I also send my daily plans to my family just in case. Relax and have fun. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true that I’ve never had a single awkward incident on my solo travels as I’m just a little extra careful.

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