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5 Tips From My Swiss Alps Trip That Every Solo Traveller Should Keep In Mind

By Vanya Rakesh:

As a 20-something girl bitten by travel bug and heavily inspired by books and movies, I always imagined going to some far-off city alone, having my share of adventure in life and explore a new country.

But this summer when I got an invite to attend a Summer School in Geneva for 2 weeks, for some strange reason, it took me a lifetime to convince my mind – Will it really be worth it? Would the course really add any intellectual value? How will it help my career? Where will I arrange for the tuition fee which would cost me a bomb? And most importantly, how will I manage my life in another country alone? Even having lived away from home for 5 years (though in the same country), the fear was never this big. Still, my anxiety just refused to die. Reasons: unknown.

So finally when I (or I should say the guarding angels in my Life) convinced myself to not let go of the opportunity and just give it a shot, instead of preparing for the course, a substantial part of planning started revolving around ‘places to see, visit and must-do’. Who knows when life will give me another chance to explore the Swiss
Alps all by myself!

With everything sorted (read the finances, plans to buy a super-saver Swiss pass and my anxious-yet-excited heart), I set off on my first solo foreign trip! And the exhilarating experience is what makes me write this account of things I learnt in those glorious 2 weeks.

1. Back Your Will

While you plan a trip, zillion things will cross your mind. And many of those may shake your will to take the plunge and explore the place all by yourself. At that moment, the only thing that can help you brush off the anxiety bug, is your will to go. Yes, I will go, yes I will travel alone, Yes I can do it. Stay strong-headed and be sure about your ideas, plans and decisions. No one will be more proud of you than yourself.

2. Be Fearless

No, I am not campaigning for any sports brand but stating something that gave me the strength to travel to 6 cities alone. We read multiple things happening around which is the biggest cause of our worry when it comes to safety. However, do we stop living? No. So do not stress over it because the Universe has got your back.

3. Do Your Research Well

Once you decide the place you want to visit, make sure you burn the midnight oil and do a thorough research about the city, its transportation, the weather, the people, distances, food, local currency – everything you can think of. A well-read traveller is always prepared for what is coming and generates the confidence to step out on those unexplored paths. Though falling back on experiences of people who have visited the place before helps, the research you do to make your trip a success is totally another story. And it helps, a lot!

4. Being Responsible And Patient

Solo travel is a teacher in itself and leaves you with valuable qualities that you as an individual bring back home with you. With great power comes great responsibility, and the same comes with freedom. Travel responsibly and be aware of your surroundings. Patience is another virtue you inevitably imbibe, thanks to long layovers, a missed flight, delays, and a lot many things. So instead of unnecessarily worrying, remember to enjoy that moment. Go buy that yummy choco-filled croissant with a vanilla cappuccino and live in that moment. Because things will be ok and turn to be fine. Even if that means waiting endlessly for a train, bus or flight.

5. Be Open

In a new city, in the middle of a pool of strangers speaking a language you don’t understand, talking to someone may become quite a task. Well, sometimes. But here, you do not have to hesitate. Not even once. Unabashedly talk to people, ask for directions. Start a conversation with people you sit next to in the train you take. Trust me, the stories that you weave at that point of time are priceless. It helped me meet a Mauritian, who, on simply being asked for directions, took the responsibility to take me around Lausanne because we both were South-Asians.

On my way to Lucerne, I spent 30 minutes with an American who co-incidentally is a regular visitor to India, but never got an opportunity to explore the country as a tourist. And not to forget the bus driver in Interlaken who was elated to find an Indian lost at the bus stand (me) and suddenly started talking in Punjabi. What an experience! These small instances will always occupy a portion in my happy memory bank.

Go out and try that famous local cuisine, drink like a fish (but responsibly) with people you do not know. Spend some time in the local park under the sun and observe people. Spend some time in a Museum and Souvenir shops (even if you end up buying nothing). Trust me; the experience will be something that no other trip can probably ever match in your entire lifetime.

Go ahead and just make that one solo backpacking tour to another country in your life to learn new things about yourself and bring home a ‘new you’. If nothing else, making friends from different countries and travelling alone will definitely give you answers that you were looking for before booking the tickets to visit that place from your bucket list. Follow your heart and it will lead you to places.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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