“When I’m on the road, I can afford to be selfish – thinking only about ‘me’.” I found my true sense of happiness during my travels. My solo trip to the Northeast has been one of them.
What was funny and interesting is how easily I blended there without trying much, thanks to my appearance. The local people in Manipur spoke to me in their language, Meitei. When I told them, I wasn’t Manipuri and didn’t know Meitei, they gave me a blank look. Mistaken identity? This made me realise the importance of travelling to unknown places and interacting with local people, the importance of giving and receiving knowledge.
I fell in love with the culturally diverse place and its people. In Meghalaya and Nagaland, no one stared or treated me like a tourist; the people I met were cool and civilised and welcomed me as their own. And seeing the women in the North Eastern states filled me with pride and confidence.
What I really enjoyed observing in Imphal was how modern the women were, while being traditional in their attire and fashion. Though some states are matriarchal, their vibrant and fashionable personalities alongside their hardworking, confident, independent and entrepreneurial persona, captured me. I felt so proud of being a woman.
I am a student of travel and tourism and worked in the travel industry, but guess what? I learnt that travel was my teacher only when I actually got out of the office. You will not love everything about travelling, nor do you have to travel alone to experience life. Just ensure you make your traveling count is what I believe.
Even though the tourism industry is always changing, there should be more preferences for authentic experiences. Otherwise, you’re only ticking off your bucket list and not really contributing to tourism or gaining much from it yourself.
This is also why I prefer to travel solo or with one other person as good company, which has been my sister so far. Travelling in groups can be fun and is perhaps a good way to make new friends, but I’ve found that travelling with yourself can be a much more healing, enlightening and enriching experience, and you still make friends. You come back with a change, a change you won’t feel or realise until much later.
My trip to the NE was like walking into an open culture museum, I was curious all the time! I have had the pleasure of sharing my experience and stories on the SHEROES travel community in their #NortheastDiaries campaign and it has been a heartening experience to be able to encourage and help women with their curiosities and prejudices whilst interacting with them.
I find that such community discussions are a good way to not just share, impart and gather information, but also gain the confidence and impetus that we are actually looking for at times.
I often get asked by friends about women’s safety before their solo trip, and while I can, and do vouch for some places, I think a lot of it has to do with how responsibly we travel and the way we engage with places. I have been mistreated in the cities I have lived and worked in, but never whilst travelling on the road or at the tourist places in cities that I have lived in. I felt equally unsafe in Hollywood at night on the street on my solo trip to California.
Nonetheless, I think there have been a lot of advancements in the tourism industry to help women travel and see the world comfortably; from women-only travel communities and groups to women tour leaders and women led-travel companies. I am sure there will be more of such support for women in the travel industry.
Yet, I prefer that women not be put into one such box in the name of safety. Rather, I aspire to see a world where women and men can live and travel together in harmony, and safely like in the Northeast. Here women no longer have to think twice about a fundamental right such as travelling before making an impromptu trip.
I’ll sign off by saying, stop hesitating and procrastinating, because remember, “Dust if you must, but bear in mind, old age will come and it’s not kind. And when you go (and go you must), you, yourself, will make more dust.”
About Anjalina Pradhan:
Everything about travel and tourism fascinates me. A mountain and flower lover from Mirik (I’ll let you Google where that is), who learnt much about life from her travel adventures. I call myself an unashamed multipotentialite 🙂 When not on the road, I help with our family holiday home and homestay. I share my travels @being_places on Instagram and am also active on the women-only SHEROES Travel community.