I have always been an avid traveller, but there was one aspect of exploration that I had never dared to venture into – solo travelling. The idea of setting out on my own, with no one but myself to rely on, used to fill me with trepidation. Countless questions swirled through my mind every time I contemplated it. Where should I go? What should I do? Is it safe? Ensuring my safety was paramount, and this fear often held me back. But that changed the day I decided to throw caution to the wind, strap on my backpack, and embark on a journey of self-discovery. In this blog, I am recounting my first solo travelling experience and sharing my learnings and insights to help you plan your own journey.
My first solo adventure was a bit of a surprise, and it all began with my best friend’s wedding. Her wedding was being held in the enchanting city of Puri, nestled in the heart of Odisha. Initially, I had only planned to attend the wedding and then head back home. However, fate had a different plan.
On the day I was supposed to return, the skies opened up, and a relentless downpour forced the cancellation of my flight. With no alternative flights available for the next two days, I had a tough decision to make – wait around or embrace the unknown. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Those two unplanned days gave me an incredible opportunity for self-discovery, deepening my connection with myself and the world around me.
Unplanned Journey And Magic Of Self-Discovery
On the streets of Puri, I was feeling a mix of emotions – a cocktail of excitement and nervousness. The unfamiliar surroundings, the tantalising aromas from street food stalls, and the curious gaze of the locals all added to my sense of adventure. With no fixed itinerary and all by myself I felt a newfound sense of freedom. The rain, which had once seemed like an inconvenience, now became my ally, lending a mystique to the city. My journey was off to an unpredictable start, and it wasn’t long before I realized that solo travelling was a trigger for self-discovery like no other. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and into a world of limitless possibilities.
As I delved deeper into Bhubaneswar’s charm, one place stood out like a shining gem in the heart of this ancient city – the Lingraj temple. It’s a masterpiece of Indian architecture, renowned for its detailed plan, perfect proportions, seamless joints, elegant craftsmanship, and impressive dimensions. The temple’s exquisite carvings depict the chores of daily life, offering a vivid snapshot of history. It felt like more than just a place of worship; it was a modern community centre, giving a glimpse into the lives of the people who built and frequented this sacred space.
Beyond the temple, the Bindusagar Lake located in the north, adds to the enchanting picture, providing a serene backdrop to this architectural wonder. As the day drew to a close, I couldn’t resist the allure of sunset at the Bindusagar lake. It felt like a magical experience, a perfect end to a day I had always yearned.
Content and smiling, I made my way back to the hotel, eager to wake up to the sight of the ancient Sun Temple. Starting my day a bit earlier, I embraced yet another adventure, fully aware that immersing myself in the local culture was essential. I decided to opt for the safest and most authentic mode of travel – public transport. The vibrant and bustling streets of Bhubaneswar guided me to a charming bus station where I hopped onto a local bus bound for the mystical destination of Konark. The bus ride became my adventure in Odisha.
Anticipation coursed through me as I approached Konark, the sun rising over the ancient Sun Temple. This 13th century architectural marvel, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands as a testament to the incredible craftsmanship of a bygone era. Shaped like a colossal chariot with twelve intricately carved wheels, symbolising the passage of time, the Konark Sun Temple is a living tribute to the artistry and devotion of its creators. While feasting my eyes on this spectacle, I also began my culinary journey through Odisha.
Culinary Journey Through Odisha
Odisha isn’t just a visual treat; it’s a gastronomic paradise. From basic comfort food that fills your stomach, your heart and taste buds, my journey through Odisha’s culinary landscape was a memorable one. Whether it was relishing crispy kanji vada – lentil dumplings doused in tangy mustard water – or savouring spicy dahibara aloodum, or lentil dumplings served with yogurt and fiery potato curry, each bite was an explosion of flavours. Odisha’s vibrant street food culture isn’t merely about satisfying your hunger; it’s a celebration of local flavours and a chance to connect with the people who create them. Whether you’re a foodie or simply soaking in the experience, Odisha’s street food is a must-try.
Tips For Secure And Thrilling Journey
Undoubtedly, my solo journey was exhilarating, but there were a few challenges that the reader must prepare for.
First, to ensure a secure and comfortable stay, it’s imperative to scrutinise hotel ratings and reviews while making your bookings. For those like me, it’s also good practice to inspect the room before committing to an on-the-spot booking.
Your choice of transport significantly influences your safety. So, opt for government-operated services that are known for their reliability. If you plan to take an autorickshaw or taxi, always confirm the fares upfront to avoid unpleasantness. While maps are valuable, don’t rely solely on them. Engage with the locals for directions, as their insights often lead to invaluable impromptu adventures and discoveries. While relishing your newfound freedom, keep your loved ones informed about your whereabouts for added security.
Always keep your phone charged, carry a trusty power bank, and manage your finances wisely. Never venture out without cash; it’s a necessity. Dress appropriately for the climate and respect local customs, both for respect and for comfort.
Journey Through Time And Self-Discovery
My exploration of Odisha and its historical treasures allowed me to connect with its rich heritage on a profound level. It was like a journey into time, where I could feel the echoes of ancient civilisations and understand the roots of our modern world. The vibrant colours and the energy of the place spoke to me in ways I had never expected. It was a reminder that solo travel isn’t just about self-discovery; it’s also a way of discovering the world and, in turn, unlocking the depths of your own soul.
My unexpected solo journey in Odisha revealed a world of possibilities and self-discovery through travel. It was a reminder that sometimes, the best experiences come when we step out of our comfort zones and embrace the unknown.
If you’re considering a solo trip, I encourage you to take that leap of faith and embark on a journey of self-discovery. You may just find, as I did, that the world is waiting to reveal its wonders to those who dare to explore it on their own.
(Poonam Malpure is an avid traveller and communication professional)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.