Discussion: What was traveling alone in India like for you?

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#1 Oct 26th, 2006, 18:19
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  • Satyagraha is offline
#1
I know no-one ever said it was going to be easy but damn, it is really hard work. I am seriously struggling from day-to-day to stay sane.
I keep asking myself WHY? Character building? Inner strength? Opportunities to meet more people? An adventure?
It is all these things, but it is such a lonely experience. I have had very few decent conversations with Indians, i think it is more than the language barrier its also a cultural barrier that can rarely be bridged.

I remain open-minded but i can genuinely say that its very easy for travelling to make you close-minded. One direction i've found my thoughts going in is "why is everyone staring at me", and its not just a curious stare they REALLY stare into me, like WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE kind of stare. But i know this is a close-minded approach, but its so easy to go down that road.

Does anyone actually travel around for a sustained period? I doubt many people can and stay sane. I'm here for one year and at this rate i'm going to go completely insane unless i either meet up with other travellers and go with them to places or i find a place with other westerners and stay there. I'm pretty sure this is what most (all) people do when going to a country for a sustained period.

At the moment i can say overall that i am enduring India but not enjoying it.
#2 Oct 26th, 2006, 18:34
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  • Vasko is offline
#2
Hi satyagraha,

How long have you been in India so far?

Give yourself time to get adjusted. The good thing is you never know what awaits the next day: you might run into interesting people, find travel partners, etc.

I've done two solo journeys (2 and 4 months), the first one was filled with loneliness, yet I found it rewarding. The second I was lucky enough to find some fantastic travel companions.

But hey: don't force yourself into liking it. It ain't gonna happen like that. If, say, after two months you are still miserable, just go home. Nothing wrong with that. Travel is not about success or failure... it should be about genuine enjoyment and enthusiasm.

Hang in there. A change of scenery can also work wonders. Where are you now? Head somewhere where the chances of meeting people are better... there are lots like you out there, waiting for conversations, sharing of experiences...

All the best!
Vasko
#3 Oct 26th, 2006, 18:49
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#3
HI Satyagraha,
The first time going to India I remember being excited at the thought of knowing nobody and having lots of time by myself. Well that did not last for long. I met so many great and really interesting people, wheather is was on trains, in guest houses or at chai shops( I am talking about travelers)I also met some indian women who I am still friends with and I see them whenever I go back. It does help if you actually find a spot that you like and stay there for a while. I was living in Rishikesh, most people who end up there long term seem to be into yoga or other spiritual activities. Goa also has some pockets where people are hanging out, I met some artists, writers and healers who spend the winter down there. Believe me once you make some friends your whole experience of India will change.
#4 Oct 26th, 2006, 19:06
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#4
It helps to be extrovert... I'm not (despite appearances on IM), rather I'm a bit of a recluse.

To some extent, India's intrusiveness makes up for that: it is hard for the shyest person in the world not to have fairly regular conversations with locals. But, telling you mother country, your job, your salary, your marital status and if not, why not is not exactly the most stimulating of conversations, I guess!
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#5 Oct 26th, 2006, 19:12
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#5
Hang in there, i have also felt the same way while in India, but then something crazy or truly amazing would happen and make it all worth it!
I eventually found some people to travel with for 3 months and I found strength in numbers helped alot.
Put up some notes in hostels etc asking for travel parteners and you may find people looking for the same as your self. If you have no luck, I will be looking for some travel company when I arrive in Febuary!
Chin up, chill out, have a few beers and ignore the stares.
#6 Oct 26th, 2006, 19:29
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#6
India has an answer for most things: it certainly has one for your problem. After you've been travelling for a while, its not just nice, but almost essential to spend a bit of time with people more on your wavelength, and recharge the 'personality batteries'. Fortunately, there are a number of places where you can do this, all conveniently spread out around the country:

Goa, Diu, Varkala, Kovalam, Hampi, Pushkar, Manali, and Kathmandu all spring to mind. A week or two of chat and German Bakeries, and you'll be all set to go travelling back in the 'real India' once more.

Tim in England

PS I find it helps to have a tiny short-wave radio too, and keep up to date with the BBC
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"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

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#7 Oct 26th, 2006, 19:49
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#7
If it's your first time in India I imagine your going to some of the more trodden sights in India. If this is so, your not running into other travelers? Unless your well off the beaten path you should be running into others. There's no other travelers at the hotel's you stay in? If not go to some of the places Tim said,Varanasi and others also, and you'll find others that you can possibly hook up with. I never had a problem finding people to hang with for sometimes long, sometimes short times, unless I'm way off the beaten path.
#8 Oct 26th, 2006, 20:01
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#8
Nick is right about being an extrovert helping. (I'm not, so I have to put up with solitude on my solo travels outside India!)

Satyagragha, I am almost certain that people stare not because "what the hell are you doing here?" but because you are probably different looking. India is like that.

Try striking a conversation with somebody who seems interesting. Once you go beyond the where are you from? thing, you may find it refreshing to talk to different people, for different perspectives.

Of course its easy to give advice. I rarely strike up conversations with strangers, Indian or foreign!
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#9 Oct 26th, 2006, 20:04
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  • Sama is offline
#9
granted, I was only in India for a month at a time for both my trips. But I went there alone and traveled around alone and loved it.

The first time I was in a school so had school mates, but for the most part I did not hang with them in the evenings or on the weekends, so I was basically alone. The second time I was in the same school for two weeks, same situation, then traveled on my own for two weeks, taking buses and trains. I never had any difficulties striking up conversations with people. The most interesting conversations were on the buses and trains. In fact, I found Indians much friendlier than the occassional westerner I ran into (which were very few and I liked it that way.) except in the school where Americans were the minority, where I was in India, I never met any Americans to commiserate with.

Not to say that everything was always peaches and cream -- I had bad experiences in Kodaikanal with the staring, and the incessant touts in Madurai, but I just chalked it up and blew it off. Every day was a new day for me, new experiences.

Maybe it's my mindset or maybe I'm at a point in my life where I am very comfortable being alone. I think maybe age has a lot to do with it. All I know is that I absolutely would not want to travel with anyone, I love doing my own thing.

I would take Vasko's advice. Maybe you can travel around, not stay in the same area, explore other areas, other "people places" where more westerners go. Hang in there, you'll make it!
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#10 Oct 26th, 2006, 20:08
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#10
hi Satyagragha,

Your profile says your from London, if that is right then yes your going to have a big culture shock. As a born and bred Londoner it is so hard to strike up a conversation with strangers.

I always feel like I'm imposing myself on others. But hey they can always tell you to go away. I found it very hard to strike up converstions with other travellers. I would always wait for them to make teh first move, but then they might be feeling the same as you, that if you want company you will ask them for it and your sitting there thinking the same.

I've decided to take up the mantra, don't worry if I make a fool of myself, I'll probably never see these people again, and if you do then your doing something right.

So go for it. Try to talk to as many people as you can. If they don't want to know, thier loss.. plenty of people out there that will be glad that you made the first move. enjoy this experience.. you might never have the chance or money to do it again.
#11 Oct 26th, 2006, 22:34
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#11
I've been in India two months. My original plan was to spend a year in India but my whole attitude towards India has changed since i got here.

I had as i suppose many do pre-conceptions about India, that it was a spiritual place, the people were friendly and hospitable etc.

The reality is that it is a very money-orientated society, and as a westerner you get A LOT of hassle on a day-to-day basis from street hawkers, rickshaw/taxi drivers etc and even people that strike up conversations with me on the street invariably ask for money at some point (however genuinely friendly they appear!).

Of course the gap between how much money i have and they have is great but i did not know quite how prolifically the society would be so money-focused. By this i mean having no care for anything other than money - everything is a means to an end (money).

It is rare for a foreigner to meet an Indian that is not solely interested in money, i know this from my own experience, experiences of other travellers and speaking to Indians themselves.

One of the main reasons i decided on travel to India was to meet the people, discover their values, their culture and to learn from them. This is a big factor in my travel and i can say that there is nothing to learn from the people that i meet. Many have no values and few morals and are just out to imitate the west or their impression of it.

There are of course people here who i can learn from, but where are they? The genuine indians (i.e. not the money-focused ones) I have met in my 2 months in India are few-and-far-between and this on the whole makes my experience negative or at the least not too compelling to stay.

Like many of you have said, if you can meet up with other travellers then you can have a rewarding experience. But my goal of learning anything from these people seems to be far out of reach!
#12 Oct 26th, 2006, 22:39
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#12
Lonliness!!!

o heck!.... that reminds me of my moments of lonliness when traveling solo (which I always do and will continue so). Tho am not a foreigner backpacking in India who otherwise wud have to face culture shock,language and the other differences... I do feel lonely at times. I go cycling/skating/hiking in the wilderness and all of a sudden something strikes and I involuntarily hum the lines of that Sasha's song "I feel lonely..lolololonely" damn! its a sad feeling. I hate that! but then as is said here by others, something happens and you never realize when u are along with some kids, local ppl, taking fotos of them, chit chatting, or even enjoying the local drink.
This momentary lonliness is the only second negative thing packaged for Solo travelers; first is having to take care of your own stuff. Damn! No one to fend it while am off to the loo at the airport/station .

The peak of lonliness is while eating....you are eating without anyone to talk to (except of course to the waiters for placing orders and then while telling that he has not given the right order). I am trying to find ways to make lonely eating an enjoyable activity. No discoveries so far

And that 'First You First You' is kinda funny and it really takes away many chances of striking a friendship with the strangers. Nothing happens with both parties keeping mum. Someone has to start....Just say Hi and you have nothing to lose, at all! If they come along, well and good, else someone is waiting at the Bus station for your Hi . Go ahead!

But SOLO is the way to go!!!!!

and to fight lonliness you have to be the first to break the ice
and have to try finding some country-mates already there..may be thru forums like this.
a'mar kono chinta nei
#13 Oct 26th, 2006, 22:50
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#13
I think you will have to be choosy on what places you go to to get the taste of Indian culture. Its very very different from place to place. And money-seekers(grabbers)....alas! you will come to see a lot of these. The lonliness you are feeling is probably because you have found a gap....may i say a HUGE gap, between your expectations from this holy land and the reality you have seen after actually landing here. After meeting quite afew, most of whom unfortunately turned out to be money-hungry, you may have simply lost interest in knowing the ppl and their culture and so finally end up just thinking and wondering about that GAP.

Head to some place away from touts, taxi drivers and the city life....
#14 Oct 26th, 2006, 22:57
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#14
hi Satyagragha

I guess from your comments that you're moving from one tourist destination to the next and so on.

Try to get away from the tourist places and meet Indians on buses, trains and Chai stalls, they won't be after your money, just interested in you as a person.
#15 Oct 26th, 2006, 23:02
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#15
I agree with amyl, it is definitely when eating that it hits for me. So I stayed for a week at the YWCA in Chennai and met all sorts of interesting people, Indian and otherwise. Had a chance for good connection. We ate in the common dining room and our faces became familiar to each other, so an easier opportunity to meet. Am still in touch with a woman from Kerala and from Sri Lanka.
drmr
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