Solo traveling is a style of travel where you go on an adventure to visit someplace without any companion. It is a different experience from group traveling as you are alone and have to make your decisions by yourself. This concept is growing quite popular in Nepal. And there is always this looming question “Is Nepal safe to travel alone?”, and if it is safe for solo women traveling.
Pooja Rijal started her traveling journey in 2017. She is a 23-year-old resident of Pepsicola and also an Apex graduate. Rijal is Miss Nepali Travellers 2019 and brand ambassador of the Nepali Travellers. She used to travel with her friends before deciding to go solo. Rijal was born in Sarlahi district. Since her childhood, Rijal was always a seeker for adventures. She loved nature and used to spend time with it along with her friends. She always wanted to do something that was a little bit challenging. She left her job and then went for trekking to Annapurna Base Camp.
In 2018, she participated in Swo-yatra, organized by Nepali Travellers. She says “until I signed up for Swo-yatra, I never realized my passion for traveling”. Rijal was among the 14 winners. She has traveled only in Nepal to around 8 destinations. To understand how the situation of women traveling in Nepal is, we talked with Pooja Rijal: Here is the excerpt of it:
How do you plan your route for your destination?
At first, I used to carry a hand map while traveling. I search for blogs about the place, especially updated blogs. I also call agencies and hotels of those particular places. Then I contact my social media friends who have visited that area. After collecting all the information, I make my plans for the route to my destination.
Is there any place you have frequently visited this year? Is it safe to travel alone there?
I have visited Kalinchok twice throughout this year and I found it safe to travel alone. Other than that I haven’t visited any other place more than once.
How did you prepare for your survival and safety measures for the trip?
After I won the title for Miss Nepali Travellers, I got the opportunity to take part in 5 days boot camp for risk management. The first thing I learned was to interact with the hotel owner in order to get an idea of the person’s mentality. They instructed me to check the rooms and bathrooms to know whether it is appropriate, has locks or not and how far the bathroom is from the room. I was aware to be sure of the surroundings and all these things which makes difference.
There was another session about wilderness, for any possible injuries and how to treat them with the available resources. I also took part in a fightback course. In that session, I was taught how to react in possible situations and how to protect ourselves if someone attacks. Backpacking was also taught to manage supplies to the minimum, to carry must-haves and how much weight to carry and all that. Map reading was also taught to determine the scale and visual storage about camping. There were a total of 5 solo travelers together with me and we also learnt to properly make tents.
Did you face any “Expectations Vs Reality” kind of experience in the place you visited?
I never had much expectations while beginning the journey. It was because I had already trekked to the base camp before and I thought that it would be the same kind of road, same kind of people and same dust. I believed there was not going to be anything interesting, but when I reached to Namche bazar I felt totally different. That place was completely commercialized like that of Thamel in Kathmandu.
I was in complete awe to witness how beautiful the base camp was. I stayed for some time with the locals and help them to prepare meals. The locals were really warm and they exuded positive vibes. I had never felt such with strangers, they even treated me as their own family member. And at the end of my every trip, I was just reassured that Nepal was safe to travel alone.
How do you manage your time for your trips?
In the beginning, when I participated in Swo-yatra I had plenty of leisure time as I was not working at all. After I won the title of Miss Nepali Travellers 2019, I started working with the same organization. Along with work, I make plans for the trips as well. That’s how I have aligned my work and passion for traveling until now. I will be traveling again in the next two days (from the day of the interview).
How was the response from your family and friends about solo traveling?
I have an open-minded family, they always support me. They knew right from the beginning that I loved traveling since I used to roam around a lot. And talking about friends, they consider me as their motivation which I am extremely thankful for. However, I’m not in frequent touch with my relatives as my family lives in Dubai and I live in Kathmandu with my two sisters. But whenever we interact, they support and encourage me to continue doing so.
In your experience, is Nepal safe to travel alone?
Before starting this expedition, I used to wonder and doubt if Nepal was safe to travel alone, and even more for women to travel alone. think Nepal is a pretty much safe country since we welcome thousands of tourists each month. During my solo travel, I found two solo women travelers who were foreigners. Women traveling solo in Nepal is still quite unusual.
When people see Nepali women traveling solo, in contrast to what I though, they tried to support and encourage us. Some people also showed concern towards me. They asked me not to roam around alone, as all people are not good and some might be dangerous. But there are lots of good souls that we can find along our journey. So I think Nepal is pretty safe for traveling.
What should we do to ensure our safety in Nepal while traveling?
Our safety depends on our own hands. Knowing Nepal is safe to travel alone doesn’t mean that one should go anywhere without proper research. When you are alone, you are your own savior. There might be some issues about a few places or communities. Even sometimes, there might be danger of attacks by wild animals.
We should be well aware of such factors and thus make plans wisely. Travelers should always have a time table and details on the routes to follow. In case, we don’t get back in time, we have to have a backup plan and go accordingly. I advise everyone to keep their safety zone, know what to carry and what not to. You have to research and sketch your whole trip in a schedule and then only I shall consider it safe to travel.
What are the recommendations and suggestions you would like to give to beginners who are thinking to travel alone in Nepal?
Spend some time alone. That is where it begins. If you go from Kathmandu to Dhulikhel, spend time alone and then return, that is the beginning part of solo travel. You don’t have to go for hardcore trekking. You first need to know how passionate you are about solo traveling. After that, you can start your research and plan. But I don’t think, it necessarily has to be a solo travel.
The main idea is to travel, there should be some movement. If there is movement, there is experience and knowledge. It all gets shared and exchanged. If there is no movement, you will never know what’s out there in the world, you won’t know if Nepal is safe to travel alone or not. So, for beginners I suggest, take short trips and travel with friends or family first. Solo traveling comes after that.
What is your next plan in traveling?
After being elected as Miss Nepali Traveler, I have got the opportunity to visit two countries in South-East Asia. The first visit is to Bali and another one hasn’t been sure yet. It will probably start in September or October and is fully funded by Nepali Traveler. This opportunity has been given to us in order to spread the message that Nepali can also travel solo to other countries than our own.