The beautiful country India, is without a question one of the most extraordinary places to visit. Everything I experienced and saw as solo woman traveler was all together profound and empowering.
From the people, food, lifestyle, the culture, all the above was a significant shock even sometimes emotional, but not once did ‘regret’ appear. After nearly a month in the northern part of India, I was impulsed to share my first impressions.
Look out, here is the chaotic traffic.
I will never once again complain about the traffic in Los Angeles. From mopeds to cabs and even animals cruising through the streets, there is no slowing down – either get out of the way or be run over. Instead of traffic lights, the aggressiveness and loud car horns assisted drivers in getting to their destinations.
On top of that chaos, people casually walk across the roads when there is a full force of traffic coming their way. The drivers would zigzag their way between people and other vehicles.
Honestly, it took me about two days to get used to the extravaganza. Watching the madness on the street and flinching every ten seconds thinking we were about to wreck seemed too funny to the cab drivers.
Interestingly enough, despite how odd the traffic appeared to me and crazy, not once did I witness a car wreck.
Animals here are respected.
Cows. Camels. Elephants. Dogs. Monkeys. All and every type of animal are shown respect and with a lot of love. One crucial element of the Indian culture is the high respect towards the animal species; hence, why you would find a lot of Indian people being vegetarian.
On numerous occasions, I will see a cow or dog blocking traffic, but the community wouldn’t react negatively. Instead, they would find another way to go around the animal blocking the street.
As a result of their beliefs and values, it was beautiful to see the locals always expressing affection by hugging or feeding an animal. There are temples in India worshiping the precious creatures, including The Monkey, Snake, Rat, Dog, and Eagle Temple.
The real kind of poverty that makes you want to cry.
I cannot begin to describe or stress enough how much poverty I witnessed between cities and villages. My first eye-opening experience as a solo woman traveler happened only on the second day in India.
With my host family and another traveler, I visited the slums. It’s known to be an overcrowded territory for the poor. The slums we visited was outside of Rohtak between abandoned buildings. The smell of sewage and pigs roaming around the area welcomed us to the neighborhood.
To begin, the reason for our visit was per my request as I had read about the slums through a book called The Shantaram. My host coordinated a trip so we could meet with the children of the slums and to hand out food kits.
As we waited for the point person, I scanned the neighborhood. The slums embodied homes built of torn clothes and hay roofs. Beds were constructed of straws and pipes for stability while their blankets seemed too thin for warmth. Stacks of trash accumulated overtime covered what seemed like a walkway. Nothing appeared colorful minus the sparkling saris of the women and children.
Once tears started filling my eyes, a group of kids was brought to us, and clearly, I noticed poor hygiene and bodies thinner than usual. Though their beautiful, honest eyes and grins made all of that disappear.
India is not that dangerous to visit, even as a solo woman traveler.
Before leaving for India, I received more negative feedback about traveling there alone as a woman than positive. I completely understand it was mostly because of safety concerns. Though, throughout my entire trip, there was only one time I questioned if I was safe. You can read about that experience here.
As a solo woman traveler, I honestly felt a bit safer than I expected. When I would commute on the train or bus, I would ask for help to ensure I was jumping on the right one. Without hesitation, locals would help me and even let me know when it was time to depart.
However, there were moments when I needed a cab, and the tuk-tuk drivers would bombard me with ride offers with an outrageous fare. I always kindly declined, but they can get a bit stubborn.
In one instance, an Indian woman noticed I was trying to order a cab through the Ola App; however, I couldn’t get connected. At that very moment, a tuk-tuk driver stood right next to me and kept bothering me to give me a ride. At this point in my trip (towards the end), I became used to the drivers acting this way. I would begin walking away from him, but he wouldn’t detach. Soon enough, the woman approached me kindly and asked me if I needed help. She immediately assisted and waited until I was able to order a cab. Once that occurred, the lingering tuk-tuk driver walked away.
In conclusion regards to safety, there were more occasions when I felt safe than not. It was, in reality, all just common sense – like if I was in an area where I didn’t see women walking around, I assumed I shouldn’t be there either.
Lastly, I would have a lot of talks with my hosts about areas I should avoid. Since I stayed away from the neighborhoods they mentioned and followed their advice, I always felt safe in India, even when walking/commuting alone.
After my entire experience in the northern part of India, I felt more empowered than ever to do things on my own. India was my first out of the country experience, and I am so happy I chose this place.
A lot of times, people ask me why I chose India. I always respond that it is because I wanted an experience, not a vacation. What overall embodies my first impressions of India is the new love I have towards the country and the beautiful people. I am pleased with my trip, and I look forward to visiting again.