I just returned from a five-month solo journey to South America.

People always ask me what changed? Why I decided all of a sudden to goon a solo backpacking holiday? Well, the reason I decided to go on a solo adventure was that I woke up one Sunday morning and realised life was passing me by. I was 37 years old, single and nothing was really any different from my20s. I had to shake things up for myself otherwise, nothing was going to change.

I was clear from the start that I wanted to do something that was as far out of my comfort zone as possible, which is why I chose South America. From the language to the food to the people everything was unfamiliar to me.

I have worked hard since my 20s, and all my money was spent on partying,eating out and other unproductive entertainment. I realised that I should be doing so much more with it. So I started researching online, looking at various blogs and connecting with people who had already done stuff like this.

Through this, I formulated a ballpark budget for my trip. Luckily I already had a little bit of savings. I continued to save till I reached my ballpark budget. After that there was no stopping me, I quit my job, packed my bags and off I went!

My first stop was the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile. The first couple of weeks were very hard, especially because I did not know the language. Not a soul spoke English anywhere I went. I couldn’t even buy a bottle of water when I first got there. Eventually, I had to take a crash course in Spanish as it was terribly frustrating not being able to communicate with anyone.

I had travelled a fair amount throughout my life, but never alone, which really scared me. Till the last minute, I was contemplating shortening or even cancelling my trip. In the end, I settled on a three-month trip and went without a return ticket so in case I hated it I could come back home. But of course, South America absorbed me in as it probably does to every traveller; and I ended up staying for five months, only coming back because I started to run out of funds.

Before I went I didn’t know much about South America, from what I had heard it was full of crime and drugs. But the more I read about it I realised it was actually a backpackers paradise. I was scared of being by myself with no one to talk to for so many months, not having anyone to share experiences with.

How would I be safe, without anyone robbing or being violent with me? So many fears, but in the end, I was perfectly safe, and in fact, there is an amazing sense of community among the backpackers. You very quickly become a part ofthat.

Growing up as a woman in India, we believe the world is a scary place.What I learnt is that it isn’t, in fact, there are friends to be made every direction you turn. Even when I did adventurous activities like jumping off cliffs, or rock climbing, I had people supporting me the whole time, encouraging me that I can do it. Sometimes absolute strangers.

When something bad happened to someone, everyone would immediately drop everything to help them out. The feeling of community was welcoming and embracing. I ended up making so many friends, some of whom I am sure will visit me someday or vice versa.

Soon after my South America trip, I went on a backpacking trip to Indonesia with two of my girlfriends. As fun as it was because of the comfort of being with friends, I realised that we never met anyone else. We never went out of our way to chat or hang out or even make plans with others. We were very insulated. I think that being alone forces you to make friends and push yourself to be a much more open to new experiences.

My next big adventure is to go to Mongolia. I like the idea of discovering places that not too many people have been before. I want to push my boundaries and go to cities that are fairly undiscovered. There is an immense thrill and excitement, of going somewhere that I know so little about. You live life only once and you have to make the most of it.

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  • Vasundara Devi Gohil

    Professional Nomad. Travel Guide

    Vasundara Devi Gohil grew up in Chennai but has lived in Bengaluru and now Mumbai for the last 10 years. She had been working in the corporate sales and marketing field for the last 15 years with companies like Red Bull, Carlsberg and Stepathlon. When she could find the time in her busy work schedule, she always tried to go on adventure holidays. Over the last few years she has learnt how to Ski in Gulmarg, trek in Ladakh, Borneo, Bhutan, surf in Pondicherry and Chennai and bicycle in Tuscany. Her adventurous spirit is contagious and many of her friends have joined her on her escapades. After returning from South America just a few months ago, she went on the Stok Kangri Trek to Leh and just now returned from a month of backpacking around Indonesia.