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The nation through the eyes of Solo Female Travellers...

With the law getting stricter for females who want to travel or work outside of Nepal, what is it like to travel alone within the country then?

2021 Feb 18, 17:19, Kathmandu
Photo Courtesy: Ashmita Thapa Via FB

With the law getting stricter for females who want to travel or work outside of Nepal, what is it like to travel alone within the country then?

If we look at Nepal’s culture, families are very reluctant when it comes to a girl travelling alone.

But why, you ask?

Well, ladies know what their family would say!

It is not safe, take your brother with you even when you just go to the shop, or don’t get out of the house once it is dark.

However, is telling the girls not to go, really the solution? Has this fact really changed anything?

There is a saying, ‘What you do makes a difference. And you can decide what kind of a difference you want to make.’

But one cannot stay home and hope everything becomes perfect.

Yes, a woman travelling alone in Nepal is not easy but it is not impossible as well.

There are many who have proven that the societal norms of how a lady should not travel alone because it is not safe, is wrong.

Talking to a few of the solo female travellers in Nepal about what was their inspiration and their experience like, they all put an emphasis on how before going out alone, you have to be prepared for anything.

Photo Courtesy: Pooja Rijal/ FB
Photo Courtesy: Pooja Rijal/ FB

 I asked Pooja Rijal, an avid traveller, about her inspiration to travel alone!

She notes, “I got my inspiration to travel alone when I travelled alone for the first time, because no one knows what it is like if you don’t try it yourself. I think it’s like a chicken and egg situation — what came first? You don’t really get inspired to go out until you’ve gone out. And once you’ve done that you are your own inspiration.”

Photo Courtesy: Ashmita Thapa/ FB
Photo Courtesy: Ashmita Thapa/ FB

 When asked how she convinced her family for her first solo trip, Ashmita Thapa, went on to explain, “I think the first solo trip is always a matter of concern to family and friends. It needs time and patience to convince them, especially regarding our own security. Sometimes things may not go as we plan. Even getting a single room might be difficult while travelling alone. People might be too concerned about you.”

As exciting as solo travelling sounds, it surely is not an easy task!

Just going out to eat alone is such a big debate, so imagine being far away from home for a long time.

Talking about one of her recent travels, Rijal said, “Recently I came back from a 67-day solo trip to Khaptad-Bajura-Rara-Jumla-Dolpa-Solu. This trip was the most difficult for me (emotionally, mentally and physically). I was in Dolpa, Kaigaun village planning to go to Shey Phoksundo lake. I heard from a local friend that there is a lake called Jagdulla, a two-day trip away, where besides the locals, no tourists have been to! There are no settlements along the way so I had to camp. I was determined to go because I heard a lot of stories about it but there’s no location of the lake on the map. The next morning, I left with my backpack and the trail was so difficult and it went uphill. I couldn’t find the lake even on the second day. I got lost, and only had food supplies for two days. I think I had hiked up to somewhere around 4,500 metres and it was extremely cold with no human interaction. I was so close to losing my mind. But on the third day, I tried again — and guess what, I succeeded. I remembered what my friend had told me about the trails and some landmarks. When I found the place, there were three lakes.”

A woman travelling alone is not the most common thing in our nation.

Photo Courtesy: Nirmala Bhandari/ FB
Photo Courtesy: Nirmala Bhandari/ FB

Meanwhile, Nirmala Bhandari says, “Surely it is not a common thing but I have met a lot of people who were so welcoming! But there were some who refused to accept the fact that I am doing a solo trip in a scooter, there even were some suggesting not to go alone. But then, there were few for whom my travel story was a motivation. Different reactions in different places.”

 As per their experience of solo travelling, when asked about what they think about the law that says a woman under 40 should seek consent from the family if they want to travel abroad, Thapa said, “Whether there is a law or not, we usually inform our family and close ones about our journey.”

“That is a matter of our personal sharing, bonding and concerns. Regarding the law wanting consent from family and ward offices of women under 40, I don't think it's going to end any type of women violence,” she adds. “Rather it is taking away a woman’s freedom to make decisions and to move. Voting is open from age 18 by the government saying they are mature enough to choose the parties but regarding travelling under 40, women are incapable, what kind of logic is this?” she questions.

When asked on what girls who are willing to travel alone should be careful about they all mentioned that one needs to be prepared and take things one step at a time but travelling has a way of transforming your life.

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