A Blonde Woman Traveling Alone In India
Traveling India as a Blonde Woman
Exploring 3 Indian States in 3 Months
A Blonde Woman Traveling Alone in India - 3 States in 3 Months
As I try to make myself comfortable on a thin plastic mattress in an ashram dorm, the heat feels almost unbearable. And so do the mosquitoes buzzing around. Music is blasting from the speakers of the nearby temple, keeping me awake. This is definitely not how I envisioned the start of my travels in India. I feel alone, tired and overwhelmed. And most of all upset over the fact that my suitcase (including practically everything I own) went missing at the airport. Was I naive to envision myself as a blonde woman traveling alone in India?
Introduction To Indian Life
The next day I have to admit to myself that ashram life is not my cup of tea. Thankfully my suitcase resurfaces that same day. After a 4-hour drive back to the airport to pick it up, I decide to stay in the nearby city. Kochi is one of the largest cities in the southern state of Kerala. And to be honest: I know absolutely zero about it. All I know is that I need a good night’s sleep and a new game plan.
I end up in Fort Kochi, a beautiful old colonial neighbourhood. The houses might have an European vibe to it; it is still India. I cannot walk 10 meters without a rickshaw driver approaching me: “Rickshaw, ma‘am?“ Everywhere I go people stare it me. It takes me about a week (and a cold) before I get used to the heat. I am covered in mosquito bites of epic sizes - until I discover the holy grail of mosquito repellents: Odomos.
Finding My Way
Fast forward to 3 weeks later. I am on the back of a Royal Enfield motor bike, soaring through crazy traffic. And since I am not wearing a helmet, I will definitely not be telling my parents about this adventure later on. I do trust the driver though. I met Reny about a week earlier when he showed up as my Uber driver. We kept in touch and now we are off to one of the largest shopping malls in Asia together. But not before we have a cup of chai (milk tea) and chat while sitting on the side of the road.
As we walk around the stores of the gigantic mall (really, an ice-skate park in India?) a burp escapes my mouth. Embarrassed I apologize. “Why you say sorry?”, Reny responds. “It is natural.“ I smile. We both start laughing. Suddenly India does not feel so foreign to me after all. I feel at ease. As if I was out with my own friends in my hometown. Except that in the Netherlands absolutely no one would care to take a second look at my blue eyes, pale skin and blonde hair.
Getting To Know The South Of India
Kochi wins over my heart. At the end of every day it feels like coming home to the family that runs my guesthouse. I find out where to take yoga classes, how to use the local ferry and where to buy the best fruits. When walking in ‘my‘ neighbourhood I usually bump into at least one person I know or that wants to have a chat. It proves you will eventually find your way anywhere on the globe - even as a blonde woman traveling alone in India.
Despite my rough start, I end up staying in India for 3 whole months. Visiting different places in the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Goa. Every area has its own unique vibe. I will forever remember the serene backwaters of Alleppey, the huge night market in Goa and the characteristic former French colony of Pondicherry.
However, a few things appear to be universal in India. For instance, that everything seems to be on steroids. Nothing is average or modest. From the spicy food, colorful saris and extremely hospitable people - I mean, who else would invite you to a family function after only knowing you for 2 weeks? To picture-perfect sunsets, the smells on the street and the insane amount of traffic and mosquitoes.
Would I do it again?
Looking back on these 3 months in incredible India; would I do it all over again if I could? Or would I skip the ashram and start my travels in a more westernized country instead? Well, the life of a blond womanl traveling alone in India has definitely been quite the experience. I do not think I can compare it to any of my previous experiences abroad.
Overall my conclusion would be that India is both the best and the worst place to visit as a woman traveling by herself. Yes, it is an over-crowded and overwhelming place where you have to bring your common sense when it comes to safety. I felt it was key to communicate clearly and confidently. Even if that might be perceived as impolite in my own culture.
At the same time India is also home to delicious (vegetarian) food, stunning nature and the friendliest people I have ever met. You cannot leave India without making at least a few new friends. And for the record: I was never robbed or approached in an unpleasant way during those 3 months. I am not saying this will never happen to anyone. In fact, it can (unfortunately) happen anywhere in the world. But viewing India as merely a dangerous, dirty or poor country, simply does not do it justice. It does not even come close.
Until Next Time!
On my last day in India I take a taxi to the airport of Goa. Since I still have a lot of credit left on my Indian sim card, I decide to make some calls. Saying goodbye to the friends I have made so far. Every single one of them is happy to hear from me. At the airport itself I meet up with Rahul, a friend who works in one of the shops. He asks me when his ‘chechi‘ (older sister) will return to India. When that will be, I do not know. But one thing is for sure: I will be back one day!
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