After solo-backpacking to 20 states, 2 Union Territories and 130 cities in India – Swati Jain’s journey constantly debunks the notion that India is unsafe for women. Be it a faraway remote village or a city marked unsafe of woman – Swati has braved it all, shattering all preconceived notions and documenting it in her blog — buoyantfeet.com.
Only a handful dare to dream big and even fewer make it happen. When the thought of breaking away from the constraints of a mundane life struck Swati, she actually dared to quit her 8 year-long corporate life. And once she took off her majestic flight, it was as if the world had always been waiting for her.
Budding of a solo traveler
As far as Swati remembers, she has always loved traveling. Even as a kid, she would tell her friends stories of places that many did not know of, and her intriguing travel accounts as well. Little did she herself know that traveling would become her driving force one day. No wonder her friends regarded her as “another Columbus in making”. But actually, it was her trip to Ladakh in 2011 which changed things for her. That’s when something stuck her mind, making her realize that the world needs to be explored in the best possible way.
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The eye opener
Swati believes that it was after spending 96 hours and traveling 1,300 km in Bastar — a hinterland of Chhattisgarh — that she tasted real freedom. Nobody misbehaved with her, touched her or even looked at her in an unusual way. Once she observed the ‘bindass woman selling mahua at haat bazaar, the old woman selling flowers at Danteshwari temple down South, and the tribal shikari, she realized that something is terribly wrong in the way the urban sensibilities perceive them.
How she finances her travels
When Swati decided to go on her first-ever 6 month traveling adventure, she had thought that she would re-join her full-time job after that. But as she grew into it, she realized that she can’t restrain the traveler in her with a restricted number of days.
She was always clear that breaking off her savings to travel, is not an option. She had to look at options to earn while on the go. She began freelancing as a PR consultant, but internet connectivity issues made it difficult to handle assignments. And so, she decided to find other ways to finance her adventures — she set up her blog buoyantfeet.com, started doing brand collaborations and freelancing as a travel writer!
The challenges coming her way
But the first move is usually the most rebellious and requires the utmost courage. Naturally, she had to face numerous challenges and the biggest one of it was presented by none other than herself! Once she persuaded herself to follow her heart, she was motivated enough to convince her traditional family.
And it isn’t as if it was an easy road after that. One of the recurring challenges that she has been facing is tackling her family’s concern about her and meeting the expectations of the society. But she believes that if one decides to pursue something with all their heart, things start to fall in place — just like how her family now supports her rigorous traveling.
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On facing her fears, Alone!
Although Swati takes pride in traveling solo, it’s not that she has never been gripped by fear. Her budgeted travels require her to use local and public transport — be it in a faraway borderline village or even a hustling city marked as completely unsafe for women. Also, there have been moments when she has felt lost and clueless about the course to follow. She even got stuck in a graveyard once. But in situations like these, she maintains her calm, takes every step carefully, and keeps her pepper spray handy.
On being treated like a princess
Her fondest memory from her travel adventures is from Zanskar Valley. It was the way she was welcomed at a guesthouse and made to feel at home, which rekindled her faith in the beauty of humane bonds. The owners of the place took intense care of her throughout her stay — she was not allowed to sleep without dinner and they even made sure that she gets to see even the tiniest part of Zanskar. Grandpa, the eldest one there also appreciated and encouraged her solo traveling. Such incidents, however momentary, end up leaving a mark in a passionate traveler’s consciousness and offers precious lessons in life.
Her tips to solo female travelers
With time, Swati has learned to go unplanned. It is only the weather, and the route that she chalks out and the rest goes on with the flow. But she does have a lot of things to stay careful about when traveling solo. First of all, she believes that a solo traveler must never let go of her guard. She must have a strong presence of mind to handle things on the go.
For Swati, trusting your gut feeling is one thing but one must not go overboard in her attempts to seek adventures. Guidebooks must always be kept handy and getting into conversations with people who have already been there always helps.
No one is born fearless. But the actual glory lies in conquering your fears while playing it smart. Afterall, “darr ke aage jeet hai!”