CultureTravel Can Women Have A ‘Spirit’ for Adventure?: Problems Women Travellers Face

Can Women Have A ‘Spirit’ for Adventure?: Problems Women Travellers Face

Maybe we’re not entitled to adventure because we’re women, maybe we’re not entitled to travel because we’re women, maybe we’re not entitled to be masters of our own lives because we’re women.

So much happened over the past week that, aside from writing, I couldn’t quite fathom another outlet. My best friend, Tish and I decided we’d catch up for a break after a particularly taxing semester in law school. I’ve not yet reached a stage where I can call myself a traveler, but I am habituated to travelling, or so I would like to think.

This trip from Delhi all the way to Kasol came about as a result of a bizarre semi-drunken night, when Tish and I decided we were going to hop on to the next bus and let the mountains take us on a heady adventure. On a hazy, smog-filled December night, the both of us stepped on board a bus headed straight toward the beguiling Himachal. Our bag packs packed, laces tightly secured and pepper sprays in hand, we were ready to look adventure in the eye, and experience it head on.

On stepping aboard the bus, we were assigned seats right next to four strapping, young gentlemen. After a simple exchange of glances, we threw on our headphones and went adrift in the world outside the window. Every time one of the gentlemen decided they wanted to switch seats, they would brush past me, often ‘accidentally’ touching me somewhere. Another would routinely yawn, and stretch long enough that his arm would end up brushing my shoulder. I felt like an object under constant observation. The lad next to Tish would continually lean uncomfortably close to her and make undesired conversation. We exchanged sympathetic glances. Should I simply shrug it off, I thought to myself? Or was this uncomfortable feeling an unworthy companion I would have to tolerate for the rest of my journey to my destination?

After stepping off the bus, I was glad I was removed from their company and we checked-in to, what can be best described as a run-down hotel building converted into a hostel. We were greeted with eerie silence by the manager who was singlehandedly undertaking the mammoth task of maintaining the entire place. Too tired to feel paranoid of our surroundings, Tish and I kicked off our shoes and fell flat for a nap in our room which was connected to the entire structure only through a small staircase.

Waking up to absolute darkness can be an overwhelming feeling, but we decided the short trek into the town through the mountains. After trekking, we reached the town embellished with multiple quaint cafes and shops selling items made of hemp. We decided upon a dimly lit cafe where we were greeted by an overly enthusiastic server. We exchanged a few pleasantries with the server and asked him about his town. In his gaiety he narrated to us, many incidents from his life. Were we being over friendly? My inner self questioned and cautioned. My intuition was right on the money. Soon enough, upon exiting the cafe, the server followed us in his Omni van till we almost reached our hostel and then asked us where exactly we were staying, and whether if he could join in ‘for a smoke’. Sure enough, our simple exchange of pleasantries meant we were looking for something else.

Tish and I shrugged it off, determined to not let ‘petty’ things ruin our enthusiasm for adventure. Although the “He might find out which room is ours and come barging in” was a thought that lay hanging in the air, unaddressed.

The next night, we sat by the bonfire under the stars in the chilly mountain night, and were greeted by two gentlemen who both identified themselves as ex-financiers. After a great conversation, and exchanging a couple of drinks, sure enough they decided that they could invite themselves over to our room. Terrified and suddenly more aware of our situation, we blatantly refused. With pounding hearts, we climbed up to our room as those guys watched us leave. My inner self questioned their intentions. And yet again, my intuition was proven right. We were greeted with incessant banging on our door at 3 AM in the morning.

Again, I was relieved to be leaving that hotel and those people behind. We boarded a local bus to Manali. As per the norm in local buses, we were subject to groping, inappropriate touching and even more staring. In fact, I had the pleasure of a man staring directly into my lap and pushing his crotch into my face.

We reached Manali, and I tried to hold back tears from the bus ride. What had the world come to, I kept thinking. 

Upon reaching our hotel in Manali, I thought to myself, I’m taking the next bus back home if I’m faced with another such predicament. We checked into yet another hotel, better-looking, more well maintained building. Not letting these incidents get the better of us, we reasoned that things have got to become better from here onward.

We sat by the fire as the temperature dipped to zero degrees. We sipped tea as our teeth chattered, shivering, we huddled close to the fire, surrounded by the majestic Himalayas. Feeling visibly less paranoid, we enjoyed the company of the group of men we met in the hotel. After narrating the incidents of the past two nights, the men seemed to take offence. It all boiled down to the argument that girls are always, indeed, “asking for it”.

When a group (including men, of course) of my friends had taken a similar trip earlier this year, they had to conjure the energy to battle people who would potentially rob them, the energy to battle the cold, the energy to brave the mountains, the energy to make their way through throngs of tourists. When we went, aside from the above, we needed to power-up doubly to ward off people who would grope us the moment they got a chance, the people who would follow us and force themselves upon us once they found out we were travelling alone, men who had made intricate plans about our respective futures just because they knew all we had was each other.

Maybe we’re not entitled to adventure because we’re women, maybe we’re not entitled to travel because we’re women, maybe we’re not entitled to be masters of our own lives because we’re women.

Maybe my mom is right as she tells me,

“Take the next trip with your husband! He’ll protect you” she pipes heartily.

Also read: My Experiences of Solo Travelling: Why I Travel Solo And Why Should You Too


  1. Alka says:

    Its very well written! And as a woman traveller myself, I have faced a host of similar problems and so many more!

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