When people think of women travelling solo, the first thing that comes to mind is safety and societal judgement. However, singer, songwriter, content writer, and traveller Amanda Sodhi did not allow judgemental comments put a hamper on her travelling. She lived out of her suitcase for an entire year and travelled across ten cities.
Born and raised in Washington DC, Amanda Sodhi moved back to India and lived in Mumbai and Kolkata. However, none of these places felt like home. As a single woman in her 30s, she began feeling out of place and struggled to find where she belonged. Then, she went on a year-long journey to find herself and lived out of one suitcase.
The content writer and social media consultant took advantage of her lifestyle as a digital nomad and balanced work, travel, and judgemental looks for a year as she travelled from city to city. She also took the opportunity to pursue freelance projects as a singer, songwriter, voice-over artist and filmmaker.
Sodhi's first solo travel trip took place after she moved to Los Angeles when she was 23. Sodhi's friends weren't available to go on a trip, so she went alone. Why delay her plans when she was capable of travelling on her own?
In an interview with SheThePeople, Amanda Sodhi spoke about what sparked her interest in travel, her experiences with living out of her suitcase, and the challenges of being a female solo traveller.
Interview With Amanda Sodhi
What Sparked Her Interest In Travel?
While Amanda Sodhi's first solo trip took place when she was 23, she often heard stories of her father's fondness for travelling. Unfortunately, financial restrictions and growing up in a strict family meant that travelling alone was out of the question.
Her first solo trip was to the Grand Canyon, which had been on her bucket list for some time. Since Las Vegas happened to be along the way, she ventured there. Why didn't Sodhi choose to travel with a group of friends instead? It's simple, they weren't available at the time.
"My friends weren't getting time off at the same time, and it didn't make sense to delay my plans when I could go by myself. I realised travelling solo isn't that big of a deal, and from then onward, I haven't really shied away from going anywhere alone," said Sodhi.
She added that being a solo traveller didn't mean she would mind having company. "It's just that I don't see any reason to sit there twiddling my thumbs, hoping someone will accompany me when I can just go and explore the world on my own, instead."
Suggested Reading: Why Do We Still Have Problems With Women Traveling Alone?
Living Out Of One Suitcase For A Year
Sodhi spoke about the concept of home and how the places she lived in never felt like home. She said, "People always equate home with family, and at the time I decided to embark upon the journey of living out of a suitcase for 12 months across 10 cities, I was estranged from my family completely - by choice - and wondered what home could possibly mean for me if I don't equate it with my biological family per se."
Sodhi decided to visit a different city each month while sitting in a shikara at Dal Lake on Diwali in 2020. She wanted to do something constructive and try out a minimalistic way of living to see whether her definition of home changed.
Sodhi also said, "It's also very challenging in your 30s as a single woman in India - culturally, people look at their cousins as their primary circle of friends, and then many people look at their partners' friends as their next circle of friends. You begin feeling out of place."
Travelling also gave Sodhi the opportunity to work on her creative outlets. "A creative person needs to experience and observe life. Travelling teaches me a lot - it allows me to understand people across cultures. And, I'm sure these insights do subconsciously make their way into my work," Sodhi shares.
Her travels inspired her to begin working on a memoir about her journey living out of a suitcase for 12 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. The memoir is tentatively titled Twelve Steps To Hope.
As a self-described digital nomad, Sodhi could balance her professional career and artistic endeavours as she travelled through India. She clarified that digital nomads worked remotely, not people on a "permanent vacation". Sodhi allocated certain days each week to explore new places and the culture, the rest of the time, she was living a "pretty normal life" as she worked on her content writing and digital marketing projects for clients.
Challenges Of Being A Female Solo Traveller
In an expected turn of events, people's judgement was the most challenging aspect of being a female solo traveller. Sodhi said, "I remember one ex-client told me it'll be very difficult to get married since men and their parents will assume I must have had an affair in every city I visited and am 'characterless'".
Sodhi admitted that she came across several men who disapproved that she was a woman who went where ever she wanted while they had to ask their parents for permission. She also had to suffer through people's taunts such as, "solo traveller ho toh poori zindagi solo hi rehna".
Sodhi added, "I don't know if male solo travellers get this much hate - but, I have noticed a lot of people feel jealousy and insecurity when a woman lives her life to the fullest."
Travelling solo for a year may have been an enriching experience, but it also took a toll on Sodhi's physical and mental health. Having to uproot herself as soon as she began to settle into a place took its toll, and there were times when Sodhi felt down in the dumps.
However, the avid traveller pushed through by promising to "surrender to the process for the whole year and go with the flow". Her goal of writing a memoir about the journey motivated her to keep going and not quit halfway through her year-long journey.
"Sometimes you need to willingly give up the illusion of being in control," said Sodhi.
Advice To Women Who Want To Take Up Solo Travel
Sodhi advised women to travel solo a few times to understair their capabilities. She said, "It's important to learn how to enjoy your company. When you travel solo, you finally understand you don't need to use people you already know as crutches - you are perfectly capable of doing anything you want alone, and that's a liberating realisation to arrive at."