Its not safe.
You’ll get bored?
What if something bad happens?
There are terrorists in Kashmir.
What if you got kidnapped?”
These were responses not from my parents, but from people my own age. In this post I’d like to address these very legitimate concerns.
Media has portrayed Kashmir as a war zone for so many years , So of course when I was about to embark on my solo trip to Kashmir I was nervous as hell. But from fellow travelers I had heard that it was very safe and that there was nothing to worry about, so I decided to go ahead with it. Best decision I ever made!
The driver who picked me up at the airport had the most beautiful eyes and super cool accent, like most Kashmiris, and he was extremely nice and chivalrous, like most Kashmiris. At Dal lake there was a Shikara waiting to take me to Houseboat Ambassador. Mr.Husam, the houseboat owner was waiting outside for me, and gave me a super warm welcome. I said I had to call me parents and tell them I had made it there safely. He said ‘Call them and tell them you’re home’.
The next few days were unbelievably amazing. I did get a few ‘Why are you traveling alone’s and ‘Why aren’t you married’s, but all in very friendly nature. I had the most incredible conversations with strangers, got blessings from a Mullah at Jama Masjid, hiked Affarwat peak in Gulmarg, marveled over waterfalls in Pahalgam, dipped my feet in the pristine rivers (never seen such clean white rivers in my life), met the sweetest Kashmiri family at the Mughal Gardens and drank Namkin Chai with them, made two girlfriends who worked at a beauty salon and got invited to a wedding, got stuck in a shikara traffic jam on Dal Lake, listened to the music of insects and birds in the wilderness. I woke up to the sound of Azan and the view of mountains reflecting on the lake and spent my evenings sipping Kahwa and talking to men and women who rowed around selling flowers, and traditional jewelry.
With all due respect to all the skeptics, I’d like to try to bust some of the myths about solo travel and Kashmir in general.
Its not safe – I was never bothered by people on the streets, and nobody gave me a hard time trying to sell me services. If there is any place in India I would recommend to my fellow solo female travelers, it is Kashmir. I would never have felt this safe in Delhi or Rajasthan or Kerala.
You’ll get bored – I hope my description of the trip has convinced you that I was never bored. Solo travel can be extremely rewarding. The best part about traveling alone is that you’re never really alone. You are more open to connecting with strangers- natives and fellow travelers; you end up making some good friends and learning so much from them. There are always people eager to have a conversation and willing to help before you even ask. Finally if you do get some alone time, you learn to enjoy your own company.. If there is such a thing as ‘Soul Searching’, this has to be the coolest way to do it. Boredom is out of the question!
What if something bad happens – Something bad can happen anywhere in the world at anytime. Don’t stop living!
There are terrorists in Kashmir – I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting any terrorists, nor did I hear of any terrorist activities in the area. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is the most heavily militarized area in the world, so you are safer here than anywhere else in the world.
What if you got kidnapped – Don’t walk around alone at night and you’ll be fine. This holds true for any place in India, or for cities like New York and London.
Kashmir truly is paradise on earth. Going alone can be an intimidating idea, but try it and it may just turn out to be the most exciting thing you’ve ever done!