Several women are taking up solo travel and many travel agencies are bringing out special packages to cater to their needs.
This is the tale of Pournami, who was once just a traveller, and now a buddy for several other women travellers.
Pournami Vijayan of Kochi harboured a dream of travelling solo. One day she broached up the topic with her husband, whose reply took her by surprise. 'If you want to go, what's the need for asking me?' quipped her husband, and Pournami did not waste any more time.
Pournami approached Appooppanthaadi, that organises women-only trips, and was able to cover good number of places in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
"First, I go to a place on my own. Then I go to the same place with a group as its 'buddy.' Like that I got a chance to see the same place several times," she said.
Pournami has literally become the best buddy for several women, out to try their own trips instead of just tagging along with family.
"Whenever I tag along with the groups of Appoopanthadi as a buddy, my own travelling experience gets enhanced," she remarked.
Valley of Flowers
Though Pournami has made several trips, her most memorable journey is the trek to the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand.
First, she went to the Valley of Flowers as a tourist and the second time, she accompanied as a buddy. Still, Pournami says has not had enough. Given another chance, Pourbami would pounce at it. "I would love to go again," she says.
Recounting her travel, Pournami said that she took a flight to Dehradun and then boarded a bus to Rishikesh. Next she headed to Devprayag, which is the confluence point of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers, that flow down as River Ganga.
"At this place, the rivers can be seen in two different colours. It is just exhilarating. On one side you would see these huge boulders and on the other side is the roaring river of Alknanda.
"Our travel up the hill is parallel to Alknanda's route. It is one of the most dangerous routes through which you would ever travel. Steep hills, and curves need to be carefully navigated even with one side of the road dropping into a gorge," Pournami explained.
Pournami pointed out that the vehicles traversing through these difficult terrains do not have an audio system. "Because even one moment of carelessness can be fatal. Another thing I noticed during the travel was that the drivers were not looking ahead as is the usual case. They are mostly looking up while driving. Even if small rocks fall down from the mountainous path, they stop the vehicle. And will continue only after ensuring that no more rocks would fall on the bus," she added
The next stop is Hemkund. The world-famous Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib is situated here.
The Gurudwara, and the nearby village would be covered by snow for six months. Only during the four months from June to September, devotees and travellers mostly head to this village which is in the Chamoli district.
The trekking to Valley of Flowers starts at the village of Pulna, which is about 4km away from Govindghat. Transportation is only available till Pulna. You need to cover a distance of 40 km over four days to reach the dream destination. But according to Pournami, it is not a very difficult trek.
"As it was a high-altitude trip, I had gone to the gym and ensured that the body was fit to undertake the trek. One of the highlights of the trip was that I was accompanied by my mother. The sheer ease with which she climbed proved that her age of 53 was just a number.
"When your mind decides on achieving certain goals, then the age will never be an obstacle," she added.
How the trek progresses
From Pulna to Ghangaria - 9 km (up)
Ghangaria - Valley - 10 km (up and down)
Ghangaria to Hemkund Sahib - 12 km (up and down)
Ghangaria to Pulna - 9 km (down)
And at the end of the long trek, I finally set my foot on the Valley of Flowers.
"It is an inexplicable feeling. The four months from June to September is the blooming season. 521 varieties of flowering plants. The most special flower here is Brahma Kamal. Though I went twice to the valley, I could not catch a glimpse of this flower," rued Pournami.
Pournami rounded off her last trip to the valley by visiting Badrinath and Mana.
And her best travel partner is...
Pournami often goes to road trips with her husband. And one such trip Kolkata in 2018 is her most memorable journey.
"As both of us like to travel a lot, sometimes we just take our car and hit the road. Our trip to Kolkata happened just like that. Everyone should get to see Kolkata at least once in our lifetime.
"It is an amazing city. This place is so rich both culturally and historically. However, on our return trip we got to hear about the floods affecting our state. We were really disheartened about the news," she added.