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'Women can travel solo in India'

Baishali Adak, Aug 21, 2013, DHNS: 19:55 IST
indophile: Canadian national Mariellen Ward writes a blog on travelling in India.
Lakhs of foreign tourists visit India every year. Some of them have bad experiences, others have good stories to share and then there are those who are so mesmerised that they look for opportunities to return. But none can be compared to the story of Canadian national, Mariellen Ward.

Mariellen first landed in India in 2005, under difficult personal circumstances. Since then, she has been so ‘healed’ and ‘inspired’ by the country that she has turned a travel blogger writing specifically on India and giving solo women tourists tips on travelling ‘safely’ in the country. Her hugely-popular blog breathedreamgo.com was recently voted The Best Travel Blog by Canadian Weblog Awards and amongst the top 50 blogs on India by IndiBloggers. She has also compiled her writings into a book titled Songs of India.

“I had a rather troubled childhood cause of medical issues and then my parents separating. During my thirties, I underwent another traumatic time when my parents died within a few years of each other and my fianc called it quits. Thankfully, at that time, I discovered yoga. Over time, as I read more and more on yoga, I felt this strong urge to visit India – a kind of urge which you just cannot resist.”

Mariellen got in touch with a long-lost Indian friend and arrived at his place in Delhi. For six months, she toured India by herself – Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Kerala, Darjeeling - all the ‘touristy’ spots one can count. Mariellen says that from the first step she placed in India, she felt at home, “I felt like I always belonged here, like the universe had conspired to send me here.”

“Initially, I started to write on a shared weblog just to keep my family informed of my travels here. But gradually, I realised that India was giving me the confidence and content to become a full-time writer, something I had always wanted to be. After I went back, I started my own blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts - breathedreamgo. My successive visits here further widened my horizons and provided matter for my writings.”

India is, apparently, considered ‘the most difficult place’ to navigate among tourists. So when Mariellen started a travel blog on India, backpackers, especially solo women, flocked to her site. “They would ask me for tips on travelling here and I realised that I hardly ever faced any problems cause of my smart travelling strategies and accepting India as it is.”

“For example, you cannot wear tank-tops and shorts here. It isn’t safe, smart or respectable. Don’t haggle for a few rupees with taxi drivers. Think of it as going for better educational and health facilities for someone. During Holi, do not go out on the streets. Some of it is also common sense like don’t arrive at the airport at two in the morning and carry yourself confidently to avoid people with ill-intentions.”

Mariellen would have posted such tips a dozen times, but she re-posted it recently after the December 16 gangrape. “Everyone is shocked. Tourists, especially women, have become much more cautious since then. But I still believe that a woman can travel all by herself in the country without facing harassment. Just have a plan in place and go by it. India is not for plain holidaying. Experience it.”

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