We’re fascinated by the fearlessness of solo travelers, so we asked Michelle Sander (a freelance writer and award-winning filmmaker) to find people living the solo-travel lifestyle and talk about what it’s really like behind the social feeds (with some honest language-learning advice, obviously). We’ll be publishing on #TravelTuesday, so let us know what you think and if you’d like more articles like this.
Solo-Traveler Suma Das Plans Trips and Forges Friendships on the Road
Today we hear from Suma Das, a London-based solo-traveler who’s always making plans for her next trip. In addition to working full-time in public policy, this polyglot has traveled all over the world, photographing her journey and picking up new friends at every destination. With a trip to South America slated for the fall, Suma has a plan to learn to speak Spanish more confidently in time for her next big solo-travel adventure to Argentina.
You’re really never alone when you’re a solo traveler. You can find common connections in the most random places, which can turn into great friendships.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
A: I’m a second generation British Indian. I grew up in Manchester, which is in North West England, but I’ve been living in London for the last 14 years.
Q: What do you think drives your desire to head into the unknown?
A: I like that you can experience new things about yourself. When you are a solo-traveler, you aren’t held back by other people’s expectations.
Q: Tell us about your first solo adventure.
A: My first solo-travel trip was to New York City. I traveled on my own and stayed with family in Connecticut.
Q: Can you tell us about your latest solo-travel experience?
A: Most recently, I went on a week-long trip to Sardinia by myself, which I always find a little daunting at first. It was on my second night in Cagliari that I stumbled past a cute cafe and decided that I would have breakfast there, as the manager was so nice and friendly. The following morning I went there for breakfast and had such a nice conversation with the manager. Turns out that she had lived and worked in the UK–London and Leeds—I lived in Leeds when I did my post-grad and it was my first time away from home. Then another fellow solo-traveler came in and ordered breakfast; she too started talking to the manger. Then, I started talking to her (I sometimes can’t help myself from talking to random strangers). The next thing I know all three of us were chatting about life and trading travel stories.
What I love about this experience is that you’re really never alone when you’re a solo traveler. You can find common connections in the most random places, which can turn into great friendships.
Q: What are a few of your solo-traveling must-haves?
A: You must have confidence in yourself. You are your own number-one supporter who says: You can do this! I think you also need a personality that is open to new people and experiences.
You must have confidence in yourself. You are your own number-one supporter who says: You can do this!
Q: Do you think learning languages is an important aspect of being a global-focused traveler?
A: Absolutely. Learning the local language is part of respecting local culture and broadening one’s own knowledge.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your experience learning languages?
A: Sure, English is my first language. I’m fluent and, more importantly, I dream in English. My mother tongue is Bengali. I started speaking Bengali when I was about six years old. I was able to pick up Hindi—it’s a North Indian language, like Bengali—while I was watching Indian films that had English subtitles on TV. I also studied French and Spanish is high school, but I have a limited proficiency with those. I’m hoping to get more comfortable speaking Spanish soon, however, in preparation for my next solo-travel trip to Argentina.
Q: How do you plan for the photos, the friendships, the culture, and all the delicious food to make for the perfect solo trip?
A: Plan enough for a trip, but don’t over plan it. I always get a guide book, but I don’t really look through it until I get to my destination, and even then I use it to get my bearings and help me plan out what I want to see and do. Sometimes I research restaurants, and other times I go for a wander and follow my gut. I take photos of things I like and not whether it will look good on Instagram. When solo traveling, it’s better to just go with the flow.
Q: So, where’s next for you?
A: I’m fully focused on my next trip to Argentina in the fall. I’ve a lot of planning still to do, but one item already on my Argentina to-do list is Tango dancing lessons.
Q: Any parting advice for aspiring solo travelers?
A: Go for it, and start small. Travel somewhere that is near to home at first. Also, I think it’s important to record your trip. Whether it be keeping a travel diary, taking photos, or saving tickets and receipts from the places you have visited or had a good meal at, make a point to document your adventure.
Go for it, and start small. Travel somewhere that is near to home at first.
If you’ve been inspired by Suma’s travel stories to take off on a tango-dancing, Spanish-speaking adventure of your own, Rosetta Stone offers lessons in over 25 languages including Spanish, Hindi, French and English, which were all mentioned here. Rosetta Stone gave her a three-month subscription to their award-winning app. If you’d like to follow Suma, you can find her on Instagram and Twitter.
Build your confidence to have real conversations with Rosetta Stone.