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Lavanya Bahuguna


JWB Chats With Leena Bansal, The Girl Who Traveled The World Alone For A Year

  • JWB Post
  •  November 6, 2016


Some time back we promised to bring you a spill-it-all story of Leena Bansal a.k.a Miss Solo Traveler, the girl who traveled the world solo! (That’s the dream, right?)Leena has traveled more than 32 countries ALL ALONE in a duration of one year to explore the beauty of people worldwide while manifesting the confidence from within. I bet, her story will make you want to pack your bags & head for a vacation!

A solo traveler. Moreover, a girl. Phew, how did your parents react when you told them about your decision?

Convincing my family was a bit of a challenge actually. I had already traveled solo many a times, so they were really concerned about my safety. It was more about why at all I need to do this, isn’t a year too long, what would I gain through these travels, was it worth all the hard-earned money and what would happen in case of an emergency, etc.

I had no conclusive answers to any of that. But they got convinced nonetheless. Good for me!  

Did you doubt yourself or had any fear?

No, I never had any doubts! I am not afraid of failures. All I knew was that I have a year to travel around the world. And if I am able to pull through (despite the constraints of money, entry regulations in certain countries, food etc.), it would be worth it. And if not, I would be happy that I tried.

You had to live with strangers – ‘Queen’ moment! Tell us all about it.

I was traveling on budget; and one of the major expenses was lodging. In most countries, which are frequent among travelers, there are backpacker circuits where one can easily get a bed in a dormitory/hostel for cheap. For example – in all of S.E. Asia except Indonesia, I could get nice, clean and comfortable dorms for $5 a night!! The only point is that you get to share your room and bathrooms with strangers.

It must be an experience in itself! At this comes the 1st pocket-friendly advice for our readers.

(laughs) Yes. I would recommend everyone to stay in hostels, especially solo travelers. Hotels are the ideal places to meet new people, learn new things and make lifelong friends. I have prior experience of staying in hostels so I did not feel awkward except for a day when I was the only girl in a room with 5 male travelers from Frankfurt & Germany. By the way, I learnt some quick cooking hacks from fellow travelers in Zagreb during one such time.

Did you ever feel insecure in any country that you have been to?

No, not even in Mexico and Myanmar that most of us perceive as dangerous places. The world is much nicer and safer than we think.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten in your travels?

I’m a vegetarian so I didn’t eat anything too weird, thankfully. But I remember this one incidence when I was quite hungry and found a lady selling something that looked like a fruit. This was in Mexico. I ate happily only to be told by a fellow traveler that it was cactus fruit! OMG! I had never known that cactus is edible, so it felt pretty funny.

What kind of food items did you carry from India?

I carried few packets of oats. It is better to carry as less as possible if you are planning a backpack.

Was it difficult for you adjusting everywhere?

I was not required to follow a protocol or a way of doing things in any of the countries I have traveled till date. 

Being a traveler gives you freedom, you are no more bounded by rules and obligations. I was once asked for fine by the Police for riding in the wrong lane in Amsterdam. I made a sorry face and told him that I’m a tourist, and he let me go. Life is easy, you see.

Did anyone try to flirt with you? Be honest.

I dealt smartly by being absolutely loud and clear about my disinterest in such people. And sometimes, by flirting back. *winks*

Which country, in your opinion, has the most handsome men?


What is your biggest concern while traveling solo?

Not falling sick on the roads. Argh!

Three must-haves that you always carried in your handbag?

Money, Identification proof, and mobile phone.

Most memorable moment?

Too many to state here. In last one year, I’ve lived more – much more than all my other years put together.

There are many favorite moments. One of them was teaching English to six-year-old kids in Vang Vieng, Laos. I have never taught someone as young as these kids. The days I spent with them were full of laughter, It was almost like an introduction to motherhood – to understand the naughtiness behind the innocent faces and constant antics.

Aww. It must be hard to bid goodbye to people you meet during trips, right?

YES. On the road, people tend to make real friends, not based on the social standing, reputation, education, money looks or any other judgment related to their past or future. They make friends on the basis of genuine liking for each other.

What’s next?

Traveling. More traveling. I plan to start working and saving again.

What do you do apart from traveling?

I read. I love to cook and experiment. Also, teaching is my passion.

How can our women readers do a budget-travel?

  1. Save whatever money possible.
  2. Cut on unnecessary expenses – you do not need that extra dress, shoes or purse.
  3. Take a side (freelance) job for extra earnings. 
  4. Learn to invest. I’m really bad in making investment choices, but I know people who make handsome money from stocks.

Which place should be our first destination?

For the first-time women solo travelers, I would suggest places that are easy to navigate, safe and have varied experiences to offer. In India, I would suggest women to pick up any destination in Himachal Pradesh. Spiti, Kinnaur, and Chitkul are my favorites. These places are really beautiful, people are open and friendly and easy transportation options are available.  

For international travel, I suggest Slovenia. It is less expensive as compared to other countries in Europe and you can find beautiful landscape and architecture there.

And finally, why do you think women should travel alone?

To know themselves, to learn about their inner strengths. In our society, women are raised in a way that they feel the need of support from outside. But when they travel solo, they change their perception as well as that of society’s.

(Pictures are Leena’s own)

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