Since setting off on her solo backpacking journey to India, Bangladesh and Myanmar a month ago, Mariia Dubyna, a Ukrainian, had embraced her natural tendency to throw herself headlong into the unknown and go on a path of discovery. Being a solo female traveller is hard. The parents are incessantly worried; friends back home are constantly messaging and the hands are wrung every time someone hears that a woman a travelling alone across countries. “But the world out there is full of pleasant surprises. I prefer to see the positive experiences of life, which by its magnanimity by far eclipses anything negative. And the experience of travelling solo is extremely rewarding, and even cathartic in a way,” says the 28-year-old. Mariia is on a self-funded tour across the three countries and recently made a halt at Vizag to interact with travel enthusiasts of Youth Hostel Association of India and women, specifically, sharing how travelling around the world transformed her.
In the past four years, Mariia went backpacking to the US, South Africa, Nambia, UAE, Bolvia, Peru, Laod, Cambodia and Vietnam, but if there is one country close to her heart, she says it is India.
“This is my seventh visit to the country and each time I discover something new. You don’t judge before you experience – that’s what India taught me. There is a sort of balance in the way of life here, away from the rat race of life,” says Mariia, who works as an HR professional in Poland. Her deep connection with India began in 2015 when she came visiting her boyfriend in Varanasi. Fascinated by spirituality and the ancient practice of yoga, Mariia kept returning to the country to explore the hinterlands and take lessons in yoga. “I practice yoga and meditation every day and it has greatly helped me in my trying times. This time I wanted to do a course in yoga so that I can get back home and teach others,” she says. Mariia completed a three-week yoga training course in Chennai before embarking on her next leg of the journey, covering Vizag and Kolkata and Bangladesh.
It’s not just yoga that she has taken back with her from India. One of Mariia’s prized possessions from her India travels is a book called Taste of India. “I love Indian food and I have become a turmeric addict,” she laughs. She even got back with her a pressure cooker and a dosa pan and has “nearly” mastered the art of making a perfect dosas and parathas. “This is what travelling solo can do to your soul. You get to assimilate the beauty of a place in the true sense, establish a connection with the local people and their way of life and not be sunk within a familiar mindset with your own set of people,” she adds.
Mariia has had her own share of frightening experiences during her solo tours – from being robbed to facing a life-threatening situation. “Common sense comes very handy when you travel alone and I believe you always should have a good head on your shoulders. That’s my only security device,” she quips.
The only big challenge she faced as a solo woman traveller was when she was unwell. “That was the only time I felt a somewhat vulnerable. I had high fever and was at a place where I didn’t have any help. The experience taught me to be tough,” she adds. With a travel motto of ‘discover, learn, smile’, Mariia is now on a mission to inspire girls to take up solo travels through her Facebook page ‘Mashka in action’. She plans to return to India to participate in the Ladakh marathon in September. Mariia is also training three girls in Poland for their solo world tours.