Here’s Rakhee’s story on her amazing experiences when she decided to travel alone:
Amazing career? Tick.
Man of her dreams? Tick.
Winning at life? Most definitely.
So why did Rakhee Parma, put everything on hold to go travelling… by herself?
Rakhee Parmar, best friend of our Co-founder Radha Vyas and all-round awesome gal, came along to Flash Pack HQ to tell Lucy about her solo travel experience!
Every story has a beginning, middle and an end. Here’s how Rakhee’s tale went down…
Lucy from The Flash Pack (TFP): Everybody meet Rakhee, Rakhee meet everybody!
Rakhee (R): Hey everyone! It’s weird to think of how many people I’m about to share my story with [laughs].
TFP: Oh don’t worry, our blog readers are lovely – no judgement here! Thanks so much for coming to share your story with us. So Rakhee, let’s get an idea of the context of your story… how old were you, what were you doing with your life etc?
R: Well, I was 30 years old. I had been in my job for 7 years, working as a Senior Marketer in London. I really enjoyed my job and was generally very happy.
TFP: So when did the man of your dreams come into the picture?
R: I met Kuldip at a huge Iranian party in London. We were the only two non-Iranians in the room!
TFP: Lovely! So did you hit it off straight away?
R: Yer totally. He was really cool, very funny and kind… instant attraction!
TFP: Okay, so you were happy at work, you had met a great guy… so why did you decide to up and leave it all to go travelling then? What motivated you to take the plunge?
R: When you say it like that it seems so simple! Yep, I was in a job that I really enjoyed and I was in love with an amazing man. But I felt that something was still missing in my life…for me that was travel. I always dreamed of travelling, everyone else seemed to have had a go at it at some point and I felt that I had missed out a bit – it’s hard not to think like that when you see your peers travelling the world whilst your stuck at work!
TFP: Absolutely! When your mates are travelling you just want to cry every time you see a photo pop up onto your newsfeed on Facebook! But anyway, back on topic… So, no gap year then?
R: Well no! I had no time for travel – I was a woman on a mission. I went straight from studying my A levels, into a degree, onto a masters and then straight into a job. I was so busy creating a career for myself that I never really stopped to think about what I wanted. After 3-4 years of working at full speed in London, I suddenly felt that I had missed out on travelling in my youth and found myself wishing I had taken a gap year! Before I met Kudip I was single for 5 years and kept promising myself I’d take a year out to travel. I never really committed to it though, I was scared of taking a career break and probably a little scared of travelling for such a long time on my own, so I never properly considered it until things changed with work.
TFP: Oh, what happened there?
R: Well, let’s just say that there was an opportunity that allowed me to leave and have some cash in my pocket… so I took it! I saw this as the perfect route to finally do what I had always wanted to do. I had previously planned a trip with my friends, but it had fallen through in the end. So I just thought, why not go for it? My boss was pretty surprised when I told him the news, but he was generally very supportive of my decision, which was great!
TFP: Ah okay, that makes more sense! So it was like a career break in a way?
R: Yer, something like that!
TFP: And so how did you break the idea to Kuldip? What was his reaction to you wanting to head off travelling by yourself?
R: It was something that he knew I had always wanted to do. We discussed it more seriously this time around and he was so supportive. To be honest it was his words of reassurance that gave me the confidence to take the plunge.
TFP: Wow, lucky you! How nice to have such a supportive partner.
R: I know. He’s great.
TFP: So was there anything else behind your decision?
R: To be really honest with you, when I met Kuldip I was 30 and I knew he was the man I was going to marry. As comforting as that was, I also had a bit of a panic about it too! The realisation that I was losing the freedom of being single and from this point my life could so easily snowball – I’d be 5 years down the line complete with husband, 2 babies and a terraced house in Clapham Northside! I couldn’t face having this ‘what if’ hanging over me forever… so yer! I just knew in my gut that it was now or never.
TFP: That makes so much sense – I think it’s great you had the courage to go for it and shake up the routine of life a bit!
R: Aw thanks, it was a hard decision for sure. Two months is a big chunk of time to run away for when you have a whole life waiting for you at home.
TFP: I’m interested to know what your friends and family thought about you going away and leaving your career and your man… tell me about that!
R: Some of the girls thought I was a bit crazy for sure [laughs]! Others thought it was an amazing idea. I think all my friends knew it was something that I had to achieve for myself. My parents were a bit shocked to say the least! But they knew I was smart enough to make the right decisions for myself. I know people say that you shouldn’t feel the need to seek approval from others, but in this situation it was really important to me to make sure I wasn’t making the worst decision of my life, so I definitely took confidence from my closest friends telling me it I should go for it.
TFP: I’d do the same! It’s nice to know you have the support of your nearest and dearest. So how long had you been with Kuldip at this point?
R: We had been together for about 7-8 months. Not a huge amount of time, but as they say… when you know, you’ll know!
TFP: Did you have any worries or fears about leaving?
R: Well yes, definitely! This was a really big thing for me… I had never done the travelling thing before! I was panicking about all kinds of things: was I making a massive mistake and damaging my career? Would I be too homesick to enjoy myself? Would I meet and make friends easily or just end up crying into my pillow every night?! Even the little logistical things like, should I take a wad of money out at the airport, which jabs do I need to get…? It was all totally new to me!
TFP: And what about leaving Kuldip… any worries about that?
R: Not so much worries in regards to our relationship – he was (and still is) my rock! But I was definitely sad to leave Kuldip behind when I did. In general, I had that kind of nervous-excited butterfly feeling, you know? I guess it was all about finding out whether I could cope with the experience. That sounds kind of silly in hindsight – of course I could cope with it – but you always have those doubts running through your mind.
TFP: I have to ask… did you ever consider ‘going on a break’?
R: No not at all. It was the fact that I felt so strong in our relationship that gave me the courage to quit my job and go travel.
TFP: And what was your relationship like before you left?
R: We were still very much in the honeymoon phase so it was difficult to detach! We organised it so that Kuldip and I would spend two weeks together in Thailand, before I headed off by myself. That made it a bit easier to swallow, but I kept going through these weird ups and downs; after 5 years of being single I had finally met the man of my dreams and here I was leaving him to do some self-indulgent travelling! Even so, I knew it was something I just had to do though cos I knew I’d always regret it otherwise.
TFP: Ah okay, so you started in Thailand together, where else was on your itinerary?
R: So all in all over the two months I went to Thailand, Cambodia and India!
TFP: Sounds like heaven! So you started off with Kuldip – I like your style, get a romantic holiday out of it as well – did you go it alone after that?
R: I’m not going to lie to you, I was pretty nervous to just take off on my own. The whole concept of solo travel was kind of overwhelming! So after my 2 weeks in Thailand with Kuldip I was joined by my cousin for 2 weeks in Cambodia and she came along for a short period in India, in Mumbai. After she left I then travelled up to north India for a short stint and then went all the way to the south on my own over for 4 weeks.
TFP: You’d be super-human if you weren’t! Being nervous is totally understandable and normal! How did you find travelling alone? And be honest…
R: Hmm… Nerve-racking to say the least, especially the first flight on my own! I was really panicky about the whole thing as it was my first time I had gone solo! It’s funny how when you casually think back on experiences like this you think ‘oh it was great, so amazing, blah blah blah’ but time kind of wipes away all the scary, difficult bits. Having said that, I remember feeling really excited as well. I think the good thing about travelling alone is that you can do whatever what you want. You don’t have to take into account what someone else would prefer to do, which I think is always a difficult balancing act when you’re travelling as a couple anyway! For example, I decided to change my trip literally 1 week due to bad weather in the north of India, and just changing plans there and then was so simple! I didn’t have to consult anyone – which was a breath of fresh air if I’m honest!
On the other hand, you are in these incredible places for the first time and you’re experiencing so many amazing things and it’s hard not to think ‘I wish I had someone here to share this with’ – especially a loved one. I think as well that sometimes you can find yourself following a crowd of travellers just to avoid that horrible loneliness that can creep in from time to time. But by doing that you end up missing out on the things you really wanted to do or see yourself, which obviously defeats the whole purpose of independent travel! But then when you are really alone, the lonely feeling can be crippling. I remember when I was in Goa, it was really cold and I was probably feeling a bit sorry for myself if I’m honest, but I felt so isolated cos it was harder to meet other travellers. It was a big challenge cos I had a lot of time to myself to think about stuff, which is always dangerous [laughs]. So yes, there were definitely lows. But it’s how you feel about yourself after getting through those struggles and challenges. You get a real sense of achievement!
TFP: A bit of lonliness can be good for giving you some perspective as well. I guess Kuldip wasn’t far from your thoughts during those quiet times. How did it affect your relationship?
R: I missed Kuldip a lot whilst I was away, but it didn’t hold me back from getting what I wanted out of my travels. We tried to skype and couple of times a week. At times I felt a bit guilty for realising my dreams whilst he was at home in London. But then sometimes I felt kind of pissed off that he didn’t text me as much as I wanted him to. Seems petty maybe, but he didn’t know how lonely I felt at times and I guess I really needed that communication there to keep me going. It was hard at times, I won’t lie to you. On the upside, when I came home our relationship was much better for it cos I had much less itchy feet! Weirdly it felt like nothing had really changed. We were still crazy in love but I was much more relaxed as I had finally done something I had wanted to do for a long time.
TFP: Any regrets?
R: No, no regrets. Sometimes I wish I spent an extra month visiting more countries with friends… I am quite a social person so I think travelling with someone else is more my style. Even so, I’m glad I gave solo travel a go. It was a big learning curve and an experience I would say everyone should go for it at least once in their lives.
TFP: And how about your career? Did you take a bit of a hit to your progression do you think?
R: Hmm, maybe. I guess that it couldn’t have not affected my career slightly, but I think 7 years on I am back on track now!
TFP: Do you reckon you would ever consider leaving a job again to head off travelling?
R: Ah, it’s a lovely thought! Kuldip and I would love to travel more… but leaving work is just not an option at the moment. With age comes more responsibilities – mortgage, bills, a family. I think shorter trips, like maybe 3 weeks or so to somewhere lush would be just the ticket these days!
TFP: Couldn’t agree more. Thanks so much for coming to chat to us about your experience Rakhee. Wishing you and Kuldip all the best for your future travels. May they be frequent and full of love <3
R: Aw thank you! Anytime, thanks for having me.
Photos: Shutterstock, Rakhee Parma