When it comes to pioneering women, most of them have one thing in common: they are not afraid to free themselves from the expectations of others. Sharon Angel is a solo Indian traveler and a great example of one of these pioneering women. We had the opportunity to ask her all our burning questions about how traveling helped her find her personal freedom and free herself from an arranged marriage.

Check out what Sharon had to say about being a solo Indian traveler:

Tell us about yourself!

I was born and raised in India, then I moved to Canada for my bachelors, then to America. Identifying as a child of the third culture makes me feel like I belong, because the transition from an Eastern culture to adaptation in the West made me go through a whirlwind of emotions. Growing up with cultural expectations of a certain skin color, a career, a marriage, and the type of woman I should be were all limitations on who I really was. Traveling around the world as a solo Indian traveler has helped me see life through a wide lens and understand that people are different and that it is normal to give myself the grace to challenge all expectations of perfectionism. Today, after exploring nearly 40 countries, I am able to live in freedom by making decisions that move me forward rather than keeping me in the mold required by an Indo-American stereotype. My life is not perfect, but has become much freer and more peaceful by trying not to fit into the boxes that society or culture pulls.

At what point did you realize you were going to travel solo anyway?

I always wanted to see the world for myself as an Indian solo traveler or with friends, but the first time I needed to get away was in my early twenties. There were a few triggers in my life that pushed me to regain my identity after saying No to an arranged marriage. The question ” Who am I?”stayed in my mind. I had managed to push it down for many years until I couldn’t anymore. This question looked me in the face when I was in my early twenties and then I knew I shouldn’t ignore it anymore because if I did it would be harmful.

Arranged marriage is an essential part of Indian culture. Sometimes it is even an obsession for a girl to get married in her early twenties, arrange a week-long celebration and navigate colorism, caste, dowry and class system when planning the wedding. When I said no to participating in these systems, I had to ask myself who I am without these so-called traditions that I have to perpetuate because I am Indian.

“What if I turned out to be unrecognizable?””What if this trip ended as bad instead of good?”These thoughts were scary, but did not stop me from making this journey to find myself outside the so-called “traditions” because I was more afraid of not finding an answer to who I really was. It was then that the desire to travel became a need – the need to find freedom. So, to find answers and find healing in many ways, I decided to travel alone and I loved every moment.

What misconceptions did you have about being a solo Indian traveler that you now realize were wrong?

A young woman is an easy target for theft and kidnapping, so it is peril to travel alone. While this may be the matter in some countries, knowledge of the culture, common practices and recent events in the region helps to stay safe.
2. The fear that giving a young woman freedom will make her strong and challenging is a browbeat to the culture. The truth is that women who are able to navigate another country on their own will not be blindly enslaved to men or the elderly. Solo travel is stimulating, but it is not the traditional life of women in many conservation cultures. Traveling alone gives access to freedom and society fears that women have this freedom.

3. When a woman travels alone, it is common to think that she may not return to the realities of life and remain in a wandering state. Being a dreamer and changing your life after a trip applies to all genders, but women take the most heat due to the unwelcome culture of a self-sufficient woman.

What are some of the unexpected benefits of traveling alone?

The journey was my therapy. It was my escape to learn new cultures, see places I normally wouldn’t be, and learn slang words from other countries. The best part was eating New, strange, emotion-triggering foods. I laughed, cried, cried and hoped during these flights to the not-known. This was my healing when I found safe places in the stories of struggle, fear, pain, shame and guilt.

The best part of travel therapy was –

Distance from the world (now triggering) – healing needs space and boundaries
Created a safe space for escape-diary, Music, real connection with creation and the creator, mini-trips, longer trips, walks, deep breathing
Seeing a better future-focusing on where I want to be, but really being with myself about where I am now. Example: managing emotions and making me think about past events. What does freedom look like? Where am I now and where do I want to be?

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