“I am a free-spirited person, you know. I was born and raised in Nepal. As a child, there were these societal traditions, trends, rituals and structures that I instinctively never fit in and always rebelled against. Then, I didn’t know why. As I was growing up, I wanted to move out, to explore, educate and cultivate myself in real sense, have a place of my own, live a life in my own terms and solo travel, the society wanted me to get ‘just enough’ education, settle down, have a family and a stable job. Ten years ago, the freedom I sought was almost sinful, especially for a young, unmarried woman. In simple terms, there was a constant battle between what I wanted for myself and what the society expected of me.
I believe most woman my age are in a state of denial. I will tell you why. On one hand, we are connected to the world and are therefore, aware of the possibilities and potentials they can cap on. While on the other, we are entangled in the social structure that has expectations that contradict with our desires. Freedom and security in this sense may not always go together. This is but a recipe for a state of confusion and denial.
It is important for a woman to have a mind of her own. Earning Nrs 20 thousand a month is not going to give you independence. It is imperative that women today have independence – intellectually, financially, emotionally as well as physically. Only then, you can be capable of making your own decisions in every sphere of your life. And no matter how best you try, things can always go awry. So, it takes tremendous amount of self-confrontation and self-compassion as well. However, despite everything, independence for most women in Nepal comes with a price. Let alone the society, your very own family may stand as a hurdle. But I encourage you to go for it. Invest your time and energy on yourself and fight for what you deserve and live your life in your own terms. It is totally worth it. Trust me. I know. And you don’t even know who you are inspiring.
This is getting emotional for me. I have spent nights crying alone. For me, solo traveling is a dream come true. It feels even more so because of everything I had to sacrifice and put in line to be where I am today. I travel because I want to have a life of my own. I travel because, simply, I want to travel. I want to see, I want to listen, I want to share people’s stories. I have always been this way; I cannot be confined.
Beyond that, traveling also fulfills a seeker’s quest. I have a need to connect to everything that has a life in it. You may travel to faraway place you have never been to but that faraway place may be a home to someone. And by connecting to that someone, you can discover a home in it for yourself. There are billions of human beings but there’s only one humanity. I simply like to break barriers for myself, understand different cultures, meet new people who are but a different fabric of the same notion called humanity. At the end of the day, we are all one. Traveling has enlightened me with this realization. Beneath all of this is my quest to freedom and I would never trade it for anything.”
Shruti Achal is a Second Secretary at the Embassy of Nepal to Beijing.