Indian Woman Travellers, Leading the Way into 2014 – Part 3

This is Part 3 of the monthly series featuring Indian Women Travellers. For this series, a set of questions were sent to Indian women travel bloggers with the aim of finding out a bit more about their lives and what motivated them. The underlying purpose of this series is to get more people from India and around the world to get inspired and seek out the many fantastic adventures and sights that India has to offer.

To know more about this series, please read the post – “Indian Women Travellers, Leading the Way into 2014 – Part 1”.

Featured here in Part 3 are 7 women travellers from India who have gone beyond the norms and decided to take the path less trodden.

1) ANURADHA SHANKAR (http://anushankarn.blogspot.in/)Anuradha Shankar

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Well, I have been travelling since I was a kid, but as a blogger, my journey began about 7 years ago.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: To be honest, I have loved travelling since I was a kid, always ready to accompany my many uncles to wherever they wanted to go 🙂 However, I started travelling in earnest once I got married. Since then, it has been a journey of discovery – travelling with my husband, my in-laws, my son, and alone too. The more I travel, the more places I want to go… and I have no idea when the love became an addiction!

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Safety has always been a high priority… something that has been ingrained in me since the days I started exploring Mumbai alone as a student. Looking out for warning signs and taking precautions has almost become a way of life when I am travelling alone, or even with my 10 year old son. The biggest challenge though, is interacting with people who seem to think that a woman has no right to travel alone. Sometimes it can get irritating when people get too inquisitive about my reasons for travelling by myself, or in their view ‘without my husband’. 🙂

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: There are so many places in India itself that people do not know about. Take any rural area in any part of India, and you are sure to stumble on to something interesting! Besides, there is so much to see even in the more ‘well known’ places in our country. All we need are the eyes to see the intricate details and stories hidden all over the place.

For example, Wayanad is known for its nature and adventure activities, but there are some real gems of heritage hidden all over the district! From popular to abandoned temples, ancient caves and tombs which tell stories of brave freedom fighters, there is so much to see there! The same goes for Gokarna, which is only known for its beaches and temples. However, just a bit away is Mirjan Fort, which was such a wonderful experience for us!

Follow Anuradha on Twitter – @anushankarn

2) NUPUR PRADHAN (http://tuggingtheluggage.wordpress.com/)Nupur Pradhan

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Since forever! Summer holidays were never spent at home. My parents are travel addicts and we have done some crazy road trips as a family.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: To be honest, I have no idea what got me addicted. There are so many things, so many experiences! It is so overwhelming. The freedom that comes with travel. The mind is so clutter free. I learn new things about myself during every trip. I am a pathetic swimmer but I didn’t know I could white water raft so good. I would’ve never known until I tried it. These little things have the biggest impact.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: In India the biggest challenge is lack of toilets and the cheap stares. You can never trust anyone and let your guard down. Half of the holiday time goes in thinking about all this.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: An island of Devbaug, just off Karwar. Walking is the only way around the island. It hardly get any electricity supply, its just you and the nature. The beach is absolutely beautiful and the only people around you are the guests and the resort staff. A great place to unwind!

Follow Nupur on Twitter – @tuggingdluggage

3) ELITA (http://nomadicthunker.blogspot.in/)Elita

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: With parents ever since I’ve been little. Solo since a year and a half ago.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: Sheer ecstasy of experiencing a place other than home, meeting people other than the ones I’ve known, witnessing nature in her full bloom. Plus every time I’d return back from some travel destination or another I’d realize it changed the way I saw the world around me.

Being on the go is a very different high and I’m constantly learning. I wrote something about it here: http://nomadicthunker.blogspot.in/2014/01/igosolo-what-i-learned-in-10-days.html

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: The constant stares. But then people are curious to know why you’re a lone female traveler!

And that sometimes travel-dos aren’t solo traveler (male and female) friendly (i.e., everything starts with a plan/package for 2! :-/ ).

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: While I’d actually recommend anyone to “travel for travelling’s sake”, a lesser known place I’d recommend is this little beach at Trasi (Kundapur) near Udupi in Karnataka. It’ll always be a special place not only because it was my first solo travel destination but also because it’s one of those non-touristy (read: clean) beaches meant to simply beach-bum (read: mentally check-out).

Follow Elita on Twitter – @ElleLogical

4) AMRITA DAS (http://travellingidesofmarch.wordpress.com/)Amrita Das

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Ever since I can recall. What started of as family trip, soon became solo experiences and now to a career opportunity.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: Firstly, freedom. Travelling is being free. I don’t mean it as an ‘escape’ but when we travel we are uninhibited and live in the present. That is a rare experience and travelling makes me feel absolutely alive.

Secondly, the difference in lives. In India, the lives around is keeps changing if we travel 100 kilometers (sometimes lesser) in any direction. I’m fuelled by my curiosity and always want to know people and their stories.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Acceptance. Some of us don’t need people to travel with or don’t see a need to ‘settle down’. This is what we do and it makes us very very happy. 

And clean loos, everywhere!

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Visit Kashmir as an explorer. Get necessary permissions and go to Uri. It is remarkable how the lives around the LOC are so sensitive and so interesting. As the terrain gets tougher, you’ll feel warmer with the locals. Be prepared for it to change a little something in you. It definitely changed me in more than many ways.

Follow Amrita on Twitter – @Amrita_Dass

5) FREYA (http://blog.fatema.in/)Freya

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: By myself? I first travelled alone in 2004.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: People, places and culture, oh and food. I love talking to people, immersing myself in history and eating new stuff. 
Travel was the best way to experience more of all of this.

And while traveling I get to know myself better, I test my limits, free my mind… all of that. It’s why I enjoy traveling alone sometimes.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Nothing that sticks out really. There’s little women can’t do that men can. 

The challenge I guess was being on the guard more and taking more safely precautions because I was a woman compared to a man.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: The Rann of Kutch – it teaches you humility. You realise just how insignificant and powerless you are in the grand pattern of things.

Ladakh – The beauty nature can create puts all artists to shame. It’s a place to discover God, cause this beauty can’t be man-made.

Sorry I gave you two. Couldn’t choose. 🙂

Follow Freya on Twitter – @Freya3377

6) SUDHA GANAPATHI (http://thatandthisinmumbai.wordpress.com/)Sudhagee Sudha Ganapathi

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: It seems like always. But travel, as most people would understand it, began in after I started working in 1996.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: Addiction is a pretty strong word, especially since I consider travel as a way of life. 🙂

Having said that, travel has meant many things to me over the years. My perception of travel underwent a major shift about 5 years back, when my brothers gifted me with a digital camera, just before I left for a year-long stay to London. I did not take to the camera immediately, and it was after much nagging by them from across the seas, that I started to use it. 

That’s when I realised how photographs complemented my observations, and how I could share them with family and friends almost immediately. That was a travel-changing moment for me. These days, I rarely travel without a camera in my bag. I may not use it, but it is always there.

The best thing about travel is the unexpectedness of the journey, the destination and the thrill of living it out every moment. Much like life itself.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Though I am a woman who travels solo sometimes, I am quite uncomfortable with such a label. Like many other women, I have been travelling before this term became fashionable. 

My choice to travel solo or in a group, or with a friend or friends depends on sheer convenience and chance. I have planned group trips only to find everyone dropping out and turning my trip into a solo one. The reverse has also happened when supposedly solo trips have turned into friends joining in at the last minute. What I’m trying to say is that, for me, it is ultimately about travel and not about whether I’m travelling solo or not. 

I can’t really recall any challenges or issues that I have faced because I was travelling solo. If anything, I found that people were more helpful, once they got over the shock that I was alone. 🙂

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Mumbai. In my opinion, there is no other place in India that is as unexplored or under-rated as this city of mine.

Beyond the usual Elephanta Caves, film stars’ bungalows, and the dirty beaches, lies the remains and remnants of a history that stretches back to over 2000 years. Most Mumbaikars are not even aware of their city’s rich heritage – the other rock-cut caves in the city, its 7 existing forts, the fantastic museums, the varying architectural styles across the city, the quaint villages, it’s vibrant art district… The list is endless.

I have lived in Mumbai for 21 years now and am still discovering something from its past, the latest being Mumbai’s own ship-breaking yard. I didn’t even know the city had one !

And that’s the thing about Mumbai. It’s heritage and history are not always in plain sight and presents a real challenge for a discerning traveller.

Follow Sudha on Twitter – @sudhagee

7) RUTAVI MEHTA (http://www.photokatha.in/)Rutavi Mehta

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: 10 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: Being from the profession of Hospitality and Marketing, I always travelled for work and never got opportunity to explore places. Later along with an interest in photography, I thought travel would take me to see places and make me learn different cultures, meet various people. And today while I write this, I m now working with Kerala Tourism as one of my travel project.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Travelling solo was something that I always avoided as I am one of those women who needs a partner. But then later, group travel and waiting for some made a stop in travel. My first solo trip was to Srinagar, followed by Pushkar. The only major challenge I faced in India while solo travelling is security towards woman. In India each state has different security, if you know those secrets, you are happy solo traveller.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Sri Lanka is beautiful. Unwind yourself close to India; cheap & serene beaches; great wildlife there. 

Follow Rutavi on Twitter – @rutaagayire

This is the third post of the series ‘Indian Women Travellers’ and subsequent posts will be published on the first week of every month. If you know of other Indian women travellers or travel writers who you think should feature here, please feel free to share your suggestions in the comments section.

More of us need to know about these phenomenal women and get inspired.

Cheers! 🙂

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Indian Women Travellers, Leading the Way into 2014 – Part 2

This is Part 2 of the monthly series featuring Indian Women Travellers. For this series, a set of questions were sent to Indian women travel bloggers with the aim of finding out a bit more about their lives and what motivated them. The underlying purpose of this series is to get more people from India and around the world to get inspired and seek out the many fantastic adventures and sights that India has to offer.

To know more about this series, please read the post – Indian Women Travellers, Leading the Way into 2014 – Part 1.

Featured here in Part 2 are 7 women travellers from India who have gone beyond the norms and decided to take the path less trodden.

1) ANITA BORA (http://www.anitabora.com/blog/)Anita Bora

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: More than 10 years now.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: For me, it was stepping out of my comfort zone. Of trying to appreciate little things. How much we take our lives for granted is something I realised when I got to see how so many people live their lives. On half of what we have. And yet – there is so much life, colour, zest all around. I wouldn’t have known otherwise in the confines of my four walls. Travel helps me appreciate more, to see things from a different perspective. It also teaches me patience, understanding and makes me humbler. Life is one long journey. It’s not the destination that counts. But all the moments, experiences, sights and sounds in between that make it richer and fuller and for me the answer is in travel.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: I actually have not had very horrific experiences, touch wood. I do my research carefully and make sure I don’t wander around places where I shouldn’t be. I find rural India quite non-threatening actually. Cities are much scarier 🙂 Travelling in India for a woman sometimes is a pain due to the lack of rest rooms and proper toilets. Believe, it can get quite frustrating sometimes. But other than that, I’ve had great experiences so far. I am all for travelling solo. I think it gives you another perspective totally.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Instead of that, what I’d like to recommend is that people take an effort to step out and see the world. Make the time! And when I say world, I don’t necessarily mean book themselves a flight out of the country. Sometimes, it’s just an eye opener to visit a village, a small town, stay with locals, home stays, spend a few days just taking in the sights and sounds. Don’t tick of stuff on a list. You will survive if you missed out one temple or sunset point. And don’t rush from place to place. I rarely do “touristy” sights. I try and experience every place a bit differently, sometimes I don’t even have a plan and let things evolve and always come back with great memories.

Follow Anita on Twitter – @anitabora

2) RAKHEE GHELANI (http://rakheeghelani.com/blog/)Rakhee Ghelani

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Since I was 6 months old.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: I am a curious person and just love seeing new places, exploring cultures and learning new things. I haven’t found a better way to do that, then through travel. 

I also like the freedom of travel. By stepping outside of my daily life, travel lets me break free of preconceptions and ideas.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: To be honest, I have never really thought about it as challenging. I wanted to travel and was happy to go on my own so I did. I have been travelling solo for over 15 years, to countries like Bolivia, Malaysia and Egypt, as well as India. I just make sure I am street smart.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Every traveller is different, but my personal favourite travel destination was the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. I love seeing animals in the wild, and here the animals are fearless. It really is an incredible place.

Follow Rakhee on Twitter – @rakheeghelani

3) BHAVNA MENON (http://www.thelastwilderness.org/)Bhavna Menon

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Almost 17 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: In my opinion, travel in itself is an addiction! Once you start, there is no going back, however my inspiration for travelling has always been and probably always will be – wildlife. Whenever asked, I would always choose a reserve or a National park as a holiday destination.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Thankfully, I haven’t really faced a challenge as such. However as a solo traveler its always important to take the necessary precautions and travel safe.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: As a wildlife enthusiast, I would recommend people visit all the tiger reserves in our country not only because they are stupendously beautiful, but also because as Indians, it’s important to be able to appreciate our natural heritage.That apart, the North-East (Arunachal, Assam etc.) is definitely worth a visit for the sheer remoteness and pristine beauty!

Follow Bhavna on Twitter – @B_menon86

4) PARUL SHARMA (http://www.longingtravel.com/)Parul Sharma

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: On and off for an year.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: I have always loved travel. I used to dream traveling evrey weekend and then go permanent. Though responsibilities have still not given us the freedom to travel full time. This makes me crave travel even more. it is something that i try and incorporate in our lives in every way. Another reason I love traveling is the variety of food that comes with it. I love eating and have to still find a cuisine that I don’t like.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: People usually talk about feeling unsafe and not being able to travel with ease. These are a problem and they become bigger as you go to interior parts of the country.

What many miss is the lack of toilets. My biggest concern is availability of clean restrooms around the country. Most public toilets are unclean and not even worth setting foot into.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: India has been well travelled and documented over the years but still there are few places that people don’t really know about. One is the temple belt of Karnataka. If you are interested in temples and heritage do pay a visit to Pattadakal, Aihole and Badami.
Another place I would recommend is the Manas National Park t is beautiful and very close to the Bhutan border. Before we started on the GoUNESCO journey I had not heard about any one of these and I usually am quite aware of places to see.

Follow Parul on Twitter – @messreorganized

5) SNIGDHA JAIN (http://getsetandgo.wordpress.com/)Snigdha Jain

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Over 3 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: My first backpacking trip to Europe turned out to be much more than just a holiday. It led me on a path of constant exploration of new cultures, places, history, art, culture, people and myself (in the process).

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Convincing my family on the safety aspect of a place, keeping my guard always on and the limitation of not being able to camp solo just anywhere I want. 😦

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: There are many places and experiences that I would recommend but my favorite place till date has been Slovenia and the best experiences have been interactions and learnings from people of rural India (especially happiness in simplicity) and Cambodia (meaning of hope).

Follow Snigdha on Twitter – @traveler_budget

6) PRACHI JOSHI (http://www.deliciouslydirectionless.com/)Prachi Joshi

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Since childhood.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: My parents made it a point to take one vacation every year, so I have been used to travelling since I was a kid. I guess that has rubbed off on me as I grew older and I have tried to take a trip (or more!) every year. Discovering new places, meeting people and experiencing a different culture is quite addictive; and I can travel anywhere for good food 🙂

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Security has been an increasing concern within India…

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: If you visit touristy Venice, I’d recommend hopping onto a vaporetto and visiting the city’s cemetery island – San Michele. It’s lesser known than the other islands of Murano & Burano, but much more peaceful and really worth a visit.

I wrote about this in detail in my article for Nat Geo Traveller. Read it Here.

Follow Prachi on Twitter – @DelishDirection

7) BHAVANI RAMESH (http://merrytogoaround.com/)Bhavani Ramesh

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: I’d like to believe I’ve been traveling since I started earning but if I go with what I think travel means to me now, which is a much sharper and keener interest in my surroundings, then I would say the last few years. Though on a philosophical note aren’t we traveling from the first breath?

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: It will have to be the joy in the newness of every minute, the excitement in the complete lack of familiar and the thrill of discovery for yourself… because even if millions of people have seen the Taj, you see if for the first time, you experience it for the first time and you feel it for the first time when YOU go… and that’s completely and totally your own experience.

Also I like the fact that in travel a lot of my interests come together, almost a perfect marriage. I like books, art, culture, heritage and of course food! And you get all of that together in one complete thaali when you experience a place through it’s stories, people, monuments, streets, restaurants. It’s very wholesome, very fulfilling, very addictive.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: I don’t know if it’s only as a woman traveler anymore, but just as a woman in India… overall it doesn’t feel safe anymore. 

My biggest issue is my wavering trust in my own intuition about people… Never been strong with that, and tend to think maybe am reading too much into stares and glances, or else I err on the other extreme of ignoring it… 

But having said that, it’s good to be a woman traveller in India… people open up and tell you their stories, they want to help you, guide you and sometimes offer to carry your bags… you just need to be safe and sensible!

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: I think the quest to find the ‘new’, the ‘off-beat’ is reaching an even bigger crescendo with everyday. Every traveller wants to talk about their ‘off-beat’, and every travel site is selling you their ‘off-beat’! It’s a tiring word. We need to admit there is nothing un-travelled today in the world.

I would say discover your own backyard!

There is so much to discover in each of our own cities but we tend to ignore that. When I travel to new cities, most people are blind to their city’s beauty and mystery. That got me thinking about how much I know about Mumbai – my current city of residence. I’ve made it a conscious effort to roam around a lot more, be more observant and find those stories about the city I live in. Must say that my association with Audiocompass definitely helps, as they pay me to write stories about my city! 

Follow Bhavani on Twitter – @bhavan1

This is the second post of the series ‘Indian Women Travellers’ and subsequent posts will be published on the first week of every month. If you know of other Indian women travellers or travel writers who you think should feature here, please feel free to share your suggestions in the comments section.

More of us need to know about these phenomenal women and get inspired.

Cheers! 🙂