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! 🙂

Indian Women Travellers, Leading the Way into 2014 – Part 1

India’s image as a travel destination took a serious beating in 2013. Reports of crimes against women dominated cafeteria discussions. A general air of gloom and despair had settled over the country and even the suggestion of women venturing out alone to explore this incredible land would be considered as blasphemy. Social media platforms were abuzz with warnings, advice columns and shared stories of uncommon courage. Foreign embassies had begun issuing warnings to their citizens about the risks involved in visiting India. Some popular online magazines and websites put India into the list of the world’s most dangerous countries to visit.

Although in the midst of all this chaos, many examples of incredible strength were brought to the fore, most people probably ignored Indian women travellers. These pillars of inspiration went about sharing images that made India so alluring to the world without once mentioning the phenomenal courage that they were displaying by proving the majority wrong. Their beautifully worded stories and brilliant photographs helped resurrect confidence in the hearts of many who till then had been skeptical.

Personally, I have been moved, inspired and encouraged by these women and this post is an attempt at saluting them for who they are. It would be impossible to list every Indian woman traveller in a single post and so this will be the first of a series of posts.

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.

This, the first part of the series, features 7 of the top women travel bloggers from India.

1) LAKSHMI SHARATH (www.lakshmisharath.com)Lakshmi Sharath

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Since childhood I guess, but officially I’ve been travelling as a travel blogger for the last eight years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: I have always been attracted to local cultures, heritage, people and sights & sounds of a place. I have been travelling and listening to tales from grandparents who were avid travellers. That got me hooked.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Security is always a big concern and one has to be very careful that you don’t get overfriendly even when talking to locals.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: There are several. It’s tough to recommend one, but I love rustic India. You will find something interesting everywhere.

Follow Laskhmi on Twitter@lakshmisharath

2) NEHA DIXIT (http://goodtimes.ndtv.com/Ndtv-Show-Special.aspx?ID=259&?ShowID=79)Neha Dixit

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

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: Travel! 🙂

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Men don’t take you seriously!!! Not that you need their approval but that’s who you deal with all the time.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Nagaland, because India is more than camel in a desert & backwaters! 🙂

Iceland – The northern lights changed how I view the universe.

Follow Neha on Twitter@NehaDixit_GT

3) SHIVYA NATH (http://the-shooting-star.com/)Shivya Nath

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: 4 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: Living in Singapore and escaping to the rest of Southeast Asia, first on a student budget, then as cubicle-bound soul!

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Getting my family to accept me going solo. They still don’t feel comfortable for it, but my storytelling (story-making) skills have improved over time. 😉

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: There are so many, but Turkey is closest to my heart. This is why – http://the-shooting-star.com/2013/11/27/my-million-reasons-to-visit-turkey/

Follow Shivya on Twitter@shivya

4) ANURADHA GOYAL (http://www.anuradhagoyal.com/)Anuradha Goyal

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: 40 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: My love for exploration.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Confined evenings and unavailability of washrooms.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Bihar in India.

Follow Anuradha on Twitter@anuradhagoyal

5) NEELIMA VALLANGI (http://www.travelwithneelima.com/)Neelima Vallangi

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: 4 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: What started out as a simple vacation to Ladakh ended with me obsessing over mountains and nature. I love the mountains, the forests, the rivers, the waterfalls and everything natural. The natural diversity of India is so varied that it took me by surprise initially. Travelling in India has been amazing and the more I travelled, the more I realized there were more and more hidden gems waiting for me to explore, even in a country as well-explored as India.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Since I like to go completely offbeat and go to places where there is little or no tourist infrastructure but amazing stories to be found, I’d have to say getting to such places itself is a big challenge – remote places where there is no place to stay and even if it’s there, it is like a ramshackle. But not going isn’t an option either, so those days are filled with awe and dread at the same time. That is my biggest challenge.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: North East, I haven’t seen a place as exotic as the north east in India yet. It’s a shame so few people know or care about those states. I once had a fellow trekker ask me where in the world “Meghalaya” was! Bountiful forests, exotic yet hospitable tribes and the most amazing views of natural beauty make NE a must-visit for the intrepid explorer.

Follow Neelima on Twitter@i_wanderingsoul

6) SUPRIYA SEHGAL (http://www.supriyasehgal.com/)Supriya Sehgal

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: 2004 onwards.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: The idea of exploring places with cultural hooks by myself. To unearth a more deep rooted vibe than a touristic one.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Not too many at all; not gender specific atleast. Sometimes hotels and cabs are apprehensive to take a solo woman in India.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Mahe. Sandwiched between the Arabian Sea and Kerala, its a brilliant pit stop for history enthusiasts. French speaking citizens, architecture, a veritable booze/petrol stop and an unassuming fishing village on the edge of the sea… Its simple and not overwhelming at all.

Follow Supriya on Twitter@supsonthemove

7) NISHA JHA (http://www.lemonicks.com/Travel/)Nisha Jha

Q: How long have you been travelling?
A: Around 18 years.

Q: What got you addicted to travel?
A: In my childhood, father’s transferable job took me to a new place every couple of years. The joy of meeting new people & learning about their culture/ languages interested me a lot. I guess that got me hooked to travel.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you face as a solo woman traveller?
A: Not to lose my self confidence that I can go & do things all alone. I know quite a few people who don’t even have a cup of coffee alone in a restaurant.

I’ve done solo backpacking trips (note the plural) abroad and in India which ran into months and it’s a challenge to travel in an alien place without knowing the local language. As a backpacker, it multiplies. There are many factors… looking for a budgeted accommodation, decisions on the spot, safety issues, emotional issues, home sickness etc. Here I am NOT talking about pre-planned, pre-booked travels.

Q: One lesser known destination or experience that you would recommend to fellow travellers and why?
A: Any destination is lesser known till you discover it yourself. 🙂

Jokes apart, can’t name of any single destination either abroad or in India.
Experience – I’ll ask the womenfolk to go solo at least once in their life. What solo means to me is planning, deciding, travelling, exploring on your own terms without taking any help from anybody…

Follow Nisha on Twitter@cemonde


As mentioned earlier in the post, this is just the first 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. 

Cheers! 🙂