“My fondest childhood memories are from our family travels,” says Sandeepa Chetan, a travel blogger from Mumbai. Her first exciting trip was with her family at age of 6 to Kashmir. It was the first time she ever saw snow. Not many of her friends were “travelling in the summer holidays” back then and that’s what made her feel special!
Travelling became an integral part of her life. Sandeepa and Chetan live in Mumbai. Sandeepa the erstwhile Electronics Engineer now is the writer for the blog and Chetan continues to pursue his interest in Digital media by being the photographer for their blog. In less than three years their blog sandeepachetan.com ranks third most popular travel blog in the country as per the Alexa ranking.
“Our love for travel was one of the main reasons that got Chetan and me together,” Sandeepa told about her husband to SheThePeople.TV in an exclusive interview.
Let’s travel with her story.
What sort of a traveller are you?
We have both travelled solo and in groups earlier, but now, we go on all our travels together.
We travel as slow as our visas allow with no fixed plan, letting serendipity guide us. Public transport is our preferred mode of and homestays our preferred accommodation. We love the mountains and the beaches, islands and deserts. Tiny obscure lanes in a big tourist city may be our prefered corner.
What makes travelling so special for you? Why quitting your jobs and selling your house for travelling?
Both of us love to travel and being close to nature. We would travel on long weekends and holidays; we exploited every opportunity to step out of the city. These short trips left us wanting for more. We would read travel blogs by other travellers and always say “we should do this sometime”.
Then, there was a phase when over a period of one month, we hadn’t get to share a single meal. That’s when we decided we had to change things. We couldn’t think of a good enough reason to postpone the long-term travel dream and decided to do-it-now.
Also read: 12 Safety Tips for Women Travelling Solo
It started with the plan to do a round-the-world (RTW) trip for a year. The only way for us to generate funds was to sell the house. The lack of a concept of a sabbatical (for a year!) meant we had to quit our jobs too.
How had you initially pursued this passion? Share what have been your high-points and the challenges?
After we decided to do an RTW trip, some things became quite obvious. We would have to stop working since a long-term sabbatical was not possible. Also, we would have to sell our house to finance the trip. This is what took a long time, more than we had anticipated.
We used this time to travel within India. It was like a trailer for our longer trip. It helped us a lot to understand how it was to be on the road, in places you have not heard of before and stick to your budget. We totally enjoyed these three months that we spent in the Himalayas. After this trip, we were absolutely certain that we wanted to travel.
The opportunities that “the road” offers is wonderful. You do not know what’s next, and yet you know it’s going to be something exciting. It pushes you out of your comfort zone. There is something new happening all the time. Getting comfortable with being out of the comfort zone, and staying motivated every day to discover something new has been the biggest challenge of long-term travel. But the more we travel, our “travel muscle” gets stronger. We have been able to work these things out.
Did you have to overcome any pressure from society?
Not really. There were funny incidents when people would ask us where we had left our kids. On hearing we didn’t have kids, they would say “May God bless you soon!” In fact, many foreigners would ask us if it was common for couples to travel like this in India. We would reply, not really. Their appreciative expressions would make us feel quite special!
How has it been for as a woman travelling in different parts of the world?
I haven’t been on solo trips for long-term travel. But during our travels, as well as when we were hosting through Couchsurfing in Mumbai, we have met and travelled with solo female travellers. Every single one of them (whether travelling in India or abroad) has had only positive things to say about Travelling . When we would ask them about the dangers as a female traveller, they all said that common sense was the most important accessory they carried!
Also Read: Single Women Travellers? Keep Moving…
As a woman how was it dealing with tough situations and what has been your toughest one so far (while travelling of course)?
Finding toilets in India. Remember, there are no toilets for long stretches of the Leh-Manali highway. Everyone had to pee in the open. And some men (not intentionally), didn’t know to move away so the women could pee!
What are some of your funniest experience, your personal favourite travel spots, also what has been a disappoint?
Our knowledge of Spanish at that point was next to nothing. While we were in Sucre in Bolivia we knew that the chicken was called pollo. We walked into a restaurant and ordered for pollo, they only thing we knew. A girl then walks to our table and starts asking questions. We had no idea what she was saying. After a while, she points to her legs, breasts and does a flying action, asking us if we wanted the legs, breasts or the wings of the chicken. Every time we think of that exchange, we burst out laughing.
A disappointment, if we have to, would be, we were a little underwhelmed by Machu Picchu. But even then, the view from the top of the mountain, there’s nothing disappointing about that view!
Favourites are too many: Travelling in cargo boats over 10 days over the Amazon river, seeing the Perito Moreno glacier in the peak of the southern hemisphere winter, our travels in the Himalayas which was our first long travel -there are just too many.
What is your travelling mantra?
Not to over plan. Keep an open mind.
What’s the best thing about travelling, as a couple?
On a trip like this, you are the only friend and companion of each other. We tend to rely on each other more than we would at home. There is great comfort in knowing there’s always someone to watch your back. We get a chance to communicate a lot more with each other. We go through so many experiences together, see so many new things, meet so many people.
Do you feel that travelling scenario for women has changed over the years? How safe is it for women to travel alone?
Yes, the abundance of information online has made it easily available. Besides, there are many means of communication through which you can keep loved ones back home informed about your whereabouts, or keep in touch with your local contact.
Do you think most women ignore their passion for travel for their family’s sake? If yes, how can they overcome those issues?
Many young mothers have written to us about how they gave up their travels after marriage/kids. But now that their kids were a little older, they wanted to get back to travel.
I guess the main issue is in the mind. Women tend to believe that getting married or having a kid means the end of travel. We have seen enough families travelling long term to believe that the constraints are really all in the mind.
Highlight few issues about women and travelling that you came across and need to be solved in India especially…
Women’s safety otherwise is a never ending topic! However, access to clean public toilets and having well-lit streets is a basic necessity.
What are the most important lessons you would suggest to women who love to travel but have financial restrictions?
Travelling is not an expensive interest to pursue. Besides learning to save more, there are means to travel for cheap which are safe as well. A membership like a YHA opens up a lot of stay options. Female-only dorms are available in most hostels. Couchsurfing is an excellent way to form connections, make friends and save on stay when travelling. We have met many female/family hosts who are on CS specifically for female travellers to have a safe place to stay. As a rule, we use public transport – it’s safer than hiring cabs alone, plus it’s cheap. And more importantly, it’s a more immersive experience.
What advice would you give to women travellers who enjoy travelling solo but also concern about safely in India and abroad?
For female travellers, or beginners we want to say that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to. Follow your gut, don’t be afraid to dream and be willing to do what it takes to make it happen. Keep someone close to you posted about your plans. And like other female travellers have said, never let common sense leave your side.
What makes your blog so unique and why should people read it?
Started in 2014 sandeepachetan.com is mainly about photo-based storytelling. We have beautiful photographs to go with all of our stories. We let the photos do most of the talking. We like to share our experiences about our travels because memories are the most important takeaway of any trip. Our blog gives ideas about how people can create better memories when they travel.
If you decide to stop travelling one day, what would be the next step?
We hope that never happens! Travel is now an integral part of who we are, as individuals, and as a couple. But we like not to over plan. We will see where the future takes us and embrace it with open arms.
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