Travelling not only adds value the quality of life that we lead but also gives defining moments which may influence us to change the course of our life. Joy, rejuvenation, self-discovery, liberation, or a life changing experience, travel means different things to different people. For Sudha Mahalingam, it means widening her horizons and gaining new insights. The 68-year-old, with six spent Indian passports, has travelled to 65 countries and the count is still on.  She has written a book extracted from her travelling, The Travel gods must be crazy. While her website,  Footloose Indianis a journal of her travel stories.

In a conversation with SheThePeople.TV she shares her adventures, misadventures and momentous lessons for life that travelling bestowed on her.

What does travelling mean to you?

Travelling means new sights, new insights, new experiences and a widening of my horizons. Nothing opens your mind as travel – getting to know firsthand about people and cultures.

Tell us about your most adventurous and challenging trips?

My most adventurous trip was to the Great Barrier Reef for scuba diving. This was an island called Lady Elliott and I was with a group of divers who decided to move to another spot for better pictures. They were seasoned divers while I am a rookie. I was left alone on the seafloor and told to resurface in 45 minutes. I kept looking at the oxygen meter and surfaced on a very choppy and stormy sea. I hung on to a buoy for what seemed eternity before the boat came to pick me up. That day I thought it was the end. Another adventure was to Borneo forest, an unforgettable experience. I have a chapter on that in my book The Travel Gods Must Be Crazy.

Also Read: TravelHer: The Mountains Of Dhanachuli Haunted Me

What inspired you to pack your travelling bag and explore the world?

I have always been fascinated by what lies beyond; our field of vision, our frontier, our physical and spatial limits. Anything strange and new held out wonders which I wanted to explore.

Do you face any resistance from your family, being such an avid traveller?

My family did not have a problem with my travelling per se, but about the expense involved in travelling abroad. Since my work took me to many places, that problem vanished. My family, especially my husband has been quite supportive. My younger son now encourages me to explore. I feel I am truly blessed to have such support.

Travelling means new sights, new insights, new experiences and a widening of my horizons. Nothing opens your mind as travel – getting to know firsthand about people and cultures.

Being a woman, did you come across any stereotypes pertaining to women travellers and how did you deal with them?

No, I can’t say I came across stereotypes. I don’t think my gender was an issue in any of the trips I made. 

What is your view on solo travelling?

Nothing like a solo trip to bring out your character. It is also very conducive to better observation since you’re not distracted by your travel companion. Besides, solo travel gives one a degree of flexibility that is never available when one travels with others. 

travel sudha mahalingam
Scuba diving

As a traveller, any tips that you would like to share related to preparation, dangers and type of travelling, with other travellers?

Be alert and be flexible. Most of the hustling is about money. So do your homework and be careful how you respond to touts. Never venture into ill-lit lonely streets at night, always stick to where the crowds are. If possible, always keep your passport on your person. I just got back from a trip to Madagascar where I scaled steep and sharp limestone cliffs. It was a risky four-hour climb. But my passport was always in a bag slung across my shoulders. 

What is your message for the aspiring women travellers and also those who hesitate to be one?

It is societal conditioning and one’s own mindset which works against solo travel. The best way to conquer your fears is to confront them. Do one trip solo and you’ll know you can do it.

Nothing like a solo trip to bring out your character. It is also very conducive to better observation since you’re not distracted by your travel companion.

What is your last-minute checklist before setting on solo travel?

Travel insurance, passport, enough money and credit cards. Other things you can buy locally.

Also Read: TravelHer: Hacks To Make Your Europe Trip A Memorable Experience

During your travelling expeditions, you always adjust in minimal conditions, like staying in small windowless rooms of hostels. Retired as an eminent journalist and still independent enough to afford a comfortable life, What is the spark that prepares you to adjust in such discomforts and repeat it again?

I don’t think of minimal conditions as any hardship provided the reward is worth it. In Madagascar, I had to sail in an open boat under a blazing sun for 2.5 days. The boat had no toilet and the sailing was for 10 hours each day. The boat crew prepared some lunch on board and I camped in a tent on the beach under a stunningly star-studded sky. Those two starry nights were rewarding enough for those two plus days on the open boat with a noisy outboard motor. 

I dislike five-star travel and package tours are a horror, as far as I am concerned. If something is too easy, why do it?

Where are you off to next? Tell us a little about your upcoming expedition?  

I am going to Patagonia in December with my younger son. We will go to Tierra del Fuego, the end of the earth, so to speak and also to Torres del Paine. I am exploring the possibility of including a drive-through Carretera austral.

Rudrani Kumari is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.

Also Read: TravelHer: Of Road Trips Pre And Post The Offspring

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