Elita is a female (solo) traveler from Mumbai, India. A firm believer of ‘Have feet will travel’, she writes about her journeys at Nomadic Thunker.
We caught up with Elita to get know her a little better, about her travel diaries, on how she started a travel blog.
Can you tell us when and how did the travel bug bite you?
It would be safe to say that travel chose me – even though I’d like to think it happened the other way around. I happen to be born to parents who love to travel. Road trips and train travel have been the norm within my family. So I think it was a natural progression for me to begin venturing on my own at some point. And that would be 2012.
I started travelling on my own a little over 3 years ago. And I haven’t looked back since. It happened by chance – solo travel wasn’t a bucket list waiting to be ticked off. I had office leaves that would die a ‘lapsed-due-to-accumulation’ death and solo travel seemed like the only redeemer. Little did I know it worked as a drug.
And how do you fund your travel ?(savings/work whilst traveling/other)
I quit my job last December (2014) and have been working my way through my travels. I started out on a 6 month fellowship after which I have been engaged in projects that either let me earn enough to travel or let me work while I travel.
How long have you been documenting your travel stories ?
Travel has been my muse when it comes to writing. That’s how my blog has evolved into a travel blog over time. For me, blogging about my travel experiences are not only an opportunity to relive my travels once more, albeit through words but also a form of expression that can be shared with everyone else. I’ve been blogging at Nomadic Thunker. almost religiously since 2013.
Can you share with us, that one travel memory that you cherish till date ?
This is my most favourite and therefore a travel memory you’ll hear me cite very often. Bihar was the state I spent my five weeks in solo travelling. For reasons I’m still trying to fathom, its repute is perpetually under the scanner. May be it has to do with its location in what’s possibly India’s ‘notorious north’. I was led on by these beliefs too. For a short while though thankfully – and here’s why.
Google Maps wasn’t always there to help me out. So back on the streets, where I found myself 80% of the time navigating my way, people were not just approachable but extremely helpful. I could walk up to anyone – be it a passer-by, the fellow at the pan shop or the auto-rickshaw driver. It was seldom, if ever, a matter of ‘let me see who looks safe to walk up to’.And what happened when I walked up to a local to seek directions?
A) They would direct me on exactly how I needed to get there.
B) They would smile sheepishly (mostly men) or apologize (mostly women) if they are unable to help out.
I would also like to add that, whether in or outside Patna, never did I face a single instance of catcalling
Have you been to any place, which turned out to be totally different to how you had imagined? If so, how?
That place would have to be Bihar and for the same reasons I highlighted in the response above. I have shared the entire experience through this post.
Your preferred travel companions?
My diary, camera, portable charger, at least one paperback (if not more). Only people who don’t travel like there’s a check-list are the kind of company I welcome. 🙂
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is the first item?
I have North-East India, Punjab, Jharkhand and the islands – Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar – that I have not explored at all in India. And they are all right at the top of the list.
Your views & experiences (if any) on safety while travelling on your own.
Solo travel in India is possible and safe. Even for women. I have always had people watching out for me. So whether you’re a lone male or female or a group of people traveling to anywhere for the first time – people generally try to help you in any capacity they can. I have had bus conductors directing me to empty seats (when they realized that my bag alone occupies more space than I do!).
I have also learnt that rickshaw drivers are pleasant folks.The more I have ventured out, the more I have returned reaffirmed in my belief that it ain’t as bleak as it’s been made to seem. I have shared a couple of tips and experiences in an article I had written for Youth Ki Awaaz.
We all know that travel teaches us a great deal of things about life. Can you share with us what has travel taught you ?
This is something I have said even before – Travel is fatal to prejudice. is a very apt Mark Twain quote. And I believe it to be absolutely true for me. It describes not just the impressions left on my mind but also the biases that have been erased courtesy my first-hand experience of seeing my own country.
Today I can confidently say that I am a lot more mindful and sensitive to people, cultures and places. I have become more responsible for myself and the world around me. As a consequence, I’m aware and self-assured. Travel has made me resourceful. But above all it has taught me patience – first by breaking the illusion of control because sometimes everything that can go wrong does go wrong but you can only go forward.
I had separately penned these thoughts down after my first experience at long term travel
Is there anything you do on your travels or in your every day life to try to minimize your impact on the environment?
As most of my travel has been within India, I seldom if ever take flights. I prefer train travel. Interestingly though my only ‘overseas’ travel so far has been to Bhutan – and even that was via train.
I have also been trying to travel by the Sleeper Class and not three tier AC in a bid to further minimize my carbon footprint.
I am big on homestays so I live with locals and eat locally grown produce to the extent possible.
Bottled/packaged water is a big NO for me as is anything plastic. Trash of any kind isn’t left behind in the hills or forests or around water-bodies.
This to me is less about minimizing my impact on the environment and more about basic civic sense and responsibility!
Please share with us, your message to aspiring women travelers?
If you are a solo traveler with a pen and paper/diary like me, then even more so. Be assured its harmless watching, mostly out of curiosity. That’s why you need to be at ease with yourself before dealing with everyone else’s uneasiness. Nevertheless don’t discount your gut instinct.
Be aware at all times of your surroundings. If something doesn’t feel right may be it really isn’t. Keep your family and friends in the loop regarding your whereabouts. I get asked often (and not just by aspiring ‘female’ solo travelers), “How did your parents allow you?” or “What did you do to convince your parents?”, I did nothing except providing them with all the details. Every. Single. Time.
And frankly, you do a good job of being responsible the first time around, no one panics. Ever.
Learn to decide for yourself. Most importantly, trust yourself. Opinions (of what’s right or wrong) and advice (of why this is right and that is wrong) have and will continue to flow like a river. Be grown-up enough to chalk your own destination, your route, your days, and your budget — be open to suggestions, but don’t get overwhelmed.
But be responsible. No crying buckets, hurtling expletives or flailing hands in the air when things don’t go as per “your” plan (as it is bound to happen anyway). Don’t forget you’re out to ‘enjoy yourself’ – it has no definition for a reason.
We asked Elita to give a one word substitute on few travel related questions.
- If some one asked you to give up travel and choose exactly one thing to do in life, what would you choose?
I’d become a writer
- A fictional character would you most like to meet or travel with ?
Calvin and Hobbes
- One Dream Destination?
- Your most preferred way of travelling (Backpacking/Economy/Luxury)?
Something between backpacking and economy
- What describes you as a travel style as a woman, the best? Nomad / Diva / Aam Admi
- A traveler who inspires you
Mr Vijayan – The tea vendor from Kochi who has been travelling the world.
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