By Sujata Rajpal
A strong woman knows she has strength enough for the journey but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will become strong! – “This anonymous quote has impressed me. If you ask what Women’s Day means to me, I can say that I have not faced any gender bias in my travelling or my professional field. I was lucky to travel to so many places on my own and this travelling has boosted my confidence.”
- Anita Raman, solo traveller
“Why do I travel so often? is the most frequently asked question to me,” says Anita Achar Raman who is fondly known in her friends’ circle as the woman whose WhatsApp status is ‘always travelling’. Every conversation with her begins with ‘from where’ve you returned and where are you travelling to next?’
Even before I shoot my first question, this travel buff is talking excitedly about her most recent trip to Gandikota — the spectacular Indian gorge in Andhra Pradesh that resembles the Grand Canyon.
This 60-year-old globetrotter has travelled to countries like South America (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia), Europe (France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland), the UK (England, Wales and Scotland), Central Asia (Uzbekistan), SE Asia (Myanmar, Bhutan) and the list goes on.
In India, she has travelled to most States except Tripura, Mizoram, Jharkhand and Lakshadweep. “My most adventurous trip so far was to Samaipata in Bolivia where I travelled alone,” tells this travel buff.
“It was dark and pouring when I got down from the bus to go to El Fuerte, a UNESCO World Heritage site realising that this was not the place I intended to visit. It was slushy all over, and the street dogs barked, it was scary but soon another bus came, and a couple got down who were also looking for the same place. I had company and it was less scary,” she recalls with a chuckle.
The modus operandi a compulsive traveller follows is simple — decide on a destination, plan the outline of the trip, pack your bags and leave. The micro-planning happens on the spot with tips from locals and fellow travellers.
“The best way to discover a place is to travel like a local, which gives you an opportunity to explore the local terrain, experience the local culture and hitherto unexplored areas. The fun lies in surprises and unforeseen,” says Anita who is a vegetarian but doesn’t see this as a handicap on her travels abroad.
Fruits and vegetables are available everywhere, so food is the least of her worries.’ Garam masala and Chutney pudi that she always carries with her are her saviours. “Many a time Chutney pudi turns out to be an icebreaker when I would be sitting at a corner table in some restaurant in a remote city sprinkling the spicy pudi over toast, someone will ask me about it and we would start talking and before I know it that person is my travelling partner for the rest of my trip. Even language is never an issue because someone will know English,” says Anita. She learnt Spanish as preparation for one of her trips.
Anita was initiated into travelling by her father who believed travelling is a great teacher. They would travel in and around the places they lived. Later in 1988 after her marriage to Raman, an Air Force pilot, she got additional wings to travel as his frequent transfers meant more areas to explore.
Since 2007 when the couple made Mysuru their permanent home, our travel girl has been unstoppable. She would just take off with or without a companion. She prefers a travelling partner because there would be someone to share the ‘wow’ moments but if there is no interested partner available and the travel bug had already bitten her, she would go solo.
Anita is a German language teacher and when she is not travelling, she is teaching German at home.
Even when the pandemic has put the entire world on pause, Anita travelled to Chanderi and Orchha in Madhya Pradesh just before the lockdown was announced in March 2020. In 2021, she made a road trip with her family to Kumta and Yana in Sirsi which was followed by another quick trip to Suryalanka Kakinada Visakhapatnam in coastal AP.
When I ask her if one needs deep pockets to travel so often, she waves a dismissive hand. On her travels abroad, she stays in hostels which are available for 20 dollars a night and the local food is also available at a reasonable price.
Of late, this travel enthusiast has become a strong advocate of Indian tourism. “The travel conditions in India have improved remarkably such as the condition of roads, availability of good hygienic food and quality hotels at reasonable tariffs. Availability of clean toilets is also not so much of a problem as these days petrol bunks too have toilets. Homestays and holiday rentals have made tourism a lot more affordable,” she reveals.
The trigger for travel can come in the form of a photograph, an article on a place or a mention about it somewhere. “And my hands and feet wouldn’t stop itching until I have visited that place,” confesses this impulsive traveller.
“If you are a solo traveller, stay in touch with your family back home, so that they can reach you in case of any emergency,” she advises.
The journey continues — the next on the list are Dhanushkodi, the last town after Rameswaram, Atal Tunnel under Rohtang Pass, Georgia, South American countries of Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and China. Replying to the question on top, this travel-lover says, “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
Anita and Raman have a son named Armaan who is a 3rd-year B.Sc. student in St. Joseph’s College, Bengaluru.