Sudha Gupta in Antarctica
Sudha, who will turn 45 in 2017, considers herself the “happiest person” around with an appetite for life and experiences. An early riser, (she starts her day around 4:30-5:00 AM) she just can’t wait to get going, so that she can do all the things she loves to do; Travelling and Reading tops her list.
Feeling alone and bored doesn’t occur to her. Extremely comfortable in her own company, and yes, she is not a loner. She says, “I love people; with multitudes of friends and family. I am not hesitant to talk to anyone. Every person is interesting; they are like a book in itself. But I am my very own best friend and love travelling alone the most.”
She has travelled to five continents, 35 countries and most of the time travels as a solo woman traveller. She explores cities, towns, terrains by walking around with a map in her hand and prefers doing it all on-foot. She says. “I have walked 7-8 hours a day sometimes, like in New York, Bolivia and Beijing etc.”
Charting unexplored territories like Zero Degree Ecuador in Ecuador country, on the highest motorable pass in Ladakh (Khardung La), below sea level in Dead Sea-Israel, these places excite her the most. She has done scuba diving in Maldives, surfing in Bali, Microlight aircraft maneuvering in Israel, snow camping & kayaking in Antarctica, climbed steep mountains of Bhutan and jumped into a hot spring in freezing, sub-zero temperature in Bolivia with a bare accompaniment of swimwear.”
“As a child, she saw that her father used to travel a lot. His trips were sponsored by universities and various organisations who invited him as an environmental expert. In 1982-83, he went for two years to Germany with her mother and other siblings. She had to stay back with her grandmother as a sixth-grader. At this time she told her parents that if they don’t take her to Germany, she would start travelling around the world alone. Now she realizes, that childhood dream was always alive inside her head. Sudha turned it all into a reality in her adult years.”
“After studying Geography in college, she opted Psychology for her Masters. Alongwith that she completed a diploma course in tourism and travel management. In 1995, this landed her a job in SITA world Travels. Within a span of a year, she fell in love with travel business and forgot about her M.Phil studies.
In 2006 after a decade, she started her own travel company Explorers, Wanderers & Travelers - Vedic Tours. Within first six months, she had a turnover of 2 Crores. There was already a bevy of foreign clients and business partners in her kitty because of her exceptional work. Within the first year of its start, her company handled esteemed guests like Prime Minister of Greece in association with Greek Embassy and the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel in association with Embassy of Israel for their state visits to India. She has been running her company for 11 years now.
Sudha is very clear that she is not a traveller, rather an explorer and adventurer. She strongly believes that it is important to travel solo; it brings a person closer to their soul. She reflects, “Most people avoid being alone and, still feel lonely even when surrounded by people. Solo travel makes you face yourself, your fears, insecurities and abilities. We realise what meaning others hold in our lives. What do we really need in life and what’s excess, unwanted and of no value? It expands our network of friends, opens us up to people, other than family, new experiences and people. It helps us get over our attachments and dependence on the familiar for comfort. Travelling solo broadens one’s mind, you learn to accept differences among people, their culture, habit, food etc. One also learns to stay fit on regular basis.”
Sudha Gupta in Peru
She has many memorable moments from her trips. Her first ever trip towards West was to Israel, when it was not a popular destination among travelers. Once in the remote mountains of Chandratal region in Himachal Pradesh, her jeep had a flat tyre and as the driver fixed it, she walked deep into the mountains. Not realizing how far she had walked, she lost her way and couldn’t find the driver. She didn’t have her phone, money or any water to drink. After desperately walking around for awhile, she saw a shepherd; he was her only ray of hope. He told her the nearest city would take two days to reach by foot. As she started walking towards it, god had a change of heart and thankfully, she found her jeep and the driver. Phew!
Another such incident in Nagaland left her with fond memories of hospitality. On a day, when torrential rains had lashed several parts of the state, Sudha took refuge with a family of four in a remote village. With no civic amenities to their rescue, and to top it the downpour; she alongwith her driver and guide, decided to stay back the night. Soon, the lady of the house started cooking for them, Sudha helped her in it and they all had a hearty meal. While handing out money in appreciation for the family’s hospitality, they refused to take it :)”
Sudha Gupta in China
When asked what are challenges one should be
prepared for while travelling solo. Sudha advises;
“Firstly, finance is the biggest consideration. I live for travel therefore I save a lot for it. By nature, I don’t fancy clothes and jewellery. Rather I would explore a new country.
Secondly, language can be a big problem. But I didn't want it to be a challenge for me. I have a knack for languages and pick up fast. After I got hooked to my travel job, I enrolled for different languages over the years and, picked up basics in many languages like French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Hebrew. I also learned to read Russian. All this helps me at least read maps and signs. With my basic Spanish, I was able to get by in all remote parts of South American countries where English was not understood. Also, where I couldn't get by in spoken language, I used sign language, which I knew as my brother is hearing-impaired.”
Thirdly, food can be an issue, like being a vegetarian. I have gone fasting for longer than I wanted at times. But, with time, things are improving worldwide and i don’t find it difficult to travel now.”
She adds, “I had moments when I needed help and I approached. I was surprised how people extended support, sometimes going out of way. I believe most people are generally good. Though, it’s better to be a bit cautious, being careless can make travelling solo a nightmare or any misadventure can take place. Preparation makes any endeavor successful by allowing us to address critical issues, eliminating threats and contingency plans in place as a fallback option. I apply this to my daily life as well.”
It clearly stands out, optimism is Sudha’s strength. Pack your bags and head out on a journey girls in 2017!