Category: Interview with an adventurer

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Reluctant IT Analyst turns into enthusiastic mountain girl!

Richa Joshi booked with us before, and we were all super impressed with how early she planned her trek, and how much research she had done. But when she called us for the second time to book her NEXT trek, a couple of months before departure, we decided that we had to know more about this avid trekker who plans so well in advance.

TGN: Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? What kind of adventures do you like? What do you do for fun?
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Richa: I am a 27 year old IT analyst working in Hyderabad. The tag of IT Engineer was a choice I had to make, under the painful circumstances of not being happily allowed to go for Aeronautical engineering or Aviation school.

I was brought up in a small city called Haldwani near Nainital. My hometown is surrounded by the hills, and all my weekend getaways with my family were in Nainital and all the other nearby lakes and hills. I remember those weekends as the most blissful memoirs of happiness that I couldn’t find anywhere else till I started travelling again. When I moved out of my hometown to pursue higher studies, I wanted to travel as much as I could but it was difficult to do so in the monthly allowance that was provided strictly to meet the needs and requirements, not the wants. I would save some money every month for my travel goals.

It took 6 years of struggle through B.C.A. and then M.C.A. to get to where I am now. Part of me enjoys the work I do, but the life of an IT analyst is not adventurous. I’m working in a cubicle every day, and that’s where travel becomes my saviour and keeper.

Breaking the monotony of a metropolis life with the rush of adrenaline and anticipation amidst the mountains is my favourite adventure. There is something strangely comforting and refreshing in scaling mountains and going on road trips. It’s as if I belong there.

When I am not travelling, I pick up my bike and camera, and through the lens I see all that I missed out around me. My books are another one of my mates; reading about places, people, and their adventures puts all the more sense in seeking my own adventure.

TGN: How often do you manage to get away and travel? You always make your enquiries a couple of months (or more) before your actual trip. How early does your planning process start?
Richa: In a job where there is no limit to working hours, planning in time is the key to chalk out your travel. The holiday calendars come in very handy in planning a vacation. My New Year resolution list is a travel list; I plan and book my travel 6 months in advance, this helps me go on a trek twice a year. Every 3 to 4 months I go for smaller travel plans and they don’t require so much planning. All of this is great, but it’s never enough.

TGN: A lot of travellers tend to make last-minute bookings for adventure travel. You’re one of the few who plans ahead, and we love it because it lets us find you the best trips and operator for you, and book you for the dates you want! Why is it important to you to plan in advance?
Richa: I can’t say what it means for others, but for me, travel gives me time to find myself. With the strictly limited time that I get for something that gives me the joy of living, I want to make sure there are no last-minute hiccups. I am also a well-organised person, so maybe that also adds to the need of planning in advance.

TGN: How do you decide on your next adventure?
Richa: Sometimes it happens when I read about the adventures of other trekkers. Sometimes it just clicks. There’s no particular answer that I can pin onto.

TGN: What kind of adventure equipment do you use? Do you have a favourite brand?
Richa: Decathlon is my one-stop store. There are not a lot of options in our country for adventure equipment. One of my favourite brands is Keen.

TGN: Do you travel solo for adventure?
Richa: Sometimes, yes.

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TGN: We love seeing women heading out on solo adventures. What advice do you have for women travellers who want to travel on their own?
Richa: You deserve it as much as anyone else out there. Go for it!

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TGN: Do you have an adventure travel bucket list? What do you plan to do next?
Richa: I do have an adventure travel bucket list and it gets improvised every year. A road trip to Ladakh is next in line.

TGN: Do you have a favourite moment from your adventure travel? One moment when you’ve stood in wonder and realized you’d never forget that precious experience.
Richa: There is actually one such moment. Gazing at the breathtaking panorama of the view of Hampta Pass at the altitude of 14,000 ft. I felt no camera lens could do justice to what I saw. It was a view reserved for the Gods. My heart was in my mouth, awestruck with the majestic serenity of this landscape. The aura of this scenic beauty I beheld can’t be put down in words. I was consumed by the scene before my eyes.

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But there was more to learn in this journey. We were trekking down towards Shia Goru from Hampta Pass when some loose rocks started falling from above us and my guide pulled me under a huge rock and we were saved by an inch. That’s when I thought for the first time how lucky I was to be alive. Living in a city you tend to take for granted the life you have and whine about what you do not have but it is good fortune alone to be alive.

TGN: You’ve travelled with The Great Next a couple of times now. What makes you come back?
Richa: I keep coming back to The Great Next for the exemplary support you guys provide. There are people like Venkat, who are extremely polite when explaining the options, even when I raise a doubt again and again. He’s helped me to plan my last two treks. Your operational customer support is commendable too. Your work ethics, your people represent an image of a passionate travel agency helping people live their adventures.

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Richa shares pics of her travel on Instagram here, and it’s a beautiful feed full of travel inspiration!

If you’d like to book an adventure, we’ve got something for everyone: scuba diving, cycling, trekking, rafting, rock-climbing, kayaking, and lots more. Get in touch if you need help finding something that suits you.

Want to read about other adventurers? Here are some you might like:
Interview with an adventurer – Snigdha Bawa, Open Water Diver
Interview with an adventurer – Abhishek Iyer, solo long distance cyclist
Interview with an adventurer – Reena Talawar, solo female Chadar trekker

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Interview with an adventurer – Abhishek Iyer, solo long-distance cyclist

When we heard about Abhi Iyer’s odyssey, we were terribly excited. A young adventure-seeker, setting off on his own from his house in Pune with nothing but a cycle to carry him across the 1600 kms from Pune to Kanyakumari, along the coastline of India – how inspiring is that?! We just had to ask him all about it.

Here’s Abhi, telling us his guts and glory story!

TGN: Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? What kind of adventures do you like? What do you do for fun?
AI: I’m 28, a Marine Engineer and I grew up and live in Pune. I spend a few months out of the year working on board ships and a few months back on land on vacation. I usually lead a physically active lifestyle, due to the nature of my work with it being a blue collar job. When I’m back home though, I love to play basketball and train occasionally for triathlons. Bicycles being my preferred mode of transport, of course :) 1-bA0F_kDgfjkhL5f_xwggCQ

TGN: How often do you manage to get away and travel?
AI: I suppose going a month without heading out gets me feeling restless. Even a weekend get away with a hike or camp helps me reset sometimes. I feel privileged that my lifestyle allows me to up and go anytime if I should want to.

TGN: What is it that makes you want to travel? Did the adventure bug bite you young?
AI: I wouldn’t say I caught the bug early on. It sure has accumulated over the years. I look to head out mainly for mental stimulation and the need to challenge myself each time. I feel I return a wiser me and realize just how insignificant we all and our problems really can be.
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TGN: What made you decide to do this solo cycling trip?
AI: Simply put, I had the time for it and I hadn’t topped my last challenge of a Half-Ironman Triathlon in months. This seemed like an opportune time to execute it and none of my peers had done such a thing before. I guess I also felt like I was at a point in life where I had a point to prove.

TGN: Was this the first time you’ve done a solo cycling trip?
AI: The first solo biking trip over long distance would be 2 years ago. I remember carrying my bicycle via train to Chennai for a Triathlon and post that I biked inter-cities sometimes, exploring the South of India.

TGN: Tell us about the trip. What route did you take?
AI: Pune-Goa is a pretty common route for veteran cyclists and I was looking to do something different with it. A friend recommended I look into going further South and I got down to researching it. To my fortune I read that the coastal highway up to Kanyakumari was supposedly a very beautiful ride. All I had to do was move west, find the coast and just head south. So I decided to figure out basic logistics and felt adamant about doing this entirely on my own. In retrospect, I’m glad I chose to do so.
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TGN: What kind of research goes into a trip like this?
AI: I spent less than a week. I had the idea, spent time reading online and spent time procuring gear for it. That’s the nutshell. I would recommend one to not spend all their time over research and making things fool proof. In my experience, the trip itself usually doesn’t materialise if you contemplate and sweat the small stuff. If you’ve thought about it, just go! That’d be my mantra, if any. Of course I must add that I did feel physically fit to begin with.

TGN: How did you manage your luggage? It looked like you went completely minimal. We’re guessing you didn’t have too many costume changes :)
AI: Glad you noticed :) I feel like a bit of an expert with packing for travel since I’ve taken an umpteen number of solo trips if I’m not just counting bike rides. For this one I picked up a pair of neat looking pannier bags from Decathlon and they were each a 7kg max load/19ltr volume bag, if I remember correctly.

I carried with me 3 sets of riding clothes, 3 sets of casual wear, a minimum required amount of bicycle spares and tools and a few electronics. All of this fit snugly into these bags and they clipped perfectly along the sides of my bike pannier. Total weight was possibly 12kgs. I’d do my laundry once in few days if I got in early and had access to a washing machine.
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TGN: What kind of gear do you use? Do you have any favourite brands?
AI: Most of my bicycle accessories are from Decathlon – lights, handlebar grips, saddle pouch, portable bike pump etc. The bicycle tool kit and puncture related spares were an assortment of brands. I carried 2 new tubes, 1 hand pump, 1 puncture repair kit, 1 Allen-key set and installed a new pair of tyres before the ride. In terms of electronics I carried 1 pair of front and rear lights, a GoPro, 1 Hard drive, 1 power bank and a couple of chargers. Overall I’d always pick Decathlon for gear mainly for the convenience and the value for money factor.
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TGN: Do you have an adventure travel bucket list? What do you plan to do next?
AI: I do have something lined up for the coming month if I don’t sail out already. I should know more post my shipping exams. I know I have to take it up a notch with the next one, but I’d rather keep it hush until I set out on it. I’ll tell you this though – It involves a bicycle, a GoPro and some rivers in the North of India.

TGN: Tell us about your favourite moment from this trip?
AI: I’ve got to say getting to Maravanthe Beach, Karnataka was refreshing and the stunning views there was something I wasn’t anticipating or had looked up. There isn’t much to do there besides a beach that’s located besides a highway with a river to the other side. Yet, it features on the nicest beaches I’ve been to this far. A tiny strip of land between Malpe, near Udupi, going all the way to Kapu was easily the best 30 odd km stretch of my ride, though.
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TGN: What advice do you have for adventurers who might want to do something like this?
AI: Just go. Don’t wait. You’re short changing yourself if you tell yourself you can’t figure it out. You’re missing out on experiencing new layers to yourself if you aren’t changing your environment often enough. I read something corny related to this once but I find that it applies each time – The biggest reason one doesn’t end up travelling is because they begin with “But……………..”1-vS0V4JPSzq3x-eFdvPOmqA

TGN: We HAVE to know more about this trip! Is there anywhere we can read about your trip in detail?
AI: I did finally get around to putting words on to paper from the sound bytes I left myself as journal entries along this ride. It is up on my Medium profile and the link to it is here. You’ll also find my other post on my Half-Ironman experience over there.

Watch Abhi’s video here:

If you’d like to try your hand at cycling yourself, you’ll find plenty of options to book here. We also have plenty of long-distance cycling trips if you’re looking for something more than day trips. Get in touch with us and we’ll help you choose the right one.

Looking for more inspiring stories from adventurers? Here’s a bunch you might like:
Interview with Snigdha Bawa, Open Water Diver
Interview with Reena Talawar, Chadar trekker
Interview with Shabbir Chandabhai, Kilimanjaro conqueror
Interview with Shivangi Singh, solo female trekker

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Interview with an adventurer – Snigdha Bawa, Open Water Diver

We didn’t know it at the time, but Snigdha bought her solo trip to the Andamans as a birthday gift to herself! What a wonderful way to celebrate the new year ahead! Snigdha went to Havelock to do her Open Water Diver course, and came back delighted. Well, you know how we love hearing about our solo women travellers; couldn’t help asking her for an interview.

Here’s Snigdha’s scuba story!

TGN: Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? What kind of adventures do you like? What do you do for fun?
SB: I’m a writer by profession and a happy soul by choice! Well before you get all “oh! That is arty”, I will clarify that I am a Technical Writer. Besides that I am a dancer and a theatre artist. I love to sleep and am a sloth, and when I am not sleeping, I am dancing or eating. And the time that I have in hand after all the dancing and the eating and the sleeping, I like to spend with my family, or hanging out with friends over a coffee or a beer, depending on what time of the day it is. Besides that I swim, kickbox and read books. Oh and I need background music while I do all of the above…

I don’t have a one “kind” for the adventure that I like. As clichéd as it sounds, I take life as an adventure. So right from gate-crashing a wedding to jumping out from a plane, all are my kinds of adventures.

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TGN: How often do you manage to get away and travel?
SB: It is not always possible to take time out, so I have set 7th April (my birthday) as a target, and have promised myself that I will tick one thing off my bucket list before that day every year.

TGN: You chose to do your Open Water Diver course in the Andamans. Have you ever been scuba diving before?
SB: No, although I have always been curious as to what lies beneath the sea, I’ve never taken the dive. But now that I am done with this course, it has gotten me addicted, and I will be planning an Advanced Course sometime soon too. I guess I just needed the taste of it and now there is no stopping.

TGN: We’re guessing you love the ocean. Have you done any other water-related adventure sports before?
SB: I am a water baby; the beach is where I belong, and I am ready to jump into the water at any time of the day. But when it comes to water related adventure sports, I haven’t really done anything as big as scuba, but just fun water rides here and there, like the “Leap of Faith” one in Dubai.

TGN: Some people take to scuba diving like a fish to water, and some people take a little time to adjust to the whole experience. What was it like for you under the water?
SB: Well, it was fun and easy to adapt to, although maintaining the buoyancy was a bit of a challenge, because one deep breath and you go flying up. But I had a great instructor who did not let me drift away, so I had that working for me.

I’ll personally define it as meditation, because you have to control your breathing, it brings you peace, and there is nothing more beautiful that you can experience than this.

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TGN: When you weren’t scuba diving, what did you manage to do and see in Havelock?
I did not have too much of spare time and the dives were exhausting too. I’d just go for a stroll around and try new cafes and food joints every day with a few good friends that I made there (also a big takeaway from this trip).

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TGN: We’ve sent quite a few solo women travellers on amazing adventures, and we love hearing from them after the trip. You chose to travel from Mumbai to the Andaman Islands on your own, and do a scuba course on your own. Tell us what led to this decision. Have you done a lot of solo travel before?
SB: I travelled from Hyderabad to Andaman. Not so long ago (about two years back), I decided to take myself out on a trip every year. The last one that I did was Rishikesh, but that one was with a group (a group of strangers, but still), and then I decided to do this, so, technically it is my first solo trip. I based my decision purely on impulse rather than putting in too much thought, because the more time you give yourself to think, the more sceptical you become about things like these. Sometimes you just have to go for it and that is what I did.

I’ve also been lucky with my family. Being brought up in India, my parents must have found it hard to send their girl out to strange places alone. But they’ve always been supportive. And not just that; they’ve also encouraged me to go out and explore. There’s nothing more empowering than having your parents backing you all the way, so I’d say that my parents make me stronger.

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TGN: Do you have an adventure travel bucket list? What do you plan to do next?
SB: I do… and the places on the list keep increasing. The next is Finland, to witness the Northern Lights.

TGN: What was your favourite moment from this trip?
SB: This is a tough one… I do have plenty but one for sure tops it all.

The second last dive, the water was crystal clear and we were 16 meters under the water. While we were busy looking around, I saw something breathing under the rocks, I tried signalling the rest from the group but they were a little ahead of me, so I descended a little more because something told me that I had someone waiting for me. I saw this beautiful octopus and I am not kidding when I say this, but it seemed like it peeped out of its hiding just to say hi to me, because it was only for a few seconds that we exchanged stares before I swam away to my group and it went back in. I am romanticizing the moment too much maybe, but that image of it royally showing itself off to me just won’t leave my mind.

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TGN: What advice do you have for women travellers who want to try adventure travel?
SB: The only scary part about going for any kind of adventure trip or any trip for that matter is to make up your mind to do so. And, once you are on the way to your journey there is no going back anyway, like literally. But the feeling that remains with you after you make that leap is something you will cherish your entire life. I have bungy jumped, and this was my second adventure trip, and with every trip I only want more. It adds to your life in ways that are unexplainable.

Snigdha also writes poetry (what a mix of talent!) and she was nice enough to send her scuba poem to us to put up here:

Here i stand by the sea shore
Thinking of beautiful things I know
With the sound of waves resonating through my soul
Giving me this strange feeling, making me feel whole
What amazes me is how simply the sea teaches you to fall and rise, and dance and flow freely
Isn’t that after all the purpose of life, the sole key?

If you’d like to go scuba diving yourself, you’ll find plenty of options to book here. Or get in touch with us and we’ll help you choose the right one.

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Interview with an adventurer – Reena Talawar, Chadar trekker

Reena Talawar got in touch with us one day in December, asking about a Chadar trek booking. We loved her curiosity and her enthusiasm, and she seemed to have made up her mind. Within no time, she was on her way to Leh.

Now the Chadar trek is no ordinary trek. In the winter, the Zanskar river in Leh freezes over, turning into a blanket of ice. Trekkers and adventurers from around the world have been flocking here for years, all for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of walking on ice. The temperatures drop to 15-30 below zero, you camp in caves, huddle around fires in the evening, and sleep in tents, listening to the ice groaning and screaming as it cracks and reforms during the night.

But here’s Reena, making it sound as easy as pie.

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TGN: Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? What kind of adventures do you like? Have you always been a traveller?
RT: This is the most arduous question. Well I am happy-go-lucky, jolly person and kinda bindass girl. I love to challenge myself and take risks. I am not a slogging 9-to-6 person – I lead my life on my own terms and conditions. To be honest, currently I am just chilling and hanging out with my family and wandering around. Apart from that, I do yoga, bake and cook occasionally [cheat on my diet ;)], meet new people, learn new things, etc. I feel that taking a break from the normal routine is a blessing, and helps you discover yourself. During my time off, I discovered that I love travelling and started exploring new places.

For me, everything is an adventure, whether it’s meeting someone, playing with my pets, learning new things, or working on new hobbies. “A new learning is the start of adventure” – I read this somewhere, and I believe in it quite strongly.

Not sure about always being a traveller. My father works with the Central Govt, and was transferred around quite a bit. We never shifted with him, but every summer, he’d take us to his new post location. So we managed to see a lot of new places, and stay away from the cities, in the midst of nature. This helped build my love for nature and made me a traveller, I think.

TGN: What made you pick the Chadar trek?
RT: The Chadar Trek was never in my mind; it just happened. I was planning to go to Bir, Spiti, but due to weather conditions the trek was cancelled and so were my plans. After New Year 2017, I started looking for Bir treks again, but was not sure about the outcome. Meanwhile many treks came to mind: Kuari Pass, Chopta, etc but nothing interested me. One day while browsing, I came across Chadar trek. I guess you could say I heard the call of the Chadar trek! I started researching it, and finally I went ahead and booked without any second thought, with you guys.

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TGN: Did you do any special training for the Chadar trek? Tell us how you prepared.
RT: This one is quite tricky as I had only 15 days before the trek to be prepared. Mentally I was preparing myself that I’d have to be fit enough to manage the tricky terrain of the Chadar. I’d go to bed planning to wake up early and go jogging for 30 minutes, but I’d end up walking like a tortoise for 30 minutes instead. It worked for me, but I’d suggest to others to eat healthy and jog to get fit and increase stamina. While you’re trekking, the most important things are focus and determination.

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TGN: What kind of gear did you use?
RT: I am not really a gear or gadgets person; I believe in walking free, away from gadgets and enjoying every bit of nature. Sometimes I get lost so much in the breath-taking essence of Mother Earth that I even forget to click pictures and enjoy every bit of it.

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TGN: On a scale of ‘I’m freeeezzinnnngg’ to ‘God please take me home’, how cold was it? How did you deal with the super low temperatures?
RT: Cold is an understatement for Chadar. I was prepared for -20 degrees, but the temperatures dropped to -26 to -30 degrees, with heavy snowfall. I was shivering, and my teeth were chattering. While trekking I did not feel the cold much, but the evenings and nights were cold as hell. I just layered my clothes, drank hot cups of black tea after the trek, filled up with hot supper at night, and went to sleep inside the sleeping bag. All those tricks made it easier.

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TGN: Do you always go trekking alone? Do you find that it makes the experience better?
RT: Yes, I have been trekking solo. I usually go solo, but end up meeting like-minded people with many different experiences, lots of memories, stories shared, inspirations, etc. I would like to share a story of a friend whom I met in Chadar trek. He had planned his trek with 2 of his friends, but they unfortunately ditched him at the last minute. He was left with no one to accompany him, but he stuck to his plan. He was nervous to be trekking solo for the first time, but he gathered his guts and travelled to Leh. We all met, shopped, played, and trekked together. At the end of the trek, he said this line that I won’t forget: “I came solo but am ending this trek with a family”. That’s what the best experience of travelling solo is.

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TGN: If you had to pick one, what was the best moment on your Chadar trek?
RT: Ah! There were lot of “best moments”, but this one is worth sharing, It was the games that we played as a group after our trek, be it volleyball, football, porter pulling, antakshari, storytelling, etc. Our inner child was awakened in those 6 days. Those moments are nostalgic.

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TGN: We hear from a lot of young girls or solo women travellers who are nervous about travelling alone. What message would you send to them?
RT: Travelling is a blessing in itself. Not everyone gets a chance to do so and travelling alone/solo is heavenly. You just don’t see or visit the place but you feel it. So girls, don’t be scared! Just pick up your backpack and leave. Staying in the midst of mountains, sleeping below millions of stars is a supreme bliss. Yes, take precautions, but the world is not as wild as we think. Humanity still exists in each one of us. Just the right approach and presence of mind makes life easy.

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TGN: You’re a real inspiration to adventurers everywhere. Tell us what’s next on your travel bucket list.
RT: I don’t have a bucket list. I make a spontaneous decision about to my next travel/trek. It’s like a big mind game. Whatever comes to mind first is my next travel plan. As of now, I’m planning to go to Mt Abu with my partner-in-crime and my travel inspiration, my mom. She is the true inspiration for all my travels.

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TGN: Are there any Chadar tips that you’d like to give to people thinking about going?
RT: Yes, I’d like to share something. Chadar is a divine place, but it’s large and hard for one team or group to keep clean. Please do your bit and don’t throw litter around. Make a pledge to yourself that you’ll carry an extra bag to store your own trash, or try to pick up the trash around if you see any and keep the surroundings clean and tidy.

For women travellers, please carry a small pack of sanitary napkins/ tampons. Even if you don’t end up needing it, you might be able to help out another female traveller if she’s forgotten or run out. It will be a helping hand for someone else. And please, please, please, do not litter. Roll up your personal waste items really small, wrap it up in a zip pouch and carry it back along with you. You can always throw it away in the garbage once you reach your hotel/homestay/resort where it will be disposed of properly. I thank each one of you personally for reading this, and even more if you decide to help keep the Chadar trek clean.

If you’d like to check out our Chadar trip options, you’ll find plenty here. The season is only for a couple of months each year, in Jan and Feb, when winter is at its peak. That means you have enough time to train for it if you start now :)

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Interview with an adventurer – Shabbir Chandabhai, Kilimanjaro conqueror!

Shabbir Chandabhai is a Bombay boy who went to the US to study, got married, had two children, and is an architect. But that’s where his story diverges from the norm. He’s recently conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro, done some intense alpine climbing in the North Cascades, and is aiming at Everest next.

Shabbir took a break of 15 years (f-i-f-t-e-e-n y-e-a-r-s) to build the life he wanted, and then decided he missed the mountains too much. So he whipped himself back in shape, set his sights on Uhuru in Kilimanjaro, and found himself at the top of this towering giant one day.

Naturally, The Great Next couldn’t wait to hear from him.

Image credit: Shabbir Burhani

TGN: Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? What kind of adventures do you like? What do you do for fun?
SB: I have been a dreamer since childhood (no wonder I could never focus in school!) I dreamed about exploring the unknown, travelling to far off places, designing and building things. By profession I ended up being an architect, however I love reading, photography, and generally being outdoors. I love the urban environment, rather than the secluded suburbs and I have lived in mega cities all my life. Maybe that is why I love to get away to nature at the first opportunity. Growing up at sea level was fun; however I have always preferred the mountains to the beaches!

When I am not designing, I am usually lounging on my Eames chair reading or working in my backyard, sometimes I’m planning social events to meet family and friends; but at the back of my mind, I’m always working on a new plan to go ‘into the wild’.

TGN: Have you always been an adventurer? What inspired you to start?
SB: Not really. I was always an introvert as a child, loved to be home and play with Lego, rather than go out and play with friends in the park. However, my parents encouraged us to get outdoors. Once I remember getting a good scolding because I ventured out biking with some friends outside my residential colony, which was beyond my bounds. Maybe I should not have taken my mom’s words to “get outdoors” as literally.

My parents used to enroll us at YMCA summer camps, and we always had a ball of a time. Slowly we started going for camps to various hill stations around India, which was a huge inspiration for me to get out there with a bunch of new friends and explore.

TGN: Tell us about some of your most memorable early travel experiences.
SB: In my college days, we took a trip to Nepal, starting in Kathmandu, and driving to Pokhara. From Pokhara we could see the spectacular Annapurna range. After Nepal we ventured into Gangtok, Sikkim. That was the first time I saw Kanchenjunga with Makulu, Mt. Everest and Lhotse in the background. Now, I am not sure if it was good or bad, but viewing Everest from Tiger Hill was when the aim to try to climb Everest someday was born. I was always pretty good at geography in school, and all I could think when I saw Everest was of its height: 8848 metres.

On another camp to Uttarakhand, we had to pass a physical test to qualify for this camp in the high mountains. I completed the rigorous course around the hills of Belapur (New Bombay) with ease and qualified. From Shimla, we trekked higher to a remote village which was 9000 to 9500 ft above sea level. We learned some technical rock climbing, rappelling, tent pitching, and target shooting and did some unforgettable trekking on the hills in the vicinity. Trips like these were pretty much the foundation for my love of the hills and mountains.

Towards my final years in college, we ventured out on some other trips to Kullu, Manali and Shimla. Went up Rohtang Pass, Sela Pass, Changu lake and then another unforgettable trip to North-east India in 2000. We travelled all the way up to Tawang and Bomdila and trekked within that region close to the India-Burma and India-China border. The culture, the architecture and the landscape, a combination of all these made it a spectacular destination and ever since I have been longing to go back to the Himalayas.

Image credit: Shabbir Burhani

TGN: But then time went by?
SB: Yes. After college, it was time to graduate and build a career. I graduated and worked for 2 years in Mumbai and in 2002, headed to the US to get my Masters degree. Got married in 2003 to my amazing partner in crime, and have had 2 wonderful kids since then. Time flew by and I never got a chance to get back to climbing. Yes, we did do some camps, hikes and whitewater rafting, however nothing was an intense and challenging which I dreamt of. 15 years of my life just whizzed by….

TGN: And now you’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Congratulations! How did that come about?
SB: In 2008, I happened to go to Tanzania for a wedding. That’s when I saw the spectacular Mt Meru. I’d been out of the game for a while, but the yearning for the mountains hit me hard again. I spent some time trying to work things out, and then finally decided to get back to it. I started small, joining a gym to do some cardio and weight training with a professional trainer. I got into running a few days a week as well. All the time, I could feel Kilimanjaro waiting. I asked family and friends if anyone was interested in climbing with me, but nothing really materialized. By some chance, I happened to mention to my trainer, Matt, that I was going to climb Kilimanjaro, no matter who joined me. And guess what? He decided he’d join me. We managed to gather another 9 members to climb with us.

So we trained for 4 months, 4 intense months of gruelling training, and then finally, set out in Feb 2016. On the 26th of Feb, all of us reached the top of Kilimanjaro, at a height of 19,341 feet.

Image credit: Shabbir Burhani

TGN: What did it take, getting to the top?
SB: In my teenage days I suffered from asthma. I had some severe lower back problems around 2009 which lingered for a few years. I wanted to challenge myself, test my body and soul, so to speak, and hence wanted to get back and climb. It was very challenging indeed, especially after 15 years. However, I loved the experience, which has been sort of a self-discovery for me and ever since then, it has got me to do more and challenge myself further not only in climbing but all aspects of life!

TGN: You’ve also done some crazy high-altitude climbs. Tell us about those. What’s the highest altitude you’ve been to?
SB: According to the definition, high altitude is between 5000-11500 feet, and very high altitude is 11500-18000 feet. In the lower Himalayas, I’ve been as high as 14,000 feet. But for the Kilimanjaro trek, we climbed to Uhuru Peak which is at 19,341 feet, with some Class 3 rock scrambling. In the North Cascades on Mt. Shuksan, I’ve climbed the summit pyramid at 9131 feet, which was tough because it was a mix of alpine climbing and technical rock climbing.

In the Cascades

In the Cascades

TGN: What’s the toughest trek/climb you’ve done?
SB: Since I intend to do some high altitude climbs around the world, training in an alpine setting was key. Thus based on recommendation from a trusted guiding company in the Pacific Northwest, we ventured into the North Cascades to climb Mt. Shuksan. It is not a very tall mountain, however was ideal to train in terms of glacier travel, cramponing, crevasse and self-rescue, etc. I must say, it was even so more challenging than Kili. I mean Kili had its own challenges; however Mt Shuksan is considered a pretty tough climb, especially the summit pyramid.

TGN: Tell us about Mt.Shuksan. That sounds interesting!
SB: This expedition started off with trailhead, approximately 2,500 feet in elevation. We climbed through dense forest and up into the alpine zone to camp at approximately 6,000 feet on the edge of the Sulphide Glacier. A long day with 50 lb. packs, 5-7 hours in duration, probably the hardest day of the trip. We set camp on the glacier, carving out an even ledge on the snowfield. Day 2 was a training day and we learned several very important aspects of climbing in that environment which would be key for our bid to the summit. On Day 3, we had a really early breakfast, geared and roped up and started out before sun rise. We travelled through various steep sections of the hill and dodged our way up, avoiding crevasses. We saw a spectacular sunrise in the midst of the beautiful mountain ranges of the cascades as we took our first break around 7500 feet.

Sunrise in the Cascades

Sunrise in the Cascades

We chugged along higher and got to the base of the summit pyramid which is a massive 800 feet of vertical rock wall. This was the most challenging part for me, due to my lack of experience on technical rock climbing. However, with the help of our great guides, we removed our crampons and commenced our assault on the rock wall via a section called the gulley. We must have climbed 600 feet of this wall when we came to a very difficult section, everyone moved ahead, except me. I just couldn’t lift my legs to complete that crazy manoeuvre to go to the next rock. It was killing me, I slipped and was almost dangling trying to desperately hold the edge of a section with my fingertips and tried to get a little bit of a toe grip on an edge below. This was a do or die moment! Since we were all roped up, Johnny, my guide, hauled me up a certain steep section, which helped me climb the remaining section to the summit. We finally reached the summit 10:30 am (Aug 23, 2016).

Traversing snow fields in the Cascades

Traversing snow fields in the Cascades

TGN: Do you tend to stick with climbing and trekking, or do you do any other adventure sports?
SB: With the climbing fever deep within me, I will keep exploring and trekking; however I do love white-water kayaking, which I intend to keep doing while I am not climbing.

TGN: Do you have a special moment from your adventure travel? A moment you just knew you’d never forget?
SB: My father is and has always been a great inspiration to us. To see him being strong as he suffers through his ordeal of PSP (neurological Parkinsons) gives us hope. I hope to live up to his dreams, hope to enjoy life and do what he would have loved doing in good health. That’s one of the reasons I changed my lifestyle, got back into shape, leading a healthy life and no matter what the challenges, learned to overcome them with a smiling face (in most cases). Climbing Kilimanjaro with an intention for raising funds to cure PSP was one of my goals. After going through all the challenges (remembering that my father is going through far greater challenges) and seeing the summit within a few steps away bought tears in my eyes. It was not about proving to anyone or putting up a show, it was all about personal hard work, overcoming the most audacious obstacles in life, reaching a personal goal was like a light at the end of the long dark tunnel. For me, this is the moment I will never forget.

This one's for you, Dad!

This one’s for you, Dad!

solo women traveller in india

Interview with an adventurer – Shivangi Singh, solo woman traveller

We love travellers who are so keen to go on an adventure that they’re not hanging around waiting for friends to coordinate dates. (Life’s too short, yo!) And we have a special place in our hearts for women adventurers who are ready to strike out on their own and head into the wild. When Shivangi called us and told us she wanted to head into the mountains, we were delighted! We planned a dream trek for her, booking her to Hampta Pass, to see the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas and the ethereal blue waters of Chandratal, and meet the woolly denizens of the trail.

solo women traveller in india

Image credit: Shivangi Singh

Naturally, we just had to interview her after that. Here’s what Shivangi Singh has to say about travelling alone in India.

TGN: Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? What kind of adventures do you like? What do you do for fun?
SS: I’m a fitness trainer by profession, and am a master trainer for a New Zealand based company called Les Mills, which is a global leader in group exercise programs. I teach five programs to members and also train instructors to be able to teach the same around India. Apart from this, I’m also a certified teacher for TRX, Kettle Bell training and trigger point principles. Finally, I spent a month at Sivananda Ashram to become a yoga teacher. So it’s evident that in my free time, if I’m not travelling, I like learning more about aspects of my profession. That’s fun for me :p

As for what kind of adventure I like? Anything and everything. I feel there is so much yet for me to explore and experience, so it’s best to keep an open mind. If I don’t experience it, I can’t possibly know how much I could like it. So far I haven’t been able to find an adventure trip that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.

solo women traveller in india

Image credit: Shivangi Singh

TGN: How often do you manage to get away and travel?
SS: As often as I can. I’m always looking for any chance I can get to travel. If I have a long break (and money), I try to travel outside the country. If there are only a few days, I try to visit places around my city (Mumbai). I actually plan my work around my travel, making sure I can make enough money to pay for my trip.

solo women traveller in india

Image credit: Shivangi Singh

TGN: What is it that makes you want to travel? Did the adventure bug bite you young?
SS: Actually the lack of travel when I was younger makes me want to travel now. Until just 3 years ago, I hadn’t been anywhere outside my city except to visit my relatives to New Delhi. My father was always working and I wasn’t allowed to go on school trips. I had a difficult and complicated childhood, which led to depression and anxiety.

So one birthday, I decided to just go away some place nice. That was literally the only requirement I had. My brother helped me plan an adventure trip to Manali, which was quite challenging for many reasons. It was off-season; I was alone; and I hadn’t travelled before. My brother’s friend owned his own campsite just outside Manali, and he was great. I told him how inexperienced I was, and he told me to just come visit, and he’d plan an itinerary for me. I spent a week there, and that’s when I realized there is such an amazingly wonderful world out there and there is so much beauty and peace that I need to see/experience. It helped me cope with my mental health problems. Out there was the first time I felt amazed, I felt joy and the most amazing thing was that I felt at peace with myself. So I just knew when I came back from there that if I wanted to continue feeling this, I’d have to make sure I travelled more. Even if it scared me (fear of unknown, also anxiety) even if I had to do it alone (which was also scary).

Since then I’ve been to Europe (twice), Australia, I’ve been mountain biking in Mahabaleshwar, I’ve been waterfall rappelling, paragliding, I’ve visited Shimla and Kufri, where I saw snow for the first time, and I recently went to Bhutan. My latest trip has been the Hampta Pass trek I booked through The Great Next.

solo women traveller in india

Image credit: Shivangi Singh

TGN: There’s a lot of anxiety for and about solo women travellers. Tell us what it means to travel alone as a woman, in India and abroad.
SS: I’ve heard women are often scared to travel alone. In my experience, every single time I’ve travelled alone, I’ve not had any reason to be afraid. In fact, being alone has given me the freedom to be very flexible. I don’t need to coordinate or adjust to anyone else. It’s given me the opportunity to meet some amazingly wonderful and interesting people. Don’t get me wrong, I think travelling with family and friends is absolutely great. But in my case (and this often happens) everyone around me is always busy when I’m free. If I waited for a group, I would never get to travel.

Also when we are in a group, we tend to stick with people we know (since we all like our comfort zones) but being alone makes you want to interact with new people. More often than not, you’ll end up meeting like-minded people, and even if they’re from different corners of the world, the conversations with them are possibly the best part of exploring new places for me. The diversity in cultures but the similarity in thoughts and ideas gives you such amazing perspective to life. Also one great thing travelling alone showed me is that there are so many kind people that would be ready to help you and make the journey comfortable for you, especially if they find out you are a solo female traveller.

solo women traveller in india

Image credit: Shivangi Singh

TGN: Adventure travel is very glamorous, but for a solo traveller, man or woman, it involves a lot of planning and research. Where do you start?
SS: This is ironically funny, I’m the kind of person who thrives under structure, but absolutely hates planning. Now the thing is I’m an easy person when it comes to travelling. No tantrums, no do’s and don’ts. But I always like an itinerary to go by, so I leave it to the experts. Like your site (the great next). Like for this trek that I took to Hampta Pass, I just had to type that and I had so many options. I could select the date that worked for me, and I got all the details I needed to know for my first trek. It was so easy for me as booked the whole trip just 3-5 days before and was guided through everything. So all I had to do was go there and enjoy the experience.

TGN: What kind of gear do you use? Do you have any favourite brands?
SS: I’m not familiar with a lot of brands to have a favourite. I go for whichever seems the most functional and economical.

TGN: How do you manage to balance your career and your travel plans?
SS: I suppose it comes down to prioritising things. I try my best to prioritise travel as much as I prioritise work. When I work, I put all my energy and effort into, so if I work 300 days in a year taking 65 days out to travels doesn’t seem that difficult to do, depending on the situation I would either take all of them together or in breaks. I keep mentally reminding myself to not get so busy making a living that I forget to live.

solo women traveller in india

Image credit: Shivangi Singh

TGN: Do you have an adventure travel bucket list? What do you plan to do next?
SS: I don’t have a bucket list per se. All I know is there is so much out there to explore. I like being open to any opportunity I can get to visit a new beautiful place. I’m incredibly drawn to mountainy regions – the vastness and openness is really appealing to me. Which is why Leh-Ladakh and New Zealand are definitely high on my priority of places to visit.

TGN: Tell us about a special moment from your adventure travel?
SS: Oh there are so many! From the simple living in the tents, to meeting incredibly kind people to even learning more about ourselves. Every time we are faced with a challenge out there, we have to overcome it. There are no two ways about it when you are out in nature. This really breaks down the mental barriers we tend to have about ourselves, which I think is absolutely spectacular.

However, my absolute favourite this is the quiet moments with nature, those moments where all you see is open fields and large mountains around you. You feel one with nature and it feels like everything falls in perspective, like everything is as it should be. There is an amazing sense of ease that I feel, which I don’t often get to experience as I live in a very busy city.

solo women traveller in india

Image credit: Shivangi Singh

TGN: What advice do you have for women who want to try adventure travel alone?
SS: I would say, JUST GO FOR IT, there is an amazingly spectacular world out there, filled with beautiful breath-taking views and wonderfully kind people. There is something for every one from adrenaline junkies to peace lovers. It so important to get out there because it teaches us so much more about ourselves. Being in different cultures and situations makes us discover sides of ourselves that we didn’t even know existed. It tends to make us more open minded and accepting towards ourselves and others. We learn there are more ways than one to do things, making us less judgmental and help us evolve and grow more as human beings, essentially helps us become more peaceful with the world we live in and ourselves.

The best part is now we have so much help from sites like The Great Next which has all these planned trips. All we need to do is let them know we are alone and they help you with everything you could possibly need to know, and if they find out you are a girl they go out of their way to make the journey as comfortable and convenient as possible (I speak from personal experience). So there is no reason to plan a trip now, is there?

Follow Shivangi on Instagram for more of this inspiring adventurer.

If you’re a solo female traveller in India, looking for a trek or an adventure that you can book for yourself, get in touch. We know how to help you find the right trip and the right operator, and very soon, you’ll be lacing up those boots and heading out for your GREAT NEXT!

Cover image and all other images by Shivangi Singh.

P.S: Have you read some of these related articles:
Interview with Jaimen Hudson, quadriplegic with a quadcopter
Interview with Ashutosh Bijoor, dad and CTO
Finding the right backpack for your adventure
Smartphone apps to help you get fit for your next adventure

Interview with an adventurer – Ashutosh Bijoor, Mumbai

The team at TGN is waiting with bated breath for the monsoons to start here in Mumbai, so that the monsoon treks can begin. We like to pack our bags, pull on the oldest clothes we have, and head out into the green hills around the city to put ourselves to the test. For a long time now, we’ve been checking out this adventure blog for ideas on where to go and how to get there. This adventurer works long hours, has two teenage children, and still manages to get up to some wild stuff in his spare time.

It’s time to meet the guy behind the blog, Ashutosh Bijoor.

TGN: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you work? How long have you been travelling, and how important do you feel it is to make time for adventure?
AB: I work with Accion Labs as the CTO. I caught the travel bug from my wife Sharmila, and both our children – Shimul and Rohan had no choice but to follow suit. As a family we believe in investing in experiences and not physical assets. Yes, we do want the basics of a roof over our heads and good food to eat. But instead of spending money on expensive assets like a fancy car or house, we would rather spend on travel and adventure. I think that has given us a more interesting lifestyle. Once it becomes an important part of your life, making time for it is the easier part.

TGN: We know you’re a software and data professional, and it sounds like you’d have a busy work week. How often do you manage to get out of town?
AB: Yes. I work with customers in various time zones, and that means I typically work late into the night, making it difficult to manage any activity outside work. But at least one day of every weekend is reserved for an adventure activity. So I try to maintain an adventure a week policy and I am able to manage that without trouble.

TGN: Your blog covers many different styles of adventure, from cycling to hiking to rafting. Do you have a personal favourite?
AB: Cycling is my favourite without doubt – firstly because it is great fun. But then there are additional benefits of keeping me physically fit, being completely environment friendly, and requiring no fancy gadgets or investments beyond a good quality cycle. With sufficient practice over a few years, I now easily manage to cover a distance of 100 km in about half a day – that allows me to cycle to any location within 50 km radius of my home in Mumbai – and sometimes more. I lived in Mumbai for so many years and always knew that it is a great place to work, but it is only after I started cycling that I realized how many interesting places there are to visit within a short distance of 50 km.

TGN: What’s your travel style? Do you like to plan everything or are you more of spontaneous traveller?
AB: I am very spontaneous. But that is not necessarily my “style”. I do not mind a planned travel – I mean where I do the planning – it is just that I do not get enough time to spend on planning. So I begin to start thinking about where to go only on Friday evening, or sometimes after my alarm rings at 4:30 am on the weekend.

TGN: Almost everyone we know wants to try some form of adventure travel. But it’s not always possible to plan an annual holiday around adventure. Do you have any tips on how to make time for it in our regular lives?
AB: The popular forms of what city dwellers consider as “adventure” are commercially organized events like treks, water sports and more recently, group cycling events. But for me, adventure is anything that involves some physical activity and a new outdoor place to visit. That is why cycling is my favourite mode of adventure – you can do it without any preparation. In fact when you begin cycling, just a ride to one of the beaches within the city is an adventure! And then you discover that there are hundreds of places one can go to that are within cycling distance of the city! So adventure is not something you need to spend a lot of money or time – you can bring adventure into your life by a simple change in lifestyle.

TGN: We think it’s very cool that you look for adventure in your own city, because it’s not easy to get away for a long time. How do you approach this – tell us about your research?
AB: Yes absolutely! Once I started cycling to various places around the city, I discovered that the city you see on the surface has a very interesting story behind it that is hidden away in places that you normally would completely overlook! Did you know that there are over 75 forts just within 50 kms of Mumbai city? I did not! And over the last few years I have cycled to several of them and documented the experiences in my blog. But I did not stop merely at visiting the place. I also researched into the history of the place, and the normally innocuous structures suddenly came alive in the form of an interesting story! That thrill is addictive! I just cannot wait for every weekend and discover a new place. And sometimes they are literally under your nose! Take the example of Mahakali Caves. I live so close to it, I could walk there in 15 minutes! But till I started cycling I never knew how beautiful they were, and the story of how it was a spiritual center of learning since centuries!

TGN: Is it easy for you to get up on a weekend and go out, or do you have weekends where you just want to chill out and watch TV? How do you like to motivate yourself?
AB: Chilling and watching TV are for week days – weekends are for adventures! When you live in a city like Mumbai, what can you do during your free time during the week – say every evening (in my case morning)? Getting out in the traffic is not really the smartest option. So you can do indoor stuff during the week – go to a gym, a jog around the block or just sit and watch TV. But the weekend is when there is less traffic, especially if you wake up early. And it would be really unfortunate if you wasted that by staying indoors. Once you realize this, you do not need motivation – it is just logical that you should use the weekend to go outdoors.

TGN: We see that you have children who often accompany you on your travel. Is it easy to plan travel that includes children? Is it easier if they’re very young?
AB: We took along our children in all our travels when they were younger. They have done trekking, cycling, rafting, rock climbing – everything that we did – since they were old enough to walk. Now that they are teenagers, they have started going on their own adventures. My daughter's favourite in the recent past is rock climbing. My son trains for football (soccer) and also cycles. For parents of young children, I would advise them to invest their time in outdoor adventures for their children. Beyond educating them and caring for them, it is adventure that allows them to become equipped to handle the kind of demanding lifestyle that they are going to lead when they grow up. So avoid the luxury resorts and laid-back holidays – go outdoors and have fun with your kids!

TGN: So many parents are worried about taking young children out for adventures. What benefits do you think children gain from adventure travel?
AB: I defined adventure for me as anything that involves physical activity and visiting a new outdoor place. When children are young, they learn through experiences that involve physical activity – it is called tactile learning. Plus being outdoors puts them in touch with nature. That gives them the ability to fend for themselves and learn to be creative with the basics of what nature provides – without depending on the artificial amenities and toys that stymie their creativity. For example, I remember once we had taken our kids on a camping adventure in the Himalayas. We were staying in tents at a camp site on the banks of the Ganga. There was nothing around us – just dense forests, rocks and the river flowing by. Guess what? The kids enjoyed themselves by running around the rocks, making up their own games by using the round pebbles, touching weird looking insects, climbing trees. Not for one moment did they ever complain of getting bored.

TGN: Do you have an adventure travel bucket list?
AB: Not really. I do not really plan too far in advance. For me adventure is not something I have to tick off a list – it is a way of life. But yes, I do plan to do a cycling trip down the Konkan coast and visit each and every sea fort along the way. I've been waiting to get a break long enough to do it. I also want to cycle in the Himalayas. I've trekked there, but not yet cycled. I want to trek to the forts in the Sahyadris that I have not yet visited. Another activity I want to start shortly is to go to all the historical sites in and around Mumbai for cleaning them up. We keep complaining about how they are not well maintained, and how visitors dirty the place. But I’d like to do something about it. A few friends and like minded people have come together and we are planning to start this activity shortly.

TGN: Do you have a favourite moment from your adventure travel? One moment when you’ve stood in wonder and realized you’d never forget that precious experience.
AB: If you want spectacular views, there is no place like the Himalayas. There is literally no place like that on the earth! So at least once in your lifetime, you have to do a trek in the Himalayas. My first long trek in the Himalayas was at Roopkund. It was when I was turning 40. I and Sharmila went on a trek with a guide, a cook and two donkeys. We spent 2 weeks trekking, camping and living in the Himalayas. An unforgettable experience! The most recent long trek we did was in Sikkim – to Goechala. Each trek has its own charm. But my first one was the most memorable.

TGN: What advice do you have for people who want to try adventure travel?
AB: Make adventure your lifestyle – it will permeate your entire life – it is not just a fun thing to do on holidays. Even your work will become more interesting, and you will learn to take risks in your professional life that would otherwise seem difficult or unimaginable when you are sitting cooped up in a concrete building.

TGN: Also, please tell us about your social media/blog/website links. We’d love to share them on our website.
AB: My blog is at http://bijoor.me
Connect with me on Facebook at: http://facebook.com/bijoor
Connect with me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/bijoor

Cover image by Ashutosh Bijoor.

P.S: Have you read our other (related) articles:
How to start with micro-adventures (or short weekend adventures)
Why you HAVE TO take your kids adventuring
Dreaming of adventure? Here’s some inspiration!
Quick eats to take on an adventure

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Interview with an adventurer – Jaimen Hudson, Australia

One morning, on a coffee-and-Facebook break, someone from the team at The Great Next found this video by Jaimen.

That was over a month ago, but it’s still as enthralling as the first time we watched it. We decided we just had to interview a guy like this. Photographer, videographer, ocean enthusiast, and self-described quadriplegic with a quadcopter, Jaimen’s a busy guy, so we’re stoked that he agreed to do this! Heeerrre’sss Jaimen!

TGN: Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? What kind of adventures do you like? What do you do for fun?

JH: I live in Esperance, Western Australia. I manage our family tourism business. We have two vessels and operate diving charters, fishing charters, island tours and have accommodation. We also have a retail store servicing the diving and fishing industry.

My hobbies since a young age have always been surfing, motorbike riding, skateboarding and diving. I had a motorcycle accident in 2008 leaving me a quadriplegic and confined to a wheelchair. In late 2014, I began getting interested in drone use. Eventually in February 2015, I purchased my first drone and started getting in to filming, editing and taking photos. This is now my biggest hobby.

I also have a handcycle that I enjoy using to stay fit and go for rides with friends. Besides that, like any other 25 year old, I just enjoy catching up with mates and enjoying a few beers!

TGN: How often do you manage to get away and travel?

JH: I was very lucky to travel a lot with my family when I was younger. My father is from England so each year we would travel to visit relatives in Europe. We would often do stop-offs on the way there and back. Some of the more memorable countries I have had the opportunity to experience are Indonesia, Thailand, Italy, France, England, Scotland and Africa.

It is a little more difficult for me to travel since my accident as I need to plan far more seriously around accessible hotels, carers to assist me to get up in the morning etc.

We do still travel to Bali each year for a two to three week break. I love the Balinese people as they have such a lovely nature and will always go out of their way to assist as much as possible. We stay in the Legian area right on the beach and simply spend the days relaxing.

This year I am booked to go and see America and Canada for the first time. My girlfriend is a born and raised Vancouver girl so it will be amazing to see where she grew up. The country side around Vancouver Island looks amazing. So it will be great to get some aerial footage and images while I am there. Of course a few big nights in Vegas are also going to be a highlight, hahahaha!

TGN: We did our homework on you! You’re a surfer and a diver and now adventure videographer. Did the adventure bug bite you young?

JH: Living in Esperance it is pretty hard to not be involved in all the outdoor activities. I literally live right over the road from one of Esperance’s most popular surfing beaches. When I was younger I could wake up early, walk over the road in my boxers to check the surf, go home and grab my board to go surfing. Or if it wasn’t any good, call up some of my mates and go motorbike riding instead.

My interest in diving and boating stems from my parents. Both my mum and dad are diving instructors and have operated diving charters, fishing charters & island tours ever since I have been on the scene. So days out on the water are what I have become accustomed to since a young age.

Baywatch, Esperance. @esperancecharters out on their daily cruise. #fromwhereidrone #seeaustralia

A video posted by Jaimen Hudson (@jaimenhudson) on

TGN: We’ve seen your stunning footage of the two Southern White whales checking out your friend while he paddle-boarded in Esperance (thanks for letting us share that, by the way!). How did you manage to capture that? Was it very far off-coast?

JH: Thank you for the lovely compliment. I filmed that in September 2015 and it was a stunning Esperance day. Not a breath of wind around. I was at work during the day and I had my friends phoning me to say that there were whales and dolphins swimming together in the bay of Salmon Beach.

I couldn’t get out of the office until 4pm so as soon as I did I got my mate to drive me out there as quickly as possible. After searching a few beaches we found the whales at the 4th beach.

We arrived and I set my drone up, just as my mate Dave Price was starting to paddle out on his SUP board to go for a surf. The whales swam over to him and seemed to be curious as to what he was. It all happened 50m away from where I was sitting on the footpath.

TGN: We’ve basically stalked you around the internet… and we’re so envious! Tell us how you plan and shoot all those spectacular clips. Do you go out on a boat? What kind of equipment do you use?

JH: I just love being outdoors and by the water. I’m sure to take my drone with me all the time so that if I see any wildlife, I can get straight into filming it. As for my still images, I just look at different things I think will look cool and then photograph them.

A huge part of the fun for me is editing my videos together so that a story comes out of it and I really enjoy editing my still images as well.

Southern Right Whales // Esperance.

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TGN: What’s your travel style? Do you like to plan everything or are you more of spontaneous traveller?

JH: I definitely prefer to simply have flights booked to a country and then wing it once we are there. Unfortunately though things are not that simple when you are in a wheelchair. I need to make sure I have a wheelchair-friendly hotel booked, shower chair and carers available. So the holidays I go on are far more planned out these days. I’m certainly not complaining though as I know a lot of people in my situation aren’t lucky enough to be able to travel overseas. I’m very lucky to have great family support.

Dad & I straight flexin in the fixed wing.

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TGN: Almost everyone we know likes the idea of adventure travel, but there’s also a lot of nervousness and anxiety about trying something new and possibly uncomfortable. What would you like to tell them?

JH: After my accident, I had absolutely no urge to go on a holiday, but my mum booked it and made it happen. Of course I loved the idea of going overseas again, but I was extremely nervous about visiting a foreign country now that I was in a wheelchair. I remember driving to the hotel after we arrived in Bali and feeling such anxiety and wishing I hadn’t come. When the holiday came to an end, I wished we had booked longer. Then after returning home, I couldn’t wait until our next overseas adventure.

We all need to step out of our comfort zone and trust in other people to help out and do the right thing. If I hadn’t have listened to my mum back then and refused to go, I may have never left the country in all the years since. I would have missed out on so many amazing experiences and wouldn’t be looking forward to our Canada/USA tip this July.

A photo posted by Jaimen Hudson (@jaimenhudson) on

TGN: Is it easy for you to get up on a weekend and go out, or do you have weekends where you just want to chill out and watch TV? How do you motivate yourself?

JH: If the sun is out, so I am! I hate sitting inside on a beautiful day as that’s what the majority of us do all week for work. If my football team is playing and it’s a sunny day, instead of sitting indoors and watching television, I’ll take my iPad outside and watch it, so that I still get to enjoy the fresh air.

I often get asked how I stay motivated and positive but I don’t really have an answer to that. I’m blessed to have a positive outlook on life. Unfortunately some people aren’t lucky enough to be born with that trait. Australians are all so lucky. Many whinge. You only need to turn on the news or visit a less fortunate nation to realise how lucky we are.

A photo posted by Jaimen Hudson (@jaimenhudson) on

TGN: Do you have an adventure travel bucket list? What do you plan to do next?

JH: That is a great question and not something I think about very often. I have dreamed of going to America ever since I was a kid, so this July, when we travel to the States and Canada, I definitely will be ticking a major bucket list item off. Mexico is also a place I’d love to spend some time one day.

TGN: Do you have a favourite moment from your adventure travel? One moment when you’ve stood in wonder and realized you’d never forget that precious experience.

JH: I will always remember Cinque Terre in Italy. It is a beautiful piece of coastline that I visited with my mum, dad & sister when I was 16 or 17. There are around five villages separated by mountains. You can walk between the villages on picturesque trails. Most people probably spread it out over a few days; my mum is a fitness fanatic drill sergeant though, so we knocked it off in a morning!

I loved my time there and remember cliff-jumping into the water with my dad. I look back and feel extremely grateful to have done all that when I did as it would not be a possibility for me to enjoy now. You couldn’t pay the hardest working Sherpa in the world enough money to lug me up and down that trail.

TGN: What advice do you have for differently abled people who want to try adventure travel?

JH: My biggest piece of advice would be to ask people for help if you need it. If a family member offers to take you somewhere, don’t say no. Accept it and embrace it as the offer may not always be there. Or as you get older, your health may not allow it.

All the photographs and videos in this post (including the image in the header) belong to Jaimen, and have been used with his permission. Jaimen’s always uploading new photographs and spectacular videos, so make sure you follow him. We have already!

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