Travelita Interview with Akanksha Pundir

  1. Okay, Miss (Akanksha) Pundir, what was the specific incident that got you to this interview?

An FB conversation about solo women travelers

2. What has earned you the right to be an authority on this topic?

I’ve thus far traveled to over 40 countries worldwide and the majority of these have been a solo traveler

3. What is your brand, your topic exactly about?

After 20+ years in the corporate sector, both as a full-time employee and a freelance innovation consultant, working with firms such as The Economist Group, NASSCOM, Microsoft and Erehwon Innovation Consulting, I founded Grass On The Hill last year- an immersive travel experiences company with the aim to bring global communities together to create social impact and sustainable tourism. 

The aim is to help people discover themselves and the world we live in. We all love to travel and it is also up to us to preserve the beauty of our planet and its beings.

4. Why is it important?

People commonly travel around the world to see places, rivers, and mountains, et al. They fall into an animal-like stupor that gapes at existence, and they think they have seen something. I want to bring that sense of awe to people’s lives again and again and again! Creative geniuses from all fields seemed to know something about travel that made it indispensable to their work, something that boosted their creativity by changing their thinking. 

I’m curious about how travel impacts different people from all over the world. I want to bring global communities of cultures, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, physical/mental abilities, countries, etc.  closer, more empathetic and compassionate towards each other through my travels.

5. Now that I know what it is, now that I know why it’s important and relevant, how are you implementing this on your travels? I mean like, is there a process, that you follow when traveling? 

I absolutely hate the negative, self-centric direction in which the world seems to be moving so steadily towards and with so much focus towards destruction in every way. I deeply dislike the fact racial and cultural divides are getting deeper even whilst the physical divides between countries and people are getting shorter and shorter with technology and development.  

Therefore, through all my travels, I try and look and engage largely with the local people, the culture, the lifestyle whether it is via going into a restaurant to cook with the local chef, or travel to far-flung corners of the country away from the hustle and bustle of big towns, staying with people in their homes, or documenting the tales of the old…

Well, to start with, I think they would undergo a transformation like I did, upon discovering that people around the world are infinitely more similar than different- kids playing, women laughing, men swearing, worrying about the safety of their children, the heath of their aging parents…

6. What if people took advantage of your tips and steps you are providing? What will happen, how will their travels change? 

With this would come compassion towards our fellow beings, more open about themselves too! And then the feeling of more accountability and responsibility not just towards our own selves but the whole world at large- making it a safer, happier and more peaceful place!

7. Now we would like to get just some general information about you and your travels: 

  • When did you start traveling? I was born in India to Army parents who would pick up their bags and shift bags and baggage every couple of years. So in a way, started traveling at an extremely young age and my first solo trip came at 18 years of age.
  • Do you remember how you felt when you traveled alone for the first time? I recall a huge sense of freedom, of pride and I also remember feeling a bit anxious and scared too!
  • How did you, or do you deal with fears? I think by pretending to be confident till I actually started feeling so! I also started talking to locals where I went and suddenly, I didn’t feel alone or lonely at all! Also, keeping my wits about me and knowing a few essential words of the local language also enables me to be safer.
  • Is there a place where you have been and you would definitely not recommend it for women on their own and why? I recall that Tallinn, Estonia made me feel very uncomfortable and it was a rather hostile place.
  • Do you still have this excitement, when you go for a trip? Always…the butterflies in my stomach, the excitement in my heart…absolutely every time thinking about the adventures ahead!
  • What are your top 5 destinations and why? Here are my current top 5 in no order of preference…
  1. Belgium- for its people, the cycling, the desserts
  2. Poland- outdoor adventures, the history, the food
  3. Georgia- the people, the outdoor adventures, the sea, the food, and wines
  4. Bhutan- the mountains, the people
  5. South Africa- the animals, the food, the cultural history
  • The funniest story that happened to you when traveling? This dates back a few years to my very first solo trip to Ladakh, India. I had just reached and settled in at the local homestay in a little village called Sakti about 4 hours from Ladakh’s capital Leh. I decided to go for a walk. I passed little streams of water flowing down the mountain, a herd of sheep eating grass in the distance, the lovely Himalayan mountain peaks tucked away in the distance till I came across a lovely patch of green grass, a beautiful tree with the stream flowing next to it. I decided to have a lie-in here to read my book.  With the gentle mountain sun warming my face, I fell asleep in no time at all. After what felt like a lifetime, I woke up with a start to 20+ little and big faces staring at me. I was taking a nap right in the middle of the village school!! 

8. Call to action – what do you want people to do?

People commonly travel around the world to see places, rivers, mountains, et al. They fall into an animal-like stupor that gapes at existence; and they think they have seen something. I want people to have that sense of awe on all their travels! I want people, especially women, to step out of their comfort zones and travel, travel, travel…

I want global communities of cultures, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, physical/mental abilities, countries, etc.  to get closer to each other with travel. 

Check out Akanksha on her social media:

Instagram akankshapundir
Twitter @Akapundir

Free your travels, be a Travelita! #travelita #iamatravelita

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