This 26-year-old travel blogger is a self proclaimed hyper travel monkey, who loves strange foods, bright colours and chilling out. Brought up in a protective household of a small town in Odisha, Ankita Kumar now loves to backpack and travel solo, and has spent four months in South America on her own. She has just returned from a 100-day-long road trip across India in a caravan, and is now planning a two-month trip to Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. And in the midst of this planning, she found time to talk to me and amaze me with her inspiring travel stories.
Excerpts from the interview:
When did the travel bug bite you?
I was working at a production house in Mumbai, I was living in a dingy house, as I was not earning much, and I realised this was it. I couldn't take it anymore, so I decided to go back to Bangalore, where I had done my graduation. That's when I decided to travel, I started saving and went to Vietnam for a month. I tried to squeeze in every travel experience that I could as I thought I'd never be able to travel again!
Only after I returned, did I realise this could not be it, I just couldn't accept the fact that I wouldn't travel again, I wanted to go on a trip again and often and that's when the travel bug bit me.
And then nothing could stop you! So how much of the world have you seen?
Pretty much all of India, I have been to all parts of India and I have loved it totally! I have covered almost all of Southeast Asia, New Zealand and spent 4 months in South America on a solo trip. I also just went on a 100-day-long road trip in a caravan from Bangalore that ended all the way up in the north!
Oh yes! That caravan road trip! Tell me more about it!
We have practically chased the summer in our self-made orange van! The idea was to bring caravan travel culture to India, and also experience every bit of India on our road trip, so we spread it over 100 days. We went from Kerala to Rann of Kutch to Himachal Pradesh. This one time the brakes failed near Mandi, we were at the highway. It ended up in a bad accident, but we managed to get out of it.
That is something! I'm glad you guys made out of it safely! What other challenges have you faced during your travels?
I think safety is one issue for women when they're traveling solo. There are unexplored places and cultures that we know nothing about, so safety becomes an issue. Also speaking of culture, language is a huge barrier in foreign lands.While I was in South America I realised how imperative it is to be able to speak the same language, I found myself speaking in sign language, gestures and through pictures. So language is a huge challenge when we travel to distant places.
And speaking of safety, how do your parents take it when it comes to travelling and doing solo trips?
I come from a small town in Odisha, called Rourkela, I have grown up in a middle class protective household. I was not allowed to stay out after 5:30 in the evening, I was not allowed to have sleepovers, or talk to boys. I was not even allowed to wear sleeveless clothes. And now I travel solo to different countries for several months on my own, so this has not been easy.
I used to lie initially, I would tell them I was going with my friends, when I was doing it solo, but then one day I told them, "I am going to go whether you like it or not, this is what I love to do. And you can either know where I am, or I'm gonna have to lie to you, but I'm gonna go anyway!"
I'm resonating with you on so many levels - small town, middle class family and lying to them! How did they react the first time you told them, and how are they taking it now?
It's difficult only the first time and never again. My father did not speak to me for three weeks straight, when I first told him about my Indonesia and Malaysia trip. Then one day he called me up and asked me about my plans, and he's been excited ever since. They're my strength now, and my greatest motivation, they are excited like children, every time I return from a trip. Sometimes more excited than me!
That's actually inspiring, I'm gonna have to do the same! Have you taken any trips with them, or do you plan to?
As a matter of fact, yes next year itself! I'm planning to send them on a nice trip, I'm saving good money for it. I'll probably join them on it too.
Talking about money, here comes the big question that everyone wants to know, how do you manage your funds to travel so much?
Initially I used to rely only on my savings. Finances and self-sufficiency is important, so I never ignored that part. Then one of my friends suggested I start a blog, and write to various companies. I anyway loved taking pictures, and that's how sponsorship started. My big break was when I got a sponsorship from Titan Raga. I got a feature on Conde Nast for New Zealand. I went on to work with Levi's, Google, SOTC and more.
Wow, that's huge! Given the pace at which you're going I'm sure you'll run out of places pretty soon. What is your take on that?
That is difficult to imagine right now, it's weird when I say it, but sometimes I feel like I need a break, I miss my bed and home cooked food. That's when I need a vacation from my vacations and simply do nothing. Sometimes it does get tiring, and I just feel like laying in my bed, and not be travelling or planning about it.
What are your plans next, where are you travelling to, and for how long?
I'm planning on a 2 month trip right now. Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet have long been on my list, and then I wish to attend the Ziro Music Festival. After that I come back home. It's gonna be crazy!
Most certainly looks like it! What do you say your craziest experience has been so far?
Visiting the Galapagos Islands, definitely! It is so rich in wildlife, most of the animals that I saw there, are not found anywhere else in the world. I swam with sting rays, manta rays and I saw fish chasing sea horses. The experience was surreal. And then I came across a huge anaconda during my Amazon survival camp days. I'm looking forward to more such experiences on future trips.
And that's when she signed off, leaving me in awe and with so much inspiration. Ankita Kumar is the 'it' girl, with so much understanding, passion and love for what she does. She is surely an inspiration for everyone who has only dreamed of magic and never gone out of their way to achieve it.
Have you been inspired by any such traveller? Share your story here.
For the coolest travel videos, check out our YouTube channel.