This woman has six Indian passports and has travelled to 65 countries by the age of 68! Sudha Mahalingam is truly an inspiration for travel enthusiasts across the world.
So how did her journey as traveller begin?“My travels began when I got married to a bureaucrat. My husband has had 16 postings in 39 years and I accompanied him on 14 of those. We have lived in London, in the northeast and other parts of India,” Sudha told Tripoto, adding that she started travelling solo in 1996.
Sudha says she has been privileged to travel as her main profession funded most of her trips. “But even without that privilege, all of us must make travel a part of our lives,” she adds.
After quitting journalism, Sudha became an energy sector analyst for the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis. This is when she started travelling alone to work and finally found the chance to start her backpacking journey across the world.
It is the sense of wonder that inspires her to embark on these thrilling adventures. “There's so much to experience and internalise out there. I started my travels before the age of internet or social media and therefore, reading about exotic places or personally going there were the only options. The more I read travel books or saw pictures in National Geographic magazine, the more I wanted to go there myself. Seeing places through others' eyes was not enough. Even now, sometimes, watching a programme on National Geographic or Discovery channel, I tell myself I want to go there and sure enough, I get there in a few months.”
Travel brings about a lot of changes in a person and Sudha reveals that it has brought openness, accommodation, patience and love to her personality. “My horizons have expanded and I feel enriched and humbled by the generosity of the people I meet on my travels,” she said.
Sudha is known for travelling with her backpack and as sorted as a backpack may look, deciding what to pack and what not, is certainly a tricky task. This former journalist suggests that you should never pack more than what you can carry yourself. “You can repeat your clothes, nobody is watching whether you wore the same clothes yesterday as well. I am a minimalist. Good shoes, camera, tripod are a must. The rest are dispensable.”
A fearless explorer, Sudha has travelled to remote locations and she has shared so many of these enchanting experiences in her book The Travel Gods Must Be Crazy.
Sudha’s message to young travelers is as beautiful as it could get. “Go and explore,” she urges! “There's so much to see and learn. Please be a traveler, don't be a tourist. Don’t hesitate to venture off the beaten path. Please make travel part of your life here and now, when you're young and able, even if you have other claims on your time. Just as you must bathe in the sea without waiting for waves to subside, so must you travel now, when you are balancing many things.”
The power woman has been to 65 countries already and when most people of her age plan to relax and retire, Sudha is planning her next trip. She is heading to Madagascar next month and in December she will be off to Patagonia. Her bucket list includes Pantanal, Kamchataka, Papua New Guinea and some Pacific islands apart from unexplored Africa.
She ends on a very beautiful note highlighting how beautiful the world can be if only we bother to see. “People all over the world are by and large good and helpful. Actually, I am amazed that there are more things that unite us than separate us.”
You can read more of Sudha's travel adventures and misadventures on her blog.
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