Anuradha Goyal is the face behind the incredible blog Inditales. One of the big travel bloggers in India, her natural curiosity and love of books have taken her on a journey of discovery throughout her vast native land as well as abroad. We are very happy to host her today and learn about her perspective on travel.
Anu in Karnataka
Anuradha, please tell us something about yourself, your early days, and your first trips. How did your travelling “career” really begin?
I am a software professional by education and a business innovation consultant by profession. I have always been traveling since my childhood, so my earliest trips were as an infant and toddler. We used to go on long train journeys as my father used to be posted in remote locations and we would visit our grandparents during vacations. Then there used to be short holidays around the places he was posted in. It continued as I grew up and started working. I have lived in 10 states and 15 cities in India, and three countries.
I started blogging about my travels in 2004 when blogging was still a new tool and we hardly knew anything about its future. I started sharing about my journeys and my readers started telling me more about the destinations. It became a spiral that grew with time. I never started blogging with the intent to make a career out of it, but around a decade back, the industry started looking at bloggers as partners and that is when the blog took a commercial turn.
I still treat it as my sacred space, so we would not publish anything recklessly just because it brings us money. We mostly partner with the tourism boards and responsible brands or concepts that help people travel with a sense of purpose. So, to answer you, I am here more by some stroke of destiny than a plan. However, I am happy to be in the business of happiness as travel creates happy memories for everyone.
Give us a few hidden gems of your country that most foreigners may not know but you absolutely recommend.
India is a world in itself. It has something for everyone. So, instead of hidden gems, I prefer to talk about India Experiences that you must try. For example, people know India for its spiritual destinations and its royal heritage in its forts and palaces. Not many know about our rich bio-diversity. Central India is the best place to see tigers in their natural habitat. North East India is best placed to see single-horned rhinos. You can see elephants in many corridors across the country.
Then we have the largest number of luxury trains that take you across the country treating you like royalty on board. Our food is some of the most evolved food with myriad varieties. While you can taste the cuisine anytime you travel anywhere, I recommend visiting during the Mango season and tasting the king of fruits, especially by plucking it yourself from trees. You should of course try our street food.
Our best architectural heritage can be seen in our ancient temples, most of which have survived in South India. Try visiting the artist villages like Kuchipudi village where everyone is involved with the classical dance form in some way or the other.
Konark Sun Temple
What is your most preferred style of travel and why? When you travel, what are your biggest interests?
My travel goals have changed over a period of time. It started with being a leisure traveler like everyone else but now I travel as an explorer or a pilgrim. I study destinations before I visit them and then spend time interacting with them as intimately as possible.
I am more into cultural aspects of a place which include its history, its oldest living areas, its people, its art forms – especially the living ones, its trade and trade routes that connected it to the rest of the world, cuisine ( though I am limited to Vegetarian part of it) and music. I love walking around, especially in the mornings when the places are just waking up. It gives me a glimpse of the life there, including a peep into their spiritual parts.
For example, there are cities where children visit temples and pray before going to school or in Buddhist regions they go to school with a rotating prayer wheel in their hands. In Bali, they keep offerings for the ancestors at the door. These morning rituals tell me a lot about the culture of a place. So, I would say I love walking around old towns and letting them surprise me with all the magic in their folds.
Earwan National Park, Thailand
Please share some special stories from your travels, that have really shaped you.
Well, IndiTales is full of my travel stories. There are stories of Kindness on the road where absolute strangers have lent a helping hand or given me an experience I would cherish for the rest of my life. I have been a CouchSurfer for many years, so there are stories of hosting strangers in my house or meeting them in their hometowns.
There are stories of landing in remote places where hardly any food was available and we had to take over a street-side restaurant ( called Dhaba in India) and cook our own food with whatever was available. There are stories of delayed arrivals, missing connecting flights, altered plans, etc. Travel is like life – you can plan to some extent, but when you hit the road, destiny and the universe will play their role and you must go with the flow.
How did your general view of the world change with travelling?
Until we travel, our world view is from second-hand sources like media or books or family & friends. When we travel, we experience the world firsthand and draw our own conclusions and create a more realistic worldview. My travel experiences have told me that the world is a far more beautiful place than the media would like us to believe.
People, in general, are loving and trusting, ready to help and share what they have. Traveling also is a way to world peace. It is difficult to hate people you have visited. So, in my opinion, we should travel more to be more humane.
Which culture/country is the closest to your mentality and which is the most alien, and why?
My own Indian culture is my being. I am a child of this culture and I have the responsibility of carrying it forward. It is the culture I understand best and I am happy that I am part of the oldest living civilization in the world and playing a small role in writing about it. My book ‘Lotus In The Stone’ is all about by discovery of sacred India.
All the places that I have not visited are alien to me as I understand spaces best by being in them. Some of the places that are closest to us and yet so far are in our neighborhood. I hope to visit the ancient sites in Pakistan and Afghanistan someday as they are my heritage too and have heard so many stories of those ancient lands around the Indus and Saraswati River. I have also not experienced the southern hemisphere so that is quiet alien to me, hope to change that sometime soon.
Elephant Falls, Meghalaya
Do you plan to visit all UN countries? If not, do you have any ambitious travel goals?
Once upon a time, I did want to visit all the countries in the world. Now, I am more focussed on the sacred spaces in the world. I want to walk on the ancient pilgrim routes that seekers have walked since time immemorial. I want to visit countries where ancient civilizations have thrived like China, Guatemala, Greece, and Egypt besides my long list of places in India.
Shekhawati Haveli, Rajasthan
Finally, our signature question – if you could invite any 4 people to dinner, from any period in history, who would your guests be, and why?
Queen of Malwa – Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar – She is an 18th CE queen who rebuilt temples and water bodies across India single-handedly. We need many more queens like her in these ecologically challenging times like ours.
Xuan Xang – the 7th CE Chinese traveler who traveled all the way to India to study at Nalanda University and then walked across the country, becoming a chronicler of his times. A lot of what we know about the history of the Indian sub-continent is due to him documenting every small aspect of the land as he saw it. I have so many questions for him besides loads of reverence.
Chanakya – the 3rd BCE strategist who created the mighty Mauryan empire just with his long-term strategic vision and also gave us Arthashastra – the treatise on statecraft and economy. I would love to pick his brains on the modern-day dilemmas and challenges.
Rajaraja Chola – The 10th CE South Indian king who is known for many things but I know him from his legacy of the most beautiful Chola temples and the most exquisite metal art that we know as Chola Bronzes. I want to learn how to promote excellence in whatever you do and leave a lasting legacy.
Receiving the National Innovation Award in 2015