Zostel Conversations: Solo Traveller Charukesi Ramadurai

She writes. She blogs. She photographs. She eats (but only vegetarian food). She travels. She plays Tetris (this makes her even more awesome). Meet Charukesi Ramadurai, the owner of Itchy Feet. That's the name of her blog, we do not know if she has itchy feet or not, although it is quite possible judging by the fact that she has been blogging about her travels for 11 years! No wonder her blog is one of the oldest and most popular blogs in the country. Here she is talking about travel experiences from Japan to Ladakh, doling out travel advice and prodding your funny bone. Get inspired!

1. What's on your 2015 travel wishlist?

A long road trip in New Zealand, exploring Myanmar, more of Himachal Pradesh, a few mild treks, as many long weekend breaks as possible...

2. This is a two-part question:

a. Is there a custom or festival or even food item that you learnt of during your travels and you'd like to bring it back with you?

Fresh food markets. In my travels, I have seen these mainly in Europe and usually end up spending hours browsing through them.They are great places for people watching and to pick up stuff for back home (I once called friends over for dinner right after I got back from Provence, themed around Provencal wines, olives and fresh stuffed ravioli from the Aix market). I wish we had more of them back here - markets that celebrate fresh, local, artisanal produce.

b. Have you ever fallen for a place to the extent that you didn't want to return?

I like to think I leave a little bit of myself behind at every new place I visit. I have never wanted to stay on anywhere since I get homesick after a while and long to head back. But I have a long list of places I want to visit again and explore at greater depth – Cambodia, Japan, Australia. And closer home, Ladakh.

3. They say 'People make a place'. 20 states in India, 24 countries worldwide - any particular destination where the people have won your heart? Any funny 'Lost in translation' incidents?

I was totally charmed by the locals in South Africa. Everyone there seems to have embraced music into their lives – from the officials at immigration on, I found people constantly humming and ready to break into a dance. And in general, I find the people of Ladakh very friendly and cheerful, even those living in extremely harsh weather conditions smile all the time. It is a delight to see those weather-beaten faces crinkle into broad, toothy grins when they wave out to you with a Juley!

And in Japan (the home of LIT) I had a literal Lost in Translation experience. I got back to my hotel in Tokyo, exhausted at the end of a long summer day. I switched on the TV for some mindless relaxation and found that no one single channel carried English programming. I finally settled for a Telebrands show, advertising miracle slimming pills. Obviously, I didn’t follow a single word of it but I had a great half hour making up stories and dialogues about what was going on with the people who seemed to have shed half their body weight by popping green pills (and really, believe me, the Japanese are some of the thinnest and fittest people I have seen).

4. Is there a non-rosy side to travel that you've experienced?

Sure, travel is not all easy or comfortable – I have several pain points like lengthy visa applications, long flights, lost baggage, discriminatory service and so on. I also feel particularly stressed out in places where I think I am likely to get ripped off at shops, restaurants or by touts (my most intense memory of this is Prague). But I think the pleasure of discovering a new destination is totally worth any trouble. And I say that even for Prague.

5. If you had the chance to have a do-over, would you change anything about the way you went travelling?

Oh yes, that would be my packing style. I never manage to pack light or pack right! My big travel ambition is to be able to pack my life into a backpack (or something like that).


I would also leave more time for unplanned experiences. Sometimes I tend to overplan and find that I don’t have the luxury to follow something interesting or exciting I come across (say a quirky museum or an adventure sport).

6. What advice would you give to people who say that they want to travel but do not have the time or money to do it?

So much to see, so little time (and money) – that is everyone’s reality. I would tell people who complain about it to make the time somehow and make your money work for you. 

Here are a few simple ideas:

– choose cheaper destinations like Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, Eastern European countries like Czech Republic and Slovenia (as compared to Western ones like France and Switzerland)

– explore all modes of travel - try buses and trains instead of flights

– consider homestays and B&Bs instead of hotels

– build your own itinerary instead of going with a planned tour

– combine work with travel – think about a sabbatical, extend your stay with a weekend

– save towards travel and put away money towards a dream destination

Credits for images: Source

Writer, Gaya.