Indian travel blogger with a taste for adventure travel.
Lives in: USA & India
Travelled: 18 Countries
The daughter of a railway man, Ankita has been travelling since she was a child and eventually took the leap into full-time traveller. She runs the award-winning travel blog ‘Anki on the Move’, which chronicles her travels in India and some pretty exciting places around the world. Speaking of exciting, this girl has gone skydiving, paragliding, hot air ballooning, kayaking, scuba diving, zipling, cliff jumping...and more. Her specialty is blogging and vlogging about adventure travel -- about as far as you can get from a 9-5! From curious but introverted traveller, she has since blossomed into a confident solo female adventurer with many stories to tell.
The Call to Travel
What was your calling to see the world?
I’ve always been travelling, since I was a child with my family thanks to my dad being in Railways. I also grew up fascinated by travel channels on television. But one of the pivotal points in my life, and the moment I knew I needed to travel, was the All India Road Trip in 2010.
My brother drove for 18 days covering 8535 kms traveling from south of India to the west to the north to the east and finally ended up in Bangalore. We joined him and did the trip together as a family. Our story even got published in Outlook Traveller Magazine.
During that time, I came to realise 2 things about my life: That I needed more from myself. And I had no clue where to begin.
The routine 9-5 job wasn’t alluring to me anymore. I tried a few things – including doing the entrance exam of Air Force so I could fly planes.
At some point after this, I quit my job in the IT firm, started my travel blog to document my experiences as a local in the city. I also joined an adventure firm and Skyriders – The Indian Skydiving team. It gave me an interesting perspective of the adventure industry in the country, as my job involved interviewing inspiring people behind such sports. One thing led to another, I started covering places within India, and then abroad. Eventually I even started talking about style for travellers!
I am happy that I slowly shed my own inhibitions and dived fully into the life of a traveller and a vlogger. What was once a passion in mind, is now a dream come true.
We know it’s hard to pick, but if you had to pick just one, what would you say was your favourite trip ever?
Backpacking trip to Maldives 6 years back.
I kept hearing that Maldives is a beautiful honeymoon destination, and very expensive. The fact that everyone said it cannot be done on a budget, sparked my curiosity – can’t it?
So I went. I spent my time hopping from island to island and successfully debunked the myth of Maldives being purely expensive. Not only that, I had an experience of a lifetime! I gathered such great experiences: dancing Boduberu on the local islands of Maafushi, learning how to cook the local Maldivian dish Tuna Mashuni, and venturing far out to sea onto a sandbank entirely surrounded byturquoise waters that blended into the azure blue sea.. I couldn’t believe this was possible!
Since this was one of my initial trips when I’d just started blogging, it caught me by surprise that things could go so well. This gave me the inspiration to push past pre-conceived limitations and find more affordable ways to explore. And an interest in very local experiences. For all those reasons, I call this my favorite trip.
Other favourites would be watching the Northern Lights in Michigan USA, learning Muay Thai in Thailand, exploring the Wadis of Oman, learning the Flamenco in Spain and seeing the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia in the rainforests of Malaysia.
Planned or Spontaneous?
I keep it 50-50. I know an overview of a place in advance so that I don’t miss the must-dos. but at the same time I have enough room for new things to be added on spot. I always take on tips from locals and people I meet on the road.
I generally plan my flights in advance, book any must-do tours/tickets, and car rentals. The rest, I’m flexible.
As a female traveller, did you face any barriers or naysayers when you first wanted to travel independently/lots? How did you overcome them?
One of the biggest barriers was convincing myself that I was capable.
I was conditioned to believe that traveling alone as a female is no cakewalk and not at all safe. I was repeatedly told about possible dangerous consequences or was even ridiculed and called foolish. Plus, in many cultures, including mine, the concept of married women traveling alone is still alien. People often point fingers that it must be due marital problems. During train journeys, I’m often stared at or asked probing questions by complete strangers.
Given all this, initially, I battled within my head whether its worth doing something all my peers seem to disapprove of. However, when one is passionate about something, we find ways to make it work. It was my dream travel independently as a female traveller, so I persisted and worked at overcoming the barriers. I’ve since convinced my family, though it took a long time, that this is a ‘real’ career and I’m sticking to it. And I’ve learnt how to listen to my gut and how to handle unwanted advances.
The Power of Travel
For Women and Personal Growth
Would you say that travelling has had a strong impact in making you who you are today? Meaning, if we took away all your travel experiences, if you had never travelled, would you be a different person?
Travel has changed me in many ways for good. It has transformed me into a better human being.
Travel not only has made me more patient with people and places, it has also made me live life each day. If I wasn’t traveling, my thoughts would be confined to the limits of my own culture and how things work in our country. Travel opened my mind to different cultures and different ways people live.
That helped me to be
less judgmental and more accepting,
less anxious and more carefree,
less cautious and more adventurous,
less fearful and more confident.
Have you ever encountered a difficult situation that tested your strength, and taught you something new about yourself?
One of the greatest lessons I learned was during my first backpacking trip to Greece. This experience underscored how fragile life can be and what we take for granted.
It was an hour’s ferry ride between Santorini and Mykonos, that turned into a 5 hour ferry ride in the most tumultuous seas I’ve ever encountered. Things were toppling around the ferry deck, the boat was rocking in massive waves, and the engines even stopped a few times. We were in the middle of the ocean, my heart was racing, and my cell phone wasn’t working — I’d drained the batteries taking countless photos. I kicked myself for that, and was sick with worry if something were to happen to me now, nobody would know. I should have prepared better. I should have heeded the sea status warnings and taken the next day’s boat.
I saw passengers vomiting allaround me and ferry men trying to calm them down as we held onto our prayers. Looking out the window was a scary sight, as you could literally see how hard the ferry was working to lift itself up from getting caught up in each wave. In those moments, keeping my calm was a challenge.
But it also made me realize, that I have the ability to stay calm in those tense situations where many give in to panic. That was the strength that I discovered that helped me in many future travels. To be able to pause, think of a solution than fret on a problem in real time made me a better traveler thereafter.
Has travel ever been a remedy?
Yes. In difficult times, I choose to go within by travelling.
There was a point in my life when I was going through emotional turmoil due to some toxic relationships which was taking a toll on my health. Travel was an escape that allowed me to heal. Travel made me feel that I am not alone in this world, that there are people like me who are well accepted, respected and deserving. That everyone is allowed to soak in the wisdom the world has to offer through learning what makes us content and happy. It gave me room to think in solitude and make a decision on which relationships I need to let go off.
If it wasn’t for traveling, I would have had taken several years to heal and move forward. Instead, I was reminded of new sunrises and new chapters opening up. Travel is healing because it makes us believe in goodness of the world again.
What’s the single best thing in your life, anything at all, that has ever come out travelling for you personally?
I used to be very introverted. I still am. But the desire to show the world through my lens made me stand in front of the camera for my travel vlog. I had to gather confidence to present well, and all that presenting helped me gain confidence. So a good cycle!
Despite everything you have accomplished, I’m sure you sometimes still get negative comments. What is the no.1 sexist nonsense you get most often, and how do you shut them down?
“How come your husband allows you to travel alone?” is the most common comment I get. The word “allows” gets on my nerves. I point out that my hubby and I are happy to pursue independent interests. When they inquire further, I try to divert the conversation from how ‘sad’ (they think) this whole situation is, to how interesting my travel stories are. That usually silences them.
You do have to be thick skinned, but know you are doing something positive and want to function successfully, so don’t let naysayers get you down.
Under Her Cape
Experiences on the Road
How many places have you been to in total? Has your travel style changed over time?
I firmly believe its not the number of journeys that make my experience worthwhile, but how deeply I explore each culture. That’s far more memorable. I now crave for more personal experiences, to know the stories about people. For the past 3 years, I have been exploring hidden gems in the USA which are culturally rich and underexplored.
The way I express myself also has changed over the years. Today I listen more to the guidance of locals than what’s printed in guidebooks, and that reflects in my travel videos as well.
How do you make friends on the road?
When I first arrive, I do most activities on my own. But often as I spend more time in a place, I’ll meet fellow travellers who become friends and we’ll do things together. I am never alone on road, there will always be locals to talk to and people with shared interests willing to have fun together.
Is it hard to talk to locals?
As a slightly introverted person, I used to be afraid that locals would think I was weird if I tried to talk to them. But I’ve found that as I open up, so do they. Once I break the ice, it is not difficult to talk to locals in most countries.
People have different ways to communicate in different places – in some places they are blunt, in some places they are reserved, in others they can be flirty, casual, less vocal or very curious. The trick is to not take every expression at heart.
It is also important to listen to your gut feeling if you feel unsafe with certain people or in certain areas.
Is it important for you that your partner comes from the same background as you?
I used to wish for a partner who is just like me, so our adventures would be joyous and two-fold.
Today, I am glad that my partner and I come from different backgrounds. It’s a blessing because I now have varied perspectives on travel, thanks to him. I love to travel fast, he loves to travel slow. I love to take as many pictures, he loves to enjoy the moment without taking pictures. I plan, he guides. We are different, yet we are a team. We complement each others shortcomings when we travel and this opens new doors.
Travelling requires a lot of time apart. How do you keep the relationship strong while continuing to chase your passion for travel?
Dating takes a backseat when I’m travelling and my beau is at home. He gets to pursue his passions independently while I’m away. Distance does make the heart grow fond, which rejuvenates us to find more ways to connect. We do have plenty to talk about when we are together! We also travel together on romantic getaways.
Reflections and Pearls of Wisdom
Empowering Other Women
What’s in your solo traveller survival kit?
An empty water bottle (refill water at airports)
Pens, to fill up the immigration forms
Medication: For allergies, common colds, any prescriptions, and first aid kit (esp if travelling alone)
2 sets of clothes. Learnt from experience, this is a lifesaver in case of lost or delayed luggage!
A foldable bag for extra luggage, and a foldable jacket in case of dramatic change of weather.
A copy of essential documents including passport. Just in case the originals gets lost.
Lip Balm, Sunscreen, Hand Sanitizer, Wet wipes.
Gopro, to capture take-off and landing.
Snacks, in case of hungry emergencies 🙂
There are strong women in communities all around the world, who do amazing things in very different ways. Have you met any that really inspired you?
There are many strong women I met during my travel who have really inspired me. I met Rashmi Tiwari from Ahaan Foundation during my TEDx talk in Allahabad. She had such zest even when talking about a very serious subject. She does very challenging work, aimed at dismantling the machinery of trafficking. She does this by making tribal women financially independent and self reliant. She also has an adopted daughter who had been a victim of trafficking. I found their stories of victory over trials of life very moving.
Lee from Troy, USA, was also very inspirational. She made me realize it’s never too late to follow passion, from her story of starting a community of elderly members taking up pottery.
My own mother was versatile — growing up I saw her making my clothes, cutting my hair, learning interior designing, learning arts…She was the master of all trades and I think my early inspirations came from there.
If there is one thing you could say to your younger self what would it be?
There have been times in my life when I let opportunities pass, because I believed that women cannot do this and that. I let those imagined limitations stop me.
Looking back, I would say to my younger self to be more sure of myself to grab every opportunity as it comes and make the best of it. Take the leap of faith.
What would you say to any girl who is out there thinking she would like to travel the world, but is afraid to do it because she’s been told she’s “just a girl”?
Believe that being a girl is enough.
Unfortunately, even today this journey comes with a fight and a lot of doubt. Women dream of travelling but they hold themselves back. Because ‘they say’ don’t travel, it is unsafe for women. Because ‘they say’ women are dependent on men, you are not capable of travelling alone. Because ‘they say’ women cannot earn enough money independently to afford to see the world.
Don’t believe them. Shatter those barriers and find ways to make it work. Be smart, earn your way, listen to your gut, educate yourself, learn from others. Then go. Follow your passions. Go travel.
And for the last parting pearl of wisdom, what is one thing you’d like every woman to know that could help her lead her best life?
To all the women out there who are struggling to make their dream come true “Let not the limitations of the world stop you from being a free bird. Believe in yourself and the world will believe in you one day!”.