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Gypsy Moms : Featuring Anuradha Shankar

The Times Of Amma family believes deeply in travel. We also highly recommend travelling with children as it brings a fresh perspective to travel. Through 'Gypsy Moms' we aim to to feature Moms who enjoy travel, to inspire those readers who baulk at the idea of travelling with their children. Today we speak to Anuradha Shankar. In her own words, she is "Housewife, Mother, Traveller, Freelance writer... Like any other woman, I wear multiple hats. But what I love most is exploring my country, discovering more of its rich and varied heritage, and sharing it with my readers, through my blog. Doing that, with my son in tow, is both a challenge and a pleasure, one which adds adventure to my life!"

What does the word ‘travel’ mean to you?

Travel, to me means exploration. However, it doesn't mean just exploring exotic or far away places, but also places nearer home. I enjoy travelling to far corners of our country just as much as I enjoy visiting the caves in Mumbai, or going back the Museum for the umpteenth time. I enjoy going back to places I have already visited, since, there is always something I have missed, or something I see again, but in a different way. Travel thus to me, is exploring, not just the place, but also ideas.

What is your preferred style of travel?

For me, it is the travel which is more important. The style isn't. It's just a means. However, if I have to specify, I would say its a mix of styles. I like to stay at home stays for instance, instead of hotels, and use public transport. I love train travel, and it is my preferred mode of transport on any trip. However, I am not one to rough it out completely, and prefer to hire a car if the public transport in the area isn't reliable. I also plan every detail possible before I leave, especially since I am most often travelling with my son, so almost everything is booked, mostly online, before I set out.

Have you ever gone on a solo-trip? Could you describe it to us?

Yes, I have travelled solo, but most often when I have been commissioned to write about a particular place. For example, I travelled to Mhow near Indore to travel by the narrow gauge train to Patalpani and Kalakund , and I added a trip to Mandu as well. It was a unique experience for me, to walk along the railway track and click photos of the trains, and talk to the engine drivers. I also took the opportunity to meet an old friend and spent quite some time catching up. As for Mandu, walking along the ruins, listening to the stories, was like going back in time.

Travelling solo after travelling with a kid is quite an interesting experience. It felt incredibly good not to have to think of anyone else, or their preferences or interests, and to go around and do exactly what I wanted to. However, I also realised that I missed my son's pithy comments about places and people, and his interest in the most unexpected things we saw. But then, I have been travelling so long with him (almost 13 years now), so its not just that I am used to it, but also enjoy it a lot more than travelling solo.

How has becoming a mother affected your love for travel, if at all?

Becoming a mother has, if anything, enhanced my love for travel.

Earlier, I used to enjoy travelling alone, with friends, or with my family, and the process of discovery which comes along. Travelling with my son has had its challenges, but seeing a place through a child's eyes is something inexplicable.

It has helped me notice a lot more, and made me try experiences I would never have, by myself. For instance, my son loves adventure activities, which I stay clear of. However, watching him enjoy himself doing something I never would, is an incredibly satisfying feeling, and the closest I will ever come to experiencing the activity.

Which has been your most memorable family vacation and why?

Every trip with family has its moments, and is memorable for something or the other. However, one of the most memorable trips has been one into interior Maharashtra. I travelled with my husband and son, who was then 10. We took a train to Nanded, and from there, we visited two ancient temples - the Aundh Nagnath Temple, and the Parali Vaidyanath temple. From there, we headed to Shegaon, to the shrine of the saint Gajanan Maharaj, and from there to Lonar, the site of the meteoric crater lake, from where we headed back home.

The special thing about this trip was that we travelled entirely by Public transport, using the local Maharashtra State Transport buses to get around. While planning the trip I had my worries about how my 10 year old would handle the local buses, but as it turned out, that was the highlight of the trip, and he remembers the journeys even now. We had to change buses often, alighting at small towns and villages we hadn't heard of. It was a wonderfully eye-opening experience for all of us.

Besides, while we were most interested in the temples, we ensured that there was enough for my son to enjoy... the walk along the crater and the amusement park at Shegaon are both experiences he enjoyed thoroughly. We also spent Diwali at Shegaon, and bursting firecrackers with the children of the village was another experience we cherish.

What are your tips for travelling with kids?

First and foremost, while travelling with kids, it is important to remember that they are kids. They will be restless, they will get bored easily, and they will not be interested in much of what we want to see or do. It is up to us to entertain them, to ensure that they enjoy the trip, and for that, we need to be calm and collected, and find ways to keep them engaged. We also need to be resourceful, coming up with games and activities on the spur of the moment. And that comes from experience and practice. The more you travel with your kids, the easier it becomes.

To give some suggestions, plan simple games like Atlas (where you come up with names of places beginning with the last letter of the earlier word) or I spy (where you notice something and get the kids to guess what). They do not require any materials, and gets the child interested in the surroundings and in the journey itself.

Another suggestion I would make is to get the child involved in the planning. Smaller children can choose the type of location, for instance - beach or jungle. As they grow older, they can get involved even more, helping decide the places we want to visit. Involving the kids gives them a sense of responsibility, and an interest in the place they are visiting, so half your job is done even before you set out, because they WANT to go there!

As someone very interested in heritage monuments and passionate about the conservation of heritage, I cannot stress enough the importance of taking children to heritage sites and making them aware of our rich heritage. However, it is also important to ensure that the kids enjoy the experience, for otherwise, the whole exercise is a waste. I would heartily recommend people taking children to heritage sites avail of audio guides available at most sites these days, Their content is usually excellent, and combines stories with information and interesting snippets to keep everyone engaged. Plus, in these days, when kids are already used to ear plugs or ear phones, this is the best way to retain their enthusiasm for the place. This suggestion is from personal experience with my son, whose interest in heritage sites can be solely attributed to the audio guides we have hired at various places!

Which destination is next on your list?

There are so many places I want to go to, but as my son gets older and school more serious, our travel opportunities are greatly reduced. However, I have an urge to visit some ancient temples in Andhra Pradesh, and am in the process of planning a trip there.

--- The Times Of Amma wishes Anuradha a lifetime more of happy adventures and safe travels! If you are a 'Gypsy Mom' or you know of a Mom who loves to travel, mail us here or get in touch with us here or via our Facebook page.

#MomsWhoTravel #Travelwithkids #StarMoms

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