Gypsy Moms : Featuring Shwetha Iyer
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 Shwetha Iyer. In her own words, Shwetha is 'a mommy of a 5 -year old, a marketer by choice, A traveler by compulsion and a dancer. She is always up for new experiences – food , art, literature and everything else that colors the world.'
What does the word ‘travel’ mean to you? The word travel to me is synonymous with “introspection” & “Discovery”. The more you look outside, different aspects of your own self get unearthed. After every trip you come back with a renewed sense of self, whether it is about breaking a physical barrier or surviving a cultural norm. For instance, an entire leg of my travel was covered through hitchhiking – something I was certain I wouldn’t be caught dead doing. So that was a revelation. What is your preferred style of travel? Luxury hotels are pretty much the same across the world, so definitely backpacking. When you backpack, you rely entirely on locals for food & sightseeing recommendations. You also end up using public transportation and that can open up a new world that a concierge will never tell you about. Some of the best experiences I’ve had have been serendipitous – Like the time I was walking around in Bangkok and signed up for a Muay Thai workshop on a whim, or the time I discovered a quaint little studio that offered Flamenco lessons in Madrid. You have the luxury of getting lost when you backpack. And there is no bigger luxury than that for me. Have you ever gone on a solo-trip? Could you describe it to us? The most memorable solo trip of mine was completely unplanned and hence unforgettable. I had accompanied my husband on a business trip to Bangkok. Since I had been there before, I wanted to explore other parts of Thailand .One of my travel goals is to cover all the main WW II spots so I decided to go to River Kwai which is in Kanchanaburi (about 3 hours from Bangkok). The plan was to cover River Kwai, then head to Phu Nam Ron to cross the Thai border and spend a couple of days in Dawei, a town in south-east Myanmar. But once I got to Kanchanaburi, I met some people on the Kwai Bridge who convinced me to go to Erawan National Park instead. With no bookings and and no clothing suited for the wilderness , I proceeded to convince the Park rangers to loan me a tent so I could stay the night. I pitched my tent on the banks of a river at about 7 in the evening . Entirely cut off from human activity and technology, I spent the cold night listening to the sounds of the forest. Thankfully I had picked up some yoghurt and granola bars from a Seven11 in Kanchanaburi so I had something to munch. I woke up to a beautiful mist the next day and began my hike up the 7 tiered waterfall.
The 7th and the last tier is said to resemble a 3-headed elephant and hence the name Erawan. Each picture-perfect tier comprises a series of trails ,footbridges and little ponds that shimmer in the morning sun. Since I had only a pair of crocs on, I constantly kept slipping into the chilly waters ,got bitten by fish but the beauty of the trail made up of all those skirmishes. Halfway through the hike, I met another solo traveler from Germany and we were soon exchanging life stories.
The whole hike takes about 3 hours & At the end of the 7th tier is a picturesque waterfall.
That day I recreated the Liril Ad – with the song , dance et all. How has becoming a mother affected your love for travel, if at all? Motherhood has undoubtedly made me a better traveler. If am travelling solo, I completely live it up so I have enough bedtime stories for the little one back home. And if the family is travelling together, we take the time to stop and stare – chase butterflies, pullover on highways to see the flowers, collect worms & shells or anything else that catches my son’s fancy. And if you are a mommy to a 5-year old, you become less squeamish about getting dirty.
I recall the time we were atop Mt. Haleakala in Hawaii and I sprawled on the crater, just to feel the earth beneath me for a few seconds because I knew my son would have wanted me to. And if he had come along, he would have done the same. Which has been your most memorable family vacation and why? We went camping in Shahapur in the outskirts of Maharashtra when our son was just about a year old. That was his first experience sleeping outdoors. We were not sure if he could handle the cold, the night in the tent but he had a blast. His wide-eyed wonderment made the trip truly joyful.
We’ve not looked back since then and take off on road trips ever so often. What are your tips for travelling with kids? It always pays to educate your child before you travel. Talk to them about the duration of the journey, tell them what to expect on the way and during the trip so they are mentally prepared and don’t fuss. It also is a good idea to start showing them maps and chart out how we are going to be moving on the map. It helps them understand the concept of travelling and being away from home. And most importantly, go easy on the mommy paranoia. Don’t get worked up about the hygiene levels or quality of food. Carry some dry snacks for the kids if you must. But ideally let them savor the flavors on the street. Which destination is next on your list? Next on my list is Eastern India. I can’t wait to see all 7 sister states. I also want to go to Egypt next year .
~ The Times Of Amma wishes Shwetha 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 via our Facebook page.