Thanks to social media, you can get connected to such inspiring and trailblazing women, that despite all its pitfalls, you thank these addictive and intrusive platforms for being there!
I was introduced to Mayuri Singh on Facebook a couple of months ago by a mutual friend who thought that we should know each other since we are both travellers. But as Facebook ‘friendships’ usually are, Mayuri and I never spoke, let alone meet, and one of the reasons for it was also that Mayuri was not in India in 2017 when we were introduced.
Mayuri was backpacking across South East Asia and her posts, every day a new office location across countries, were intriguing. When I decided that I would interview a kickass woman on the occasion of International Women’s Day, I knew it had to be her!
She was in Chhattisgarh on another long trip when I spoke to her about sports and travel, the two passions she is devoted to.
For as far back as she can remember, she was always the sporty kind. “I played badminton till district level” she reveals. But born and raised in a middle class family, Mayuri was expected to study hard and get a job. And by the time she got into IXth grade, studies had become such a big part of her life that she stopped pursuing sports.
She also had plenty of exposure to travel since childhood. “My father was in a transferable job and our annual visits to our village/hometown in Bundelkhand and Jhansi used to be road trips” she says. Courtesy this and the fact that they moved constantly, she always felt that staying at one place was very boring.
In 2013, she got married and moved to Mumbai. Both of them were employed in a 9 – 5 set up and life was moving at a predictable pace. By 2015 she realised that she would be 30 years old soon.”I felt – what have I done in my life? What’s my achievement before my milestone birthday?”
She had the habit of maintaining a list (something like a bucket list). “For many, many years, I kept adding to it but didn’t tick anything off. Before I approached my 30th birthday, I felt that either I should stop saying that I want to do this and that, or I should just go ahead and do it!”
As is the norm, she was (and still is) also under pressure by all and sundry to have a baby. “I’ve been told that my biological clock is ticking but I had decided that I had to fulfill some of my dreams before a baby came into the picture.”
Mayuri had also begun feeling that the usual trappings of an urban life – the comforts, the importance of a bank balance, material goods – will never end. “Because there will never be enough money in your bank”, she adds.
The more she thought about it, the stronger her resolve became and in 2016, she set herself the goal of participating in Half Iron Man, a triathlon, for which she trained for one year alongside a regular 9-6 job and the taxing Mumbai commute. “It was hectic, but I was determined” she says. Mayuri’s husband was a big support as he is also a fitness enthusiast.
Training for the triathlon was exciting for Mayuri because it is a combination of three sports – swimming, cycling and running – all of which she enjoyed.
She participated in the event in December 2016 and came back to India brimming with confidence. “I felt that such a sporting event is for any one who decides to do it not just for athletes.”
In 2016, Mayuri also, eventually, quit her job and set about figuring her plan for 2017. She was certain that she did not want to go back into the rut of a regular job. She also contemplated training for a full Iron Man, but chose instead to travel.
“The urge to travel was always there, because of my annual family holidays. I also thought in case we decide to have a kid, I can always train for the Iron Man even after that. It will be tough but not impossible. But travelling with a young child will be very difficult.”
Little did she know that in one year, her perspective will take a 180 degree turn.
From June – December 2017, Mayuri backpacked solo through South East Asia covering Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The backpacking experience was new to Mayuri, but gauging from the way her trip went, she seemed like a pro!
Her only plan, she revealed, was to have no plan. “I only planned the route from east to west but except for my onward booking, I had made no other bookings. I didn’t have a return ticket or a date to return either.”
She stayed in hostels and Air BnBs and just moved countries as and when she felt she needed to. Her style of travelling – unpredictable and bohemian – was shocking even to her male friends.
On this incredible 6 month journey, she met amazing female and male travellers. But most of them were surprised that despite being married, she was travelling alone. “Most backpackers are either single or if they are in relationships, they travel together. I was surprised to know that this was not only in India but in other parts of the world too!”
Travel, as we all know, changes something inside us, irrevocably. 6 months of solo backpacking taught her a lot too.
Backpacking taught her to let go, and go with the flow. “We have to stop worrying about things not in our control. The worst that could happen was I would run out of money or I won’t like the place. I could move or go back – the option was open.” She also learned that enjoying the present was very important.
During the course of her travels, Mayuri met different kinds of people which has given her a totally different worldview. “Accepting diversity, variety and people with different values; there is no black and white and its okay to have different opinions are some of my valuable learnings,” she says.
Travelling alone and spending time alone gave her the opportunity to meet and understand different kinds of people and made her open minded, she admitted.
Most of all, (remember the 180 degree turn I mentioned?) she now feels that she can travel with a child! “Now I am so confident that I know I can travel with the kid and even blog about it.” She has not only tackled all her fears but has also overcome them.
Isn’t this #WhyWeTravel?