The global gypsy
A. Ramakrishnan, a.k.a Ramkey, is a Chartered Accountant and an MBA from Ross Business School and London Business School.
A chance inspiration from Jack Canfield's The Chicken Soup for the Soul led him to create a bucket list and his life motto:
20 years of learning; 20 years of learning and earning; 20 years of learning, earning, and returning; anything beyond 60 is a bonus.
True to his inspiration, he quit his job as a CFO, Asia Pacific, JP Morgan at 40 to pursue his passion - travel. Adyar Times catches up with him to know more about his travels…
I see that you are now in the 3rdphase. But what inspired you to take up travelling?
Yes. I describe myself as a ‘curious kid in a candy shop’ and I have always been intrigued with every new place I had the privilege of visiting. It energises me, as I learn a lot about the people, the place, their culture, and cuisines. Of the 100 countries that I want to visit, till date, I have lived in 10 countries and visited 72. Each place has added something to me and I end up planning for the next as soon as one gets over.
Can you tell us about your first road trip?
Travel by road is one option that I enjoy a lot because it gives you a lot of flexibility. My first trip was in the USA - Michigan to California - a distance of about 4000 kms. But my most memorable trip is from Chennai to Leh with my family in 2017 - driving 8700 kms over 23 days with 3 kids. I have now driven in every continent except Antarctica and in India about 1 lakh km, from Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland in the East to Kutch in the West to Ladakh in the North to Kanyakumari in the South.
What has been your extreme road trip?
Definitely Chennai to Leh in the summer of 2017. On day 6 of the trip, we left Jammu for Srinagar early morning, when we were held back to give way to the pilgrims on Amarnath yatra. As we reached Srinagar, I got a call from my mother informing me of the terrorist attack on the Amarnath yatra pilgrims - who we had crossed in the morning. Despite the ensuing turmoil, the people of the city were very friendly.
The next day, we headed to the Hazratbal shrine. The army, seeing our Tamil Nadu vehicle quizzed us, “What are you doing here with 3 children?” They didn’t allow us to visit the shrine and we proceeded to Kargil on our way to Leh.
From Leh, we proceeded to Khardung La, but the roads were blocked due to Dalai Lama’s visit. We thus changed our plans and decided to visit Pangong Tso lake. After 20 kms, the road was under construction and we were forced to take a diversion. Most places from there on, we were driving on gravel, stones, sand, and even on water. Add 50 long army convoy trucks in the scene.
We did reach the lake and the sight to behold - crystal clear water and umpteen shades of blue. Across the lake is China. After a day at Leh, we proceeded to Khardung La pass - the highest motorable pass in the world at 18380 feet and then further to Turtuk - the northernmost village. Beyond this is Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
The whole trip was a wonderful opportunity for the children to know about our country’s army, with whom we chatted with, on many occasions.
Can you share some of your learning experiences?
Though foreign destinations have their own charm, I believe India has many sights to offer as well - cuisine, scenic locations, diverse and hospitable people with a great history.
How do you plan for the trip?
A lot of research goes into planning a trip
Destination - A thorough research is done on the destination and activity list.
Route mapping - We know how much we can drive for the day. There are many groups online suggesting good pit stops, which helps in planning our breaks. Another thing to be prepared for is the unavailability of signals - GPS would not work. At many other places, GPS has also misled us into agricultural fields.
Food - Travel includes eating local cuisine. However, if there are food restrictions, do stock up alternatives. We always carry at least 15 lts of water, a few packs of Maggi, coffee powder, milk powder, dark chocolates, and such essentials with us. We also carry a portable electric water kettle to heat water. We also make sure not to eat raw food, like salads but buy fresh fruits on the way.
Other essentials - A medical kit is an essential part of any travel.
Do you think knowing Hindi is essential for travelling in India?
While Hindi makes conversations easier, it is not mandatory. While in Arunachal Pradesh, everyone knew Hindi, but in Nagaland, everyone spoke only English. In Arunachal Pradesh, a couple of locals waved to us and said, “Yenne machi, yenne pandre?” We were awe-struck at the gesture. They had studied at VIT, Vellore, and thus knew Tamil. It was fabulous to converse in Tamil in another land. Language shouldn’t be a barrier for travelling.
For those who wish to take up road tripping as a passion……..
Driving is all about Risk mitigation. People are so focused on their destinations that they forget to enjoy the drive. Some of the rules to follow:
Be flexible. Be prepared to make a stop in between in case of unforeseen circumstances.
Drive only when the sun shines; seat belts at all times and for all seats; no rash, speed, and drunken driving.
For single travellers, Safety first!
Can we travel on a budget?
Absolutely, if we plan well in advance. We decide on destinations well in advance and book hotel rooms 10 months prior. The more we plan in advance the cheaper the trip will be.
How do you think COVID 19 is going to change the way we travel?
We are currently in an Unknown situation. But it will absolutely change the way we choose our travel preferences, especially when it comes to cleanliness and safety. Currently, a lot of travel apps have search criteria based on price, distance, etc. In the future, it may also add a search criterion on hygiene!!!!!!
Ramkey is a resident of Navalur and can be contacted at email@example.com. Readers can check his travelogue at https://www.ramchabi.com/blog/categories/global-gypsy.