“Every place you go gives you the chance to be someone you’ve not been before.”
In photos, Namita Kulkarni is bubbly and vivacious. She exudes a warm presence. You might see her in a photo posing gracefully in a yoga asana on a mountaintop or in the bed of a shallow river. Her life looks effortless, wrapped up in the natural beauty of wild landscapes and yoga poses.
But that’s not the full picture. She’s worked hard to afford travel. For one thing, Kulkarni (usually) doesn’t get paid to travel. And if she does get compensation, it’s not to lounge around a resort and take pictures all day. She teaches yoga and has been practicing yoga for over a decade. Namita Kulkarni provides one glimpse into how it’s possible to afford travel and make dream trips a reality.
Kulkarni’s travel story starts with yoga.
Kulkarni works as a yoga teacher in her native country, India. Yoga is as integral to her life as travel. But this wasn’t an occupation she set out to do. At the age of 17, Kulkarni happened to visit the Vivekanada Rock Memorial and there, she chanced upon a little yellow book that offered guidelines for yoga practice. She bought the book and, over time, what began as a curiosity blossomed into a staple of Kulkarni’s life.
“Adolescence isn’t a walk in the park for anyone but growing up in a hostile environment with an alcoholic father, I needed an anchor all the more. Some oasis that I could retreat to instead of getting caught up in all the chaos and negativity.
“So while my friends laughed at me for doing yoga at 17 (back then it wasn’t ‘cool’ somehow), I knew this was so right for me. The yoga found me just in the nick of time, as I realize looking back now,” Kulkarni said.
Yoga gave Kulkarni an anchor and travel gave her independence.
When Kulkarni was 24, she practiced with a yoga group that turned out to be a cult. She left the group and started traveling not long after. It was then that the world opened to her.
“I realized how ridiculous it is to give your power away to someone else,” Kulkarni said.
Kulkarni works most of the year as a yoga teacher, but she always manages to save up money and plan a trip or two. She pointed out that travel is a privilege, but so is getting a good education, shopping, eating out every night, buying the newest phone, etc. Kulkarni makes travel a priority. She makes her trips happen.
Kulkarni mostly travels solo, which to many sounds scary, lonely or dangerous, but Kulkarni has a different take on solo travel.
“I find it really funny that people think that traveling solo is the strange thing to do, but I think traveling with someone is the strange thing to do,” Kulkarni said. Planning a trip involves a lot of logistics and no matter whom you travel with, you’ll both want to do different things because you’re two separate beings. Kulkarni pointed out that travelers make a lot of choices every single day of a trip; from where to eat, to where to visit, to how to get around and how much money to spend. “The logistics of that get crazy.”
Traveling alone simplifies logistics, but it also does something else important. Kulkarni enjoys the chance to be independent and interact with a place on a one-on-one level. Kulkarni said being in a place is like having a conversation, you don’t want a third party interrupting and mixing things up.
And then, there is the freedom from expectations.
“You get closer to yourself. When you’re traveling alone, you don’t have anyone’s expectations on you about who you are as a person. No preconceptions no expectations. You’re free to be a brand-new person,” Kulkarni said.
But every trip comes to an end. In a way, it’s a blessing for us when Kulkarni finishes another trip because it’s then that she shares her life experiences on her blog, Radically Ever After.
“Writing for me was and is a way to assimilate my experiences and ‘save’ them from getting lost in the melee that is everyday life,” Kulkarni said.
To do that, Kulkarni must be “as attentive as I could to the effect my travels had on me, if I wanted to be able to convey the same effect to readers. In Yoga there is the integral idea and practice of ‘witnessing’ one’s experiences, thoughts, feelings. Not getting swept away in them, yet being fully present with them.”
This juncture of yoga and travel aids Kulkarni’s writing. “[it’s] A skill that comes in handy as a writer when you sit down to encapsulate entire multi-dimensional experiences into a bunch of words for absolute strangers. I’m sure the Yoga has had a big role in whatever little skill I have as a writer.”
Writing also provides the much-needed space to process a trip. Travelers need time and space to process what they experience. It’s an important part of any trip– coming back home– that we forget about. Scrolling through social media leaves an impression of endless trips and high points. But that is not at all how traveling works, and it’s healthy to remember that the end of an experience is just as meaningful as the high points.
Gaining perspective is essential to the writing process. “I cannot be the same overwhelmed, crazy person I was on the trip when I sit down to write a blog. People are not going to relate to that,” Kulkarni said.
But there’s still one missing ingredient, one piece of the puzzle that is essential to anyone planning a trip.
Kulkarni said excitement was a great guide. When she followed her excitement, things fell into place better and lead to outcomes that she could not have planned.
This sense of excitement led her to a mist covered lake in Bolivia at 6 in the morning. Her brain couldn’t process what she was seeing, it looked like the local alpacas were walking on water.
This sense of excitement drove Kulkarni to hike an active volcano in Bali, paraglide over Bir in India and many, many other adventures.
You might still wonder how Kulkarni makes travel and yoga and writing so integral to her life. There is a lot of hard work involved, but the start is simple. Kulkarni said:
“You are your best guarantee of anything.”
Don’t wait, fellow travelers. Make it happen.
Follow Namita Kulkarni’s yoga and travel journeys at: