“I work, so that I can make money to travel,” said Anjaly Thomas during one of the many conversations that I had with her. And over time, I realized that she was not joking. Neither was she being flippant about the realities.
Anjaly's logic is very simple. “This world we live in is huge and there is so much to explore. I want to see and experience whatever I can in this world. I have traveled to more than 65 countries, all alone. No one kidnapped me nor harassed me,” she said.
At an age when women do not even feel safe inside their own homes, Anjaly was a different voice. Her words inspired me to write about her many trips.
Anjaly has traveled alone to places even men think twice before planning a trip. She captures photos and comes back revitalized to tell the tale. There are stories, a lot of them from her trips that she pens down. Some are amusing, some inspiring and some that makes you wonder how she did it all. A 'wild traveler' is the term I would associate with Anjaly. So, let's ask Anjaly what it's like to be a solo woman traveler.
How did you start traveling alone?
"The first time I traveled alone was when I was studying law - it was to Goa. A couple of friends and I decided to go, but when the time came, everyone backed out. Because I had been looking forward to this trip, I went alone! I loved it. That started my life as a solo traveller.
Even though I am a law graduate, I found out that I preferred being a journalist. "In 2004, I traveled to Dubai for the Dubai shopping festival. I managed to find a job and stay on. And that added color to my life and changed the course of life. The first chance i got, I went to Bangkok and from then on there was no stopping me. I went on to other countries, took photos, wrote about my trips. And then Mt Kilimanjaro happened. That changed a lot of things and I fell in love with the mountains.
"Papua New Guinea happened next. I was in Papua New Guinea to walk the Kokoda Track – and walking on the track is not easy. Kokoda Track is a 97km-long track through the forests that are not very kind. It is difficult to walk more than three kilometers an hour, thanks to the harsh terrain. We carried food in our backpacks and cooked in the forest, resting at temporary tents built in the forest. In the end, I made it, but it was a huge risk. I am proud that I didn’t have to come back with a severed arm as the people in this part of the world would not stop from cutting off your arm to steal your watch.
"I have always loved adventures, first I read about it in books and later decided to have my own! I have no clue how and what changed me over the years but I do admit that life is as adventurous as you want it to be. Fortunately my parents and my brothers were always sure that I will come home safe wherever I went."
Anjaly works as a digital content producer at a radio station in Dubai.
“I work to fund my trips', she says. “Over the years, I have built a network of friends in different parts of the world and its good to know that there is someone - if only a FB friend, in an unknown place," she adds.
Anjaly says that she has never had a bad experience during her many trips across the world. According to her, the trips revitalize her with renewed vigor to plan her next trip. “I am in love with the forests. I enjoy the romance of the forests, that is one of the reasons why I went to Papua New Guinea,” she says.
Anjaly is sure about the guy she will settle down with. Her partner, she says should be someone who encourages her to travel. "I want to conquer mountains, travel to each and every forest in the world and climb the Himalayas before leaving the earth," she says.
This article was first published in Vanitha and translated. Anjaly Thomas is a traveler, writer and blogs at Travel With Anjaly. She has documented her trip to North Korea in her book called There Are No Gods in North Korea published in 2016.