Ansoo Gupta is a highly qualified marketing professional. She has been in the media industry for almost 15 years working with brands like Star TV, National Geographic Channel, The History Channel etc.
She is currently the COO of India’s largest digital marketing firm Pinstorm. In her marketing career, Ansoo has launched and nurtured many successful brands across various product categories.
She was awarded ‘Achiever of Excellence in Marketing’ by Bombay Management Association and Bhujbal Knowledge City in the year 2011.
Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management Alumni Association conferred a ‘Corporate Excellence’ award upon her in February 2013.
Ansoo studied Physics and Mathematics as her graduation subjects and is an MBA. She feels that her travels taught her more about life, people and planet than her institutional studies.
Ansoo started travelling independently almost 20 years back when travel information in India was not that readily available.
She used to research and plan her own itineraries for her solo travels to exotic locales as Mcleodganj in India, Great Barrier Reef in Australia etc all on her own. She always came back amazed and enriched and then encouraged her friends to go too.
She has now travelled to over 35 countries and managed to see some fantastic sights such as Northern Lights, Yee Peng etc. She also managed to take a four month long leave from a hectic TV job to go backpacking all over Europe.
Ansoo wants everyone to do that. And that is why she now conducts travel talks and travel workshops where she shares her secrets and tips about cheap, long, independent, budget travels.
She conducts these travel talks purely out of passion and with her mission of empowering as many people as possible with information and inspiration about exploring the whole world.
Her travel workshops called ‘Get Out!’ are regularly conducted all over the country and have already taken place in venues such as Kunzum Travel Café , Bombay Connect and TTF – India’s first and largest Travel & Trade Fair. Ansoo was recently invited to represent India at the WITx – Women Redefining Travel Conference held at Bangkok, Thailand.
Naaree.com caught up with her to learn more about her travel experiences and to glean some tips for independent Indian women who love to travel.
At what age did you realize you have been bitten by the travel bug? That travel was a passion for you?
I did my first solo travel at the age of 21 years. It was to Mcleodganj and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Mcleodganj was very different at that time. It didn’t look like a part of India at all and nobody used to go there. Only foreigners would come.
There was very little information available anywhere – there were no guidebooks and no internet. All I knew was that Dalai Lama chose to establish his government-in-exile there so I assumed that it will show me a glimpse of Tibet within India. So it was a mini-adventure to go there and that too alone!
Once I reached, it wasn’t as overwhelming. I met many people from all over the world, sampled food from Israel, Germany etc. I had stumbled upon a magical world on my own. And that experience set me on the path of independent travel to off-beat places all over the world.
I came back more confident, more knowledgeable and connected to the world around me. That is when I realised that travelling can transform you.
You spoke recently at the Web In Travel conference in Bangkok on how women are redefining travel. Could you share with us some of the highlights of your talk?
I was the only speaker from India at this conference which had travel professionals from all over Asia representing the biggest travel brand names in this part of the world. The conference focussed on both women as travellers and on women in the travel industry.
I represent both so I spoke both about my experiences as an independent woman traveller and also as a digital marketing specialist who has helped large travel brands like Taj hotels, Jet airways, Accor group of hotels connect better with their customers through the internet.
One of the questions I was asked was if I had any suggestions for airlines to improve their services for women. In my view it is not as if women need any special assistance as compared to men but as women we’d appreciate if the staff is more sensitive so we can give brownie points just on asking if everything is fine. 🙂
And of course everyone was keen to know about my independent backpacking experience. It amazed people that right after the conference, I was rushing off outside Bangkok to see the world’s most dangerous market, alone! But that’s my style of travel – I like to see off-beat sights.
I know that two of the factors that hold me back from traveling to more places are finance and safety. Do you think most women have similar issues when it comes to exercising their passion for travel? How would you suggest they address their limitations?
I would add one more limitation that most people quote as their reason to not travel as much as they’d like to and that is Lack-of-time. Each of these limitations are self-inflicted to some extent. If you truly do want to go out and see a place, you will work towards it.
So what is required is a deep desire to see something, to experience something. Then you need to research. The more you read and research, the more answers will come to you.
You might be able to see how to reduce costs and work within your budget, or you might be able to come across another traveller who also plans to go there.
By hooking up with him or her you might be able to reduce your financial and safety concerns both. So basically what I am saying is if you dream hard and think hard about your dream, you will be able to figure out what needs to be done to overcome what’s limiting you.
What sort of a traveler are you? Do you like being a minimalist backpacker or going the whole hog and enjoying luxury travel?
I am a modern-day backpacker. Which means, first of all, that I don’t travel with a backpack at all 🙂 I travel with a small strolley with wheels. 🙂
I am a minimalist when it comes to travelling – I travel very light, I like to look for great deals and I never get in a crazy-rush to tick things off some to-see, to-do list. I like to get into the feel of the place so I try to do the things that locals do there.
Take public transport, go to supermarkets to sample their daily shopping rather than souvenir shopping and stay at small boutique hotels rather than large hotel-chains which look the same all over the world. This doesn’t necessarily take away from the luxury aspect but connects you better to the local rhythm of life.
Many people ask me in my travel workshops “How long does one need to stay in a place to feel like a local” and my answer is the sooner you start behaving like a local and not live in some bubble. You can achieve it in two days if you do it right or always live and feel like a tourist even after spending months in a place.
Do you prefer a specific type of destination, like beaches or mountains? Are you drawn to one type of destination more than others?
I spent many years in Delhi before I moved to Bombay. When I was in the Northern part of India I used to think I am a mountain person as my trips were more to mountains close by and even my backpacking trip to Europe was mostly in the mountainous towns, though I also went to some stunning beaches in Croatia and Greece.
After moving to Bombay, I feel I am becoming a beach person due to my frequent trips to Goa and other coastal places nearby. 🙂 Thailand has always been one of my very favourite countries and it has both lovely mountains and gorgeous sea.
I really do love both! I also love the snow and the desert equally – they are all very beautiful!
My favourite part of the day is mornings and I love clicking pictures of all these places – mountains, beaches, snow, desert and even streets early in the morning. That’s something I really like.
How many continents have you covered in your travels and which destinations were the most memorable?
I have been to all continents except Antarctica and have covered more than 35 countries. But frankly I have never tried to keep a count or reach a certain number of countries that I have travelled to or any such book-keeping. 🙂
All my trips to new places are a distinct memory but some of my fondest memories are about the trip to see Northern Lights, my 4 months spent on the roads in Europe, my very first backpacking trip to Australia and then so many other trips with my partner and friend.
Describe your most memorable travel experience and your least enjoyable one.
Least enjoyable is easy : None. Even crisis situations, once they pass, look mild in hindsight and leave you with stories.
Some of my most memorable travel experiences are the ones which weren’t very planned. When my partner and I went to see the Yee Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand some years back – there was very little information about it on the net.
No one knew the exact dates even. But we took a most-informed guess and landed there. The festival of a thousand lanterns in the sky was indeed the same weekend that we were there and it was the most gorgeous sight that I have experienced till date.
Similarly trips to see candy festival in Spain, visiting small villages just outside London, accidentally landing in the small , beautiful town of Paraty in Brazil and many more.
What suggestions would you give to women who enjoy travelling solo when it comes to exploring safely in India and abroad?
There’s no doubt that women feel more unsafe in India than in some other parts of the world but frankly accidents can happen anywhere and there are nasty men all over the world. An Indian woman who travels alone daily to work or to study in India is already somewhat trained in handling unwanted situations.
The ground rules are the same: Don’t attract unnecessary attention either through your behaviour or your attire. Dress like a traveller, not like a showpiece putting your valuables on display. And keep your innate women’s antenna up.
If something does happen, don’t worry being in a foreign land or not knowing the local language. The language of admonishing in a firm tone or screaming loudly for help is the same all over the world.
You have given talks on traveling on a budget. What are the most important lessons you would offer to women who love to travel but have financial constraints?
(i) Once you have finalised your destination, do a lot of research. You will be able to find cheap/ free places to stay and important information like what free activities can you do there, when are the museum entrances discounted or free etc. Similarly, research can help you save some money on airfares as well.
(ii) If you really do want to go your dream destination, save up. You won’t mind not spending too much on buying clothes, shoes, new mobile phone, jewellery, another handbag, fancy restaurant lunch etc, if it helps add to your fund to go see Great Barrier Reef in Australia!
(iii) Try to take long holidays – this way, you can maximize the airfare that you will spend to get to a place. So rather than taking 2 trips of 5 days each in a year, see if you can take 10 days at one go and explore more places.
(iv) Don’t get caught in the trap of wanting to travel just because everybody else is going. You go where you want to go, when you are ready to go. Till then, taking a day off and just sitting in a book shop flipping through travel books and making plans can also be a nice getaway!
What have you learned about yourself and about people during your travels?
I learnt more about myself when I travelled alone and I got to know my friends better when I travelled with them. I learnt that people are all different and yet all the same.
That there is immense kindness in the world. That politicians are scoundrels everywhere. That everyone all over the world is complaining about excessive consumerism and our abuse of nature; yet our leaders and politicians are evasive about the real issues.
That global-warming is a reality and our forests and glaciers are shrinking. That ours is a really beautiful planet and it will be very unfortunate if we waste it all!
About ‘Get Out!’
Ansoo Gupta, an expert at world-travel will share the secrets of long, cheap travel and stay abroad. After listening to her talk, you will be motivated to realize your dream of leaving your daily rut behind and hit the road to travel and see the whole world.
Her workshop can provide everything you need including the kick to start your travel planning. The participants from her prior workshops say that it is a wonderful experience and the workshop opened their eyes to a new way of travelling.
Travel has the potential of changing your life. If you feel that travelling to new and unknown places will broaden your mind more than any educational degree and will give you a growth and exposure that no job ever can, then you must attend this workshop.
If you want to backpack all over Europe, go on a Round-The-World trip, see the Northern Lights or do the Inca Trail in Machu Picchu but can’t find the time and/or money or don’t know where to start, just come and listen to Ansoo Gupta’s experiences and get inspired to travel more.
Update: Ansoo has recently founded the One Shoe Trust for Responsible and Mindful Travels. She brings #TheNewWayToTravel to Indian travellers with One Shoe Travel Fair, that helps you realise your travel dreams with tips collected over 70+ countries. Learn more about it here:
Ansoo Gupta can be contacted on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.