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The Lil Wanderer – A mother-daughter travel logbook

In one with nature - Rucha & Advika
In one with nature – Rucha & Advika

There’s a little bit of a wanderer in all of us. But only a few have the courage to pack up their bags and brave the outside world and explore what it has in store for them.

The Lifestyle Portal is proud to share the story of this dusky beauty Rucha Karve, a 28-year-old home baker and a blogger from Mumbai. A wife of a merchant naval officer and a mother of a four-and a half-year-old who didn’t allow the four walls of domesticity curb her enthusiasm. Instead, this gorgeous woman packed her bags and started exploring the world with her little one as her travel partner.

Here’s her inspirational story and we’re so excited to share her journey with you. Being a single mum myself who does travel with her daughter alone, I realised there’s a lot more to learn from Rucha and hopefully we’ll be taking a trip together and share our travel diaries with you soon! 😉

Rockstar mum Rucha & Advika at Khardungla
Rockstar mum Rucha & Advika at Khardungla

How did it all begin?

“I have always loved adventure travel. I had been trekking throughout my college days and then life happened and this part of me got totally left behind,” recalls Rucha.

Fast forward to being a mum, with a husband who is in the merchant navy and is around only a couple months a year, Rucha shares that when her daughter Advika was born they couldn’t plan a vacation since his return dates are never certain.

She further shares, “When Advika was two and a half years old, I decided I’d done enough waiting. I was sceptical, no doubt, but I took the plunge. I packed my bag and left. Our first was an overnight road trip to Velas, known for its Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings. There wasn’t even a spare seat for her in the non-AC traveller, but we managed of course.”

What made Rucha and Advika’s maiden trip worthwhile was that they witnessed Olive Ridley Turtle hatchlings for the first time. Rucha still can’t get over those little ones waddling away towards the water. This was one life-altering experience for her and from then on, Rucha has been adding links to the chain and there has been no looking back.

Splashing waves behind the Harihareshwar Temple
Splashing waves behind the Harihareshwar Temple

Initial investments

“In the beginning, it was just a rucksack; that’s about it. Everything else was regular. In fact, the entire focus in backpacking is to carry the least possible weight with you – only the essentials. So a few pair of clothes, a

torch, first aid kit and some snacks for the journey and you are done. Now I have a few sacks of varying sizes depending on the number of days/kind of trip,” explains Rucha.

On launching ‘the_lil_wanderer’ on Instagram

the_lil_wanderer’ is Rucha’s official Instagram page where she tries to document snippets from her trips. It is mostly a journal of the things Rucha and her daughter have explored together, the places they have seen, the culture they have experienced and the food they have eaten.

She further adds, “I love photography, and through it, I try to bring to you a slice of the world that I experienced with my daughter. It’s a glimmer of hope for people who are itching to travel and for mums who are worried about managing their little ones. This is to get everyone going and it inspires me to go further and do better.”

Backpacking the mommy way!
Backpacking the mommy way!

Challenges faced

Earlier it was mainly just minimising the load while travelling. Carrying the bare minimums and yet carrying enough. Striking that balance is what’s a little taxing. Rucha has a list that she goes by, and it works out in the end.

“While travelling with a child, one of the main challenges is to find food during the journey. You see, not every train has a pantry, you can’t find something as common as an idli or a chapati everywhere. Last year we went to Bangkok, Advika was three then, and we managed mostly with fruits, eggs and bread. While the rice was readily available, any accompanying curry was extremely spicy,” mentions Rucha.

But Advika’s accustomed to their travels now. Even if Rucha is in a remote village, the little one manages with the most basic of food.

Another interesting fact that Rucha pitches in, “Next is boredom. Yes, kids get super bored during travel. We had a 30-hour long to and fro train journey for Bhutan, and it was a test for us both. Firstly, she doesn’t use mobile phones at all, so that option is scrapped. I had carried cards to play a basic game, Ludo and colouring books. Slowly kids from the nearby compartment joined in and started playing. We made new friends, shared our food. We got to know about the corresponding villages, it was some experience! Now if my little one refuses to go to school, you think I can blame her?! ;)”

Striking a pose at Takin zoo, Bhutan
Striking a pose at Takin zoo, Bhutan

What makes travelling solo with a child so unique?

Rucha feels that such kinds of trips are unique because they are not very fancy. “We’re not staying in the best of accommodations, eating at the finest of places; instead we are doing everything on a shoestring budget. We try to stay with the locals, eat their staple food, mingle with their kids, exchange recipes, share knowledge about our traditions. This has all made Advika extremely accepting to the varied natures and cultures of people. We’ve learnt to love all kinds of people, bond with them, share and adapt.”

Budget for travel

If you’re wondering how Rucha manages the budgets for her trip, she shares, “It depends on the kind of trip. For instance, it’s a weekend trip to Pune; I would first be looking to see if any friends could host me. If not, I would turn to couch surfing, which means I would turn to the travel community to let me stay in their homes. If even that doesn’t work out, then it will be a hostel. Chair car seats to Pune and back will be booked. Trains are the cheapest and quickest way to travel, especially since I don’t have to purchase a ticket for my child. Now for the food, I set aside around INR 200 per meal at the most, expect to eat at local simple food joints, where I can get a wholesome thali. I usually take public transport wherever possible and prefer to see historic places. I would estimate the cost to be around INR 1,500 for a weekend trip like this to Pune.”

Little Advika, all smiles at Pangong Lake, Ladakh
Little Advika, all smiles at Pangong Lake, Ladakh

Places visited so far…

If you’re wondering the places Rucha and Advika have visited so far, here’s her enviable list:

We started our travelling with Velas where we saw beautiful Olive Ridley Turtle hatching, then Malvan, Dapoli, Ladakh, Manali, Goa, Gangtok, Thailand (Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi), Bhutan (Thimpu, Punakha, Paro) Harihareshwar, Srivardan, Bangalore, Karla, Lonavala, Ganpatipule, Kolkata and Delhi. Not to mention the multiple animal safaris at Tadoba, Pench, Nagzira and Bandhavgad and a few peaks trekked by her in Maharashtra.

Learning through travels

Ruche shares her invaluable lessons that she and her daughter imbibed during their journeys.

The first and most important learning lesson was that children are far more adaptable than we give them credit for. Small worries like soiled clothes, cold or hot weather, availability of preferred food are very small worries when compared to the experience you gain.

Next is that no matter where you go, you will find kind people around you. They will be willing to help you and trying to as accommodative as much possible. Also, we realized that their homes may be small but their hearts are really big.

Advika finds happiness in rocks and soil, not missing her toys or the comforts of home. These short bursts of periods away from our materialistic belongings have brought us close to each other and close to nature.

Advika and her new friends in Ladakh
Advika and her new friends in Ladakh

Inspiring fellow mums to travel with their kids

We asked Rucha how would she encourage fellow mums to travel with their kids.

She feels, “I would tell them to go for it! The dimensions it would add to your child’s (not to mention yours too) personality is very rewarding. Children recall small memories and in this digital day and age, it’s very convenient to help them remember your travels with pictures.”

Rucha also strongly feels that the bond we develop is something extraordinary. These experiences that she and her daughter have shared have knitted them together. The questions that she has why does Bhutan have prayer flags? The different ways that people pray? To the lack of electricity in remote areas, and the joy of camping by the lakeside – it makes them more accepting and understanding of the world around us. In fact, all these trips has made Advika more sensitive to nature and she’s very interested in birds and animals especially after the safaris she’s undertaken.

Why don’t women travel alone?

Many a time I have been asked this question as to why women don’t travel alone. When I went on my Mountain Walker trip as a lone woman with my team, it came as a big surprise and a beautiful revelation for many. The thing is, we as women draw boundaries in our minds, and that the world is gradually getting more acceptance and respect for women and women travellers.

According to Rucha, she feels that in general, a large sect of women is not given the confidence that they can travel alone. When a woman hasn’t travelled alone, it’s reasonably difficult for her to imagine travelling alone with a child. The fog of dependence is so thick, that it’s difficult for them to see through it and open their horizon to new possibilities.

Sunshine girls
Sunshine girls

How do you plan your travels?

“I don’t fix a travel plan for the year, but I do go through a lot of websites, research a lot of destinations.

But there is no annual plan. Plans are mostly made a month or so in advance,” adds Rucha.

Right now Rucha is planning a trip to Madhya Pradesh with a rough sketch of the places she wants to visit. She plans to take the road and railway maps and researching every stop, considering how much time she would need in a city.

“When I finally do decide to go, I’ll be booking train tickets to and from the first and last destination respectively, while the remaining will be on the spot including the stay, the bus bookings etc.” mentions Rucha.

With this, Rucha signs off while preparing for her upcoming short trek to Harishchandragad.

Are you envious already? You should be. But that shouldn’t stop you from heading out. The world is your playground mumma; go out and explore!

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On a trek to Tigers nest, Paro.
On a trek to Tigers nest, Paro.

The Lifestyle Portal

Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

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