Weekly Feature: Shruthi of Holiday at See
I’ve been living and traveling in a 1987 Westfalia Vanagon GL for nearly three years now. My husband and I left Nashville, TN in April 2016 after both of our jobs allowed us the opportunity to work part-time and remote. We cruised around the United States, Canada and Mexico for about a year, took three months off and then set our sights on South America.
From July 2017 to January 2019, we drove the South American continent from Cartagena, Colombia to Ushuaia, Argentina before ending our trip in Montevideo, Uruguay. It was the most incredible and personal growth-inducing experience we’ve ever had! Next, we’re planning on exploring more of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize before returning to the Western United States to revisit all of the places we loved and didn’t get enough of.
Who or what inspired you to choose independent vehicle travel as your mode or transportation?
Peter has owned the van for over a decade now so having a mobile living-friendly vehicle already made the decision very easy for us. In 2015, we flew to Argentina to visit our friends Katie and Greg of Crepe Attack and stayed with them in their Westy for ten days while driving from Puerto Madryn to Buenos Aires. It was such a fun and inspiring experience that on the plane back to the United States, we made a pact to return to South America in our van.
Everyone always asks a traveller what their favourite country is. Do you have a favourite country? If not, what is a place that is special to you?
I honestly loved each country we drove through but Colombia and Argentina both hold a special place in my heart. Colombia stands out for me because that’s where our South American travels began. It’s an absolutely beautiful country with absolutely beautiful people. I was floored by how vibrant, exotic and delicious everything was! Argentina was the first South American country I ever visited and I fell totally in love with it from the start. Again, the people are what make Argentina so special to me — it’s such a big and diverse country. My favorite parts of Argentina are the Northwest Corner, which is like the Wild West and Patagonian Argentina. The areas around Cafayate and El Chaltén were stunning!
I’m a badass woman because ....
I’m a badass woman because I am what I choose to be. I’m constantly chasing what holds meaning and truth for me. In my opinion, that’s what life is all about: filling your soul with what makes you feel alive and overflowing that goodness into the world.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for women overlanders?
Shaving our legs! Peeing in public! Kidding. I think the biggest challenge for women overlanders is continuing to break stereotypes and limitations imposed on us by society. Yes, it’s a challenge but it’s amazing to know that so many women are already living lives which serve as examples of breaking the mold. Women Overlanding the World is such an important space for women to support each other in their travels and everything that they’re working through in their lives. More specifically for women who were raised in cultures which are oppressive (like me), the challenge is to unlearn so many of the things we’ve been taught about ourselves and our place in the world. In the culture I was raised in, it’s not exactly normal for Indian women to live and travel in their vehicles with or without their partners.
Traveling has taught me ....
that I can do anything I want to and that I’m more capable than I realize sometimes. I never thought that I’d go to essentially live in Spanish-speaking countries without knowing the language and emerge with a new sense of home that I found in those countries and the Spanish language.
Overlanding sucks sometimes because...
it’s addictive. I constantly think that maybe if I just visit this one other place, that my travel bug will be satiated. That couldn’t be far from the truth. With every new country I visit, the desire just gets stronger. I love looking at maps while dreaming of all of the places I have yet to visit and before I know it, I realize that I’ve pretty much pointed to every part of the world.
What is a simple life hack that you’ve discovered while on the road?
I would say that during my time in Bolivia, I rediscovered an important life hack: the hot water bottle. We happened to be there in the dead of winter and I think that was the longest we’ve been as cold as we were. I didn’t have a real hot water bottle, but I began heating up water on the stove and filling my Nalgene to put in my sleeping bag at bedtime. It made such a HUGE difference in keeping me warm enough to fall asleep and it made getting into a freezing cold bed much more bearable.