Travel, photography, anthropology, literature, art, research – Sonia Nazareth has her fingers in many pies and enjoys them all just as equally.
Sonia Nazareth is back from her second masters in Anthropology of Media from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Now she can be found brandishing pen and camera on various travel, literary, art and research assignments across the world.
1) What was the first place you travelled to that made you fall in love with travel?
Sonia: My student years in London were the start of my approaching place as if it were a person. Falling-in-love with the city was a natural consequence of having a combination of time and curiosity to plumb its depths.
2) What’s the best part about being a woman traveller? What’s the worst?
S: Being a woman traveller, has often meant that I have people open up to me more easily. It’s also meant that sometimes I’m so quickly embedded in a narrative or a place, that it’s harder to pull away.
3) How would you rate travelling solo vs travelling in a group and why?
S: All permutations and combinations of wandering throw up the potential for adventure and epiphany; but I particularly enjoy travelling solo, because it pushes me more surely out of my comfort zone, and encourages deeper interaction with new people and the place itself.
4) Tell us about a couple of memorable incidents – your best and/ or worst.
S: The most revelatory travel for me has frequently been in the opposite direction of the herd. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania – had everyone, irrespective of bank balance or Instagram following, puffing and panting in the attempt to get to the summit. Nature frequently triumphs as life’s great equalizer.
5) What’s your favourite place amongst all your travels? One that you’d go to again and again? Why?
S: Ethiopia – for the sheer complexity of its people, cultures and unbidden nature. All illustrating with clear certainty – that one person’s remote outpost is someone else’s thriving everyday habitat.
6) What’s a quirky tradition/ ritual you follow on your journeys? Tell us the story behind that.
S: I never leave home without my goosedown pillow. It offers me just the comfort I need to call anyplace I lay my head (a hut in a desert or a palace in a cultural hub) home.
7) And now for the trickiest question of them all – what does travel mean to you?
S: It allows me to step out of the familiar, into the unconsidered and astonishing variety that is our world. It allows me also to discover things for myself, rather than rely on mediated reports.
8) Any tips/ tricks/ words of advice to aspiring travellers?
S: Travel light – but pack a sense of adventure and a willingness to befriend the unfamiliar.
9) How you plan a trip? Things you make a note of, dos, don’ts, itineraries, the process of selecting a place, where to stay, et al? What are your pet travel peeves?
S: Despite extensive research (offline and on), and meticulous planning, I usually leave several days at the end of a journey “ blank” to follow unexpected flows. You never know what particular experience you run into, that you’re going to want to explore in more depth.
10) Let’s talk about the safety factor that comes in when you are a “woman traveller.”
S: I’ve learned to trust my instinct – that inner discretionary sense that one develops through exposure to a diverse range of situations.
11) How does your training in anthropology influence your travel or the stories you look for/ at?
S: Over the past 16 years, it has pushed me towards a deeper engagement with people, and places. It has helped broaden my focus – by providing alternative ways of looking at things while providing a methodological toolbox with which to dig beneath surface readings in any cultural milieu.