A brand strategist turned travel entrepreneur, Archana Singh loves to explore offbeat places in search of untold stories. As she trods along, having covered more than 60 countries so far, Singh uses her travels to work on issues like women empowerment, responsible tourism and social inclusion of the underprivileged. We get in touch with her to know more about her love for road trips, and how she plans to hit the highway again for post-COVID-19 road trips. By Bayar Jain

1. When did you first start taking road trips and what motivated you to do so?

 

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I have been taking road trips since I was a child. Coming from an army background, it was quite normal for me to go on a weekend road trip once a month. The credit goes to my family for instilling the love of road trips in me at a tender age.

2. Which has been your most memorable road journey so far and why?

 

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My four-month road trip in Europe in 2018 has been one of the most memorable trips so far. I was travelling solo during which I explored very different and unique facets of Europe. I visited 12 countries during this time! The stories range from getting mugged in Serbia to drinking Rakija (a local liquor) with complete strangers at their tiny homes in the villages of Slovakia.

3. Where were you when the lockdown was announced and how did you cope with it?

 

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Thankfully, I was in Delhi when the lockdown was set in motion. To cope with the lockdown, I immersed myself in new projects like working on a new venture on sustainability, starting a new YouTube chat show called Untold Stories by Travel See Write, and finishing old projects from my past travels.

4. How did you keep your travel bug satiated during the lockdown?

 

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I was continuously interacting with my followers on my channels to keep the wanderlust in me alive. I shared tips on how they could travel like me once the lockdown is lifted and it’s safe to travel again. I even completed my pending video projects, and most importantly, pivoted to stay relevant in the new normal.

5. When choosing your next destination, what are the various factors you keep in mind?

 

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First and foremost, safety will be a crucial factor, followed by the destination’s proximity to my place, and whether there is a possibility of driving there myself. Instead of visiting popular spots, I would like to try out new and offbeat places that are away from the maddening crowds. I will try avoiding long-haul trips until the vaccine is invented, or till the quarantine rules are eased out.

6. Once travel restrictions ease, where is the first place you’ll go to for your next Indian road trip?

 

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I might visit Rajasthan because it’s close to Delhi and getting a COVID-19 test or being in quarantine for short trips to the state is not mandatory.

7. When on the road, how do you cope with unforeseen hurdles such as flat tyres on the highway, or losing your way?

 

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I am well trained in changing tyres, so that’s not a problem. I always keep my GPS navigation on, and even download offline versions of the places I’m visiting, just in case my data stops working. When nothing works, I rely on the locals’ knowledge. They are the best navigators!

8. How do you think the world of travel will change post-COVID-19?

 

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In my opinion, visitors would avoid taking public transportation to get from one place to another. Therefore, short trips to destinations which they can drive to in their private vehicles will be favoured. The demand for smaller boutique properties that are secluded, surrounded by nature, and away from crowded cities is bound to go up. Hygiene will be the most crucial element, followed by the property design, activities and the overall experience. Family or small group travel will be preferred over solo or MICE travel. While in the short run, the hospitality and tourism sector might offer many discounts to attract travellers, in the long run, holidays and destinations are bound to become more expensive than earlier because of lesser demand and increasing overheads.

9. What are the top five must-haves for a road trip?

 

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Your safety kit: mask, hand sanitiser, Aarogya Setu app and first-aid kit; a well-serviced vehicle with a full-tank and GPS navigation; a pre-booked accommodation and a negative COVID-19 test report from an ICMR-approved lab (if your destination mandates it); home-made food and snacks for the journey; a good camera, mobile phone and a power bank.

10. What kind of music can we find on your travel playlist?

 

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I like to listen to soothing music that syncs well with my mood such as Sufi, instrumental or pop music.

11. As a travel-enthusiast, how do you plan to advocate the tenets of conscious travelling in the post-Corona world?

 

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  1. We can reduce our carbon footprint by flying less and choosing eco-friendly and sustainable activities that not only cause less harm to the place but do good for it too. For example, instead of flying to far-off destinations, we can explore nearby places on cycle or foot.
  2. Don’t be party to exploiting nature to a point where it becomes detrimental to our own existence. Prevent unethical practices of wildlife and nature abuse for short-term gains.
  3. Hire local guides and buy local products to support local communities.
  4. Reduce plastic waste by carrying your own multi-use water bottles and eating local fresh food, instead of munching on processed products.
  5. Travel light and leave no trash behind.

12. Any tips on post-COVID-19 road trips?

 

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Choose offbeat places, but ensure you don’t take the Coronavirus along. Get a COVID-19 test done before setting out on a road trip. Travel slow and deep to nearby destinations rather than going to faraway places. Think about what you can give back to a destination instead of vice-versa. Share positive stories about the locals and destinations to motivate people to visit it.

Related: Traveller Shruti Arora Reveals Why She Wants To Take The Old Silk Route For Her Rebound Road Trip