Namita Kulkarni on stretching the limits of her travels
From holding a yoga class at a public park in Italy to leading an asana practice to a large group to a large group of Rajasthani women as part of a Yoga Festival on the outskirts of the Thar desert to having Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert in one of her classes, for travel blogger and yoga instructor Namita Kulkarni, yoga and travel go hand-in-hand.
Her foray into the world of blogging occurred after attending a health project in Mauritius and a yoga festival in Bali. Wanting to share her travel experiences, she decided to start Radically Ever After in 2014. According to Namita, she chose the name Radically Ever After for her blog as that is the only way she cares to live.
“As a young Indian woman in a conservative family, I needed to distance myself from expectations to toe the line and be the ‘good girl’ who exists to perpetuate her own oppression and is expected to be thankful for the opportunity,” says Namita, had a turbulent childhood due to an alcoholic and emotionally abusive father. Her childhood she says, turned her into a rebel “for the sake of one’s survival and sense of self-worth.”
Although she did write a couple of articles on travel blogger Shivya Nath’s website, India Untravelled, she decided to start her own blog so that she wouldn’t have to wait for her articles to be published by travel magazines or websites.
However, setting up the blog proved to be a challenge for the currently Mysore-based Namita. “I wasn’t a tech-savvy person back then, so I did the bare minimum in terms of blog layout and set up. One big thing that gets in the way of people sharing their writing with the world is the fear of judgment, criticism and misinterpretation. But I was willing to face those fears and more willing to learn from my mistakes along the way, so that made the process of starting my blog quite a fun project,” says Namita.
According to Namita, with travel bloggers aplenty, the USP of her blog is the fact that she does not cater to readers who view her as merely a travel resource to extract information from. She writes with an intelligent, curious, sensitive readership in mind, “which relate to me as a fellow human.”
Namita, who discovered yoga at the age of 17 says, she doesn’t feel the financial pressure to monetize her blog and cater to brand requirements or latch onto whatever new hashtag or fad trending moment as her main source of income is teaching yoga. “Travel bloggers/influencers often promote travel as another mode of endless consumerism, chasing visuals that will grab the most eyeballs and instilling in people a sense of destination-obsession. As if a change in place is the answer to all of life’s questions. I stay away from that to preserve my autonomy and sanity as a writer. When people tell me they had a sense of vicarious travel through my words, and it made them think in new directions in their everyday lives, it affirms my conviction in the way I write.”
Recalling some of the unique places she has practiced yoga asanas, the 35-year-old solo traveller recollects conducting a class at a helipad in the Himalayas at 5 in the morning. “Perhaps made more memorable by the fact that we got kicked out of there after about 30 minutes because the person we’d taken permission from wasn’t authorized to grant that permission. Also, in Bolivia, Lake Titicaca was quite the surreal setting for my asanas about six years ago,” says Namita, who teaches online almost every other day.
According to Namita, who enjoys her own company “99 percent of the time”, Savasana is her favourite asana. Doing a properly restful 20-minute Savasana is a “daily miracle worth giving ourselves every day.”
Teaching a group of women yoga in a park in Italy during a trip to the country was a memorable occasion for her. “They spoke barely any English, so I was using the little Italian I knew to get across cues, miming my way through. I loved how they supplied the exact Italian words I was reaching for and then implemented the cues they’d helped me translate,” says Namita, who adds that walking the streets in a new town or city is a thing she looks forward to while travelling. “To occupy a public space unhindered, ungroped, unassaulted, untouched… is an event of great rarity for me as and the Indian woman who grew up in India,” says Namita, talking from her experiences with street sexual harassment in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi – some of the “most developed cities we have”.
The blogger who has visited Cuba, Slovenia, Italy, Dubai, Western Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Bolivia, Singapore, Germany…, found Cuba enchanting. “I was in Havana as a guest on a week-long yoga retreat, and I spent about two weeks backpacking solo through Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Sancti Spiritus. That was one wholesome trip. My blogposts about Cuba have been my most popular ones so far,” says Namita, who adds that her blogs carry her misadventures such as the one in La Paz, Bolivia, where she fainted in her hotel room on her first night in the city due to the high altitude and jet lag. After finding her bearings and a plateful of pasta later, she was back to her old self.
An artist, Namita, says she funds her travels by working, saving and investing. “It helps that I’ve been saving since I was in school and then in law college selling my paintings on the side. In my mid-20s, I started to prioritize travel and designed my financial habits around it. I book international tickets a few months in advance, after scouring for the best deals online. I like a balance of structure and flow in both travel and yoga, so I plan out the main not-to-be-missed parts of my trip and leave the rest to spontaneity,” says Namita, who has travelled on a few sponsored trips and even a few travel writing and yoga teaching trips.
The avid traveller, who made a three-week Vietnam trip before the lockdown began in India, says that the day she landed in Hanoi, Vietnam, was the day the first Covid case was diagnosed in Vietnam. Although masks were sold and worn everywhere and fear in the air, she still managed to have an adventures trip exploring massive caves and trekking all day. As promoting travel in a pandemic would be a rather tone-deaf and irresponsible thing to do, she instead posted an interview with the executive director of SOS Children’s Village, Bengaluru, which encouraged people to sponsor a child, and another about Rang De India, a social investing platform where monetary contributions reach small and marginalized farmers in rural areas. During the pandemic, she made a weekend trip to BR Hills, about two hours from Mysore, which offered spectacular views.
Asked about her upcoming travel plans, she says she hasn’t any. “Teaching yoga online, writing for various websites, reading, and working on my book is keeping my plate full and fulfilling. I’ve wanted to visit Bhutan again someday, so maybe once the dust settles, I will,” says Namita. The yoga instructor, who shares pictures of her in various asanas during her journeys, plans to conduct online yoga workshops aimed at specific issues. She is also currently working on a book.