When we approached Meenakshi to get to know about her travel style, her passion for travel and road trips in general, we learned so much not just about her but also about travel in general. Here’s your chance to get to know Meenakshi Sai as well, so read through and find out all there is to find out about solo travel, traveling overseas, road trips and more.
10 things you need to know about Meenakshi Sai
1. When was your first trip overseas?
Meenakshi Sai: “So my first overseas trip was to the United States when I was barely 10 years old, and I was there for three months. I’ve been to a lot places around the U.S and I had such a blast that I didn’t want to come back. My parents did panic as this was my first time alone so they were like, she needs to come back and I didn’t want to come back. But, I loved America! It was fabulous and I saw Disneyland, Niagara Falls, New York and California. I was there for three months and had seen the length and breadth of it. And it was and continues to be my most memorable trip; something I will never forget!”
2. What inspired you to travel?
Meenakshi Sai: “I just liked to travel and I have been traveling for many years now. But, my inspiration for overland adventure or road tripping is a friend named Joseph. So he was one of the first people to drive from Kochi to London, and I had followed his journey. Since then I’ve been wanting to do it. So I take a lot of tips from him and I ask for suggestions whenever I try to plan a trip as it is very helpful. I would say he’s definitely been an inspiration.”
3. Mention the most exciting part about your travels?
Meenakshi Sai: “The most exciting part about my travel would be meeting people. I love meeting people. You learn more about the place, the culture, the food, everything through them. That’s the best way to learn about any place that you go to. I talk to random people and I try to talk to locals as well. That’s the most exciting part, especially on a road trip. You can stop to get so much of information from the local people that you don’t read about anywhere else. It isn’t just about the touristy places but more about getting a local flavour about the place. So, yes that’s the most exciting part for me!”
4. Do you like to plan ahead or are you the spontaneous kind?
Meenakshi Sai: “I do plan ahead as to where I need to go and other things, but then what I do there is usually very spontaneous. Mostly, I just take it as it comes. If I feel like doing something, I will do it. And if I don’t feel like doing anything at all, I just like to chill out. There is no rush usually on my travels as I prefer to plan ahead. Believe me, there is a lot of planning and you can’t really plan because there are other things involved like permits, documentation and other things. So you do have to plan on road trips and it is very essential that you plan, especially on the overland adventures because you need to understand the country, the rules, and everything right from the start.”
5. Which has been your toughest trip till date? What were some of the challenges that you faced?
Meenakshi Sai: “My toughest trip would be the one to London because it required a lot of planning and I was doing it for the first time. I felt like a novice. and I still feel those butterflies each time I head out on a road trip. However, I’m a little more confident now but back then it was hard because I was quite clueless. So, I read up so much, I did a lot of planning, I researched on the route places to see cities to break your journey. It was really hard and then to get the team together was even harder. Since it was my first time, people were very skeptical and not many people showed up. So that was my hardest trip ever. We had cars & although I am a people’s person, I wasn’t associating with the clubs, organisations like Rotary and others. So that was a very difficult thing that I had to do. I would say this was a difficult trip for me.”
6. What’s the one rule you follow on each of your trips? Any essentials that you carry?
Meenakshi Sai: “The most essential would be Skyroam that I stay connected with. It’s a satellite gadget that I carry with me. When you have that, you don’t have to worry about buying sim cards and you know, stopping and trying to recharge your Sim card. So Skyroam is something that I always carry on all my trips. It’s a very easy way to stay connected. You can hook up 5 gadgets to the skyroam and it’s very essential for me. However, these days with iPhones and stuff, you don’t really need to carry a DSLR. You get really good pictures with that phone as well and your music is taken care of too. Then you have your book and your passport, of course, like when you’re traveling, you need to keep your papers and in line.”
7. Do you face challenges being a female solo traveller? How do you overcome them?
Meenakshi Sai: “As a female, I haven’t really faced challenges in the places that I go to. People are usually very nice and helpful. I’ve never had problems with people as such. But I come from a place like Coimbatore, it’s small so there are a lot of criticism there. But I don’t give a damn do it anymore. I just do what I want to these days. But initially that bothered me that, you know, why is she always traveling or she’s never home, you know, that sort of thing. And that’s one thing that always bothered me. It’s in the back or used to be in the back of your mind. These days I don’t, but people world over, I believe people have been really kind to me and my belief after my travels is that the world is a better place. I can actually see it. It’s not so bad as you know, that you actually see on newspaper and television. People have only been good to us especially on the Coimbatore- London and I’ve done a few solo trips after that. I went to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by myself last year, and it was a two week trip. I didn’t know the language, it was completely alien, and I was by myself and I faced no trouble at all. People are just kind, I would stop for directions or to buy food or something at restaurants and stuff. So people who have just very nice to me, so I have not really faced many challenges that way as a female traveler.”
On overcoming challenges
She also adds, “Although I am very careful and watchful of what I do and where I go. I do not venture out at night, late night by myself. So every city has, you know, places that are dangerous or you then stay out of it. You don’t go invite trouble. So that sort of thing. I’m always very careful and I don’t do things that, that are dangerous or you don’t go and do neighborhoods that are not safe at night. So you still need to watch your back. You know, you can’t just be carefree and then let things happen to you. I do keep my valuables, money, wallet, and passport very carefully. I’m generally a very careful driver. Every time I leave a place, I look around to make sure that I’m not left anything. So I’m very watchful and mindful that way. So I think that helps.”
8. Tell us about your business ventures.
Meenakshi Sai: “So I run a small boutique resort in a place called the Dindigul that’s where I live. It’s not far from Coimbatore, it’s 2 and a half hours about 165 kilometers. So, it’s a very recent acquisition, the last four years I’ve been running it. We bought it off a British couple. They were going back home. So it’s a very quaint little place. It’s something that I love to do because you meet so many people, so many travelers, I am always learning and meeting people even when I’m home. So it’s very interesting. I love doing what I do. Other than that, it’s a fabulous place as well. It’s just so beautiful that you have to see it to believe it. It’s in a little valley and it’s very small so I only have about six cottages and four rooms called Lakeside as it sits on a lake. So that’s why it’s called Lakeside. So that’s what I like to do and it’s a perfect job that I have.”
9. Are you a big Hema Malini fan?
Meenakshi Sai: “Yeah, I know where that question is coming from. Am I a big Hema Malini fan? Yeah, I do like her. I do like Sridevi and all South Indian heroines of those days. But, I know what you’re referring to the Name Dhanno for my car. So we were at the pony factory, picked up the car from Tata Motors and then we drove down and I drove it out of the premises and then we said we should, the team said we should give it a name. And then we were thinking we wanted a lady’s name, girl’s name of course because we are an all ladies team. So Priya, Rajpal, my co traveler/driver came up with the name Dhanno. Dhanno, as you all know, was Hema Malini’s horse in the Bollywood hit Sholay. She wasn’t a hybrid or an Arabian horse or something she was just a regular horse. So and considered the underdog so Tata or Dhano our extra is an also an underdog, although not anymore, but she has come out with flying colors and I still have a Tata Motors has given the car to me, so Dhanno I know is going to be with me hopefully for many more trips to come.”
10. We know you’re a big fan of the Tata Hexa, but which of the recent launches in India do you have your eyes on?
Meenakshi Sai: “Yeah, Dhanno Tata Hexa she is amazing and it’s a good vehicle. The drive is fabulous. Tata Motors have really set the bar high. Now I’m looking at the Tata Harrier now it’s looking really good and you know, very chic. It’s smaller and I test drove it for a couple of days. It’s really nice! And I think I might also be using a Tata Harrier for my next drive. So, it’s going to be Dhanno and Tata Harrier. So, yeah, I’m a big Tata fan. There’s no two ways about it. Very happy with the Tata cars.”
Well, there couldn’t have been a better tribute to the iconic character from Sholay; Dhanno! We are definitely pepped about Meenakshi’s upcoming drive on the Trans-Siberian route and the best part is that you can join her on the drive too!