Saturday, November 03, 2012

Interview: Sarina Singh, Lonely Planet Columnist and Guidebook Author

Sarina Singh has challenged and changed the definition of travel. She is an internationally published journalist, travel columnist, and guidebook author. HeadshotShe has written about many countries (with a speciality in the Indian subcontinent) and is a regular writer for BBC’s world-famous Lonely Planet. She is an Australian writer of Indian descent who makes each journey memorable for us by taking the road less travelled – always going that extra mile – and encouraging us to look upon the world with brave new eyes.
Welcome to Blogcritics, Sarina. When and where was your first overseas trip?
It was when I was six months old – from Fiji to Australia. My father, who was born in Fiji, studied medicine in Melbourne and worked as a doctor in the South Pacific for a few months (during which I was born) before permanently moving the family to Australia. Of course I was too young to remember that epic journey, but it appears that travel was destined for me right from the start.
Apart from return visits to Fiji, my next international trip was when I was five years old, to the United States. I remember it igniting my fascination for airports…To this day I find airports immensely intriguing – i.e. the whole metaphorical notion of being ‘In Transit’. I love watching people. Especially in-between destinations.

Singh's first trip to India. Seen here with her brother at a temple in Rajasthan.

Did you start your career as a travel journalist? If not, what transformed you in that direction?
No, I actually completed a Business degree at university and was all set for a career in commerce. However, after a trip to Egypt (aged 19) I knew that upon graduation I had to pack my bags and continue crossing oceans…And so I travelled for five years before returning to Australia. I left Melbourne as a business graduate and returned as a writer.
How long have you been associated with Lonely Planet? How many assignments have you done?
My very first guidebook for Lonely Planet was a (wonderfully challenging) first edition to Rajasthan, which I co-authored with another Australian writer, Michelle Coxall. It was published in 1997 and was very successful. Since then, I’ve authored around 30 books including eight editions (six as Senior Author) of the best-selling guide to India. Other books include Pakistan & the Karakoram Highway, Mauritius, Reunion & the Seychelles, Australia, and Africa. I also write a monthly column for the Lonely Planet Magazine (India) and am frequently interviewed about all things travel.
How do you fight writer’s block?
Deadlines usually proffer a swift solution! Apart from that, I begin by pumping up the music and grooving around – nothing beats physical activity to kick-start inspiration. If that fails, I take to the grass – no, not the smokin’ kind – and simply lie flat on my back and watch the passing clouds. I love being barefoot on the grass, feeling the sun on my face and breeze through my hair. 
How do you manage travel assignments with your personal life?
I’m lucky to have family and friends (I keep my circle very, very small) who understand my frequent absences and don’t make me feel guilty about it. They know I’m a free spirit…However, instinct tells me I’ll be less inclined to travel quite so much when fate takes me to my next ‘destination’. Watch this space.

On a sailboat (with fellow backpackers), Nile River, Egypt.

What are some of your most cherished travel memories?
Lying in bed, during a tropical Indian downpour, and simply listening to the rain cascading around me…Making sand angels on a secluded beach in the Seychelles…Cuddling a baby wombat in Tasmania (Australia)…Hanging out with Sufis and road-tripping in Pakistan…I could go on forever! 
Which country fascinates you most and why?
India. Because every visit brings me closer to the Answer. My Motherland has been tremendously kind and generous to me. I deeply value her guidance. A close second is Italy. I’ve not yet been there but, for some reason, ever since I was a child I’ve felt incredibly drawn to her. I want to make sure I do Italy ‘right’ so am still waiting until the ‘right’ moment arrives. I’ll intuitively know when it does…
What message would you like to convey to Blogcritics readers?
Life is to be lived! Don’t chase shadowy ‘concepts’ of happiness in the draughty corridors of your mind. Make happiness happen!
For more information about Sarina Singh and for her launch column in the Lonely Planet magazineclick on the respective links.

badge buzzoole code