Bolivian Salt Flats to Cloud Forests of Ecuador: Indian Matchmaking’s Aparna Shewakramani is bitten by the travel bug
Whether it means jetting off to the coast to Cartagena or strolling through the cobblestone streets of Quito or walking into a cloud forest in Ecuador, Aparna Shewakramani believes in enjoying every experience a country has to offer.
The Houston-based lawyer and luxury travel consultant, and one of the stars on Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking who was known for her outspoken and feisty views, was also described as an insatiable traveller on the show.
She has journeyed to over 43 countries to date and has also co-founded a luxury travel company called ‘My Golden Balloon’ (MBG).
MBG was founded on the premise that people should not celebrate their 40th birthday with an “over the hill” black balloon, but with “golden” alternatives like curated group tours or a downloadable city-specific guide that could be used for their own travels.
In an interaction with YSWeekender, Aparna talks about her love for travel and her favourite vacation destinations across the world.
Where it began?
“As a child, I lived in London and then Dubai and my family travelled very often to Mumbai and the USA,” says Aparna, as she explains where her love for travel originated.
“I spent a lot of time hopping between these destinations. I loved spending my summers abroad, be it in London or the US and I also couldn’t get enough of our shorter Mumbai getaways.”
Now, despite her full-time job as a lawyer, Aparna has managed to visit several countries, even if it is for a very short trip.
Top travel destinations
When asked about her favourite travel destinations, Aparna is quick to say that Mumbai and London will always top the list. Following close behind is Jordan as it was the first group tour, she led on launching MBG.
“I would also add Italy to my list of top destinations as I lived there for six months during my university days and the country is just so beautiful,” she adds.
Her final choice is Morocco, as she greatly enjoyed going to Marrakech and loved the middle eastern blend of culture and architectural beauty of the country.
When it comes to romantic destinations, Aparna cannot pinpoint any specific place. “There’s no specific location! It’s any place that affords my partner and I a chance to get away from our phones, explore the place together, and pamper ourselves a little with authentic spa experiences during our downtime,” she says.
Cloud forests and cathedrals
In 2019, Aparna decided to explore more of South America, and Ecuador and Colombia were her top choices as these two countries stood out for their diversity in experiences as well as for the warmth of the local people. The trip proved to be exhilarating in more ways than one.
“In Colombia, I enjoyed the high-elevation cosmopolitan city of Bogota before going to the walled Caribbean vibes of Cartagena,” she says.
“In just a short flight and within the same country, I could do so much! I found the same with Ecuador. The metropolis of Quito was stunning for its cobblestone streets and cathedrals and quite quickly, we travelled to a cloud forest. This was one of the most surreal natural experiences and an ecosystem I hope everyone has a chance to visit one day!”
A trip to Perito Moreno Glacier
The climb to the Perito Moreno Glacier in the Los Glaciares National Park in southwest Santa Cruz province and her trip to Argentina were some of the most spectacular moments of her life.
“I was honestly first quite cautious and apprehensive about the trip. I am not one to thrive in the outdoors, but this experience was so wonderful due to the guides and the natural beauty around you. My energy skyrocketed as I climbed the glacier in special ice shoes made for the terrain. I couldn’t believe what I saw around me. It was a landscape that looked like another planet, from blue ice to cold streams we could drink from. It was a day I will never forget,” she says.
A bubble-hotel and Mexico
Aparna’s visit to a ‘bubble hotel’ surrounded by the beautiful vineyards of Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe is another trip she cannot forget. The hotel has individual, state-of-the-art ‘bubbles’, directly facing the vineyards of the wine region.
“I love hotels that offer a unique opportunity to better experience a destination,” she remembers. “In Mexico, Campera is located in a local vineyard and allows you to wake up in a comfortable bed with heat/AC while watching the sunrise above you. It’s like camping, but with all the luxuries of an upscale hotel – like vegan toiletries, soft towels, high-quality bed linens and your own coffee machine for those early mornings.”
Meditation and Myanmar
Myanmar was where Aparna learnt about meditation. “I visited this country so many years ago in 2005 when many tourists had still not even considered it as a destination,” she says.
“I learned about Vipassana meditation for the first time there and I owe my mediation practice to my visit to Myanmar.”
Food and travel
Aparna says she loves street food tours as they help you understand the cuisine and the culture of a region.
“I did a street food tour in Mexico City that was so interesting and immersive. We were offered everything from local fermented liquor to street tacos to an offering of crispy ants and crickets (which I politely declined). I really feel these local gastro-experiences is an amazing way to experience the culture,” she says.
There were bad times too
Travel always comes with its fair shares of ups and downs and several challenges too.
“There have been one or two times when I have been robbed and have lost my credit cards, identification cards, and cash,” she says.
Those instances were scary and Aparna now keeps copies of her main credit card and ID documents in her email, so that she can access it from any computer.
“I also always leave cash in my shoe, so I have at least $40 at all times on my body,” she adds. “Being prepared beforehand for such situations makes it much easier to cope should something like that happen on your travels.”
For the love of travel
It is impossible to travel easily now and Aparna misses the way she feels re-energised and recharged when she travels to a new destination.
“Travel reinforces the notion that we, as a human race, are more similar than we think,” she observes. “I learned that we are all interconnected and break down to the themes of family, food, politics, and hope for a better tomorrow. It is a miraculous thing to see the world and to then see your own life reflected back to you.”
And in the future…
Post the pandemic, Aparna hopes to travel to India and Pakistan. “I am Sindhi and visiting the city of my ancestry would be so special to me. I would also love to make it to the Bolivian salt flats – in case you missed me saying that on the show!"
Edited by Megha Reddy