As a kid, Samriddhi Rai had always been fascinated by nature and often dreamt of hosting a travel show. But of all things, who knew it would be the devastating earthquakes of 2015 and a few careless words spoken by a foreigner friend in its wake that would motivate her to work towards her childhood dream.
“No one will ever visit Nepal now that they have seen these damages.” -- Rai shares that she was completely rattled by her friend’s assumption. Her web series ‘Sammy Adventures’ is apparently a product of the need to show him, and others like him, that the country is still travel worthy post the earthquakes as well. Here, Rai joins us to talk about her work and making memories while at it.
What are your five favorite places to travel in Nepal?
I still have many places to explore and visit within the country and my favorite places are bound to change accordingly. However, after this experience, a few places have indeed become very dear to my heart. I know that if anybody asked me to recommend places for a visit in Nepal, I would definitely start with the Everest region. I would then proceed to suggest that they live like a local in Upper Mustang, canoe in Jalbire’s Lamo Jharana, raft in Kali Gandaki and camp alongside the pristine Kulekhani lake in Markhu.
How difficult was it to travel with a camera crew?
The camera crew and I bonded instantly and became good friends from the get-go so it wasn’t very difficult for me to work or travel with them. They were very accommodating about the fact that we didn’t have any sponsors while shooting. They put me at ease and I will forever be grateful to them for that.
However, the crew were rookies too and there were times when they looked to me for leads. I have no experience in the audio and video department so it was pretty challenging for us all as a team. Nevertheless, we persevered and continued to shoot. We picked up tricks and techniques about framing shots and the right equipment choices along the way. Since we were traveling on a tight budget we decided to be modest and experiment as well. This is why the videos feel more like a vlog than a documentary. The only exception was the Everest skydive which was handled by a professional team from France. We just took the footage and edited it.
What was the most surprising moment of your travel?
The Everest skydive episode was the first episode that was shot for the series. Having tackled such a mammoth-sized adventure at the very beginning, I thought I could easily take on any other adventure. But when I stood atop the crane at Pokhara’s bungee point, I was overwhelmed with a sudden wave of fear. I realized, at that moment, that I will never be completely fearless and I found myself being okay with it too. I have learnt that being scared doesn’t matter as long as I can look beyond it and accomplish the things I set forth to achieve.
Were there any scary moments for you during your travels?
An adventure wouldn’t be an adventure if it weren’t for the fear factor. It’s in those moments when you are hyper alert of all the plausible risks and dangers that you feel alive. Every adventure I undertook was scary, and therefore, fulfilling and thrilling.
Do you have any memorable anecdotes involving the locals?
I was riding an off-road bike in the middle of a desert-like terrain in Lower Mustang and a group of local kids started running alongside me shouting, “It’s a woman! A woman is riding a motorbike.” Just the fact that a woman was riding a motorbike fascinated them. The reaction I got from the children and the feeling I had then was perhaps similar to what women of the yesteryears experienced when they started breaking gender barriers; like when they wore pants for the first time or when they started going to schools or getting a job. I remember feeling extremely happy as well. However, that was also the time, I felt like a minority. I suddenly realized that being a woman who sought to explore the country independently, I probably was one anyway.
What has been the best and the worst travel advice that you have received?
The best advice I have ever received is to always pack warm clothes. No matter what you think the weather will be like, it is always wise to have some warm clothes with you. The worst advice I have received is, “Be careful, you’re a woman.” You would never hear anyone tell a man to be careful because he is a man and I found it simply ridiculous that someone felt the need to tell me that.
So in turn, if you had to give somebody a travel tip, what would your advice be?
I always tell people that there is no ‘right season’ for a true travel adventure. There is no reason to wait around. For us travelers, reaching the destination is not the only goal. It’s the love and desire for exploring the unknown that truly makes it a rewarding experience.
What would you say was the best moment of your travels?
The entire shooting of the series was done during the post-earthquake crisis and the ‘unofficial blockade’ imposed by India. Our team had to hitchhike a number of times and we received help from complete strangers. We, in turn, helped others whenever we could as well. I enjoyed that sense of camaraderie the most. It was endearing and inspiring to see how all the people came together to help one another out during this time of need.
Which place do you want to revisit the most? Would you consider living there?
Without a doubt, Pokhara is the one place I never get tired of. With its beautiful lake, awe-inspiring view of the Himalayan range and pleasing weather, it has been my go-to destination for years. I wouldn’t mind living there either. The best thing about Pokhara is how it serves as the starting point for so many amazing adventures. From trekking, hiking, rafting to cannoning, you are simply spoilt with options. Another plus point of Pokhara is its easy accessibility from Kathmandu, where I’m based professionally, so it wouldn’t be that hard to move and live there.
When you are traveling, what do you miss the most about home?
My heart literally beats for my one-year-old dog—Bubbles and I miss her dearly when I’m away. I constantly look at her pictures to fill the void I feel in my heart.
Who would be your dream companion for future travel adventures and why?
I would want to, one day, travel the world with the man I love. I would also love an opportunity to explore the wilderness together with Bear Grylls and make a ‘Man and Woman versus Wild’ episode or something (laughs).