By Tripti Nath, Womens Feature Service
Kerala or Kokrajhar in India, Thimphu, Paris or Vienna, name any exotic destination and chances are that Chandigarh-based travel enthusiast and writer, Punnetinder Kaur Sidhu, has been there. She is not your average traveler just to pamper herself at luxury hotels or special retreats. She is quite happy to throw herself at the mercy of relatives and friends. She can live in small, basic inns or even check out the couch. She can also surf options available just as she did in Thimpu during her visit to Bhutan last year.
Struck by an irrepressible wanderlust, the single and 40 year-old Sidhu never misses an opportunity to explore a new world, assimilate its culture, interact with its people, and sample its cuisine. She has travelled across the length and breadth of India and she has jetted off to different parts of the world.
The youngest of four sisters, Sidhu was bitten by the travel bug early. She has fond memories of driving to farms across Punjab and making holiday plans with her parents. As a student in a Patiala public school, she was introduced to the delights of camping and trekking in the mountains.
But Sidhu doesn’t just keep her travel adventures to herself. Being a writer, she uses her writing skills to share her varied experiences through humorous observations. ‘Adrift: A Junket Junkie in Europe’, her first travelogue, is about tracing her journey through Europe. There’s also her blog ‘Cutting Loose,’ where fellow travel junkies read up on anything from the gastronomic delights of ‘dhabas’ (roadside eateries) on the GT Road or the sumptuous Burmese food on offer at the Presidential Palace in Mashobra near Shimla, to graphic descriptions of the Himalayan mountain passes in Bhutan. Sidhu also makes it a point to answer all the queries that comes her way, besides sharing valuable travel tips and information.
“My blog is called Cutting Loose because one has to cut loose from a lot of things to rejuvenate. I want to encourage everybody to travel in the true sense of the word. My site has been designed as a referral for quality travel, good food and hospitality. There would be a sea of difference in the experiences of a traveller who checks into a fancy concrete structure overlooking a ‘drain’ in a mountain area and another who opts for a home stay that promises a more authentic experience,” she says.
Ask this gutsy and vivacious traveller about her favourite destination in Europe and her vote goes to Austria’s historic and beautiful capital city, Vienna.
So where does Sidhu feel like going now? It’s most definitely to South America, the Middle East and Central Asia. Her dream voyage is Spain, Portugal and Morocco or Greece, Turkey and Egypt.
She believes that most of the time, Indians don’t stir out to explore new places as they think the cost may well be out of their budget. “This is not the case as luxury has now been redefined – it has more to do with the quality of the experience and not the cost,” she says.
But even as she urges people to pack their bags, don the travel shoes and venture out into the unknown, much like herself, Sidhu is now focused on working on her second book that documents the colonial heritage of the old Hindustan Tibet road in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh. And, of course, all her fans are eagerly waiting for Sidhu’s take on this well-trodden path.