Raveena Tandon's Pandemic Travel Diaries

The actress tells us about her travel experiences in the pandemic-hit times, her love for Himachal and much more
Raveena driving an ATV in Himachal
Raveena driving an ATV in Himachal

Raveena Tandon just returned home from Himachal Pradesh where she was shooting for an upcoming project. The actor has had some wonderful travel experiences this year, even with the virus scare.

We caught up with her to know about her pandemic travel experiences, love for widlife, her favourite travel destinations, travelling with her kids, and much more. 

Here are excerpts from the interview.

You are known as someone who loves to travel a lot with your family and also during your free time on sets. Has the pandemic changed it
Well, yes. It has changed a lot of our traveling plans because one has to be careful. Luckily, I had taken my children to Ranthambore on a safari trip just before the lockdown was announced. So we kind of had a great vacation there. And now my kids came during Diwali vacation with all precautions, PPE suits, masks, and shields, all the way to Himachal to spend time with me because I was away for a long time.

But now, I think once again we are going to be very careful and not plan trips. As far as I am concerned, since I was in Himachal, we were in a bubble. And I was making the most of it.

What do you look for in a destination before planning a trip 
A lot of places have a different vibe altogether. Some places are known for the cuisine and some are known for their historic culture and some places have completely beautiful scenic sights. It all depends. I make sure that when I plan a trip, it becomes a wholesome thing for the kids, including education.

So for me, even going to a forest is an education. I don't believe education is just what you mug up from books. I believe what you see - places, historic sights, different cultures, wildlife, nature, architecture, food, and everything - is wholesome education. So I plan it in such a way that each one is probably different from the last one. And the kids always come back having learnt something.

Where all did you travel to this year
I travelled to Goa, Ranthambore, Dalhousie, Amritsar, Beas, and Kulu Manali. So the year has gone by visiting all these places and loving each minute of it.

Did you have to cancel any trips because of the pandemic
In March, we were booked to go to Verbier, Switzerland, because the children have their annual skiing camp there and both my kids love skiing. So does Anil. So we normally just take off towards a skiing destination in the month of March or December. But unfortunately, all international flights got cancelled and we were booked via Milan, so we wanted to go to Italy and Switzerland which got cancelled in March.

But the great thing was, and I have to mention this, that the super thing which the hotels and airlines did for us in Italy was they refunded all our cancellations. I must mention this because all the travellers need to be aware that hospitality can be par excellence at times. Hats off to the hotel and tourism industry and I have heard most of the Indian hotels have refunded their clientele too. I think that's a wonderful thing to do in these trying times.

We heard you were in Ranthambore before the pandemic. Was it a family vacation or did you visit it for work
Well, yes. I had planned Ranthambore and it was just before the lockdown and pandemic. So, luckily, the kids and I made it to Ranthambore. And it was just the kids and me. It was quite an experience because the flights got cancelled the day we were about to leave. We were supposed to be there till March  21. But on March 19, the forest shut down and we left on March 20, luckily. The flights were also not operational so we came back by train and I think that was also fantastic. Nothing is better than travelling by train in India.

It is just beautiful to see the countryside. It is an extremely beautiful experience and I think there is something about the romance of travelling by train, and the kids loved it too. So it all turned out well.

What makes wildlife safaris so fascinating How did you get drawn towards wildlife photography Which are the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in India that you have visited
I am a huge animal person. For me, the wildlife, forests, our environment, and the entire planet are very very important for us to save. I am glad that I am being able to imbibe the same passion in my kids.&nbspMy wildlife photography did not start immediately from the first trip that I made into the jungle. It took me two trips to realise that what a treasure trove I am missing out on, and I should have my camera handy all the time. I started at a very amateur level, but as I started growing, I began buying more stuff, better equipment, better lenses, etc. Just to capture those moments when you are there and looking at these majestic creatures, that moment is magical.

We try to do at least two jungles in a year. We have done Jim Corbett National Park, Ranthambore, Jawai, Kabini, Pashangarh, Tadoba, etc. The Madhya Pradesh belt is still waiting, as in Bandhavgarh, Kanha, and Pench reserves are the ones I still have to visit. And then there's Assam too. I think the next expedition that I am planning next year with the kids is to go and capture snow leopards with my lens. So beyond Leh, into the Himalayan region is where the kids and I are planning to go for next year's expedition. Getting a glimpse of the snow leopard will be great.

What is it like travelling with your kids

Well, luckily the kids are as passionate as me and they enjoy traveling and doing different things. And they don't mind roughing it out either. Whether we go camping in the Himalayas or staying in government lodges or even the government dak bunglows. We love that old rustic feel to the thing. So, it's not always 5-star luxury for us, as long as there is a bed to sleep on and early morning we are in the forest again we are fine. And yes, with all the creepy crawlies etc. in the bathrooms and on the bed That's the fun of it, that's the jungle life and we enjoy it.

What took you to Himachal and how much time did you spend there Tell us about your experience.
I was in Himachal for a shoot and I spent about two months there. I think this was the first time that I have explored Himachal in its full glory. Everyone is going through the pandemic and economically everyone is on the low but the people of Himachal don't make you feel that. They are warm, friendly, giving and I think that is the magic of Himachal.

The people there are so wonderful that it makes it all worthwhile. Luckily, this was the time when there were not too many tourists so it was almost like virginal, untouched beauty again. And like I said, the kids joined me and we did ATV's and riding them into the mountains and we did camping on the snow peaks. We did river rafting and kind of managed to do as much as we could in the free time when I was not at my shoot.

Did you try local cuisine in Himachal Any recommendations
Yes, we did try the local cuisine. The dhabas there serve the most amazing bajre ki roti, makke ki roti, saag, vegetables, and gudh. And lots and lots of melted ghee on your rotis. The khichdi is the most amazing feeling. That hot ghee and gudh in that snow is the most amazing food in the whole world The locally made bread, siddhu, is so tasty, with the walnut stuffing and masala. I just completely adored and loved everything there.

What is it that you love about the mountains and forests
What is there not to love It is just stunningly beautiful, and peaceful. When I got back I felt that I have left a bit of my heart and soul back in the forest and just waiting to back there again.

Tell us about your experience of witnessing fresh snowfall in Himachal. Do you think Himachal is as beautiful as Switzerland or even better

Well, I have seen snowfall in many places like Kashmir and Switzerland, and a lot of other places. But the snowfall that we saw in Himachal, I think it was the heaviest that I have ever seen. The snowflakes were as big as my palm and they were soft and fluffy, and it was just beautiful. I have seen that the car would get covered with a full layer of snow in just two seconds flat. And the wiper was on, clearing the thick layer. That was the most beautiful snowfall I have ever seen and experienced till date.

How is Himachal in the post-pandemic world Were you restricted from visiting places What about sanitation and hygiene protocols
Like I said, Himachal in the post-pandemic world is almost virginal as the hordes of tourists are missing. That is economically not viable for the locals there because I think most of the economy is dependent on tourism, besides apples, farming, and kiwis. It was sad for them. 

But the sanitisation procedures were very necessary. Yes, we were restricted, all the temples were shut so you could just see them from the outside. Because of the pandemic, everybody was wearing masks and there was sanitisation being done everywhere. So, I think it has been a great experience in a protected, safe environment.  

Which destination are you still wary about travelling to
Travel has become feasible but then the lockdowns are being imposed again so nobody knows what the situation is like. I don't mind travelling in and around India because I think as per what I hear from my friends abroad in the UK etc, India is still very very careful and there are much better facilities being provided to us by the government in case of any sign of illness. So, I am being very picky about an international trip and getting stuck there and not being able to get back home.  

Which has been your favourite shooting location and why
My favourite shooting location uptil now has always been Switzerland, for sure.

Switzerland is a beautiful and magical place. But after seeing Kullu Manali and exploring the different locales here, I think my vote will go to Kullu Manali any day.

What's your favourite travel destination in India and around the globe
My favourite travel destination in India and around the globe will always be, on priority, the different forest areas and jungles of the world, whether it is in Africa or in India, or even Brazil. I would always like to plan my trips or spend my holidays in and around places which would have some kind of wildlife to explore. And yes, it also has to be culturally rich.

Your favourite winter destinations
My top winter destinations would be Kullu-Manali and if you are skiing kind of a person, then definitely Verbier and St. Moritz.

Where would you like to travel to in 2021
I would like to travel mostly to the forests of India. I still have to cover the Assam side and, like I said, Madhya Pradesh.

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