Galapagos Islands, sea urchins and hurricanes

The fifth and final person of 2013, sharing their travel experiences in our Tuesday Tales, is Raj Dhamecha, from Indianapolis in America.

1. How do we know each other?

So how do I know Colleen?  Colleen is a family friend of our former neighbours, the Craigs. The Craigs were in the process of moving to Houston when Colleen was visiting Indianapolis Indiana on her world tour and wound up spending a few days with us as the Craigs’ house had sold.  We all got to know each other a little better from that experience and have kept in touch, mainly via Facebook, ever since.  (Colleen edits: remember you liked my ‘Write around the world’ Facebook page before we met and mentioned it to the Craigs and they realised it was me – that always amazes me. Such a small world)

Raj in Texas

Raj in Texas

2. Describe yourself using adjectives that start with the letters in your first name? (E.g. Bob – bubbly, organised, bashful)

R – Responsible
A – Adventerous
J – Judicious

3.What do you do now and where do you live?

I am a Radiologist and I live in Carmel, in a suburb of Indianapolis, IN

4. If you could be any age for the rest of your life, what age would you choose? Why?

If I could be any age, I would stay in my early 20’s.  At that time most individuals are about to really start their lives.  Everything is an adventure.  Meeting new people, finishing school, starting a career,  maybe moving to a new location, and being able to explore on your own for maybe the first time in your life.  The feeling you get when you travel to a new place for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for where I am and what I have in life at the ripe old age of 42.

Raj in the Galapagos Islands

Raj in the Galapagos Islands

5. How many countries have you lived in?

I have always lived in the United States.

6. How many countries have you visited (not including airport stop-overs)?

Approximately 15 countries.

7. What’s your favourite method of travelling?  Plane, boat, train or car? (Or anything else) How do I like to travel… that is a complicated question.  I guess it depends on where I am going.  If I am traveling to some place far away, I like to fly, but then travel by local transportation, car, boat, or taxi when I get there.  I love to travel by boat, but I get seasick pretty easily and have to medicate to keep that in check.  I like to rent a car and explore if it is a place without too much traffic, like the Caribbean. I love to travel by train in Europe.  I don’t mind taxis, but I hate to travel on someone else’s schedule.  I will avoid public transportation if I have a lot I want to get done or if there are long waits.

8. What are your 5 favourite foods?

Boy this is a loaded question.  I live in the United states so I love Pizza!  Especially Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit MI. Lobster all sorts of ways. A good hamburger. I am of Indian descent and I do enjoy a good mix of Indian food, but not too spicy. Finally, I love Sushi, all sorts but I love specialty rolls the best.

Riding horses in the sea

Riding horses in the sea

9. What is the craziest food you’ve ever eaten? Would you recommend it?

Sea Urchin… Yuck! Enough said.

10. What is your most memorable experience from your travelling?

This is really a tough question.  I enjoyed snorkelling in the Galapagos Islands with my wife and daughters and remember seeing a penguin zip by us several times.  Also in the water were sea lions which move just like they are portrayed in the cartoons, making loops back and forth.  A second very memorable experience was snorkelling with Whale Sharks off the coast of Mexico.  Such a majestic animal.

11. Name a beautiful sound that you heard on your travels.

I’m not sure if I would describe it as beautiful but the call to prayer all over the city when I was in Dubai, specifically in the evening soon after the sun had set is very memorable.

Raj loves diving and snorkelling.

Raj loves diving and snorkelling.

12. Excluding your passport and purse, what are 2 things you NEVER travel without?

I always carry a camera, usually several as you never know what you may see when traveling.  I also always carry sunglasses. The sun can really get to you, and if you have to squint, its just a headache waiting to happen.

13. How many languages can you speak?

I can speak two languages, English an Gujrati, an Indian dialaect.

14. Which languages can you say, ‘How are you?’ in?

English, Spanish, Gujrati, Hindi, arabic

15. What are your 3 best packing tips?

1) Always take a camera.  2) Divide your money on your person and in your hand bag.  3)Pack as light as you can but always take at least one nice outfit.  You never know when you might need it.

16. What are some of the wildest animals you’ve ever touched?

I have had the pleasure to touch a Moray eel, a marine iguana, a whale shark, and a nurse shark

17. Which oceans have you paddled or swum in?

The Caribbean sea, the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf

18. If someone had told you 5 years ago that you would be where you are now, would you have believed them?

Yes, I have not done anything outrageous in my life. I am just trying to give my girls a stable home and provide for them.  I like to take exotic vacations with my family so that we can experience adventure and what if feels like to be out of our comfort zone.

Never without his camera

Never without his camera

19. What techno-gadgets do you own?

Nothing too extraordinary.  I have many cameras from a high-end point and shoot with wifi to my DSLR which I love to take on trips. I recently purchased a GoPro video camera which comes in handy.  I have an Iphone 5s which always comes in handy.

20. Who would you like to sit next to on a long-distance journey and why?

I’m not very social on a plane. Not sure if I would like to sit with anyone other than who I am traveling with.  But I guess it would be neat to sit next to one of these survivalist types, like Bear Gryllis.

21. Your craziest experience and if relevant, would you recommend it?

The craziest experience was in the summer of 2005.  We were on a family trip to Cancun Mexico with friends, my girls were five and two years old.  They were planning on leaving in the middle of the week on Wednesday and we chose to stay the full week for some family fun.  Hurricane Wilma was making a straight line for the Yucatan peninsula.  I got on the phone early Wednesday morning and with much effort and a little luck was able to get a flight to Chicago, although I needed to fly to Detroit.  I took it.  We enjoyed a few hours on the beach before having to get to the airport.

By the time we got to the airport, it was chaos with people trying to get out.  The sky had clouded over and the wind had picked up significantly.  After a significant struggle, were were able to get our tickets and make that flight.  Thousand of tourists wound up stranded in Cancun, the hurricane arrived with force and sat on the Yucatan for 48 hrs, destroying the place.

We landed safely in Chicago, rented a car at Midnight and drove back to Michigan, were we lived at the time.  I remember following the story on the internet for several weeks.  Tourists did not get out for at least one week before  the airport was operational.  Needles to say, not something I would recommend. We still travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season, but I always watch the weather very carefully.

22. Something that you’d like to try… (food or experience – keep it clean please!)

I would like to spend the night in an underwater hotel room, preferably in the Maldive islands.

Performing his 'man' duties.

Performing his ‘man’ duties.

23. When you fly, do you prefer to arrive at the airport extra early or get there just in the nick of time? Why?

I always like to arrive early.  I have had too many experiences at airports with cancelled flights, long lines, changed itineraries, and unexpected whatevers… I like to get to the airport with plenty of time, get checked in and through security, and have a nice meal, usually breakfast.  Airline food is best avoided.

24. Two important things you have learnt from your travels.

Blend in.  Dress to the level of the locals. I’m not saying wear native clothing, but if you are traveling through a third world country, no need in expensive jewellery or clothing. No need in drawing attention to yourself. You never know what other people are thinking.  Besides, you want people to be comfortable around you.  You will always get the most genuine experience that way.

Have copies of documents and keep all important phone numbers handy.  Traveling is an adventure.  It wouldn’t be an adventure if everything always went according to plan.

25. What 3 points of advice would you give to would-be travellers?

  1. Experience a location like a local.  Of course see the sights but try the local food and honour the native customs.
  2. Learn a few words in the native language if you are traveling abroad.  Even if your not completely accurate, most people with respect your for your effort.
  3. If you are not sure of something or if you want to try something, then ask.  If you don’t ask you may wind up insulting or disrespecting someone.  If you don’t ask to try something or meet someone, the answer will always be “no”.


Thanks for taking part, Raj, fab stories :-) Glad you escaped the hurricane…


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