Gallivanting Across Gods Own Country

Anna Phipps is a travel blogger from the UK. She quit her job for a life of travel in December 2012 and has been travelling slowly, independently and on a budget around India, Southeast Asia, Australia and Europe ever since. One of Anna’s biggest passions is India and she shares her travel experiences and tips on her website to help and encourage more people to make their dreams of travel a reality.

In March Anna spent 2 weeks hosted by Kerala Tourism exploring God’s own country on the Kerala Blog Express 2.0. (The second edition of a campaign hosted by Kerala Tourism, where some of world’s foremost online travel writers are taken on a two-week tour of the state)

Here Anna answers a few questions from Vijith Vazhayil, Executive Editor of Kerala Editor, on her life as a traveller and on the Kerala experience.

Sunset over the Chinese Fishing Nets in Fort Cochin
Sunset over the Chinese Fishing Nets in Fort Cochin

Vijith Vazhayil: When did the travel bug bite you, tell us about your life as a traveller?

Anna Phipps: I’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel from an early age and I enjoyed many holidays in Europe as a child. My first big trip alone was backpacking around Europe after I finished university. This was the trip that really gave me the travel bug and from then I knew that I wanted to travel long term – I could not be satisfied or fit in everything that I wanted to see with just 2 weeks vacation a year. So when I returned to the UK I found a job, saved for a few years and then made the escape. I quit my job and left the UK in December 2012 and have been travelling independently and on a budget through India, Southeast Asia and Australia ever since and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!

How did you come to be a part of the Kerala Blog Express and how was the experience? Can you really get to know a place like this?

The Kerala Blog Express is a 2 week trip hosted and organised by Kerala Tourism where bloggers from all over the world come to Kerala and share their experiences to promote tourism to the state. My first visit to India in 2013 inspired me to start a travel blog to share my experiences, reflections and tips on travelling in this amazing country to help other travellers. To go on the Kerala Blog Express bloggers have to enter a contest. Bloggers were required to ask for votes from their friends, fans and readers to get shortlisted and then the blogs were judged on quality and content. There were thousands of entries and I worked hard on the blog for over 2 years now to get to this point so I felt very privileged that I was selected as one of the 30 bloggers from 21 different countries to explore Kerala for 2 weeks on the Kerala Blog Express.

We managed to see a good variety of destinations and sample what Kerala has to offer in those amazing 2 weeks but to be honest I prefer to travel slower. Two weeks is not enough time to experience all of Kerala – I often like to take my time, get more off the beaten track and connect with local people to fully enjoy a place. There is still a lot more for me to see in Kerala, in fact, I loved Kerala so much that I’m actually returning in September. I can’t wait to get back to Kerala!

Fishermen on Kovalam Beach
Fishermen on Kovalam Beach

Was this your first visit to Kerala and what were your impressions?

No this was my 2nd visit to Kerala. As I had already spent 5 months in India by this point I was acclimatized to India and have an idea of what to expect. Although I had never experienced the kind of luxury laid on by Kerala Tourism – that was something I had not been able to experience before in India and to travel with so many other bloggers from so many different countries was also amazing and I got to learn so much from them.

For many of the bloggers on the trip though it was their first experience of India and I think they were pleasantly surprised.

What is it about Kerala that captivated you the most?

I love how Kerala is so laid back and luscious, the nature is so beautiful and bountiful from the green jungles, languid backwaters to the tropical beaches. Kerala is a lot more relaxing and less chaotic than other parts of India and the people! Wow, the people of Kerala! Indian hospitality is world famous – I have never felt so welcomed in any other country as I do in India and the Kerala people are really some of the most genuine, hospitable and kind hearted people I’ve met in India. I think Kerala is a great introduction to India and a great place to start travelling in this country that can be a bit overwhelming at first for Western tourists.

A houseboat on the Kerala backwaters
A houseboat on the Kerala backwaters

In terms of tourist spots, infrastructure, facilities, weather etc, where would you place Kerala as a tourist destination?

I make no secret that I think that India is the most incredible destinations I’ve ever been to! I love it here, it’s so diverse, so welcoming, so fascinating, so affordable and around every corner is a surprise. Kerala is surely one of my favourite states in the whole of India and perfect for tourism because Kerala has it all – beautiful nature, interesting history, rich culture, good food, friendly people.

The weather in winter is just perfect for Western visitors who want to escape their cold winters and every budget is catered for from luxury hotels to backpacker hostels and budget guesthouses and also importantly Kerala is one of the most relaxing places in India, cruising the backwaters was one of my favourite moments! I was in houseboat heaven!

(Photo credit: Anna Phipps