Sheila has travelled through the Trans-Siberian Highway in St Petersburg, one of the longest roads in the world across some of the toughest environments and terrain around.
“Not many I know have done the Trans Siberian Highway and I'm fortunate my husband understands the adventurous side of me very well and encouraged me to go on this expedition. Of course, the initial apprehensions were there but once the D- day was approaching he was a pillar of support. You need all the encouragement and support while going on a trip like this” Sheila adds.
The trip progressed from Coimbatore right across our country to the northern border, covering Nepal, Tibet Autonomous Region, China and Russia. The group had to obtain visa for China and Tibet in Nepal by going through eye test and temporary vehicle registration.
“I started playing cricket from the 9th grade and I was sure that I wanted to play at the top level someday and was absorbed by Southern Railways as a professional cricketer soon after I finished my post-graduation studies,” says Sheila Varghis.
She loved flipping through old albums. Photography is an excellent way to document a moment for posterity. “Nature, travel and photography - the combination gives me immense happiness. To see, understand and photograph animal behavior in the wild excites me more than going to a touristy place or a beach resort for a holiday,” relishes Sheila.
When asked about her favourite destination, Sheila clarifies, “It's very difficult to pinpoint just one or two places that I enjoyed most. Every place was unique in its own way and that was the essence of this expedition- to meet local people in each area and interact with them.”
Language was a big barrier in communicating with people right from Tibet for Sheila. She says that, “It was surprising to see people in many places both in China and Russia didn't even know a word in English. We had to depend on Google app called “translate” even for simple words like water, milk, plate, spoon etc.”
Nepal, Tibet and China are very much into their History and Buddhism and Russia is so proud of their culture and their churches. Another aspect common in all the countries was their inbuilt respect for rules.
“Be it road rules or keeping their city clean, actually just about everything, one notices discipline which I wish we can all inculcate here in India,” Sheila wishes.
“Travelling with total strangers has both its negatives and positives. You make new friends, you learn to adjust to each one's behaviours and become more tolerant to others' needs. It's a challenge but an exciting one and when you overcome certain tough situations with strangers, you come out stronger and wiser,” explains Sheila.
Sheila have reached Russia in 52 days, every place she stopped across the 20,000+kms and strangers she met had great regard for the country and culture.
“I do not have specific goals in my mind right now, but have truck load of wishes and dreams to be fulfilled, one step at a time,” Sheila concludes.