Writer Wednesday – Meet Samita Sarkar
I recently had the opportunity to read and review I Am the Ocean by Samita Sarkar. And after reading it I needed to learn more about this unique fellow Canadian.
Writer Wednesday would like to introduce Samita Sarkar.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Samita Sarkar and I am the author of the newly released travel memoir I Am the Ocean. I’m also a freelance writer and animal rights activist.
I Am the Ocean is about a solo backpacking trip I took to the United States in my early twenties. Limited by budget, I travelled by bus, slept on couches, and stayed in hostels. All I brought with me were a few clothes, a travel journal, and a copy of The Bhagavad Gita, which is a core spiritual and philosophical book. More than just a vacation, this trip was also an important time of spiritual growth and personal development for me.
Do you have any tips for fellow vegetarians while travelling?
I always bring snacks everywhere I go. I love bananas, granola bars and nuts. Everyone—and vegetarians in particular—should always have an emergency stash in their backpack when travelling because you never know when there are going to be unexpected delays or simply a lack of eating options.
That being said, I must admit it is getting easier to travel as a vegetarian. I think that society is slowly getting with the program.
Have you ever travelled solo? If so, where was your first trip?
The trip that spurred my first book was actually also my first solo trip. I’ve also travelled solo on other occasions around Canada and in the Deep South.
How many countries have you visited?
I’ve been to six countries: The United States, Cuba, India, the Netherlands, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
What is your favourite place and why?
This may seem cheesy but I love where I live, in a cozy little Toronto-area community on the edge of town. I don’t think I could ever maintain a digital nomad lifestyle for long periods of time; I like having a “base” where I can feel a hundred percent comfortable, somewhere familiar where I know exactly how to get everywhere like it’s the back of my hand.
If you could describe your method of travel in one word, what would it be?
Thorough. I love to see all the sights, eat all the (vegetarian) food and absorb the language and culture. I especially feel drawn to museums and national parks. I love learning, and being in nature.
What is your must have travel accessory?
A travel journal. I wouldn’t have written I Am the Ocean if I hadn’t brought it with me. Now I never travel without one.
What is your most memorable travel moment?
On a cross-Canada trip I had a brief stay in Vancouver where I stayed at a hostel on Granville, a busy downtown street. I was walking down the street one morning when a band of street musicians caught my eye. I had never heard anything like it. I stopped in my tracks and began to record them. More and more people began to stop, and a crowd grew around them, watching, filming, and dancing to their music. They seemed to not even notice the attention they were drawing, so wrapped up in creating those beautiful, soulful melodies. They played with such passion, and I could see in their faces that they were playing not because they had to, but because there was nothing else they’d rather do and nowhere they’d rather be.
It was so beautiful to see people who had a true passion in life and really cared about music. I’ve been following them on social media ever since.
The band’s name is Sons of Granville. It wouldn’t surprise me if they become massively famous one day.
What is your dream destination?
Lately I’ve been dreaming of Caribbean or South American beaches. It’s funny, it changes year to year. Last year I wanted to see more of Canada’s rural landscape. Other times I’ve wanted to see rainforests.
Do you have any upcoming trips? If so, to where?
I’d like to visit Canada’s east coast this summer or fall. I’ve travelled in most parts of Canada—including remote parts of the Northwest Territories. But I’ve never been east of Quebec.
How has travel changed you?
Since I started travelling, I noticed that now I take better care of myself. I’m not hard on myself when things don’t go as I expected. I’m not saying that I never get anxious, but I understand now that there are things beyond our control in life, and that’s okay.
All we have to do is let go, trust God, and enjoy the moment while it lasts.
What does the title of your travel memoir, I Am the Ocean, refer to?
In The Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna shows his friend Arjuna his universal form and says “…of bodies of water I am the ocean.” Although Krishna is beautiful, his friend becomes overwhelmed by his presence. This is exactly how I felt about my journey along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Although the trip was beautiful and pivotal, it was also scary for me to put myself out there like that.
How long did it take for your book to come to fruition?
Years after my trip when I was feeling sentimental, I leafed through my travel journal. This all happened just last winter. I was feeling a creative streak and I realized that I already had a book laid out in front of me—the entire story was right there in my journal. I released the book in March 2016.
How has life changed after your USA journey?
Before my trip, I had recently graduated from university and was very stressed by the thought of where my life was headed. I didn’t do much creative writing even though writing is my first love. This journey changed my perspective, and once my mind began to relax, I could feel the creative juices start to flow again. I’ve been writing ever since. These days, writing is a part of my daily routine.
What do you hope your readers will take away from your book?
I want them to know that it’s okay to not be in control. Part of the beauty of life is that we don’t know what’s coming.
Do you have any new books on the horizon?
I’m currently working on a sequel to I Am the Ocean, which is set a couple of years later at a resort in Cuba, following a bad breakup. Even though it’s a sequel, it’s going to be quite different in tone, setting, and subject matter. I won’t give too much away, but there is also a certain character from I Am the Ocean who will make a return appearance.
I’d also like to experiment with writing fiction. I have some ideas for the plot of a young adult Bildungsroman about choosing a college after high school, but I won’t start working on that until I’ve completed this one first. I post my writing (and life) updates on my personal blog, for those who want to follow.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I like to set up my laptop on the island in my kitchen! Writing tends to make me really hungry and I start craving sugary foods. The kitchen island is perfect because the lighting is great, I can stand and work—which is healthier than sitting at a desk for hours on end—and the fridge is never far when I need my fruit fix.
What is your favourite travel book?
I enjoyed The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman, but right now I’m midway through another great travel memoir so I’m not sure which one will emerge as my favourite. I’m currently reading How Not to Travel the World by Lauren Juliff. Like me, she was also twenty-three when she began her journey.
She was quite sheltered (she had never eaten rice or been on a bus) and suffered crippling anxiety, but she still pushed herself out of her comfort zone through her solo travels in East Europe and Asia. I like reading about how she works through her issues and emerges a stronger person.
What is your favourite travel quote?
“…to follow another’s path is dangerous.” —The Bhagavad Gita, 3.35
Another big thanks to Samita Sarkar for sending her book my way and taking part in my Writer Wednesday series.