THE SECOND INSTALLATION OF THE WANDERBELLE SERIES
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I hoped that with this series, I would find a way to encourage people to go out and see the word, live adventures and touch the stars that you read about in poetry. This series is for anyone who has a little bit of wanderlust in their heart and magic in their veins. Especially if you are a woman! I know that at least one woman’s story in my #WanderBelle series will inspire you to follow your dreams, your vision and most importantly your heart all across the globe xo.
1) Could you give us a little introduction to yourself?
My name is Andrea Michaely Sriskandarajah.
I will be 25 years old soon. I am currently employed with my alma mater, the University of Toronto. I was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka and moved to Toronto, Canada at a young age, where I still reside. I love watching documentaries, reading books, photography, travelling and eating desserts (and lots of it).
In university, I majored Women and Gender studies and Equity Studies for my Bachelor’s of Arts degree. I studied these fields because it has always been of interest to see and experience the powerful role ideology and norms play in structuring and organizing society, communities, life and identity (being half Tamil and half Sinhala, identity is/was very important to me during my studies).
I hope to pursue a career in law in the future, as it has always been my passion, but I knew it was imperative for me to spend some years travelling and working since I knew that a career in law would mean long hours, significant burnout and significant less leisure time.
2. Who inspires you as a person?
I do not have a celebrity that inspires me – but I am inspired by my kick-ass mother
. In spite of the challenges facing single-parent households, (I think) my mother did a wonderful job of raising four kids alone most of our lives. While my mother was very strict with academics (staying true to a stereotype of South Asian parents), she taught us the importance of having a strong work ethic in all aspects of life by demonstrating it daily.
I have a lot of appreciation for all her sacrifices, her “can do” attitude and a general taste for life.
The older I became, she allowed me to exercise my freedom and independence at my own discretion. Although it is a no-brainer for some, having the freedom to travel on your own, with your friends and with your partner is a privilege that is unacceptable to many parents of my South Asian friends.
3) Growing up in Canada did you experience racism or difficulties being a minority or did you find yourself in a supportive environment?
My favourite lines is by Ijeoma Umebinyuo “diaspora blues” that goes like this:
“so, here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here.
never enough for both.”
Although I may have not understood the nuances of racism (and many other “-isms”) as a child, I knew what being discriminated meant from a young age based on experiences with racial macroaggressions targeted at my siblings and I from extended family members on the mere fact that we were both Tamil/Sinhalese.
There is little fun involved in being sandwiched between two oppositional ethnic groups once in the midst of an ethnic conflict.
One of the beautiful things about growing up in Toronto is that the city is in fact, is very multicultural and I have always felt incredibly grateful to have such a diverse and supportive group of friends.
As with many people of colour, this did not exempt me from experiencing racial jokes, slurs or bigotry. That’s one the things my degree forced me to dissect – the institutional, ideological and discursive ways that oppression operates in our society both past and present.
3) Could tell us more about your travelling experiences and any tips for female solo travel for girls who are not quite sure how to plan?
I’d say one of the best ways to become a more open-minded person is through travel. With that being said, the most important tip I have for any traveller alongside safety is to not to be ethnocentric.
This is the tendency to judge and view other people and cultures from the perspective of your own. As someone who has grown up in “the West,” this often includes thinking that your “Western values” are somehow superior to those values of someone from the non-West (trust me, they’re not).
It is no longer surprising to me to come across some travellers who are “grossed out” by the way local people do things their own way (thanks mom for teaching us to keep our humility intact wherever we go!).
There are a couple of points of advice for travel (especially for women who find travelling alone daunting):
1. Plan. If you’re a nervous or first-time traveller, plan your trip close to 100% (I personally like a mix of planning with spontaneity). Always have a plan B (like having a photo of your passport page on your phone or stashing some cash in your sock).
2. Be culturally sensitive. Respect local beliefs, customs and the rules of the country (i.e. don’t go mountain stripping in Malaysia as mountains are considered sacred).
3. Stay connected. Always tell someone back home about your whereabouts and/or stay in touch via social media (geotags exists for more reasons that contributing to a pretty place you’ve been to).
4. Be safe. Take extra measures to keep both your belongings and yourself safe (i.e. don’t wander the streets after the dark and always follow your instincts).
5. Research. Read about the areas you will be visiting (Lonely Planet is great). I prefer personal blogs over official tourist websites because I find it more organic.
6. Meet friends (and you will meet lots of them). Not everyone is out to get you and one of the best ways to meet new friends is through travel. If you’re a travelling alone, you Meet friends (and you will meet lots of them). Not everyone is out to get you and one of the best ways to meet new friends is through travel. If you’re a travelling alone, you’ll find great excitement in finding another solo traveller
5) Could you tell us about some of the places you have travelled and what has been your fave places to travel?
In the last few years, I have travelled to Egypt, Jordan, France, Guatemala, Colombia, Switzerland, Mexico and of course, a number of different states just south of the border in the United States.
I don’t think I have a “favourite trip” in particular because each adventure was fulfilling in its own right.
Instead, I have favourite moments from each trip – like seeing Petra in real life, floating around the dead sea (fun fact: I can’t swim); trekking through a dense jungle with tarantulas, howler monkeys, venomous snakes at 3am to see sunrise in Guatemala (it’s not every day you can climb on top of a Mayan temple to witness one of the most beautiful sunrises; having a life-changing taco in Mexico City only to realize it was someone’s grandmother making it out of her living room; rekindling my love for mummies and hieroglyphics at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo; and most recently, discovering and eating lots and lots of Arroz Con Coco (Colombian Coconut Rice) in Colombia.
6) You have a great sense of style! What influences your style sense?
Thank you! Unfortunately, I do not have any style icons. Although I would not advertise myself as being an absolute “minimalist” (I do like wearing statement pieces), I have a tendency to dress quite simple. This is one fact that remains the same even when my style is ever evolving. Living where I live, the temperatures sometimes drop as low as -34 C, so I have to switch from looking decently fashionable to dressing appropriately for the weather (I prefer the later, always).
Of course, despite the weather, some pieces that remain a staple in my closet are a good pair of shoes (minus wintertime, pretty boots are not warm enough), coats/jackets, and watches. One cool thing I have realized over the years is that certain colours “work” for me as they bring out certain features that would otherwise be unpronounced when wearing a different colour.
7) Do you have any clothing tips for travelling especially when travelling to a new country?
Clothing is also part of the equation to what I spoke about above. It is your responsibility to know how people dress (what is considered “appropriate” and “not appropriate”) when you travel to a new country for a few reasons.
For one, it is the right thing to do – trust me; you do not want to be offending locals because they may perceive it as an attack on- and disrespectful to their culture. Secondly, in certain places, blending in” will have less unnecessary attention directed at you. You cannot always expect to be treated with respect and love by locals you are a guest in their country after all. For example, when I went to Jordan, I wore long pants, tops (no sleeveless tops) the entire time except at the resort at the Dead Sea (fewer locals and a large number of tourists).
On the other hand, when I went on a backpacking trip to Guatemala, I took nothing fancy. I took mainly activewear clothes (lighter clothes are best if you are carrying around a big bag on your back all day). Lastly, know the weather in the country and regions you will be travelling in. During my recent trip to Colombia, my partner and I took sweaters and warm clothes during our stay in Bogota, a city situated on the Andes Mountains (aka very mild and somewhat cold) and warm/summery clothes for our stay in Cartagena, a city situated on the Caribbean coast (aka warm as can be). I cannot fathom trying to survive in Bogota in a summer dress.
7) What is the best advice or philosophy that you try to live by?
“The choices you make dictate the life you lead.”
This advice was given to me by my 7th/8th-grade teacher and I believe it’s the best advice you practice no matter how old you are. We’re all human beings and we’re all bound to make mistakes, but I believe if you make good choices, remain both true and good to yourself that things always work out for you. Self-care is really important to me and people have different ways of practising self-care (i.e. meditation, baking, going to the gym).
Mine happens to be my skin-care routine and the plenty cups of tea I have daily. I find this very therapeutic and it helps me cope with stress and in turn, maintain a healthy relationship with myself.
8) What are your plans for the future, eg what kind of lawyer would you like to be
Although I am not in a rush to do the whole law thing right away as I mentioned before, I do want to pursue a legal career in the future.
I’m not sure what type of law I would be interested in practising as I understand people’s interest sometimes change as life happens. But right now, I do have a weird obsession with criminal law. I’ve been watching true crime/investigative journalism type shows since I was a pre-teen and I have probably seen every episode of 20/20 and 48 Hours ever produced.
I very highly recommend Netflix’s original documentary Making A Murder (be careful, you may binge watch in two days like I did). I recently finished reading the book, “Illusion of Justice” by Jerome F. Buting who was one of Steven Avery’s defence lawyers and I highly recommend it!
9) If someone would like to get a career in academia such as a university what advice would you have for them?
I love academia.
If you are a person of colour or from a marginalized group, I strongly believe that academia grants you the opportunity to undermine western systems of knowledge production and make alternative knowledge more visible.
It provides you with the opportunity to pursue in-depth research and contribute to a body of knowledge. And if you’re confused about what you want to write about, my best advice is to write about what you want to read about. As a regular bookworm, I not only read about things I like reading about, but I also read about things that don’t necessarily interest me, but I find essential for the process of learning/unlearning things.
This is it for this interview. Thank you for reading and follow to stay updated on other Wanderbelle Interviews so you can stay in touch with all the latest tips and tricks for your travel trips.