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The Spark: The Explorer

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Intel is a microcosm of the world, peopled by dynamic, multi-dimensional individuals who are not only the best at their jobs but also some of the most inspiring personalities to work alongside. Explorers, creatives, performers, and gamers — in this blog series, some of our incredible colleagues share insights into their inner lives, unveiling a never-before-seen portrait of them — and the passion projects that drive them daily.

The Spark: The Explorer

The call of the unexplored can be irresistible to those who enjoy adventure. Bhuvana Chandar knows that feeling better than most, for even when she is out battling the elements or pushing herself past her physical limits, she is always hungry for more. From scaling the highest peaks to riding coal trains into the desert, find out how the pursuit of discovery drives this explorer to venture far from the comforts of home and return with a trove of unforgettable memories.

Welcome, Bhuvana, to the latest instalment of our special interview series. We hear that you’ve built quite the reputation as a traveller. Tell us all about it.

Thanks. Yes, you’ve heard correctly. So far, in the nearly 9 years that I’ve been at Intel, I’ve visited 58 countries across Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. A big part of travel for me is the adventure and exploration, because I enjoy the outdoors.

What sorts of activities do you mean?

I’ve gone skydiving, scuba diving, cliff jumping, mountaineering and flyboarding. I’ve been on several stunning safaris in East Africa. And once, I had the opportunity to go aboard a passenger submarine in the Maldives, which was a wonderful experience.

How does somebody with a full-time job get to cover so much ground in less than a decade?
That’s the special bit. So, as part of the IDG Post-silicon Validation Team, I travel quite a bit for work. We have what’s called “Power Ons,” where a few members of our team are chosen to work on-site verifying the specifications of silicon post-manufacture, and that has taken me to quite a few places around the world.

Sometimes, that place becomes a jumping-off point for my explorations. Like the very first time I went abroad alone on such an assignment — this was to the U.S. — I took a few days off before and after the project to traverse the East and West Coasts. It was so liberating being able to go anywhere I wanted. And I guess you could say that was when the travel bug bit me in earnest.

I’m very fortunate that my job allows me to visit the U.S. and Malaysia almost yearly. So, after each such project, I would typically take up to two weeks off to visit a different country.

Which of your adventures stands out the most in your memory? Or, let’s put it this way — which is the one you’re most proud of?

It would have to be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Hands down. You probably know that it’s one of the Seven Summits — and the highest freestanding mountain — in the world! It’s the highest peak in Africa. The climb took five days, and it was a high-altitude trek, which meant that oxygen levels could get dangerously low. In fact, at one point, I got so lightheaded and out of breath that I almost passed out. That was scary. Two of the guides quickly gripped my hands and for the next thirty minutes or so, we just ran to a lower altitude. It was gruelling. Thankfully, I felt much better and able to walk on my own after that.

Would you consider yourself a thrill-seeker or an adrenaline junkie?

I think I’m just looking for experiences. Something unique or extraordinary. I’m not keen on glamping or luxury travel. I’m happy to rough it, even when I travel solo — which is how I usually travel. Sometimes, my colleagues will accompany me, but usually I’m on my own and I tend to travel on a budget. Like I said, it’s more about the experience of the terrain, the culture, the people.

What is your travel philosophy?

The way I do things, I move around a lot. And when you’re on the road, every day is different. You face different challenges. You meet different people. You’re totally outside of your comfort zone. That forces your mind to be present, to focus. Immersing yourself in new cultures, trying new food, adapting your senses to new places… all of this enriches a person. It not only breeds empathy and curiosity, but also helps you learn to communicate with different groups of people. It’s constant learning.

How does this feed into other aspects of your life?

I believe that embracing different cultures makes you a better communicator. Working and traveling has also taught me how to manage my time more efficiently, so I complete a lot more work in less time. My flexible working hours give me room to strike a healthy work-life balance and accomplish goals at work and in my personal life, which I’m very thankful for.

So, where are you headed next?

There are so many places I’d love to see. I’m keen on exploring North Korea, Libya and Yemen.

There’s an unmistakable theme there.
Yes, in fact, I did get a visa for Afghanistan last year, but the country fell to the Taliban not too soon after. Then it just got too risky, especially as a woman travelling independently.

What other adventure sports are on your bucket list?
I would love to complete an open water scuba diving course. Bungee jumping is another one on my list. And, I haven’t been to South America yet — it’s a dream of mine to visit the Amazon rainforest. Then, from Argentina, to catch a cruise to Antarctica. It’s the perfect place for whale-watching, observing penguins, seals and various seabirds. Plus, the voyage is quite epic, as you can imagine. You’d have to sail across the Drake passage from the southernmost city in the world — Ushuaia, Argentina — and it takes around 36 hours in all.   

As a seasoned traveller, what tips would you give to fellow travellers, especially women traveling solo?

Well… even now, when I’m traveling, I don’t stay out late at night unless I know the place really well. For example, in Dubai, you can stay out as late as you want as it’s perfectly safe. But in other countries, I’d be back in my room by eight or nine in the evening. Always protect your money. I keep my valuables, money and passport in a hip pouch on me at all times. Do not judge anyone blindly, you’ve got to cultivate a mix of intuition and common sense.

Solid advice. So, what goes through your mind when you return home from one of your travels?

I do enjoy home for a few days, but after a week or so, the itch to travel comes right back. After you’ve been to so many countries, and interacted with so many different people, the whole world feels like your home. You fall in love with more than one person in more than one place. So, home is what you make of it.