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Exclusive Maya Mohanlal interview—the Grains of Stardust author chats solo travel, her favorite places & magical memories from her childhood

When I’m traveling, one of the most wonderful experiences, alongside witnessing new cultures, countries, and cuisines, is meeting like-minded people from all over the globe. So many fellow solo travelers never fail to impress and inspire me with their adventures, stories, and advice. One such person is Maya Mohanlal who I met in Austria back in 2022. We pretty much spent the best part of a week chitchatting and talking about life and travel, it was one of those lovely travel moments when you meet someone who is utterly genuine, a truly beautiful soul. Little did I know at the time—because Maya is so humble and sweet—that she’s also a published author with an incredible poetry and illustration book titled Grains of Stardust

A selfie image of Maya Mohanlal with her published poetry book, Grains of Stardust
Maya Mohanlal with her book, Grains of Stardust

Since our first meeting, Maya has been spending time in Thailand, so I thought it was about time that I sat down with her for an interview to find out more about her exciting travel lifestyle, that’s seen her spend time in Thailand, Prague, and New York, amongst others. 

Lydia: Hey Maya! Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview. Since we last caught up you’ve been living in Koh Samui, Thailand. What is it about the island that keeps you there? Maya: I came to Koh Samui thinking I’d initially only stay for a few weeks. I planned to try out something new and train in Muay Thai (Thai boxing) at a fitness camp here called Fitkoh. I had no idea what to expect, but I loved it from the get-go. I adored the training and the people are so warm and welcoming. Right from the start there was a lovely sense of community. 

A sunset scene with the ocean and palm trees and a sky in shades of orange on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand where Maya Mohanlal has been living
Sunset on Koh Samui (Photo: Maya Mohanlal)
The island itself is just stunning with beautiful beaches and amazing sunsets. There are forests and waterfalls and it’s all so picturesque and beautiful, almost as though you’re living in a postcard. I love just getting on my motorbike to explore—I feel so free and safe. I’ll be leaving the island soon but I know I can always come back and that it will always feel like home. Lydia: You grew up in India, what are your most vivid memories of home and what do you miss most? Maya: I spent the majority of my childhood in Ooty, a small town situated in the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu in the South of India. Back then, it wasn’t as developed as it is now. We grew up climbing trees, swimming in lakes, walking around the town eating street food like green mangoes with salt and chili, drinking lots of chai, and spending nights around a bonfire. It’s the simple things that are the most magical—I’d give anything to go back in time to those moments. It makes me so nostalgic. Ooty is a place that will always have a special place in my heart. And to answer the second part of the question, when I’m not in India I miss my family, my doggos and dosas! Lydia: Oh wow, I love South Indian dosas! You’ve traveled a lot, tell me about your favorite places and is there anywhere you don’t want to return to? Maya: There are so many favorites! But my top three would be: The Himalayas. I did the Hampta Pass trek there and explored Spiti Valley—it was just breathtaking.  

a view of Maya Mohanlal's feet with a dog besides her looking out over the mountains of the himalayas in india
Maya in the Spiti Valley, Himalayas (Photo: Maya Mohanlal)
• Thailand. I’ve lived in Koh Samui and also Pai, a little town in the north, near the Myanmar border a few hours from Chiang Mai, both are such lovely, beautiful places. I would recommend Thailand to anyone thinking of their first solo trip because it’s so travel-friendly and I’ve always felt so safe there. 

• Prague. I lived there for a year and it was just magical. 

As for places I don’t want to return to, nothing really comes to mind, but I do have a love/hate relationship with New York. I lived there for a couple of years and though I do want to go back, I definitely don’t want to live there again. I love that there’s always something going on but it’s a bit too busy for me. 

Lydia: I completely understand, I feel a similar way about London at the moment. Whenever I travel solo people always ask me if I’m ever afraid, do you get the same question, and if so what advice would you give people who want to take their first solo journey? Maya: All the time! The advice I’d give is that it gets easier the more you do it and it’s only normal to be nervous at first. Be prepared for things not always going to plan and stay open, curious, and flexible. Also, it’s important to stay present and take it all in because it’s so easy to think about the next place you’re going to or the next thing you want to see, that you can forget to appreciate where you are. I personally like to stay in one place for at least a few weeks and take my time exploring rather than go from one point to the other in a rush to tick things off a list. Also, it’s great to enjoy the time you have with yourself!  

A photo of maya mohanlal and her brother drinking chai in northern india, maya is wearing a white hoodie
Maya drinking chai with her brother in the Himalayas (Photo: Maya Mohanlal)

Lydia: I absolutely agree with you about traveling slowly and staying in a place for a prolonged period, you get such a better grasp of a place. I always carry at least one book with me when I’m away, since you’re a published author having written the beautiful poetry book, Grains of Stardust, I’m curious to know if you’ll do a second volume? Maya: Yes, I’ve just started working on my second. With my first book, Grains of Stardust, I didn’t sit down to write a poetry book, it was just a collection of snippets of poetry that I’d written throughout the years that I put together. It’s very different this time around, but I have many ideas for it and I’m excited.  

Lydia: I can’t wait to read it when it arrives! Who or what inspires you poetically and which poet or writer do you admire? Maya: I mostly write or paint when I am moved by something or when an emotion comes to the surface—sometimes when I’m looking at nature or listening to music. I love the process of it all, experimenting and the journey of a poem or a painting. I often like to start a painting with no result in mind, it can start as one thing and go on to become something else completely, and that in itself can be inspiring. Almost as though the painting is slowly revealing itself, if that makes sense.

I love the author Elena Ferrante, I read the Neapolitan series a few years ago and the way she writes is just so raw and beautiful. I’m going to go back and read them again.  

a photo of a woman riding a bicycle through the streets of india while wearing a sari
Street life in Chennai, India (Photo: Maya Mohanlal)

Lydia: Amazing, I’ve actually not read that series yet but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. What are you reading right now? Maya: I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and romantasy! Right now I’ve just started the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Mass. My friends have been raving about it and I’m excited to dive into that world!

Lydia: That sounds fun! So, which country or place do you want to visit next and why? Maya: Japan! I’ve always wanted to go and I want to learn Kenjutsu while I’m there. And Italy! Florence specifically, to see all of the art and to eat.

Lydia: OMG yes, the food! I was there in 2022 and ate a lot of incredible food. Food and travel really do go well together, I feel like you can’t enjoy one without the other. Out of all the countries you’ve been to which has impressed you most when it comes to food? Maya: South Indian food is definitely my favorite, especially food from Kerala, there’s so much variety, and if I had to name a particular food I’d say appam and stew (just because that’s what I’m craving at the moment) and dosas! Always dosas, lol. I also love Thai food too, it’s so spicy and flavorful! One of my favorite dishes is Khao Soi, it’s a Northern curry soup with noodles and it’s absolutely delicious! 

Maya Mohanlal wearing a motorbike helmet and standing next to her bike on the side of a dusty track in thailand
Maya with her motorbike in Koh Samui (Photo: Maya Mohanlal)

Lydia: Wow, that sounds amazing, I could talk about food all day, but I’m going to round off the interview with something a little deeper. If you could give your younger self some wise words of wisdom what would they be?  Maya: To stay present. Be intentional with your time and energy and do the things you’re doing wholeheartedly. Also, be kinder to yourself and take it all one step at a time.

Maya’s book Grains of Stardust is available to buy on Amazon.


  1. Great brother ❤️great sister ❤️

  2. Waiting for your second book ☺️

  3. Awesome. Waiting for your second book



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