Aparna Shewakramani was the breakout star of Netflix’s Indian Matchmaker, the reality show that lifted the curtain on the traditional Indian custom of arranged marriages, and inspired countless memes and online debates. And while the 35-year-old lawyer from Houston didn’t meet her match on the show (thank you, next!) she’s expanding her horizons by running her own travel company — My Golden Balloon — and keeping her options open for a potential partner. Someone whose idea of the perfect vacation isn’t spending 10 days on the beach, obviously.
“I joke on the show that I don’t want to do 10 days on the beach,” Aparna tells Lonely Planet. “And that’s actually not a joke.” Cue to that time on Indian Matchmaker when she warned her date, with a look of disdain: “Do not ever make me lay on the beach for more than like, three hours.” That’s because she prefers to be more active, telling Lonely Planet her ideal romantic vacation is one where “we can do things together and explore… I love when it has a mix of everything.”
Aparna loves to travel. Over the years she’s clocked up more than 40 destinations — she’s itching to get to Mongolia, destination number 41, or maybe somewhere closer to home like Chile or Bolivia — and is also considering a move to New York City. And while she can’t travel right now, she’s only too happy to recall the memories from her top five destinations: Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Valle de Guadalupe in Mexico and Wadi Rum in Jordan, while she contemplates her next move.
“I was only in Ecuador for a short few days but it definitely took my breath away. I thought Quito was just beautiful, the high elevation city was so cosmopolitan. I thought Colombia had that same uniqueness as Ecuador, as in, it had both the city feel which I could enjoy in Bogotá and then within a short flight we were in Cartagena. We were on our own private boat which took us out to these islands. We were eating fresh lobster on the beach. It was incredible that this was just all in one country,” she explains.
Diversity in travel is important to Aparna. She tells us she likes to explore every part of her chosen destination without getting stuck in one spot for too long, and each of these places presented her with a real mix of experiences; cities and culture, beaches and adventure.
In Argentina she visited the cities of Mendoza and Buenos Aires before heading to Patagonia and donning her snow shoes to climb the Perito Moreno Glacier, which she describes as “exhilarating.” When visiting Valle de Guadeloupe in Mexico, Aparna says didn’t know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised by the experience, particularly the quirky bubble hotel accommodation in Campera Hotel Burbuja. “They’re inflatable. If you, by mistake, unzip the little hotel, your whole accommodation will basically deflate,” she says. A mistake she was smart enough not to make.
Wadi Rum is especially meaningful to Aparna, and not just because of its otherworldly landscape but because it’s where she hosted her first trip with My Golden Balloon, the travel company she launched that organizes international luxury tours with a dash of adventure for business travelers. “We take care of everything from the moment they land. It’s a way for them to escape without having to plan anything,” she explains. Aparna started the travel company at the end of 2018. The itineraries are set in advance and Aparna oversees every detail from their tours, to their food and their five-star hotel. “All the client has to do is book their plane ticket."
My Golden Balloon is open to travelers of all ages, solo travelers and those in small groups. "My Golden Balloon was named in opposition to the infamous black balloon you’re given when you turn 40 that says you’re ‘over the hill.’ We disagree," says Aparna. "Life is golden in your 30s and 40s. Enjoy it and explore the world. It’s a golden balloon you should be gifted those years."
With her time wrapped up in her travel company, her work as a lawyer and as a volunteer, Aparna doesn't have a lot of time for dating but that doesn't means she's not looking. On Indian Matchmaking she was clear about what she wanted, telling Sima Taparia, the show's matchmaker, she was looking for someone who's "laid-back, introverted... the wallflower" and "very, very intelligent." It's not what she got (Sima went for "jolly" guys instead) but that doesn't mean she has ruled out a return to the show for a second season.
"I hope I'm ineligible because I found someone," she says. "If there's a season two and if I'm single, I'd be down to chat with them about what that would look like."