Monroe woman steps outside comfort zone through adventures


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MONROE – When Rajani Karuturi’s children left for college, an urge deep within to step outside her comfort zone emerged.

“I remember wondering if ‘That’s it,'” she recalled of feeling a lack of fulfillment in life when her children moved out of the house. “That is when I started venturing outside my comfort zone.”

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Karuturi grew up in India. She and her husband, Srinu, settled in Monroe to raise their daughter Saahithi and son Saaketh.

At first it was simply learning how to swim for the first time at age 42. Then, for her 25th wedding anniversary, she and her husband traveled to Costa Rica in August 2015 and tried whitewater rafting for the first time.

Karuturi said their trip to Costa Rica was her first realization that she had the ability to step outside of her comfort zone and enjoy what she was doing.

Before that she said she “felt like I was missing out on life.”

With support from family, the urge for the now 52-year-old software engineer consultant has led her on adventures she never would have imagined possible. She has traveled around the world, from SCUBA diving in Hawaii and swimming with dolphins in Porta Playa, Dominican Republic, to trekking the Himalayan Mountains in Asia.

Then, in 2018, she came across Wifi Tribe, which allows for a co-living, co-working environment with other people. Karuturi spent a month in South Africa exploring without any guilt because she was still working.

Her most recent adventure may be her ultimate “step out of her comfort zone” trip yet as a crew member of Race 5 of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race from Fremantle to the Whitsundays around Australia.

Regarded as one of the world’s toughest challenges, it is the only event of its kind which trains people to make six ocean crossings, covering six continents, testing their limits. The Clipper Race is a 41,165 nautical mile circumnavigation which takes 11 months to complete. Crews can choose to race around the world or take part in an individual stage.

Karuturi is one of around 40% of the Race Crew who have previously never sailed before the four-week Clipper Race training program.

Each team, led by a professional skipper and first mate, is crewed by people from all walks of life and representing 43 nationalities, she said.

“The training is absolutely amazing,” she said. “I didn’t have much confidence in myself, but I am in the race now and that says a lot about the Clipper Race training. Without being told, some team members understood I needed this additional ‘you got this’ look toward me. Getting silent support without making me feel inferior was a beautiful thing.”

The Clipper Race pulls into ports of call along the way. So far, the race has called into Portion, Portugal; Punta del Este, Uruguay; Cape Town, South Africa; Fremantle and the Whitsundays, Australia; and will continue on to Sanya, China; Subic Bay, Philippines; Zhuhai and Qingdao, China; Seattle and New York; Hamilton, Bermuda; and Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland; before finishing back in London this summer.

With the flexibility of her job, Karuturi was able to spend 20 days – from Dec. 24, 2019, to Jan. 13 – as part of the Clipper Race with a crew of eight men and eight women. Each member worked in two six-hour watch shifts and responsibilities changed daily from helmsman, a person who steers the boat, to preparing meals.

Karuturi said 20 days in a confined space and no shower facilities with strangers was a bit of an adjustment, as well as the rough water and wind at times, but she worked outside her comfort zone and found a spiritual experience looking out into the ocean every night.

“The stars were beautiful,” she said, noting she has come away with lifelong friends. “The whole experience, I’ll relive this experience over and over. Growing up, I always felt that I was stuck in this small village, but there is a wonderful world around me moving fast. Now, I feel I’m part of that world.”

Karuturi said previously her biggest achievement to date has been “breaking free from a typical Indian woman stereotype” having been brought up in what she considers to be a very overprotective environment.

“If I wanted to go out after 7 p.m., my mom would send my younger brother as my security,” she said. “Growing up in a middle class farming family, education was the only thing that is important. I didn’t even ask my parents if I can do things like learning to dance, which I liked so much, as I know that education was the priority for them. Breaking the social norms that confined myself and my household gave me a sense of freedom and pride.”

Karuturi said when she told her mother, who lives in India, about her adventures, her mom initially thought her daughter was running away from her responsibilities. However, she said now her mom looks at her adventures with pride. Local media in India covered her involvement in the Clipper Race.

Along with her family, her neighbors in Monroe have also been in support and have been inspired by her journey. Some even intend to sign up for the Clipper Race themselves.

“I have received a lot of support from my local community,” she said. “There are people who said, ‘what and why?’ But, slowly everyone came around after I started my JustGiving page and started posting updates of which I have also shared on Facebook. I’m getting a really positive response. I heard one of my friend’s daughter has already reached out to Clipper to take part in the race herself. Even my husband wants to do the next race, too.”

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