Friday, 5 May 2017

Why Is Travel Better Than Education

If you go by Saint Augustine’s quote – “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”, travel is a huge gamut of learning. Yes, travel is education. In fact, it is far greater than the traditional education that we get through school textbooks. Though I don’t intend to rule out the significance of formal education, I really want to hit hard on the fact that travel is your school for life.

I love my own travel quote, too – “The world expects you to be well-educated, but I’d rather like to be called well-travelled.”

Also read: How Do I Manage To Travel (Who funds my travels?)

Travel is your practical classroom.
Travel is your school for life without a classroom. You don’t mug up anything. You make notes on the pages of your heart and mind. The breezes, the dust, the sun, the rain, the people – their smiles, gestures and language, the colours and textures of various things, the taste of different cuisines, the thrill of witnessing a beautiful landscape, the joy of listening to some great cultural music and the fear of getting lost in the unknown… there’s so much to experience when you travel. You touch and feel everything; and thus, the lessons on the road resonate with you forever.

Travel makes you get out of your comfort zone.
I think that’s the best part about travel that it takes you out of your comfort zone. Your passion for travel makes you do things that you wouldn’t think of doing otherwise. In my case, I have travelled under dire situations – have been cramped like luggage with other passengers on long, rough road trips, stayed in dirty hotel rooms once in a while, and experienced many little stupid things that just happen, but you take them in your stride, because you want to travel!

Travel introduces ‘the alternative way of life’ to you.
I seriously believe that travel is another way of life. Those who don’t travel miss out on so much about life. On the contrary, those who travel get introduced to the much more meaningful way of life. In my opinion, a traveller has power of better perspectives, better experiences and better knowledge than a person who hasn’t been on the road. Well, I don’t intend to belittle the experience of staying home and raising children and building relationships. In fact, I have deep respect for homemakers. But, travel teaches you a gamut of things beyond your own life, family, relationships and education.

Travel makes you discover the real you. It refines you as a person.
Yes, travel gives you the freedom to be who you really are without any pressures. Your smile on the road is one hundred percent genuine and not obligatory. You do things that you really like to do, and not because someone has told you to do them or you ought to do them to fulfil some norm. Also, you become a better version of yourself when you travel. In fact, you become deep as a person, and also tolerant of the frivolousness of life, because you know you are sitting at a vantage point from where you can have the best view of life.

Travel makes you wiser and smarter.
Travel makes you tough. The wisdom that you attain on the road is different from the conventional wisdom or intelligence of the life sans travel. Travel teaches you the economics of travelling on a budget, yet experience exceptional joys and adventures. Travel makes you learn about the history and geography of a place.

I don’t know about you, but I’m fond of studying maps. I always go through the map of a place that I’m about to visit. So, travel makes you learn things naturally.

Travel opens your mind. It gives you the real picture of things and scenarios.
I’d like to validate this point by giving you an instance – my solo travel to Kashmir unveiled so many facets about the people of Kashmir that I didn’t know about. What I experienced in Kashmir was far from what I had heard about it. People form a notion in their head, which is given to them from one instance. But sadly, the ‘one instance’ notion becomes the truth in people’s minds until they discover the ‘real’ truth themselves. The people of Kashmir are as polite, respectful and friendly as the people in your own backyard. And yes, it’s absolutely safe to travel in Kashmir as long as you take care of yourself nicely (the way you’d anywhere else).

Also read: My Experience Of Travelling Alone In Kashmir

Travel has no scorecard, but you are always on a high.
Each trip gives you something substantial, something worth reminiscing. No matter how troublesome or challenging your travel could get, you still end up experiencing something that adds value to your life. For instance, I look back at my Arunachal Pradesh journey with a fondness for I got to stay with a Monpa family in the last leg of my trip, which helped me understand their way of life so deeply. My trip turned out to be epic not because I ticked off many places, but because I immersed into the place on a personal level. So, quality is always above quantity.

What about you? What has travel taught you?
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Thursday, 27 April 2017

My Bucket-list ‘Weekend’ Getaways In India

A long weekend is always a hint at planning a quick road trip around your city. Does an idea of a ‘long weekend’ escape enrapture you? Well, I have some great ideas for you!

With OlaOutstation, you can take a road trip anywhere around your city. I used OlaOutstation while I was in Odisha to travel from Bhubaneswar to Raghurajpur, and it was quite comfy.

So, here’s a look at some of the awesome weekend getaways across India –  

From Mumbai – Kolad
I’d like to visit Kolad (a village in Raigad district, Maharashtra) for its laid-back atmosphere. I have heard it’s a haven of natural wonders, and thus, it’s a favourite with adventure lovers. It’s a perfect place for day-trips and weekend trips. The top activity that you can enjoy in Kolad is rafting for its gushing white waters. Also, you can encamp near the Kundalika River for the night stay, which would be great fun.

From Pune – Kamshet
Kamshet, a place around 50 km from Pune, is a blend of nature and art.  Though Kamshet is famous for its adventure activities, such as paragliding and boating, I’d like to just sit lazily and take in its hilly charm. Besides the serenity of forests and lakes, Kamshet has interesting temples and historical sites to amaze you.

From Delhi – Triund
Triund (Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh) is a lovely ‘trekking’ getaway from Delhi.  I’m sure it would be a memorable experience to trek in the midst of beautiful surroundings – the divine Dhauladhar Mountains on one side and the scenic Kangra valley on the other. 

From Bangalore – Madikeri
The aroma of coffee at Madikeri can’t wait to rejuvenate you. Madikeri, in Karnataka, is a nature retreat mingled with some British nuances. I’d like to be there just to sip coffee straight from the farm, gaze the craggy landscapes and wander through its forests and peculiar villages. 

From Kolkata – Bishnupur               
Bishnupur, in West Bengal, is a fascinating town near Kolkata ideal for travellers looking for art and culture. It’s renowned for its unique terracotta temples and Baluchari sari. I’m really keen on capturing the artistic beauty of Bishnupur through my lens. 
From Chennai – Yelagiri
Yelagiri is a great escape from the heat of Chennai for it’s a place of natural treasures – mountain views, lakes and cascading waterfalls. It’s an ideal place for picnickers and nature lovers. But, I’d like to visit it for its villages and tribal folk. It would be interesting to learn about their way of life – customs and culture.

From Ahmedabad – Kumbhalgarh
Kumbhalgarh, in Rajasthan, is one place where I definitely want to go for its obvious mystical grandeur and enchanting history. Besides the regal charm of the Kumbhalgarh Fort, there’s so much more to see and experience in Kumbhalgarh, such as 360 temples and palaces within the fort, the view of the Thar Desert from atop the fort walls, and Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary in close proximity.

So, WHERE are you planning your next long weekend?
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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

9 Reasons Why My Itchy Feet Love Rajasthan

Rajasthan is my absolute favourite destination in India. There’s some undefined magic about it. The thought of penning this post birthed while I was going through some of my old photographs of Rajasthan – Udaipur, my first solo trip ever, the epic desert safari, the splendid Mehrangharh Fort, the countryside of Pali and so much more. Even the reminiscences brought so much of thrill to my veins.

Rajasthan is quite a huge state, and I’d say I have seen a very little of it. There’s so much to explore and experience in this fascinating state that I’ll have to take several trips to cover the length and breadth of it.

Here’s why my Facebook fans love Rajasthan and here's why I love it –

The aura of another world
Perhaps the first thing to love about Rajasthan is that it exudes so much of effortless royalty and mystic that it almost feels like another world. It’s about the feeling that you get when you are in Rajasthan that’s just so exclusive. No other place makes you feel the way Rajasthan does.

World-class hospitality of the locals
The Rajasthani folks know the knack of making their guests feel at home. I have always felt loved and honoured wherever I have travelled in Rajasthan. Had it not been their hospitality, I wouldn’t have been so encouraged to travel alone.

The hotels are so comfy
Although I always like to stay at home stays, I have enjoyed my hotel stays in Rajasthan a lot. Whether it’s Udaipur, Jodhpur or Jaisalmer, I have always got perks like free pick-ups (train stations/airports), WiFi and great care of the hotel staff.

I’d like to visit Jaipur this year (where I have never been) and stay at places like Jal Mahal Jaipur for a taste of royalty and Orchid Hotels for its pure blend of class and comfort.

It’s a photographer’s paradise
Yes, I’d like to use the word ‘paradise’ for Rajasthan when it comes to photography. There’s a variety of stuff to capture through your lens. Besides the obvious attractions like palaces, forts, temples and lakes, the ordinary stuff like the narrow alleys and the homes are also so intriguing. It’s like wherever you roam, you get something to hold your attention.

The slow life
I absolutely love the laid-back air of Rajasthan. I feel there’s no need to rush or tick off anything in Rajasthan. It’s a place where one should spend days without a return ticket. I haven’t done that yet, but would definitely like to.

The rusticity
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you should know that I love rural tourism. I like to explore the countryside of a place, and Rajasthan has tons of rustic charms. The best part is that the rusticity of Rajasthan is beautifully blended with its regality, which makes it even more mesmerising.

The ‘traveller-friendly’ atmosphere
Rajasthan has a certain festivity and fervour in the air. The ‘wanderlust’ vibe of travellers from all across the world rubs off on you. It’s fun to see people soak in the beauty of Rajasthan. It’s also an excellent chance to meet like-minded travellers, and know their perspectives on Rajasthan and travel in general.

It’s a place of beautiful sunrises and sunsets
Rajasthan is a place where you’d want to wake up early just to watch the first gleam of sunshine, and hear the temple bells, the morning market buzz and many little everyday nuances…and end the day with a glass of wine as the orange ball of fire hides behind the Aravallis.

It can never get hackneyed
Even though Rajasthan is a tourism giant, it still has an offbeat quality to it. Be it the experience of a desert safari, folk music and dance show or marvelling at the grandeur of a palace, there’s always something fresh to take in for a curious traveller.     

WHAT’S YOUR favourite thing about Rajasthan?

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Monday, 17 April 2017

What You Men Should Wear On The Road?

Every traveller has his own whims and quirks – a certain style of travelling. Some travellers like to be planned and organised, while some are spontaneous; some are introspective, while some are free-spirited and adventurous. Thus, each traveller has something unique to radiate.

Also, a traveller reflects a lot about him by what he wears on the road. Most of us are a ‘comfy pair of jeans’ kind of travellers, because a good pair of jeans has the three most important traits of a traveller – robust, tenacious and cool. Today, I have three amazing male blogger friends of mine, who have some valuable insights to share about their respective travel styles and what they wear on the road. It’s not just a ‘women’s world! Our men have the challenges, too. So, let’s hear them out –      

Also check out what my – Facebook Fans have to say about their travel style.

Tim Blight of UrbanDuniya

Tim’s travel style – I am a fairly intrepid traveller - I love going to off-the-beaten-track places which are often overlooked as destinations. I love to learn about the history and the different customs and cultures of people all around the world, including the quirks which make us different. Some people would say that I'm adventurous, but really, I like things to be a bit comfortable too - I'd rather squash into a minivan filled with locals to go up a mountain rather than trek for days!

What Tim likes to wear on the road – I have a couple of essentials that I pack - comfortable pants (I don't care if I'm the only person wearing cargo pants since 2005; long flights and skinny jeans are a bad combination!!). A couple of T-shirts or shirts, sneakers that are rough enough to explore in, but decent enough to walk into a restaurant with, and a down jacket - it protects from the cold, compresses to fit in a bag, and feels like a blanket on cold early mornings! Finally, nowadays I always pack at least one decent pair of jeans, a nice shirt and shoes - I've been invited to locals' formal events before, and faced the unpleasant dilemma of turning up badly underdressed or simply declining!

R Niranjan Das of Tales Of A Nomad

Niranjan’s travel style – I’m an old school traveller who prefers maps and signage boards over gadgets and phones. Though I travel with friends and family, solo travels on motorcycles are what I love – The freedom that such travels give are absolutely liberating.

What Niranjan likes to wear on the road – I travel as light as possible and roll my clothes while packing instead of folding them as it saves a lot of space. I bifurcate my stuff into small pouches/ bags inside the backpack or suitcase instead of dumping into it. This makes retrieving a lot easier.

Abhinav Singh of A Soul Window

Abhinav’s travel style – At heart I am a solo and rough traveller. I love trekking to high altitude mountains (EBC Trek, Roopkund). I always travel without a plan. I like to go with the flow and accepting to alien cultures, food etc.  On personal solo trips, I prefer travelling in public transport with locals for an immersive experience. I also love to go beyond the guidebooks and discover new place and stories in a new place. I am a no fuss, no frills traveller. I take conscious steps towards minimizing my carbon footprints during my travels.

What Abhinav likes to wear on the road – I pack very light. Comfort is more important to me than style. During summers, I carry flip-flops, shorts and lots of light weight T shirts which do not need ironing. In a cold destination, I carry 2 jackets with few sweat shirts and sweaters for layering. I carry more luggage on my luxury press trips due to the many dressing protocols.

What’s your travel style? What do you like to wear on the road?
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Friday, 7 April 2017

My Favourite Experiences In Odisha

ODISHA is definitely an unsung gem of India. I’m glad that I made it there. When I started planning my trip to Odisha, I knew zilch about it. People usually mentioned the Puri beaches, Konark temples and the like. But, I was curious for more. I was eager to get introduced to the Odisha that not many knew. So, planning and researching for Odisha was tough. I wanted to visit places where I could admire some hilly beauty, taste some traditional Odiya food, and exchange smiles with the tribal folk.

A special note of thanks to my Facebook fans who recommended some lesser-known places in Odisha.

At Khandadhar waterfalls

I began my Odisha voyage with Bhubaneswar, the capital of the state. But, I didn’t really spend much time there. It was more of a transit destination for me. I travelled to Raghurajpur, Kendujhar, Kantabonia Village, and Konark. I wanted to visit Koraput, the heart of tribal culture, but things didn’t work out for me and I had to cancel my trip.

Well, I’m pretty complacent with what I could explore and experience in Odisha. It was one of my smoothest travels. Also, I’d say Odisha is a great ‘solo travel’ destination. So, all those who are wondering where to go solo, Odisha is your destination! It’s absolutely safe (even the interiors, as long as you take care of yourself). People are chilled out and respectful.

So, here’s what I experienced in Odisha –

My amble through Raghurajpur
Raghurajpur is a unique village near Bhubaneswar (60km). The village is too commercialised on the surface – the art and craft retailers begin to invite you to their shops the moment you enter their premises. But, as you breathe and walk a little bit farther, a world of untainted art and traditions rests in the age-old village homes. The most peculiarly fascinating part of Raghurajpur is the array of (reportedly 12) temples in the middle lane of the village with houses on either side.

Each house in Raghurajpur has some sort of artwork on its walls. The white temples blend beautifully with the art-embossed houses of the village. The tribal folks just add to the beauty of it all. The fact that they are far from the ‘urbane’ life makes the experience of visiting their village so much more enriching.

At Raghurajpur art and craft village
Stone carving, Pattachitra painting and Palmleaf engraving
These age-old wall paintings have the real soul of Raghurajpur - a rare gem of India.
White temples, colourful walls and the tribal folks give Raghurajpur a certain atmosphere.

My rickshaw ride from Kendujhar to Khandadhar waterfalls
I don’t know whether it was good or bad, wise or foolish to take a 65 km rickshaw ride from Kendujhar to Khandadhar waterfalls. The Khandadhar waterfall is a picturesque sight, but the landscapes and settlements along the way are far more interesting. It had got dark on my return, and the rickshaw guy was scared and worried about taking a woman in his rickshaw. It was absolutely pitch dark with a little flame or two seen in the huts. What comforted me was seeing the tribal women walk alone as they wound up their day and headed to their homes. 

Although the waterfall was the main sight of the day, the adventure of being alone in a remote place is what I remember more.

It's a settlement around 10 km from Khandadhar waterfalls.
The tribal homes in Kendujhar, Odisha

My train journeys in Odisha
I enjoyed my short train journeys through Odisha. I travelled from Bhubaneswar to Kendujhar, and then Bhubaneswar to Balasore. It was thrilling to sit by the window and sip coffee, while a myriad of landscapes whizzed by. I think ‘train travel’ is an excellent way to get a tinge of a place. So, here’s a travel tip – always choose trains over buses. The latter can get absolutely exasperating and tiring in case of delays or breakdowns.

The views from the train: Kendujhar to Bhubaneswar

My ‘solitary’ village walk
Although I travel alone most of the time, I’m accompanied by my host or a guide for village and nature walks. But at Kantabonia village (near Panchalingeswar, Balasore), I walked the entire village alone. My guide Navin took me to a dam, where we could sit and gaze the mountains. It was about 5:30 in the evening when we headed back. My solo village walk was not planned. It was when Navin stopped to have a small chat with a village acquaintance that I began walking alone. I was too impatient to wait for Navin, so I just walked and walked, stopped only to take pictures. It felt great to find my way back where I stayed without my guide. However, a few village kids did help towards the end of my trail.

I believe that’s the thrill of travel – when you walk alone, get lost and a local helps you find your way.

My nature and village walk in Kantabonia - the village kids are shy. :-)
Kantabonia village
A pond in Kantabonia village
The fervent ritual that goes on the entire night under a banyan tree and then the procession settles at a village home in the morning.

My sojourn at Roopark village
Beginning with my grand welcome to an aromatic beauty therapy at night, Roopark village resort really made me feel like a queen. My intent of sojourning at Roopark was to rendezvous with the rustic nuances of Odisha’s tribal life. I loved my two-day slow travel at the resort. I did nothing. I simply soaked in the tribal culture and living. I attended the fervent night puja (ritual) performed by Kantabonia’s tribal folks. I also had a chance to taste their local cuisine; the most interesting was the red ant chutney. And, not to forget, I sipped their local beverage, Mahua.       

My grand welcome at Roopark village resort.
Savoring the slow travel...
Glimpses of Roopark
The moment you enter the premises of Roopark, you are greeted by such sublime mountains.

Roopark village is an ethnic resort near Balasore. The resort is beautifully built with lots of flowers and trees, and the rooms have attached porticos with rustic elements embossed everywhere. But, my favourite part was to step out of my room to lounge in the garden with a cup of tea and enjoy the fabulous mountain views.

So, did I inspire you to visit Odisha?
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