Tuesday, 30 May 2017

My Favourite Places For SLOW TRAVEL

Slow Travel is my favourite way of exploring a place. I like to travel without an agenda on mind. I wouldn’t say that I don’t visit ‘tourist’ points. I’d say that although I mostly enjoy immersive, slow-paced travel, I do follow set itineraries once in a while. But, I don’t believe in visiting all the hot spots and exhausting myself. I believe in visiting a few places with inquisitiveness and keenness.

So what is slow travel?

In my opinion, slow travel is following your heart. It’s about observing the everyday life of a place, the locals, the regular shops, markets, cafes and restaurants, and other such things. I also believe that slow travel is about not caring about time. When we are too busy in our schedules, we try to accomplish a lot through the day. But, we end up feeling that time is just flying away. So, slow travel is your opportunity to hold that lost time and live it.

How to travel on a slow pace?

I have been able to do slow-paced travel on both long and short trips, because I guess it’s more about your attitude and style. If you want to soak in the tone of a place, you stop and notice a lot of things. I’m not saying that you should put the popular sites off your list, but keep a balance. For instance, I did visit the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, but I also watched the sun rise from my hotel’s rooftop. Do your share of touristic stuff, but do it within your comfort zone. Don’t over exhaust yourself.

So WHERE should you go to experience ‘slow travel’?

Well, as I said earlier, slow travel is an attitude and style of a traveller. You can experience a slow-paced travel anywhere in the world. But, I have a few favourite destinations for SLOW TRAVEL.

There are places that are ideal for slowing down and doing nothing. Since I have travelled mostly in India, I’d like to talk about destinations in India –

I had a two-day trip in Jaisalmer. I wouldn’t say that it was exactly slow-paced, as my first day was totally consumed by the desert safari. However, I made the following day an immersive one by not doing much. I sojourned at one of the guest houses in the Golden Fort, which is the best place to stay in Jaisalmer for the real ‘soak-up’ time. You don’t need to go anywhere. The moment you step out of your hotel, there are varied elements to introduce you to the culture of Rajasthan. Besides, there’s a different air to Jaisalmer. It’s a world of its own.

Here’s what I did to absorb the essence of Jaisalmer –

- Enjoyed an early morning tea with my fellow travellers. We sat on the rooftop overlooking the temples and the entire vicinity of the fort.  
- Wandered through the narrow lanes of the fort.
- Watched the locals go about their day, children play cricket, artists paint and shopkeepers and vendors do their work.
- Had an afternoon of natters with my hotel staff. It was a different experience for we always look at them from a business perspective. It was nice to know about their lives.

I’d definitely like to revisit Jaisalmer on a long trip, maybe a week or so. I’d like to spend my days sitting in a cafĂ©, reading books, writing something or talking to people. Jaisalmer has quite a few interesting cafes and restaurants, which are ideal for slow travel. I didn’t get a chance to explore them due to my tiny trip. But, on my next visit, I’m going to snack on every meal possible and drink as much caffeine as my stomach allows.    

Offbeat Goa
There’s an ‘unruffled’ Goa that I absolutely love. I was amazed when I visited it during its busiest season of Christmas and New Year, and I could still discover the quiet Goa in the lesser-known places like Saligao (North Goa) and Loutulim (South Goa). Then on another trip, I got to explore Olaulim (a village in North Goa), which is your ‘Goa sans beaches’.

Here’s a quick glimpse into why Goa is my favourite ‘slow travel’ destination –

- My morning saunter through Saligao, discovering the countryside, and visiting a local bakery.
- Exchanging pleasantries with locals, taking their tips on what to explore in Goa.
- Wandering through Fontainhas – the Portuguese gem of Goa.
- Bathing my soul with lushness at Olaulim Backyards

I have never visited Goa alone. So, I definitely have a ‘solo and slow’ trip in store for myself. I’d like to sojourn at a heritage home stay, eat only the basic Goan cuisine, wander through places, discover cafes and restaurants, check out bookstores, markets, and perhaps build some friendships.

I had a long solo trip in Srinagar, Kashmir. I’d say Srinagar has been my best ‘slow travel’ experience so far. I was there for 13-15 days, out of which I made a few quick trips to the other parts of Kashmir. But, Srinagar was my base and I really dug deep into its local life. I ditched the Mughal gardens and most of the things that are on a tourist’s wish-list and embraced the sights and sounds of the markets, the alleyways and the famous Dal Lake. My ‘solo’ shikara ride is one of my most favourite memories.

Here’s how I absorbed the beauty of Srinagar bit by bit –

- Repeated visits to the Dal Lake, solo Shikara ride, and my natters with the houseboat chaps.
- Bakery hopping, lots of auto rides, lots of aimless walks around the Dal Lake, Boulevard area and in the old city.
- My stay with a traditional Kashmiri family.

Srinagar was totally a no-agenda trip. Therefore, I could learn so much about the Kashmiris. I realized that except for some ‘hard selling aggression’ of the business folks, Kashmiris are usually sweet and polite people. I’m definitely going to revisit Kashmir during the autumn season when it’s all ‘yellow and brown’. 

I enjoyed four blissful days in Hampi. Although Hampi has lots of places to visit (it is a World Heritage Town recognised by UNESCO), you can spend days doing nothing and simply soaking in the laidback vibe around. I did a mix of sightseeing and relaxing.

The top ‘slow travel’ experiences that I had in Hampi –

- Woke up early to witness the countryside bathed in the mellow morning sunlight.
- Bicycled my way to the Anagundi village. Halted to have a ‘disastrous’ lunch with a fellow traveller. (Travel isn’t about delicious meals all the time.)
- Enjoyed noshing on delicious continental food across the river.
- Mingled with my foreign fellow travellers at the guest house where I stayed and shared a dinner with them.
- Watched quite a few beautiful sunsets.

I’m definitely going visit Hampi again. But, I won’t just go for its heritage. I will also aim at eating a lot of food – both local and continental. I’ll try to make it a reading holiday, too. Hampi is a perfect cocoon for a reader. You can sit with a stack of books on a hot afternoon and just enjoy every bit of it.

What about you? Have you tried slow travel?
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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

My Top 10 'Instagram' Travel Photos

I love drooling over all those stunning travel images on Instagram! Truly, there’s no better inspiration than beautiful photos. Isn’t it? It’s like travelling through the world virtually. I’d like to admit that I started using Instagram a little late, but I’m enjoying it thoroughly now. In fact, I have a huge collection of travel photos from my travels of so many years that I can’t wait to share. There are some photos that I haven’t shared anywhere, not on Facebook nor here on my blog.
So, follow my voyages on Instagram/voyager_for_life

For now, enjoy my top 10 travel photos on Instagram in no particular order –
A post shared by Renuka Walter (@voyager_for_life) on
A post shared by Renuka Walter (@voyager_for_life) on
A post shared by Renuka Walter (@voyager_for_life) on

Did you enjoy my ‘Instagramic’ voyage? Make sure to follow me on Instagram!

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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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