Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Travel Blogs Have Redefined ‘Travel’

Would you agree with me if I said that travel has found a new definition with the influx of travel blogs? Today, travel is something much deeper and educative. Now people are willing to look beyond the hackneyed destinations and explore the offbeat ones, too. Travel is no more a ‘once-in-a-blue-moon’ affair. It’s talked about oftener and the travel industry is booming like never before.

Travel blogs have awakened people to travel more and discover more of life.

I got acquainted with the concept of travel blogs when I ventured into travel blogging, which was around 3 years ago. I vaguely remember how I used to plan my travels earlier. I think I simply used to book my tickets and set out. I remember I did most of the things spontaneously on my first solo trip to Udaipur. I had no idea what travel bloggers advised when I wasn’t following them. I simply did what felt right and I was pretty much okay.

The 'blogging' bug hadn't bitten me yet, but the 'traveler' in me was preparing me to be a blogger.

I guess travel blogs are guidebooks by curious travellers. I am not trying to boast, but I do believe that my curiosity has helped me go many miles and experience a lot of new things. Of course, the inspiration to travel to certain places did come from somewhere or the other. However, my own passion and desire to hit the road contributed a great deal in making a travel blogger out of me.

Travel stories in making

People read travel blogs because they want to read real stories of travel and not the glossed-over stuff. Travel blogs are like diaries or notes from the road that bring the dust, the pain, the sweat and the tears along with it. Therefore, reading a travel blog is just like listening to a yarn by a friend. It creates curiosity and a sense of adventure within the reader, which eventually inspires him or her to experience something similar.

Travel blogs are diaries from the road.

Travel blogs are written by real people – people who fail, get hurt and are imperfect in many ways. Plus, they have many eccentricities. Travel bloggers are those ordinary people who actually know what it is to have no money in your account and work really hard to sail through. Thus, travel blogs reflect the soul of those crazy people, who do what they really want to do instead of wishing for that ‘someday’.

Travel is not just about escaping the monotony, but it's a deeper transformation.

Travel blogs don’t tell you to travel for a change or just to feel refreshed. Travel blogs awaken you to go out and discover how life can change you. Travel blogs talk about experiencing the local way of life, eating the local food, wandering aimlessly, waking up early and admiring the simple things of life.

Eating the local food - Thukpa in Sikkim
Waking up early in Mumbai to admire the ordinary things.

Some of the travel blogs that I find inspiring are Ytravelblog, The Shooting Star, Breathe Dream Go and ThePlanetD. What connects me to these blogs is the sheer ‘love for life’. I’d say these guys really know how to romance life.     

I believe travel is not a luxury as many perceive it to be. It’s a constant transformation of the person who travels. It should be part of everybody’s life in some measure. How much can you gain by just reading books and watching TV? I love this quote – “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” Well, I am not implying that you can travel for free. You sure do need money to travel just like you need it for any other stuff in life. But when you spend your precious money on travel, it returns what you invest in the form of memories and experiences that can never be taken away from you.

So yes, travel blogs have redefined travel. What do you think?  

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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Where To Travel SOLO In India?

In my post ‘5 Best Solo Travel Destinations In India’ I mentioned places that are suitable for easy and comfy solo travel in India. Today, I’d like to talk about some more places in India that are also quite apt for travelling alone. Before I unravel the places ideal for solo travel in India, let me suggest you to be confident and courageous about the whole concept of solo travel. I often get asked how to travel solo and whether India is safe for female solo travellers. Well, I have only one answer – Just do it!

Okay now, let’s focus on the destinations –

North India

Sikkim
      
If you ask me where to travel solo in North India, my instant response would be Sikkim. Of course, it’s in Northeast India to be precise, but let’s consider it in North India. Gangtok is the perky capital of Sikkim, where you can enjoy cafĂ© hopping, shopping and maybe clubbing. The rest of the state of Sikkim is quite rural and thus, pristinely picturesque and peaceful.

Sikkim is suitable for female solo travel for many reasons – people are respectful, good and safe accommodation options are available, and lastly, nobody gets too surprised to see a woman travelling alone.

Read my earlier posts to know what to explore in Sikkim –

Rajasthan

Perhaps Rajasthan is the easiest destination for solo travel. Besides the popular cities like Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, there are also many interesting villages to explore in Rajasthan. I’d say solo travel is a joy in a state like Rajasthan, which is so obviously enchanting and yet a little secretive.

Why is Rajasthan ideal for female solo travel – it’s a state that values its culture and traditions, tourists are respected and there are lots of safe and quality stay options available.

East India

The Offbeat Darjeeling

Darjeeling is a charmingly beautiful district in West Bengal. To explore its real beauty, avoid the beaten path and follow the trails that are lesser known, such as Kurseong – a modest town that remains hidden under the shadow of the more ‘touristic’ Darjeeling Town, and then there are villages like Dilaram Village, Lamahatta and also quite a few beguiling tea estates.

A solo traveller would love Darjeeling because – the people are nice and friendly, there are lots of scenic places to explore on foot and home stays are beginning to emerge gradually.    

West India

Maharashtra

Besides Mumbai, which is known to be the safest city in India, there are various other towns and regions in Maharashtra that are quite inviting for solo travel. You can start with something popular like Matheran and then head towards the rural Maharashtra to unearth its hidden gems. Places like Alibaug and Murud are quiet and modest, which any solo traveller would love to explore.

Solo travel in Maharashtra is cool because - the people are chilled out, there is no apparent nuisance of any sort and nobody bothers to even look at you!      

Goa

The ‘party-goers’ and the ‘boozers’ Goa is just the gloss on the face of the genuine Goa. In my opinion, if you choose to skip the parties and the hippie beaches, Goa is so much more beautiful and highly recommended for solo travel. There is the countryside Goa and then there is the Portuguese Goa, which can be easily explored on a bike (or bicycle).

Why is it easy to travel alone in Goa – the locals are friendly and helpful, the atmosphere is peaceful and there are quite a few family-based home stays to choose from.


South India

Karnataka

As far as my experiences go, Karnataka is the best state for solo travel in South India. From a big metropolitan city like Bangalore to a heritage village like Hampi, Karnataka brims with quirky places for solo travellers. If you choose to go off the beaten path, consider going to Dandeli in North Karnataka, which is an incredibly beautiful place ideal for trekking and adventure.

Solo travel is amazing in Karnataka because – most of the places are tourist friendly, lots of food options, people are nice and the transport connectivity is quite good, too.

So are you ready to explore India alone in 2015?

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Slow Pace Of Life In Murud

As soon as I checked in at Golden Swan Beach Resort in Murud, my fatigue of a long journey had kind of eased. I was warmly welcomed by the resort staff and offered a delicious welcome drink. I was delighted to see my spacious sea facing room and foyer. I quickly freshened up and enjoyed my much needed heart-satisfying lunch. Though I had a bad headache, I still loitered around a little bit to admire the Portuguese style architecture of the resort, which reminded me of Goa.


In fact, all through the way from Alibaug to Murud, I had a feeling that I was back to Goa. The coconut plantations, the countryside, the cattle and the olden style houses were all like what I had seen in Goa. So I was already hopeful and happy about what would unfold in Murud.       

Time for some Konkani spices

After lunch, I closed my eyes for a brief afternoon nap so that I would wake up fresh for the Konkani Cooking Class that was scheduled in the evening. I think that was the best part of my stay at Golden Swan Beach Resort. I, along with my fellow bloggers, got a fabulous opportunity to learn the authentic way of cooking Konkani food from a well-skilled chef. Although I am not much of a cook myself, I enjoyed being a spectator while several dishes were being prepared one after the other.


Murud – A place photographers would love to stalk

Besides the excellent hospitality that I received at the resort, I lapped up the subtle charms of Murud alongside – the coastal village life, the unruffled atmosphere, the quiet beauty of the sea and the surrounding landscape.


Although beaches and the abandoned Janjira Sea Fort are the highlights of Murud, I personally loved its sights and sounds in the alleyways, along the shore and in the market places. Murud has lots of character and uniqueness for a photographer to capture. I wish I had hopped down the Tumtum (local auto) to wander through the town and take more photographs.


The joy of being near the beach

Golden Swan Beach Resort turned out to be a perfect way to experience the slow life of Murud. Whether it was the sound of cascading waves in the lull of night or the glow of morning sun, everything hinted at slowing down to embrace the romance of it all.


Since the resort is tucked along the sea shore, it’s an ideal place to just be ‘idle’ and not be guilty about it. I liked the idea of ambling on the beach anytime on my whim, or simply reclining in a chair to watch sunset. I’d say the beach resort is a haven for readers, writers, poets, daydreamers and basically anybody seeking fun.


In my opinion, Murud deserves longer stays than just the weekends. I’d very much like to go there again and spend at least a week at the beach resort and explore Murud more intimately.   

Practical Information – Murud is around 162 km from Mumbai by road. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Gateway Of India to Mandwa and then a connecting bus to Alibaug (in the same fare), and finally take a bus from Alibaug to Murud. The journey takes around 4 hours.

Note: I was at Golden Swan Beach Resort on invitation. All opinions and photographs, as always, are my own.

Is Murud the kind of place you would like to explore?

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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

I’m A Quirky Traveller, And You?

I am quite a quirky traveller. I have my share of eccentricities that amuse a lot of people! Even on a personal level, I am not too conventional. I follow my heart on most occasions. So, when it comes to being on the road, I do the same.

There are certain travel rituals that I follow, which may not sound too sensible. I still do them because that’s what makes me happy. As long as I don’t harm anybody else, I can do what I like, right?

Here’s unveiling the ‘quirks’ of Voyager For Life -    

I like to over-pack!

This should come as a surprise shock to any true-blue traveller, who believes in travelling light. It’s not that I end up over-packing, but I really ‘like’ to over-pack. Yes, I like to keep any and everything that I might possibly need during my trip. It could be something as little as a bottle of nail paint or something as bulky as a tripod.    
  
I like to carry a big suitcase everywhere along with my laptop bag and camera bag.

I keep snapping photos while I should take some time to relax and enjoy.

Someone very beautifully put his thought on not taking too many photos and simply enjoying the scenery – “Sunsets are meant to be enjoyed and not recorded minute by minute.” I think it’s been said for someone like me, who just can’t sit still. Well, photography is my top motive behind visiting any place, but I need to realize that relaxing and soaking in the beauty without taking photos also has its charm.    

I'm never one of those people who sit quietly and watch the sun set.

I like to get tanned.

2014 was a ‘get tanned’ year for me. Although I always carry sunscreen, I don’t use it out of laziness. I had got badly tanned in Sikkim, and then it got even worse in Hampi. Now my feet look almost burnt!   

Getting more tanned in Hampi.

I make a big deal about hygiene.

Yes, I am a highly hygiene-conscious person. I like everything to be clean – bed linen, bathroom, towel, and everything that I am supposed to use. Although it’s NOT really quirky to be hygienic, I end up drawing a lot of attention for my hygiene habits. I make people around me conscious, too. Even my hosts at various home stays made sure that I was happy with the hygiene maintained.

Everything neat and tidy for me please!

I can turn ‘anyone’ into a photographer.

I can do anything for a photograph! I mean I can even teach a stranger the art of photography. I give people directions on how to frame, how to hold the camera and how to get the angle right. I don’t mind posing in front of a stranger. Most people don’t bother much when it comes to asking a stranger to click their photo. But I make sure that my photo is clicked properly – exactly the way I want it.

This photo was taken by my guide and chauffeur in Dandeli.

I rarely make it on time for my trains.

I have missed a couple of trains in my life and caught many just at the eleventh hour. I still shudder at the thought of catching a train! It’s so horrifying when your train is all set to depart from the station in a few minutes and you have to literally run to hop on it.  


Catching a train is always scary!

I still have a window seat fixation.

Yes, even after so many plane journeys, I still chirp for a window seat on a plane. I love looking down while taking off and landing. I guess that’s the only fun part about travelling by a plane. But I am not the only one who is crazy about window seats, there are many like me – there was this old man who refused to give me his window seat and told me sternly that if I wanted a window seat I should have reached the airport early just like him. Well, he was right!

From the plane - Watching the sun rise.

I teach people the art of making perfect tea.

I find something or the other wrong with the way people prepare tea. I have taught many people on my travels the art of making the perfect zaikedaar (delicious) tea. Also, I have made my own tea in a home stay in Darjeeling when I was not happy with the tea that I was served in the morning. Even my hosts enjoyed the tea made by me!   

Yes, she's trained on how to make good tea.

I travel solo even when I am a bundle of nerves.

A solo female traveller is usually perceived as someone who is fearless and too brave. Well, I am brave and confident. But let me admit, I am not fearless. I do get scared and nervous at times. But I don’t let my fear come in the way of my love for travel. I still do what I need to do with wisdom and caution.


Do you think I am not jittery? Yes, I am!

What are your QUIRKS as a traveller?

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Sunday, 11 January 2015

‘Solo Travel’ vs. ‘Family Holiday’

On my recent trip to Goa, I realized that family travel is wonderful, but solo travel is better on any given day! For the past few years, I have travelled alone so much that travelling with people sounds like an uninviting idea to me. I mean I can travel with people, but with only those who are like me – who are as curious as me, who like adventure, who have tons of patience to get a photograph right, who can wander without an aim and who have a sense of wonder for ordinary things of the destination in question.

If you are laid-back, get tired too soon and don’t care to explore something different, I really don’t want to travel with you! But, don’t get me wrong! I am not judgemental about those who are unlike me – those who have different ways of travelling than mine. So, coming to my family, I’d say I have the most supportive people behind me. I can’t thank them enough for being there for me always.


Soaking in the 'beach' buzz at Sinquerim Beach, Goa

The ‘guilty’ conscience creeps in

But, I feel guilty when I travel with my family, because they care for my interests so much that they seem to just wait while I do my own thing. For instance, they didn’t quite enjoy lingering around in Fontainhas, an old Latin Quarter of Goa, but they still let me wander around and take photographs. Although they didn’t show even a hint of boredom, I felt guilty within me that they were not enjoying. My attitude and feelings reflected in my photographs, too. I could not take the kind of photos that I would have if I were alone and without a streak of worry at the back of my mind that someone was waiting for me.

Left - My family waits as I take photographs at Fontainhas. 

It’s hard to avoid the ‘blame’ game

No matter how cooperative you try to be, conflicts do arise at some point or the other. In my case, I like to be spontaneous with places that I visit. I don’t let disappointment weigh me down. If I don’t like a particular spot or place, I simply come back. But when you travel with your family, the ‘blame’ game does come into the picture once in a while. For instance, you suggest a place that you read or heard about somewhere, which turns out to be sordid, get ready to listen to a few grumbling remarks. I’m sure you are nodding in agreement.

A glimpse of South Goa countryside

You can never have enough time

Everything is time bound with family. I have to tell you this - On my insistence, we visited Loutolim Village in South Goa, which was nothing out of the ordinary. But I am sure there are lots of beautiful places in South Goa, which probably are farther than where we went. Had I been alone, I would have taken the trouble to travel as far as I could and discovered something worth writing home about.  

It was both ‘family’ and ‘solo’ travel for me

It was a dual trip for me, where I savoured the family togetherness and also did a few things alone. But I am not complaining about that! I absolutely LOVED both the experiences!  

Things I enjoyed with my family –
- Relaxing on the beaches
- Dining out
- Barbecue in our apartment balcony

Having breakfast at Verendah Restaurant, Panjim City
Happy times! :-)
Dinner at Living Room, North Goa
Barbecue - The most fun part of our stay in Goa

Things I enjoyed solo –
- Evening and morning strolls along the Goan homes in Saligao
- Chatting with locals
- Visiting the local bakery of Saligao
- Visiting the art gallery in Panjim City

My morning walk in Saligao
Chasing the sunset alone...

Family travel is refreshing, but solo travel is enriching

I wouldn’t be wrong if I said that I was split between my family and myself. I’d say that family travel is necessary. It’s a great way of refreshing your relationships. There are a lot of moments of laughter, warmth, silliness and fun. On the other hand, solo travel is introspective and a genuine rendezvous with a place.

I think I’d like to conclude by saying that you can take a ‘holiday’ with your family and ‘travel’ on your own.

What do you think? Do you also think that SOLO TRAVEL is better any day?

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