Sunday, 14 September 2014

What Should You Count --- Countries or Experiences?

If you ask me, I am yet to be in that league where people have ticked off a whopping number of countries. That is still a dream for me. The only country that I have travelled to other than my own country is Australia. Does that make me a mediocre traveller?

I know so many travellers who have travelled to around 50-95 countries, and that too while they are still quite young. That’s an amazing achievement without an iota of doubt. But, should that daunt me as a traveller?

To be honest, I do feel a little let down by the fact that I haven’t been able to travel as much as I should have been. Of course, there are several factors responsible for it – money, resources, and circumstances. But, should I really feel bad about not have travelled to at least a dozen of countries? Is travel a race?

I am sure that if I were of some other nationality, I would have travelled to a handful of countries by now, but that’s not the case in India. International travel is a big deal here. Indians are slowly adapting to the lifestyle of travel. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is whether travel is about counting countries or is it about counting experiences.

Someone has rightly said that ‘comparison is the thief of happiness’. If you compare your achievements or even abilities with someone else, you are bound to feel daunted or boastful. And, both the emotions are wrong. The good thing would be to run your own race and be your own competitor.

I do aim to travel as much as I can, and as far as I can, but I am not very aggressive about it. I believe in chewing on each travel experience. I’d rather choose quality over quantity. It’s more important to learn and grow with each new place that I travel to. I think I would like to be proud of my experiences on the road – the challenges, the joys, the fears, and the thrills.

It’s the courage to step out of my comfort zone, the openness to mingle into something unfamiliar, and the curiosity for new places that make me a traveller. I don’t care how many years it takes me to travel to my dream countries. I don’t care for any number. Of course, I do have a travel bucket-list. But I don’t believe in talking about it. I want each of my travel experience to be a surprise. I like to be a spontaneous traveller.

I think if you keep your focus on ‘how many cities or countries’, you will lose your focus. As a real traveller, I’d like to aim at making the most of my destinations. Since I am a travel blogger, I do feel the pressure of adding more and more places to my travel portfolio. But I guess, as long as I gather ‘experiences’ to inspire people, there is no need to fret.

By writing this post, I don’t intend to express that counting countries or continents is a wrong practice. I can understand the emotion behind it. But, everybody has different opportunities and resources. Travel is not a competition. A true traveller is defined by his or her level of inquisitiveness for places, landscapes, cultures, traditions, beliefs and people.

So, it’s not ‘how much you travel’ but ‘how well you travel’ that counts.

What do you say? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

7 Quintessential Experiences Of Jodhpur

There is a certain essence of Jodhpur that’s hard to describe, but it’s still vivid in my mind. To be honest, there is nothing in particular that makes me want to revisit Jodhpur. Interestingly, the arid air of Jodhpur invokes curiosity in a traveller. I believe there are places that you love or hate in a moment, and then there are places that you have to drown yourself into to be able to discover their true character. Jodhpur is one of them.

At first glance, it’s a regal taste of Rajasthan. There are forts, palaces, traditionally dressed men and women, and cultural experiences to savour. But, there is something more intangible that you divulge with spontaneity.

So, here are a few things to do in Jodhpur - 
1.Take a tour of Mehrangarh Fort

When I visited Mehrangarh Fort, I didn’t know it was one of the iconic forts in India. But I found it impressive beyond my expectations. You get to experience and see so much more than you first anticipate – the fort itself is massive, and then there are so many palaces inside it, which are now museums for us. You can also take a look at the temples adjoining the fort. Besides, you get a chance to enjoy a spectacular bird’s eye view of the city from the top of the fort.

2.Take a glimpse of high life at Ajit Bhawan Palace

Ajit Bhawan Palace is said to be the first heritage hotel of India. It’s a place where you can have lunch, sip coffee, or soak sun in the lawn. The royalty is embedded everywhere. Although the palace has been given a modern face-lift, the old elements are kept preserved.

3.Enjoy a meal at On The Rocks

As the name suggests, On The Rocks is full of rocks in different forms that give a fascinating look to the restaurant. However, the canopy of trees balances out the rocky look and adds lushness to the ambiance. Evenings are gorgeous with candle-lit dinners and traditional folk dance performances.

4.Visit the museum at Umaid Bhawan Palace

Umaid Bhawan Palace has three portions – the palace, the hotel and the museum. The museum is open for public. There is a separate section where the classic vintage cars are on display. Besides the museum, you can take a stroll around, observe the royal surroundings and allow the royalty to intimidate you a bit!   

5.Explore the local bazaars

The two popular markets – Mochi Bazaar and the Clock Tower market exude the charming ordinariness of Jodhpur. The bustle, the chaos and the colours are just like any other bazaar in India, but the polite vendors and the shy local women radiate subtle nuances of the regal city.  

6.Absorb the city vibe on a Tuk-Tuk

Perhaps the best way to extract the local flavour of Jodhpur is to travel by a Tuk-Tuk. It’s the most commonly used transport option, which is cheaper and more fun. You get a chance to know the locals closely, learn their lingo a bit and immerse in the raw Jodhpuri vibe. 

7.Watch the last gleam of sunlight fall over the Blue City

Jodhpur is known to be the Blue City of India for its uniformly painted houses in blue. It is absolutely enchanting to watch the sun set over the blue houses.  

Practical Information: Jodhpur is well connected by trains and flights. There are a variety of accommodation options available including the heritage hotels & resorts.

Is Jodhpur your kind of a destination?    

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Friday, 5 September 2014

12 Reasons To Escape To Villages

I’m absolutely fascinated by a countryside. For a townie like me, it’s like slipping into a different world. The quiet of nature, the lushness of flora, and the rusticity of living – all of it mingled together exudes something very potent for a traveller. To my fortune, I had a plum share of village sojourns recently, which made me discover and experience a great deal of rural way of life. In fact, I found my rural expeditions more enriching than my city breaks. I believe there is a deeper connection with everything when you walk on the rural paths.

Darap village near Pelling, Sikkim

In fact, villages are the roots of Indian tradition and culture. I think it’s time to go back to roots and give travel a new meaning. We should look beyond the big cities and the over-hogged hill stations, and get curious about the hidden villages in India.

1.You get fresh air to breathe in. The ‘freshness’ in the air is worth a million dollars. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. There is a sense of freedom when you have such a clean environment to breathe in. You can go for long walks, loiter around, or simply sit for hours in the midst of nature and immerse yourself into its purity.

2.You get to eat organically grown food. We don’t eat as healthy as we should in our cities. But, village folks eat fresh produce. Everything they serve on your plate – milk, butter, fruits or vegetables are organically produced, which is good for health.

Assam Linzey village near Gangtok, Sikkim

3.There is less traffic. You won’t find many vehicles on the roads, which reduces both air and noise pollution. You don’t get tired very soon, which motivates you to walk more and explore places on impulse.
4.People are warmer. Yes, country folks are friendlier and more respectful. They always have a smile on their faces. They have more time to talk to you.

Dilaram village near Kurseong, Darjeeling

5.You can expect good old hospitality. People who have lived all their lives in the countryside don’t mix hospitality with business. They don’t count every penny. They extend genuine warmth, courtesy and respect to their guests.

6.You get to witness more natural beauty. There are unhindered landscape views to enjoy. Also, there are virgin forests and verdant farmlands to explore. It’s like wherever you lay your eyes, nature beckons you for a rendezvous.

Farmlands in Assam Linzey
7.You spend less, experience more. It’s comparatively cheaper to travel in a village than in a city. Be it food, accommodation or transport, everything is within a modest budget. Therefore, you can stay longer and absorb more.

8.Villages are less crowded. It’s easier to enjoy a place if it’s peaceful and devoid of the tourist bustle. You can go anywhere with ease, because you know you won’t be pushed or elbowed. You don’t have to hog a picturesque view with a bunch of other photo enthusiasts.

Huts in Darap village

9.You don’t need to buy tickets to be amused. The most underrated benefit of travelling in a village is that you get to see so many interesting things without spending a penny. You can simply take a walk, stop by anywhere at your own leisure and enjoy the unusual stuff that you don’t get to see in your city life.

10.You get to be more spontaneous with your interests. You can follow your heart. You don’t have to follow any specific itinerary. You get the freedom to explore random things at your own pace. You can choose to hike through the forests, swim in the lake or simply gaze the mountains.

Cattle in Darap village

11.You get a chance to interact with the village folk. Travel is also about exchanging views, and conversing with people who are living different lives than yours is more enriching. Extending a smile to a random stranger, talking to the village folks, and listening to their short and sweet anecdotes take your travel experience to a greater level.

12.It’s a way to learn about their culture and living. We read about various villages and tribal communities in books and journals, but breathing amongst them, eating their food, smelling their stoves, and maybe milking their cows help us have first-hand experiences of their lives.

What do you say? Do you think village tourism should be promoted?

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Monday, 1 September 2014

How Did I Spend This Summer?

September promises a lot of good times. In India, autumn is not just the time of beautiful weather, but it’s a crazy time of festivals, weddings and lots of shopping. The streets and shops are more vibrant, people are happier and children are perkier. Everything seems to be mellow, nice and beautiful. Well, before we slip into the gentle autumn, we have to go through the torrid summer. And, most Indians don’t enjoy summers. In my case, I find them better than winters.

The last three months have been quite substantial in terms of new travel experiences and learning. After I came back from Sikkim in June, I have been recreating my journeys on this blog.

Experiential Stays

On my last trip, I managed to stay at a couple of excellent places that had scope for me to experience culture, heritage and hospitality -

New Discoveries

The best part of my indefinite travel was that I got to discover a few interesting places by chance -

Blogs I enjoyed reading in the last quarter

Besides my own voyages and blogs, I kept myself pepped up by some other inspiring travel blogs -

It’s an interesting take on travel blogs – how they help travellers and travel bloggers.
Here a woman talks about the joy of travelling solo while she’s in a relationship.
It’s a post for die-hard foodies. The Rogan Josh served on our plates today is a beautiful blend of two distinctive versions of it.
It’s a beautiful post about a few important things that don’t just inspire a traveller, but any individual who desires to live a good life.
Women’s travel safety is a hot topic. I was surprised to know certain uncanny aspects to it.

So, how did you spend your summer? Where did you travel?

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Other Side Of Travel

Travel is beautiful. It teaches you a lot, refines you as a human being, and declutters your life to a great extent. And, if you look at it on the surface, it’s refreshing, fun and thrilling. But, there is another side to it --- the challenges of travel. Nothing in the world is devoid of pain and so is travel. A traveller has to undergo a lot of hurdles, sweat, dust and disappointments to be able to quench his or her wanderlust.

You have read about my 9 Travel Mistakes and my Worst Travel Experiences. Today, I’m going to brood over some experiences of my Sikkim-Darjeeling trip that taught me a few ‘new’ lessons on travel.

You don’t achieve all that you aim for

Perhaps the biggest lesson that I have learnt lately is that you may set out to achieve a lot, but you don’t hit all your goals. But, the good part is that you achieve a lot of things that you didn’t aim for. So, travel is never a bad deal.

I aimed to spend at least a month in Sikkim --- I had plans to volunteer for an NGO and explore the entire state alongside. But, my plans didn’t work out. I could not visit North Sikkim due to the hassles involved. I had to be satisfied with just East and West Sikkim – Gangtok, Darap Village and Yuksom.

A deep geographical research is worth more than money

Travelling spontaneously is absolutely wonderful, but a weak research pulls out some extra cash out of your pocket. So, you should never be satisfied with your research. Being extra researched is always better. Pelling was supposed to be my next stop after Gangtok. I had booked a stay for me and had inquired about the shared taxis as well. I was contented to know that shared taxis didn’t charge much and I would reach Pelling smoothly. But, when I reached the taxi stand, I discovered that I was supposed to have made the booking in advance. Anyway, I still got a little lucky and joined a couple who was also going to Pelling.

Well, there was a dash of adventure in store for me as I reached Pelling – I wasn’t aware that the home stay that I had booked was not in Pelling. It was in Darap Village, which was a little away from the city. The driver blatantly refused to drop me there. He dropped me in the middle of the road and went away. I had to hire another taxi to reach Darap Village Retreat – the home stay where I had to sojourn.

Anything can happen on the road

I didn’t have any idea about the difficulties of commuting from one region to another in Sikkim. Reserved taxis are almost out of reach, while the shared ones give you a poor travel experience. I travelled from Darap Village to Yuksom and later Yuksom to Gangtok by shared taxis, which were horrible experiences. I call them horrible for the way you have to travel --- you have to be crammed like luggage with other passengers, keep the windowpanes open as the cabs have no air-conditioning, and then absorb the thick layers of dust all over yourself and not to mention, lots of bumps and jerks on the way.

The roads in Sikkim are bad --- some of them are under construction, due to which, there are traffic jams too. Therefore, you should either travel in a group, book reserved taxis and share costs, or should you choose to travel alone in a shared taxi, book two seats in order to get comfier space to sit.

Travel is not just about sunsets and hammocks. It is also about failed plans, bad roads, sickness, and pains. Nevertheless, I had an immensely rewarding travel experience. Despite all the hitches, I DON’T regret anything!

Travel never stops teaching. So, a traveller should never stop learning.

Do you have anything to add? What’s the biggest lesson travel has taught you?

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