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Why I Quit My Job To Travel

Smiling faces

Last week, I took a wee trip to Rishikesh – the land of sadhus and of many people’s spiritual rebirth. I have a personal affection, some attachment to this place. This is where I once spent two months, practicing meditation and taking spiritual lessons.

But this time, my arrival was accompanied by a sense of unexpected realization. I wondered, as I grabbed myself walking along its frenzied, confused walkways, that how lucky I am to experience places like Rishikesh again and again. And yet, it is never the climax of my trip. It is always the beginning.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls” Anais Nin

It has been more than two years now, since I quit my job and started travelling, yet I never shared here why and how it all happened. It would be nice to say that I wanted to understand myself, and find my inner consciousness, but frankly speaking, it’s not true. The only part which is true is that I’ve had enough living the same boring 9 to 5 corporate life every day. I wanted to do more than that. I wanted to see the world. Meet new people. Learn better ideas. Find out what’s wrong with this system of corporate culture, that it never made anyone happy – no matter what they achieved in their life. Simply put, I wanted to educate myself in a way that no school, no job ever did before.

traveller

But one thing is saying that I want to do this and the other thing is realizing I am actually doing it.

Traveling is no less than a pursuit of happiness for me. Yet, throughout this time, I’ve often stumbled upon questions like “Why I quit my job to travel” or “How did I manage to make such a decision” or “What’s next” – with all this, what others actually wanted to ask me was why did I not go for a two-week calculated holiday (or a couple of month’s sabbatical, if I am being pretentiously brazen about it) to quench my thirst of travel, as an averagely sane person would otherwise do.

The truth is, there is no fun in that. I have taken enough of these recreational holidays – as people often term them – in my life. When I was working I found myself claiming the boundaries of my city almost every weekend, with a couple of friends, drinking a bunch of beers and coming back, but that was no solution. The minute you enter the premises of your office, the next day, it feels as if that sweet, sally trip, that in fact, went past in the blink of an eye, actually never happened. I wanted something more than that. Something bigger. Something permanent.

Discontentment Is Good

Discontentment is the very first step to a new beginning. My discontentment towards my job brought me into this. I’d always loved India, but I never loved my life in India. I loved my profession (of writing), but I never loved my job. It seemed I was just accepting things as they came, and as everyone says “this is life and you got to learn to deal with it.”

But I think I never managed to master that art. Though I tried to suppress my unsatisfied soul the traditional way, by changing jobs and running after money. But it was just not enough. My audacious, fertile mind – discontented and grumbling – kept pushing me until I shifted focus.

writing

The Journey That Changed It All

I took my first solo trip back in 2014 (you can read about it all here), while I was still working, to trek for a few days under the colossal Himalayas. It was a life changing experience. Though there was nothing extraordinarily great about the journey, the freedom in travelling solo was, in fact, quite addictive. And that was it. I spent the next few months, saving as much money possible from the job I was doing, having a very clear focus in my mind – to leave this lifestyle behind and travel the world.

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” Mary Anne Radmacher

As they say that life experiences aren’t something to be denied, but to be celebrated. I think I just happened to celebrate my first solo trip so strenuously that it eventually became a way of life. I know it sounds pretty cool and easy how I managed to quit my job and get ahead with my operation Mission-See-The-World. But trust me, it wasn’t.

streets

Further Reading: How To Deal With The Dilemma Of Leaving Everything Behind & Travel

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Mercedez Benz Museum In Stuttgart

Stuttgart, as a town, has been around since the early 10th century, and its numerous cultural and historic buildings are definitely a sight to behold. But out of all architectural marvels, and museums that this tiny little town had to offer, my favorite turned out to be the popular Mercedes-Benz Museum.

It showcases the company’s (and moreover the man’s) very first models of automobile… while finding a perfect harmony with the cars of past and of future.

So yea, when you think of Germany, and Stuttgart in particular, it’s cars and cars only that should first come to your mind, after all it was the region of Stuttgart that gave the man its first vehicle designed to be propelled by an internal combustion engine – the technology we are still using more than 100 years later.

Suttgart is the only place in the world with two car museums, and that too belonging to brands like Porche and Mercedes. On my #VisitStuttgart blog trip, I happened to visit the home of Mercedes Benz, the only exhibition of its kind in the world to document a 130 year old automobile legacy without a break.

For this is where the legend began, with its pioneering invention of Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz – the automobile! And speaking of the three-pointed star… well there’s just so much history behind it.

Covering a floor space of 16,500 square metres, the museum, on its 9 different levels, presents 160 vehicles and over 1,500 exhibits. As I entered the museum, the impressive display of cars, as if a beautiful 3d-painting hanging out on a wall, came out as a bit of surprise. I am not usually a ‘museum person’, but I instantly knew that this tour is perhaps going to be a memorable exception.

With my audio guide, telling beautiful stories in English, the elevator took me to the top floor, to a height of 34 metres, taking me through the history of the automobile industry to its point of inception.

As you get to the top floor and begin your journey, the first thing on display is not a car, but a horse, making it obvious that even the most complex technologies and designs come with the simplest of all ideas. and that’s exactly when a legacy begins.

As I wandered a bit I found myself trying to wonder which car I would buy if I suddenly became a billionaire. I’ve decided this was my favourite as I love the colour green:

Or maybe this model, that every boy fancied while he was in high-school.

From dozens of impressive car models to buses and coaches and trucks – everything seemed to have its gracious presence and looked just equally beautiful.

I wrote this post as part of the #VisitStuttgart campaign with Stuttgart Tourism. Though my tour in the city was hosted, all the recommendations and ideas are solely mine.

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24 Hours In Zurich

If I am going to fly cross continent from India to Europe, I am always going to want to make the most of it and choose the best of all destinations. So as I decided to backpack across Europe for almost two months, exploring eight countries in total, I used it to my advantage by starting the journey from one of the most beautiful countries in entire Europe. Yes, I am talking about Switzerland! And in Switzerland, the hub of all activities and cultural treats: the town of Zurich!

As I stepped out into the Zurich airport, and headed to have my first couch-surfing experience ever, I was more skeptical than ever. I had the impression that it would feel sterile and bounded with punctuality and rules, but it wasn’t anything like that. My 48 hours in Zurich went just as smooth and happening as I wanted it to be. My couchsurfing host turned out to be one of the amazing people I’ve met in my life and so were the other locals I interacted with, during my stay in the country.

So before I go overwhelmed and write a 2000 word essay on my First Couchsurfing Experience and about the friendly Swiss locals, I’ll return to the topic at hand and share some of my favorite spots from around Zurich.

As time permitted, I’d only one dedicated day to explore and experience Zurich as best I could, as I thoughtfully spared the other day (I stayed in Zurich for two days) to explore the beautiful Swiss Alps by doing a day trip to Mount Titlis.

So if you too are a little bound with time and are struggling with the idea of what to do to complete your visit to Zurich, then read ahead. Here are my favorite moments, and some suggestions, from 24 hours in Zurich…

Start With The Landesmuseum

Because it’s very likely that you will start from the main station, located in the middle of the town, make Landesmuseum (or Swiss National Museum) your first stop, as it’s located only a few steps away, and it’s always a good idea to start your tour in a new country/city by getting to know a bit about its cultural and modern history.

With its over over 820,000 exhibits, presented in a really interesting way, the museum gives your a fresh perspective and a clear idea about the country’s origin and achievements, as we know them today. Once done, head straight to explore the colors of Zurich.

The Colorful Old Town Of Altstadt

 

Unlike the boring monotonous buildings that I ended up watching for two long years in United Kingdom (I’m not talking about countryside but the big southern English towns), the architecture in Zurich turned out to be much more vibrant than I’d expected.

Like all great cities, Zurich was colorful. And amongst its dreary skies, and well driven roads, the town surprised me with different color, everywhere. I just had to look. Though the best among all was the streets in the old town of Altstadt, and in Altstadt, Augustinergasse street.

Walking through this historic old town and exploring the narrow cobbled streets, as I ogled centuries old buildings was definitely a highlight in Zurich.

Walk uphill to Lindenholf park – the most ancient part of the city, where Zurich’s first few buildings (as we know them today) were constructed, back in 19th century. Just stroll through its streets in a romantically beguiling fashion, or take the Zurich City Walk Tour (for CHF 25), for an in-depth experience.

See the Chagall Windows

Fraumnster Church in Old Town Zurich, is home to five world famous Chagall windows. Created by a Russian-French artist, these magnificent stained glass windows bath the chapel in a rainbow of light and a moment of interrupted awe.

Each window located in the choir depicts a different Christian Story.

Grab A Drink At One Of The City’s Panoramic Bars

If you think Zurich has enough beauty to offer, while walking on the street, brace yourself, because it has plenty more if you go a little high and probe it from a bird’s perspective. High above the rooftops, where the noise of the city is far away and sometimes a slight breeze blows, you get to marvel at the Zurich’s beautiful architecture and a conduit of ever impressive tram-lines.

 

Though there are dozens of places to explore Zurich from high above the ground, as you slowly sip on your favorite beer, their prices, however, can come as a bit of a shock (drinks in Switzerland can be expensive! And to have one on a rooftop bar, simply uneconomical!).

However the place where I ended up having my beer (it’s called Jules Verne Panorama Bar) wasn’t too hard on my budget. It only costed 8 CHF to get a pint of beer, and its location, which was almost in the middle of Zurich mainstation and the town of Altstadt made it even better and convenient.

Claim The City Boundaries In A Tram

One of the best and quickest way to explore a city (any city, in any continent), when you have little time and no agenda, is by making yourself comfortable in your favorite mode of public transport and go to the end of the line. And when it comes to Zurich, trams are the best way to do so.

As people hop-in and hop-off, you slowly explore the town and its surrounding suburbs – getting a closer look to the city’s everyday life, and culture. Start your journey into any direction from the main station, and get to the other side of the town, take the same tram back or the train, to make it quicker.

Drink from a Water Fountain, And Capture It

One of the most cultural thing about Zurich is its unique drinking water fountains that are spread all over the city of Zurich. An estimated figure says that there are over 1200 such fountains, all of different design, can be found across the city, mos of which spew drinkable water 24 hours a day.

So when in Zurich, there is no need to purchase bottled water, just stick your water bottle under one of the flowing spouts and drink from an iconic Swiss fountain.

And Most Importantly, Save Your Time Using Zurich City Card

If you’re in Zurich for a limited short time, and are going to be travelling in public transport one of the simplest and easiest way to save time (and moreover money) is by investing in a 24 or 72 hour city card, that offer you a free travel in all public transport and a free or a discounted access to most of the tourist attractions, including many museums.

Though the city lets you hire free bikes pretty much on all major stations, it’s just too much of a hassle to locate (and moreover drop) the bike at their desired station (or lose your 20 CHF security deposit!). So invest in a Zurich card, skip the lines and all confusion, and get go!

Have you been to Zurich or Switzerland? What’s your favorite place there? Spill!

Mount Titlis: A Day Trip From Zurich You’d Not Want To Miss

Switzerland, for Indians, has always remained a county with beautiful countryside and well distinguished farmlands. It’s a country to skip the big towns, wander off the highway onto the back roads, and experience those unforgettable bollywood movie sequences we’ve gown up watching. From Sangam (released in 1960s) to Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaege, Indian cinema’s fascination for romantic songs and dreamy sequences, to be shot in Switzerland, never took a step back.

And to personally experience the never-ending fascination Swiss countryside and its Alps, I decided to leave Zurich behind, and do a day trip to the mount of Titlis.

For those who don’t know, Mount Titlis is a mountain located at 10,000 feet above sea level, in the Urner Alps of Switzerland. It can be easily accessible from Zurich, via train, but the best way to explore it is by booking a day trip from a tour company. This is for two reasons, one: because it’s convenient and saves you time, and two: because by doing so you get to explore another highlight in Switzerland, and that is the beautiful town of Luzern.

First Stop: The Town Of Luzern

I booked my trip with a tour company called The Best Of Switzerland, and it couldn’t be any better – thanks to a lovely company of fellow tourists, a super-affable tour guide Marseille and his quirky sense of humor.

We started from Zurich at 9:30 in the morning, bypassing through a few smaller towns and a conduit of ever impressive highways, before reaching our first stop at the town of Luzern. And it turned out to be one of those picturesque ancient towns, I definitely did not want to miss on during my visit to Switzerland.

Located, almost blissfully, in the central part of Switzerland, Luzern can only be best enjoyed on foot, and by strolling along prettily painted historic houses. We had more than an hour to explore the town and its number of notable medieval landmarks including the Chapel Bridge, one of Europe’s oldest covered bridges.

Though Luzern is rich in history, you should not expect it to be any seemingly medieval looking, or rustic. Exemplified by the architecturally impressive Culture and Convention Center designed by a French architect, and the many breathtaking new-age buildings let you find a perfect balance between the time of past of tomorrow.

Next Stop: The Town of Engelberg And Further Towards Mount Of Titlis

After a wee ride from Luzern, and more breathtaking views of what seemed to be a perpetual picture perfect world, we finally reached Engelberg, just below Mt. Titlis, from where our journey of two different cable cars – a standard cable car, and a revolving one (called the Rotair) started.

As I got into the first one and journeyed towards a whooping 10,000 feet above sea level, I wondered how they managed to the setup and an observatory at such challenging geographic conditions. But you do not need to worry as the entire seemingly breathtaking facilities are more than safe.

The revolving Rotair wounded its way up towards the snow-covered summit as I was reminded by someone that it was perhaps the world’s first revolving gondola that can accommodate up to 50 people and can reach to an altitude of 10,000 feet above the sea level.

The gondola revolved 360 degrees during its five-minute trip, treating its passengers to idyllic panoramic views of steep rock faces, deep crevasses and the prominent snow-covered mountain peaks.

It took just a little less than a half hour, before I was on the top of Mount Titlis – with a few dozen other happy tourists, half of whom appeared to be Asian.

There were a few activities on Mount Titlis besides feeling awed sitting inside the cable cars. This included the cliff walk, Europe’s highest suspension bridge, a glacier cave, and a ice flyer. Out of all of them, however, I particularly loved walking through the glacier cave, where the ice appeared to lit up in different colors, and the temperature felt at least a few degrees below zero.

A Few Tips To Plan Your Trip Better

Wear warm clothes, gloves and good shoes. It’s the snow and it’s below zero a lot of the time with blizzard conditions. You don’t need snow gear but if you have it all the better.

Inside the rotating gondola (the Rotair) get on the window, any window, because as the whole cabin rotates 360 degrees all you’d want is to gaze out of the window and treat your eyes with the ever impressive views.

If time allows, explore the the town of Engleberg. Every look of it will make you believe that it’s what story books about Switzerland are made of. And paintings. And postcards. Here the hills appear soft, rolling and bright green. It is a quintessential Switzerland.

Also Read: My 24 Hours In Zurich

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It’s Never A Perfect Time To Travel

Last week I was watching the movie “Into the Wild” for the seventh time, and it struck me what a frugal thing happiness can be. It has been more than two years now, since I’m living out of my backpack, without a permanent source of income, owning no more than a handful of belongings, yet I am happier more than ever.

We’re caught up in the clutter of day-to-day existence, of paying bills, of buying this and selling that, that taking some time out, only to realise that there is a wide world outside has become so difficult. And not only are we ignoring the free world out there, we are moving farther away from it, everyday, suffocating our previous lives around the tiny corners of our home, and our workplace.

 

We’ve all read plenty of books, heard dozens of real life accounts, about happy travellers and blissful nomads, and they always leave us in a complete awe. And within us all, there is always a part that wants us to break free and become that rolling stone again that we once were, when we were kids.

The good thing is, it really isn’t a fantasy anymore. People are living that life today more than ever, and if you’re just as eager to experience it, as them, be rest assured that it’s actually not that difficult. To get a taste of the road is easier today. The concept of backpacking developed with the hippie trail in the 60’s and 70’s and today it’s an established form of low – cost independent travel with plenty of travellers all around the globe living out of a backpack.

And you can consider me just one among them!

When I quit my job two years ago, to hit the road, I had no idea what to expect. I was half confused and half scared. But as time went past, and I gained more experience, I realised that it wasn’t so tough to survive this lifestyle after all. And after two years, if I tomorrow had to go back & resume my old 9-5 corporate life in a city – I’d be happy, for I’ve learned to appreciate life and experiences, more than ever. And it was never a deal to become a lifelong nomad anyway!

So yea, travelling never goes in vein. As it always leave behind a better version of you. The many kind experiences of local people and cultures, prepares yourself for a better you. But if you’re looking for a perfect time to travel, you will never be able to travel. Because you will never have enough money. Because your family will always freak out. Because you will wait forever for someone to join you. And because you will always be asked to settle down!

Because You Will Never Have Enough Money

I used to think that I needed to retire before I could travel full-time, and even then I’d need to be pretty rich. But as I explored India, a few other countries around the world and learned to travel smart no matter where I go, I realised that you do not need to be rich to travel.

Even if you’re struggling to save money before you travel, having trouble figuring out how to travel cheaply or just think you’re too poor to travel, if you’re sitting at a computer reading this right now with a passport with no stamps, you have the ability to make it happen financially. Just change your mindset, and the rest will follow.

Just be prepared to stay in hostels and campsites, eat and travel like locals, hitchhike and bargain as you can. And remember, you’re just as capable.

Because Your Family Will Always Freak Out

For younger people, toughest part of traveling solo would be the pushback from their parents. They wonder how they can get them see it from their point of view and support them. But face it, whether you’re a kid to someone or a father, your family is going to freak out in any case.

The more important issue is what you’ll regret later. Will you wish that you’d stayed at home to please your parents, who — since they undoubtedly love you — do want you to live a happy and fulfilled life? I think you don’t!

It’s your life, not theirs. Letting other people make monumental decisions for you is a great way to go down the path of regrets.

Because You Will Wait Forever For Someone To Join You

I know solo travelling isn’t people’s first choice. I remember the first time I decided to travel on my own, I had no intention of doing it. I was desperately looking for a partner – calling, texting everyone I knew – hoping someone would tag along. But I had no luck.

My first solo trip was not out of choice, and neither were many other following that. But I was firm about the idea of travelling, and I didn’t want others to hold my back.

But now when people ask me about my travel life, and all those solo journeys, I laugh that I had ever had that fear. It doesn’t matter if you’re shy; someone will probably start a conversation with you, especially if you stay in a social hostel. Once you get out there, you’ll see what I mean. It’s all about just taking that first step.

And Because You Will Always Be Asked To Settle Down

A common question I get from people back home is “what plans do I’ve for life” or  “how about settling down.” Don’t I want a relationship and a family of my own? My question back to them is: Why is traveling and having a family mutually exclusive in this day and age?

Of course, I’ve to make choices, find a sustainable lifestyle, look for permanent revenue sources – but that can be done while travelling, given I know how online industry works, and how one can one make money out of it.


Every problem seems insurmountable at the time, but there are ways to get around those obstacles that keep you from traveling, no matter what!

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Before 58 Days In Europe : The Planning Phase

Yesterday, on my Facebook page, I posted the route-map that I’ll be following during my upcoming 58 day backpacking trip in Europe. And one of the comments on the post, written by Mohit Agarwal, gave me a bright idea. The comment read “Have a great journey…. waiting to hear about your planning phase and the trip”.

I realised that I seldom talk about the planning phase of my journeys. And if I don’t talk about that, how can I consider them as journeys. Planning is, after all, just as important to a journey, as the journey itself — you plan better and you will thank yourself throughout the trip! Planning becomes even more important when you want to travel under a budget, and/or you are travelling outside of your country.

And on my upcoming 58 days backpacking trip, I was doing both! Hence, I planned enough!

However it’s a different thing that I still do not know if I am going to follow the exact route-map I’ve created at the moment, or I’ll still alter it and give it a new form! (PS: I am 90% sure I will fit in Paris somewhere, either in the beginning of the trip, or before its end). But as I said, it’s a different thing! My planning was more focused on the ease of travel, better experiences, and making it as cheaper as possible.

Since The Beginning

You know I’m one hell of a budget backpacker. So how did I end up getting infested with the idea of travellling to western Europe and countries like Switzerland, that are considered as one of the expensive places in the world. Well, the seed of Europe travel germinated in my head, last year, when I was contacted by a hotel in France, via Twitter, asking if I plan on visiting France in future. They wanted me to review their hotel, in return of a few days of complimentary stay and a city tour. It was in November 2016.

And I thought why not!

I created a routemap, starting from Paris, and roughly calculated about 7 or 8 countries I’d like to cover. I contacted their Tourism Boards to see if I can get more sponsorships as a blogger, and I ended up lucky getting help from 7 tourism boards, including two in France (Marseille Tourism Board and Bordeaux Tourism Boar). However, I later cut France off my list (reconsidering again!) and I am now left with 8 other countries, minus France.

As of now I will be working with the tourism boards of Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Ljubljana, Vienna, Bratislava, Hungary and Basel. Some offered city passes, some accommodation, and some – both! Where nothing worked, I decided to couchsurf and even volunteer.

PS: It’s by volunteering that I’d be learning horse riding in Germany and exploring the romantics of Rome. And yet, I am spending only a fraction of what the original costs could be.

So How Cheaper Am I Travelling 58 Days For?

After humble sponsorships, a bit of volunteering and the use of hospitality networks, I managed to bring the cost of my trip to a significantly low number. I will finish my 58 months in Europe in under 100,000 Rupees, out of which 30k was sent in flights, and another 10k for Visas and other fee — after all, it was an all expenses-included trip.

This leaves me with INR 60k, including food, drinks and transportation for 58 days. Pretty frugal, right?

But that doesn’t mean the journey will lack any action. I will be exploring Rome on horseback, Budapest in a tuktuk, Vienna on a Segway. I will moreover be  taking many day tours exploring national parks and caves. 🙂

The Routemap I’ll Be Following

though consider a few good changes in it as I initiate the journey

Few Tips For Smart Travellers And Bloggers

Carry a travel card, issued by your personal bank to make you travel easier. I’m carrying ICICI Travel Card, which gives me Euros and Swiss Francs, at no extra cost, except for what I lose in currency conversions. And it works pretty much as you savings account does, with the facility of internet banking and mobile updates!

Don’t bleed unnecessary money for the craze of Eurorail, because Eurorail is expensive, and will make you wince twice, if you’re older than 29 years of age and want to buy their railcard! Trains in Europe are expensive. If you want to make your travel cheaper, use buses (or hitchhike | I might possible try it once or twice to share my experiences). Though don’t forget to get the experience of travelling in a train for once.

If you’re staying in a city for only a couple of days or 3 days at maximum, and will be using public transport and doing city tours, invest in a City Card, that most of the popular cities in Europe offer (can be found on their tourism website). They can save you a fortune, and make your travel a hassle free experience.

If you travel as a travel blogger, make sure you write to the national and local tourism boards of the places you’re travelling. They are pretty much always ready to work with bloggers, in exchange of some extra online exposure.

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How To See Delhi In 2 Days

Despite Delhi being one of the places I personally don’t endorse, there’s much to see and do here for a tourist here. Delhi is rich in culture and history. After all, there must be a reason why it was declared as Republic of India’s first capital city.

So visit to Delhi can’t be denied, and if you finally end up here, being a first timer, and aren’t sure from where to start and end your day, this two day travel itinerary will set you up for a real Delhi experience.

This is Delhi on a fast-track…

Day 1

Start from the hub of all activity in central Delhi, by taking a metro to Patel Chowk, and then a brief tuktuk ride to the iconic India Gate. This 42 meter structure is the nation’s pride with its two columns inscribed with martyred soldiers names. There is no visitor or photography fee in and around India Gate. Located on Rajpath and close the Parliament house, India Gate is the perfect destination to start with your Delhi tour, and we are doing just that!

Once done, take a tuktuk to Connaught Place, to squeeze in a quick late-morning stroll. Better known as CP, Connaught Place is Delhi’s shopping and entertainment heart. In case its circular Victorian style structure, divided into blocks look too confusing, take the help of Google maps. Also a hub for speciality and multi-cuisine restaurants and fast-food joints, here you will find ample good places to satisfy your stomach, for any budget and preference.

Next in the list would be the notorious local market of Palika Bazar, in CP itself, that I would recommend for your hot-afternoon. Palika Bazaar is the shopping haven, for bargain hunters, particularly young students, and backpackers. But if the market action at Palika seems too overwhelming to you, head to the nearby Janpath market, with shops selling from antique, to quirky stuff – all at reasonable rates, again. Even if you are in no mood to shop, it is a treat in itself to stroll by and have a peek.

Head to Saravana Bhavan at Janpath 46, to have some authentic south Indian delicacy. I’d recommend a South Indian thali though.

After a filling meal, and some rest, take a wee tuktuk ride and head to Lodhi Gardens in the evening. Spread around four monuments of the Lodhi dynasty – Mohammed Shah’s Tomb, Sikander Lodhi’s Tomb, Sheesh Gumbad and Bara Gumbad, Lodhi Gardens provides an escape of pure tranquillity from the mad hustle-bustle of the city. And if you’re into history, it’s even better.

Just 15 mins away on foot, or 5 mins by tuktuk, is the elite Khan Market, where you can find high-end food produce, homewares and accessories. Call it a day while enjoying the late night stroll at khan Market and chowing a grub at Khan Chacha’s food joint.

Day 2

Start early by exploring the walled community of Old Delhi. If you’ve been to Old Ahmedabad, you’d find some similarities in the two cities. To get to Old Delhi, take a metro to Chawri Bazaar. Once there, head to the historic Jama Masjid – India’s largest mosque and a national identity. Experience the sense of unnatural pleasure and peace inside Jama Masjid, or climb up the minaret for a bird’s eye view of the city.

The food culture in Old Delhi, with its Mughal influence, will prove to be extra spicy, sweet and tangy, and might even leave you with the infamous Delhi belly, but that doesn’t mean you should give it a miss. If you’re a devout meat eater, head straight to Karim’s opposite to Jama Masjid. Karim’s is probably one of the most highlighted food joints in India, and one can see its endorsements by brands like Nat GEO, Lonely Planet and BBC.

Enjoy a treat that best suits your buds in Karim’s, though if you’re a non-vegetarian, rather walk for 5 minutes (from Jama Masjid) to another well famous place called Chandni Chowk’s Paranthe Wali Gali for some mouth-watering paranthas and refreshing lassis!

Chandni Chowk is another highlight of markets in India. And a quick walk across the many confusing alleys in Chandni Chowk is will only complete your Delhi travels – so don’t give it a miss. From apparel to jewellery to hardcore medical books, you can find absolutely anything in here.

Next, take a quick riskhaw ride (or walk) to Khari Baoli – which is not only India’s but Asia’s largest spice market. You will find almost any kind of spices, herbs, tea, rice and even nuts and dry fruits here, and their quality will always be the best, than you can find in any other part of the city.

By the time you will be free, the sun will already be starting to call it the day. But before that happens, head to the Red Fort and see the sunset. The entry fee for Indian is in Red Fort is around Rs10 whereas for Foreign Nationals it’s Rs. 250, but the sun setting behind on of its pillars makes it priceless.

After dark, head straight to the night food market of Delhi street Food at Chandni Chowk again.

The streets lined with sweet sellers and other local Indian snacks will surely make your day better, if there was still something left in you craving. If not these, you can always go for a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

Where To Stay

Finding a hotel in Delhi can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve no idea where to stay. Though it offers wide range of accommodation, in terms of price and , I particularly endorse Treebo Hotels in Delhi – for their budget pricing, and great services. I tried them in Ahmedabad and in Mysuru, in South India, and I couldn’t be happier with my experience.

Few Tips

Avoid long distances: Long distances and city traffic, in Delhi, can eat up your day. So make sure you pick the perfect route and cover places nearby. Moreover use Metro train to save time and money.

Bargain: While experience is the best teacher in this regard, a beginner’s rule of thumb is to cut the starting price in half.

Take it easy: If you get caught up and stress about little things, you will miss out on the bigger picture. Delhi is a city of crazy, and you must be ready for it.

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Schengen Visa For Indians: How To Apply And Get It Yourself

I know that Indians are the vulnerable bunch, because of their weak Indian passport. They are required to submit hundreds of documents, prove their existence and go through a process so mentally tormenting, that getting a new birth certificate might apparently feel easier than applying a tourist visa. And when it comes to a Schengen visa, for Indians, things become even more complicated.

Perhaps that’s the reason why a majority of tourists contact a travel agency and pay more money. They do it out of helplessness. For a quick rescue.

They opt for travel packages and pre-paid itineraries – even if that meant bleeding unnecessary money, and exploring silly places abroad.

To tell you the truth, I also considered that option before going through the process myself. But as I pondered upon the idea and calculated the prospects, I realised that it will be a lost deal, especially because I was on a limited budget. I mean we anyway pay over 1500 Rupees to Vfs that is nothing more than a cheap middleman, so why pay more to another travel agency, right?

So if you’re planning to apply a Schengen visa by yourself, and are firm to save some money during the process, this guide will help you. Right from what documents you need for a Schengen visa to how good your chances are for a successful application, I will answer all your answers, right here.

Understand Your Position

Before I say anything, let me give you a picture of how grim my application looked, when I applied for my short term, single entry Schengen tourist visa (in March 2017).

I was self-employed for the past 2 years, with almost no regular source of income. Though I filed income tax, every year, my income was less than taxable. I had no employer recommendation letter to provide with my application either. And on top of that I chose a 2 month travel period – which, more or less, raised doubts about my original intention.

“How can a person with no financial support can travel countries in Europe for months,” I’m sure the Visa officer might have asked the question himself.

But as I submitted the application, there were no questions asked. I was never invited for an interview. And my visa was delivered on my doorsteps in under 8 days from the date of submission. A beautiful stamp on my passport now says ‘valid for SCHENGENER STAATEN’! I like how German sometimes sound!

Takeaway:

  • If you’re already working and have a decent regular income, there’s no need to be scared. Because if a person with no job since years can get it, why can’t you!

The First Step

My original plan was to backpack across 8 countries for a period of 58 days. Though I was starting from Switzerland, I was spending most of my time in Germany (over 15 days), and this made me eligible to apply my Schengen Visa at either at Switzerland’s or Germany’s embassy in India.

[I hope you know the rule, which says: you are eligible to apply the Schengen Visa at the respective country’s embassy where you will be 1) arriving first, or 2) spending most the days, during your travel in Europe]

Now, the reason I chose Germany and not Switzerland is because Swiss embassy has a bad reputation, as compared to that of Germany’s. Though German embassy is not so generous either, but definitely better than that of Switzerland’s. Click here to know which country is the safest to apply for a Schengen Visa.

Takeaway:

  • Apply your visa from a country with a better acceptance rate.
  • Apply from less popular counties like Hungary or Slovenia, than France, or Switzerland.

Start Your Application

Once you’ve made the decision about which embassy you’re going to approach, comes the most important stage – completing your application and submitting relevant the documents.

Though different countries might slightly vary in the rules, the supporting travel documents they require are more of less the same. And they are: your bank statements, a return flight ticket, confirmed hotel booking, all inside-Europe travel booking, and a travel insurance during your time of travel in Europe (with a minimum coverage of 300,00 euros).

Filling your visa application is simple, and takes no more than a couple of hours. If you’ve any doubts, you can also always contact the vfs office but as I said, they’re a cheap middleman and know nothing more than the guidelines already mentioned on a respective country’s website. And I’m saying that out of my personal experience.

So if you have a major doubt about your visa application, it’s advised to directly write to the country’s embassy in India than contacting vfs.

Takeaway:

  • Avoid contacting Vfs, they know nothing more than you do.

The Next Step: Convince The Visa Officer

Convincing the Visa officer that your sole intention is to travel, and travel only is crucial. And this is done by showing more than enough funds in your bank account (explained later in the article how!) and providing other travel documents, including: a return flight ticket, all confirmed hotel booking, all inside-Europe travel booking, and the travel insurance.

In my case, I provided proof of enough funds in my account; a 100 percent refundable, but confirmed flight ticket (so that I can later cancel it, if the need be, without losing any money); all pre-booked hotels (with no reservation charges and free cancellation, using booking.com); and the mandatory travel insurance (from Reliance General Insurance, which comes with free cancellation, if the visa is rejected)!

The only required document(s) I didn’t provide were my pre-booked transportation inside Europe – and for that I clearly mentioned in my STATEMENT OF PURPOSE AND TRAVEL ITINERARY that I didn’t do because I might be hitchhiking and booking last minute bus/flight tickets to save costs, and it worked just right!

Statement Of Purpose: Make It Convincing, And Clear

For those who don’t know, a Statement of Purpose (with your entire travel itinerary) is a personal covering letter, addressed to the visa officer, which talks about your original intention to travel, places you are going to travel, and for how long.

There’s no harm in going subjective with your thoughts, and I think it only helps you better if you do. Provide as much details as you can, and convince the visa office. I wrote a 3 page long cover letter!

It is moreover a good idea to provide a route-map with all your locations and dates of travel. And I think it’s because of detailed, and a very personal statement of purpose, that the officer felt assured that my sole intention is travelling.

Remember whether you travel cheaper (as was the case with me) or take expensive tours, if your application looks genuine to the Visa officer you will be granted the permission!

Takeaway:

  • Provide a very personal and clearly detailed itinerary.
  • Book hotels from Booking.com, with no reservation charges and a free cancellations.
  • Always book a refundable flight ticket.

Proof Of Funds: Perhaps Most Significant

Unlike hotel reservation and a pre-booked transportation, which can be smartly escaped from, here you don’t get much flexibility. You have to have the minimum required money stocked up in your favourite bank, so the visa officer feels confident about your financial situation.

Though different countries have a different requirement, the difference isn’t very significant. For Germany, it was somewhere around 65 Euros a day. This means that those applying the Schengen visa from a German embassy, and for a travel period of 10 days must at least have over 650 Euros in their bank account – unused for the last few months or weeks. This can be your current/savings account as well as fixed deposits.

I moreover think that there isn’t a minimum time duration, since you are required to have the money in your account. In my case I had the maintained balance for less than 3 weeks, and it worked just right.


I personally feel that applying a visa by yourself is simple, easier and gives you much flexibility to create an itinerary the way you wanted. I paid just a little over 6000 Rupees including my visa fee, vfs charges and for the passport courier service.

The accommodation I’ve booked and the flight tickets I’ve purchased – were also cheaper, at least cheaper than what any travel agent would have possibly provided me with!

Further Reading: 12 Reasons Why Your Schengen Visa Might Get Rejected

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My First Snowboarding Experience


Confidently balancing on my board, gliding down the slope with all the grace of a gazelle, I slid for a few metres before finally landing on my chest. The last night’s snow absorbed the hit pretty much every time I crashed, while trying to polish my left and right turns while snowboarding, with a little to no luck. But I was firm on my goal!

A few weeks ago the lovely folks at NorthlandAdventures, in Manali, invited me to try a few days of skiing or snowboarding with them, at their ski hotel, Sethan Heights, in Hamta Valley, Himachal. And as soon as they first mentioned it, my (first) reaction was ‘oh, bum … I can’t ski!’. Then I realised, this would mean gaining a new skill, and I spat a big yes… Though I was still unsure about it!

For the next few weeks, the crashing, getting uncontrolled, and other hazards made me wince every time I thought about my decision.

And I sure didn’t want to crash in front of others.

But To hell with it… I’d already said yes, and there was no chance I was going to say No later!

Located at 2770 metres above sea level, more than 700 metres higher than Manali, Sethan village, with its impressive ski slopes, is a perfect place to learn snowboarding, or skiing. Unlike the likes of nearby ski destinations, like Rohtang and Solang Valley, this is where you can practice while enjoying the exclusivity with nature.

During my 3 day stay, I saw no more than a dozen tourists in the entire town. The place where I stayed – the only ski hotel in the village Sethan, and for long distances beyond – entertained 7 tourists, out of which only three, from USA, were into skiing, and they were at a different level. The rest of the tourist crowd was busy throwing snowballs and sipping coffee, leaving all the ski-slopes nearby the property at my disposal.

And that will be the case, with you too!

Thanks to its exclusivity and unpopularity, I found Sethan just perfect!

The journey to Sethan started from the town of Prini, some 5 kilometres south of Manali. The route was itself visually stunning, if somewhat unnerving. We were welcomed with heavy hailstorm, as soon as Prini started losing in oblivion. The hailstorm later turned into big size snowflakes. In the month of March, and with tempratures in New Delhi reaching over 30 I did not expect any snow at this time of the years. And Sethan sure didn’t qualify in my list of coldest places in Himachal. I never considered it.

But it turned out for the next three days, as I continued my stay in Sethan, only more snow followed, covering any patch of green or brown, that was visible!

Before the first day’s session, I quickly enquired my instructor, Vinod Bodh, about the difference between skiing and snowboarding. And I got an impression that I’d perhaps like snowboarding better.

For one, I realised that putting on your snowboarding gear was easier, and so was taking it off. My coach moreover sounded convinced that snowboarding is more fun – and he himself personally favoured it. Driven by the circumstances, I decided to give snowboarding a go.

Vinod went through the basics from the very beginning. First with how to put your skiboard on, followed by how to slide, turn and stop with it. Next I took to tiny baby runs, a dozen or so times, under his supervision, until I found it all too easy to handle it myself.

For the next few hours, I was on my own, experimenting with the ski and learning as I was pleased.


Unlike other ski schools often frequented by tourists, learning snowboarding or skiing was a different experience in Sethan. Sure untraditional, and perhaps a bit unprofessional too. But I would recommend it anyway, for in Sethan I wasn’t worried about a baby slope that was rather busy with people, and was a chocker.

Here, I had my personal ski slope! And that’s why I’d recommend it!

For Further Reading: Sethan Village, In Himachal Pradesh

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Sethan Village In Himachal: A Place To Relax, Unwind And Just Be!

After a few nights in Charanag, a small town tucked away from the crowds connecting Kullu-Manali, in Himachal Pradesh, it was time to lose myself in oblivion, yet once again. And Sethan, as my next destination was called, sounded like a perfect option.

Located approximately an hour’s drive from Manali, Sethan was definitely a place for slow travellers – at least during winters, when the snow still claimed the ground and any movement beyond this tiny Buddhist town, was pretty much impossible – unless you’re conquering glaciers. I sure wasn’t!

In the month of March, and with mercury still falling beyond zero for most of the hours in a day, the valley here was draped in white. Little flakes of happiness were everywhere!

From Sethan, one can see the towering Dhauladhar ranges surrounding the village, and the river Beas flowing right next to it – perhaps a few thousand feet down.

The inhabitants here were originally migrated from Tibet, and represent a Buddhist community who share their roots being horse herders in in their past. They were given land in the surrounding areas by the then Government of India, when Himachal Pradesh was still a part of Punjab.

Most of them move to the lower altitude towns in Kullu Valley, during winters, leaving Sethan a beautifully deserted town, before moving back in summer again, and resuming their usual farming business. But with its less than 20 houses and a couple of tourist homes Sethan, around the year, remains a beautiful offbeat location meant to relax, unwind and just be!

Things To Do

Since Sethan sits at an altitude of 2700m above sea level (almost 700m higher than Manali), it offers a combination of winter and summer adventure activities. One can compare it with the likes of Solang Valley minus the crowd.

Between December and March, Sethan receives heavy snowfall making its grassy land ideal for skiing, snowboarding and snow-hiking. But thanks to its offbeat location and no chair-lift, the chances of bumping into a fellow skier is always next to none. Though you may bump into a bear, if you’re that unlucky, but rest assured, you will enjoy the exclusivity. During summer, the place is ideal for camping and trekking.

[Also Read: My First Snowboarding Experience In Sethan]

was told that the land around Sethan has some religious significance too. Around 2 kilometres from the town lies Pandu Ropa – a place where Pandavas (before the time of Mahabharata) stayed and camped. They also used a part of the land to grow crops and that is the why, as it’s believed, that part of land can never be found dry. If you move further and dare to trek for a few days towards east, you will end up at Indrasana Peak (6200m), which, as it’s believed, is the throne of Indra, or the Rain God.

Where To Stay

Since Sethan is a small town housing no more than 20 properties, the accommodation is fairly limited. You can either choose to stay in a real Igloo, which of course sounds a bit interesting, but costs you a whopping five thousand Rupees per night per person. Else you can opt for a comparatively cheaper option and for a family-home-turned-tourist-guest-house called Sethan Heights. I stayed at Sethan Heights and totally loved my stay.

The family (of ‘Bodh’, as is their surname) who look after Sethan Heights also run an adventure tour company called NorthlandAdventures and thus organise summer and winter sport activities like Skiing and Snowboarding and Trekking.

The Accessibility

Located in Hamta valley, Sethan village is easily accessible from Manali, throughout the year. Though if you’re coming from Kullu, you’re not required to burn your tyres in the crowds of Manali, and can take a detour from a town called Prini, and follow the road that goes towards Hampta Pass trekking circuit.

The route is fairly visible and well marked, yet if you’re driving by yourself, or are perhaps signing up for a pick and drop service, do not forget to stop over at the Bodh’s residence, in Prini, and experience a real Tibetan hospitality, that always comes with beautiful smiles, some interesting stories, and a lot of butter-chaay.

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6 Biggest Travel Mistakes To Avoid

Travel writers always give travel tips that talk about what to do when you travel. They are all must-see and must-do lists out there on internet. Go there, eat this and try that. But what about things to avoid, what about those tiny inevitable mistakes that sometimes create a momentary disappointment, and sometimes, big time blunders.

From avoiding money exchange at airports, to avoiding traveller’s cheques, there are so many insignificant decisions that lead to nothing but wasted time and money. But the good thing is, with a little planning ahead, it’s easy enough to avoid these common mistakes, and enjoy your vacation better.

I’ve made all these mistakes, but it is by doing them wrong in the past, I’ve learned how to make them right today. Hence, from my experiences, I’m sharing some of the common travel mistakes you should avoid to become a savvier traveller:

Never Eat Near A Major Tourist Site

The food near any major tourist site (I’m not talking about local night-markets or weekend markets, but other places of interest for a foreign tourist) is always double the price and half the flavour as you’ll find someplace else. Even a cup of coffee is often unbelievably overcharged and tastes half-boiled. It may be because of the fact that they know the tourist visiting them is not going to revisit ever again, or some other monstrous reason, but whatever’s the reason I’ve always found that eating near a tourist site end up in nothing but a sudden disappointment.

The best way to deal with it, in case you cannot hold your hunger anymore, is buying packed food, or walking a few yards away in any direction (the farther, the better!), and finding a seemingly looking local restaurant. Because that local restaurant has regular local customers, chances are they’ll serve better food at a comparatively cheaper price – because they’ve regular customers.

Another great way to find quality food at a bargain is by getting recommendations from your hostel/hotel staff.

Don’t Exchange Money At The Airport

Despite people often recommending exchanging money at airports, because it is a safer and quicker option – I never do so. Because exchanging money at the airport gives you bad currency conversion rate.

You can never get a better exchange rate – neither at an airport, nor in your favourite bank – than what a local dealer might offer you. Though it is always a good idea to cross check their rate, to avoid any touts, visiting a couple of local dealers to get those few hundred dollars converted in local money, never goes in vein. And if you still think you want to stay away from them, try a state owned bank (I’m claiming this out of my experiences with Indian banks), than a private one. Private banks give better service, but comparatively poorer rates.

Avoid Traveller’s Cheque, Rather Carry A Travel Card

Traveller’s cheque is a thing of past, and were only a preferred way of carrying money for tourists, before the worldwide acceptance of credit cards. Also not all banks are willing to accept them today, as they offer little protection, if lost or stolen.

Rather than a traveller’s cheque, get an international travel card issued by your bank. An international travel card works almost similar to how your ATM/Debit card works, in your country. Have it linked with your home bank account and withdraw as much money as you want –  at a little, and sometimes even no transaction cost.

Don’t Be Afraid To Use Hospitality Networks If Travelling Is Expensive For You

I’ve couchsurfed, I’ve workawayed, and I plan to continue using them in the years to come. Using hospitality networks isn’t only a great way to save money, but also to make lifetime friends along the way and introducing yourself to local cultures. And remember, couch surfing doesn’t always mean you’re going to end up sleeping on a couch. I’ve slept on equal share of couches and beds. And they aren’t also only for solo travellers. I’ve stayed with couples, families, as well as young college students. And as per my experience, be rest assured, it’s totally safe. Though of course, you need to have your wits about it. But if you find travelling is expensive, don’t overlook them.

Further Reading: More Options For A Cheaper Accommodation

Don’t Book Too Much In Advance

It’s a false myth that booking too much in advance (as early as 8 or 10 months) give you cheaper flight and hotel prices. No it doesn’t. As per my experience, you’ll only end up paying a much higher price if you book your trip so early. The best time period to book a flight is between 2 and 4 months, because this is when pretty much every airlines, in the world, start fluctuating its price chart. For hotels/paid-trips, wait until the last moment, because nobody want to keep their room unoccupied or the group tour leave with an empty seat. So wait for it!

Further Reading: How To Book A Cheap Flight

Don’t Overpack

It can be tempting to bring everything of your comfort, but it will only make it difficult for you to haul your luggage around. Overpacking limits your movement, leaves you with high baggage fees, and only result into losing some essentials. Instead, pack your bag as usual, then take out half the clothes you originally packed. You’re anyway not going to wear them all, and in case you need something, you can always do some laundary on the road, or shop a little. It’s not hard to find toiletries, clothes and even an umbrella, anywhere in the world – and that’s pretty much all you need to survive while travelling

Further Reading: Things I Carry For My Travels

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