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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

Though it may sound cool and easy how I managed to quit my job and get ahead with the mission See-The-World. But trust me, it wasn’t.

Two years Later

Though my journey as a solo traveller and as someone on a perpetually limited budget – particularly during the first year of travel-blogging – has had many highs and lows, when I look back and think of what travelling has given me during all this time, if there’s one thing that comes to my mind, it is: a mileage of a different kind.

I mean forget about the money I’ve made and the number of sponsored trips I’ve scored during all this period, the kind of self-transformation travelling have provided me with, compensates everything.

And speaking of what’s next, I think I’ll continue travelling for as long as my heart will desire, and if I ever wanted some stillness, or a periodic absence-of-movement in life, I can always go back and resume what I was (before 2016) doing. But this time, to only do it much better!

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6 Reasons To Start Travelling Today

“Congrats for a new beginning bro. I am sure you will make the most of it,” I gathered myself and finally said it, feeling a little guilty for not being there on his marriage day. I mean when you’re on the road forever, missing a few important occasions becomes a part of life. And missing your friends’ marriages is certainly one of them.

“So where are you off to, for the honeymoon?” I innocently enquired next.

“Unfortunately nowhere bro. The marriage and other functions took more money than we expected. I think we will have to keep all our travel desires unattended in 2019. Can’t even think of a weekend getaway, forget about the honeymoon,” he replied, sounding a little distressed for he had spent most of his savings, despite it not being a one of that big-fat-wedding in a big Indian city.

And it wasn’t something new to my ears. I’ve heard a similar excuse a few more than I expected, in the previous years. I heard people giving up on their travel dreams for reasons I can never imagine — because they’ve invested in a new car, because an 80-inch flat screen TV sounded like a better investment, because health insurance was important!

I’ve noticed, despite travelling getting a relatively popular trend every day and with everyone around us becoming more travel savvy, most people still need some kind of motivation, a force, rather, to make them travel and see the world — whether that motivation comes from a few inspirational travel quotes or a real-life story. Because in the world of ever-changing devices, where materialism is ruling our mind, investing 70,000 Rupees in an iPhone always feels more tempting than investing 30,000 in travelling.

Travelling makes you smarter. It gives you better ideas and helps you appreciate life in ways you never did before. If you don’t believe me, just compare two people (whenever you have a chance) and you will find the one who has travelled more in their life, speaking not only more sense but appreciating life a little more. Talking about myself, in just a few years of nomadic life, I can see a big positive change in me. No matter what, I now hardly feel agitated or overpowered by the moment. Understanding people has become easier for me. I even understand myself much better now than I ever did before.

So yea, travelling has its own benefits and you should never compromise with your travel dreams. And speaking of some travel inspiration, and the reasons why you should start travelling today, here are some:

Materialism Only Gives Temporary Happiness

The sad thing about materialistic happiness is that it is not permanent. Once you own something, and you own it for some time, the excitement slowly fades away, leaving you as the same old person you were before — discontent and wanting something else in life, but this time, with a little more appetite.

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there would be peace.”
― John Lennon

For example, imagine that you buy a new iPhone. You show it to your friends and you get the best feeling in the world. Soon, your iPhone becomes a few months old, and the excitement of owning it fades away into oblivion. The money that you originally invested in buying it slowly loses its value, leaving you with nothing more than just another (now, not-so-exciting) product in your hand. But any money, invested in travelling, or in other words… any money invested in gaining experiences, never loses its value.

When you travel, you earn friends, you earn knowledge, some peace of mind, and a lot of self-learning. And even if nothing, the experience, at least, gives you stories to talk about for an entire lifetime.

Speaking of myself, since I’ve quit my corporate career in 2015, and with it, everything that didn’t fit in a backpack, to travel around the world, I’ve realised that no matter what I own, it never fills my heart with joy as travelling does. Exploring the most isolated corners of the world and befriending people I randomly run into is, for me, the greatest of all joys.

The World Is Better (& Safer) Than You Think

I hear this a lot from people who know me that the world is changing for worse and I should not be (or, at least, be a little careful while) travelling alone. I remember when I was travelling solo in Nagaland, I received at least a dozen Instagram messages every day with people showing their concern and asking all kind of safety questions.

I understand some places need more caution while travelling, and there is no harm in keeping your wits about your personal safety. But if there’s one thing that I’ve understood the most during the previous three years of uninterrupted solo travelling, in and outside of India, it is that the world is a much better place than most of us think.

I’ve volunteered, and stayed with families in India, Australia and Europe, for weeks, using their bedrooms and eating the meals they served (having no idea what I was eating for most of the times) and never did I feel unsafe. You can call myself lucky, but I think every person has this intuitive feeling to sense danger, and as long as you don’t feel it, there’s no point in holding yourself back. Because being cautious is one thing, and being scared is the other.

And if you’re scared (to even step outside in the real world) you’re just holding yourself back. Being fearful is the most self-damaging thing one can do to themselves.

Travelling Makes You A Better, More Confident Person

The human brain is conditioned in a way that it appreciates familiarity. It finds it comforting in doing the same thing every day — take the regular route to the workplace, hang out with everyday friends, and return to the same place it knows as Home.

But if you want to grow as a person, the road can give you a lot of perspective, about the world you live in, and about yourself. Living with an Italian family in Rome, exploring the tribal communities in Nagaland, and being on road in Kerala for a month has taught me more about myself in ways that no school, no job, ever did before.

I mean think of it this way… what would you do when you end up in a new country, with no one coming to receive you at the airport, and where people don’t speak your language? You would think hard, try a few dozen sign-languages and find your way around. And in the process, you develop a smarter and more confident self than you were, before. The more you travel, the better you get at communication, problem-solving, patience, compromise, and a dozen other things. There’s no better self-development tool than travelling.

The World Is Changing Fast

I remember when I first visited Leh in 2012, in the Ladakh region of the Indian Himalayan state of J&K, the place looked so peaceful and unworldly. But since it gained popularity (which majorly happened after 2010) it has lost its charm pretty much entirely. Now there are more guest houses in Leh than there are open spaces. Monasteries are surrounded by tall commercial buildings. The sound of the prayer bells is overpowered by the maddening traffic.

And then again, urbanisation is one thing, and still not as destructible as natural calamities. With growing imbalance in the world and natural calamities happening more frequently than ever, the world is anyway changing rapidly.

I remember when I visited Kochi, in Kerala, last month, after a destructible Kerala flood in August 2018, it looked so different and lifeless than when I last visited Kerala a couple of years ago. Similarly, global warming and climate change are having their own powerful change too. The mountains that earlier wore a crown of snow all year round, are now found dry and empty even in the winter months. Islands are losing their share and are shrinking every day. Wildlife is quickly dying. No wonder, with a growing imbalance in the world and natural calamities happening more frequently than ever, the right time to travel and see the world is now!

You Don’t Need Everyone’s Approval To Travel

I always suggest people to not seek everyone’s approval before they start travelling or take some other life-changing decision. Because there will always be people who will understand you, and there will always be those who won’t. But at times when you feel stuck in life, travelling can be your quickest escape and it may just because you asked those who discouraged you from travelling, you may end up not doing it at all. So don’t seek everyone’s approval.

Travelling gives you a frame of time to leave your worries behind until you gain strength to fight back. And in such times, if you didn’t just let go and rather sought other people’s solicitation, you may lose the courage to even leave at first place.

Similarly, don’t wait for other people’s company. If there is no one to travel with you, just leave alone and travel solo.

I understand that solo travelling can feel unexciting and unsafe if you haven’t done it before. What if I get mugged, or worse, got lost in a new city? How would I enjoy my time alone? These little insecurities will always play their part. But once you do it, you understand that solo travelling can be more exciting and safer than you initially thought it to be. Solo travelling gives you the ultimate freedom to travel when you want, and travel as you want.

To honestly admit it, I was never a born solo traveller either. But from the very beginning, if there was one thing I was sure about, it was – if I put off a trip because of other people, I can never travel the world and see places I always wished to see.

Life Is Short & Unpredictable

And then again, as much as we hate to believe it, there is no denying the fact that life is unpredictable. You never know what tomorrow holds for you, so why not enjoy today, spend a few hundred dollars, travel the world and make memories. Why bother buying material things that, in a few months, are anyway going to become old and unexciting — or worse, save money for future that may not be ours at all to behold.

I mean we all have come across stories where people have lost lives to an accident or a disease before they crossed 30 or 40 years of their age, giving us a fair understanding of how uncertain life can be.

Though it doesn’t mean that we should live our lives in fear, we should understand how fragile it can be. Where planning for the future is certainly a good thing to do, over planning, and planning alone and not enjoy life, is a waste of a lifetime. So seize every day, travel and explore the exciting world we live in. Because in the end, when we will be old (if we happened to become one, at all) and sitting on the couch, tired, there will be nothing that will excite us more, but the little life experiences we had, still alive in our fading memories!

Also Read: What 2018 Taught Me

Is there still something else that’s holding you back from travelling? Spill in comments below!

From Top Travel Destinations To Top Learnings: This Is My 2018 In A Flashback

To be honest, 2018 has been the most productive year for me since I’ve started travel blogging. It has provided me with opportunities and took me to places that I thought I won’t come across so soon in life, at least not within the initial three years of my blogging stint.

I mean I remember when I got a call from India’s Ministry of Tourism — the office of Incredible India — that I’ve been selected as one of the only four Indian travel bloggers (and with it, the first few ones they’ve ever worked with) to experience and talk about a 7 day luxury train ride in India The Golden Chariot, I couldn’t believe myself. And then, just next month, Germany Tourism invited me as their India Travel Influencer for the second time, because they loved my work, and despite already been to Germany twice and having a dozen blog posts on Germany on my blog, they still wanted me to write a few more.

And that wasn’t all, there were other highlights in store too, to make 2018 more special: flying business class for twice, conquering my fear of skydiving, organising my first ever adventure motorbiking tour in the Himalayas under my own brand name, and above all, starting my first hospitality business — adventure camping in the Himalayas. I even had the privilege to take my parents and show the business (yes, I am talking about my campsite FootlooseCamps) I had set up in the mountains, and it was an experience to cherish, and a moment of pride and remembrance.

Though it certainly didn’t feel like a rollercoaster ride as I slowly lived each day in the year and welcomed opportunities as they came, now that I look back at it in a flashback (as I slowly enjoy the bottle of Reisling) and think of what all I did in the previous 365 days, in 2018, it sure seems like an interesting journey and a great year altogether.

And speaking of the Top Travel Destinations To Top Learnings I had in 2018, these are my top picks:

Favorite Travel Destinations of 2018

In 2018, other than travelling across a few destinations in India, I visited Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and Germany. Where every country, every destination, had its own charm, a few topped the list and ended up being my personal favorites. And this includes two destinations in Germany namely, Rothenburg and Munich; Hong Kong; and The Golden Chariot luxury Indian train ride.

So let’s talk about them, one at a time.

Munich, Germany: I loved Munich for its energy, which had a relaxing flair to it, despite being big and busy at the same time. Where the rest of Germany can feel harsh and relentless, Munich was far from it. It was liberal, tolerant, progressive and quite laid-back. I particularly loved how in Munich, beer was almost considered as a food, and with more than 60 beer gardens to enjoy in the city, it’s not tough to understand why. Visit Munich with friends, or visit it solo, the city won’t disappoint.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany: Rothenburg was a kind of town where I can happily spend weeks, years or perhaps just stay there forever after retirement. It was, by far, the dreamiest fairytale town I’ve seen in Europe. And if the idea of visiting Europe, for you, is to find Instagram perfect buildings that take you back in time and with it, into a real-life fairytale-like setting, Rothenburg is the place to be.  It is a beautiful medieval town along the Romantic Road and Walt Disney’s inspiration for the movie Pinocchio.

Hong Kong: I like exploring places that take me to a moment of awe and wonder, and the first time I experienced the concrete jungle of Hong Kong’s many skyscrapers, I felt exactly that. I remember the first time I saw Hong Kong Island, from The Peak (a 500m elevated hill in its south) it felt as if I’ve time-transported myself into 2050 or something, with nothing by tall buildings in front of me for as far as I could see. Laden with overbridges, tunnels, skyscrapers and other forms of man-made wonders and technology, Hong Kong takes you to another world. If you want to explore a futuristic mega-city, there’s no better place than Hong Kong.

The Golden Chariot: For anyone who started as a budget backpacker in India, trains become an integral part of their life, and I was no different. But where train travel in India is certainly a luxury, the sad thing is, there is no luxury. In fact, trains in India feel tiring, they are always running late, and are often quite untidy. Now imagine if your train itself becomes a luxury hotel, and that’s what The Golden Chariot train is — a luxury hotel on a pair of wheels. Starting from Bangalore, The Golden Chariot takes you to places including Mysuru, Badami Caves, Goa and Hampi, among other highlights over a 7-day trip, giving you an experience you cannot imagine.

If you love train travel, and if you love luxury, there cannot be a better option than doing a train journey with The Golden Chariot (or one of the other 5 luxury trains we have) and exploring the real India. It comes with private rooms with TV, central heating, attached bathroom, a spa, a gym, and meals including five course. Now that’s luxury!

Memorable Experiences of 2018

Getting Hooked To Snowboarding: The first time I tried snowboarding, it was the winter of 2016, but having no money to invest in the snowboarding gear and no home in the Himalayas where I can stay (without spending much money) and learn snowboarding on my own left me with no choice but trying the sport for just a few days, click a few happy selfies and return. But earlier this year, I pushed myself to buy a snowboard and spend a month learning snowboarding in the Himalayas and that was when I got hooked to it. I wish I could do justice to the words here and convey the feeling of sliding down a steep mountain as you focus to not crash. Its pure magic, like a meditation of a different kind.

backcountry snowboarding india

Trying Skydiving & Conquering My Fear: For someone like me who has never experienced a thrill ride since the previous 12-years because he had a scary episode in an adventure park at the age of 15, skydiving was certainly a big deal. To further clarify the gravity of the situation, I am one of those people who feel a bit of uneasiness in their stomach every time there’s a sudden downhill jump on a highway. In a nutshell, sudden falls make me nervous, and going for skydiving for a person like me was, indeed, a big deal. Yet I did it. And I remember how scared I was before it actually happened. I had nearly backed-out a few moments before the actual jump. But as I landed, and grabbed myself together, I felt the new me. The power of overcoming fear was unleashing slowly.

A 1-minute of freefall from over 4000m height and I fairly remember how crazy and wild I behaved as I touched the ground. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing and yelling and hugging my tandem instructor. The energy in me was boundless. And I think that’s the thing with all adventure activities. Once you win over your fear and come out of it alive, you overpower your weaker self.

Starting My First Hospitality Venture: Ever since I have quit my corporate career and became a full-time nomad, I dreamt of owning a hospitality business in the Himalayas — a cafe, a backpacker hostel or something equally exciting. And this year, in April, my dream came true as I started a permanent adventure campsite in Himachal Pradesh. Named as FootlooseCamps, it was the best and most exciting thing ever happened to me.

Personal Learnings of 2018

Before I started travelling, I was one of those people who would never take risk in their life. I was someone who, despite not liking it, would invest their time in working for someones else’s dreams because it guaranteed a monthly pay-check. And then travelling happened. Though, of course, I still never learned the art of playing a blind shot, and I think I never will, but the fact that I am now open to ideas and possibilities is what makes me a risk-taker.

2018 taught me about taking risks in life even furthermore, and FootlooseCamps is the reason. I mean when I started FootlooseCamps, I was unsure about finding a balance between running a business and being a nomad, and no part of me was confident about juggling between the two, but in end, it all turned out well. And that’s the thing with taking risks — unless you won’t jump into the real world you won’t find out what’s out there.

Another important life lesson that 2018 imparted on me was that things happen on their own, all we should worry about is to just keep trying. I mean when I quit my job in 2015 and started travelling, I faced more financial insecurities than I could ever imagine, because travelling was consuming money and there was no hope for when I was going to make any money at all. Then, in about a few months of blogging, I started getting sponsored trips, followed by a few sources of income here and there.

And same thing happened with me juggling between two businesses (of blogging and running a campsite). Once I got into it, I automatically found my comfort zone.

So just keep trying, and let the universe decide the rest!

Top Solo Travel Destinations For Indians

Solo travelling is certainly more mentally tormenting than travelling in a group. As a solo traveller, we are more inclined to visit destinations we have already visited before or the ones that, at least, qualify the list of “most solo travel-friendly destinations around the world”.

For me, for example, if I am travelling to a new place, and I am travelling alone, a place tends to stifle my solo adventure spirit if I find a few backpacker hostels there. Because hostels not only help me save money on accommodation (as paying for a double-bed room without having someone to share the cost with, is a lost deal) but it also assures that I will find few fellow-travellers and double the fun.

Other factors that encourage me to travel solo to a new destination, includes…

  • A good public transport system, because paying for the entire taxi is painful and drains out my budget as a solo traveller.
  • A friendly local community, with local people speaking a little English.
  • Plenty to do alone, on a budget.
  • A general feeling of safety (and this parameter, I am sure, becomes even more important for solo women travellers).

So if you’re in the same boat, and are currently struggling with the idea of where to travel solo, this list of my personal top solo travel destinations that I’ve explored over the years will help you out:

Solo Travel Destination For Indians 1: Himachal Pradesh, India

… for nature, adventure, & a local way of life!

The Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh remains my favourite solo travel destination in India not because it has something for everyone (from adventure to peaceful hideouts to heavenly Airbnbs) but because of a rich solo travel scene. Go anywhere in Himachal and you will be surrounded by other travellers and backpackers, and the most prominent reason for it is a friendly locale.

Himachali people, by far, are the friendliest version of Indians, and the deeper you explore in Himachal, the more you realise it. The state is totally safe to travel (with one of the lowest crime rate in India) easily accessible in buses and has enough hostels or budget guesthouses everywhere. By all means, Himachal Pradesh can be your first solo travel destination in India.

  • Stay: It is possible to find a backpackers hostel and budget hostels in most places in Himachal. Another way to save money on accommodation is by camping in Himachal as you find enough clean flat spaces and perfect camping weather pretty much everywhere there. During my initial days of backpacking, when blogging didn’t generate revenues, I would carry a tent and a sleeping bag with me and save 100% on accommodation, at least when travelling in the mountains.
  • Adventure sports: Paragliding, mountaineering, river rafting, skiing, snowboarding, bouldering, rock climbing, zip lining adventure and biking/motorbiking, among others.
  • Getting around: Although having your own car or a motorbike will make your travel so much easier and quicker in Himachal Pradesh, even if not, you will find public transport pretty much in every corner.
  • For more on Himachal Pradesh, refer to my: Himachal Pradesh Travel Guide

Solo Travel Destination For Indians 2: Kerala, India

… for nature, food and local culture!

If you’re into beaches and coastal life and open green spaces, then visit Kerala. This is by far the best version of south India (and coastal India, with beaches cleaner and quieter than Goa) and people just as friendlier as people in the mountains. Speaking of local people, what’s better is that they understand the idea of personal space, unlike the people in the mountains who can be just too overfriendly for some tourists to handle.

I had spent almost one-month solo backpacking (right from the North Malabar to all the way to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu) and never did I face any problem. Though unlike in Himachal, backpackers hostels were rare to find and accommodation was comparatively expensive, everything else — from friendly locals to a good public transport system — was just perfect for me as a solo traveller. Kerala is moreover the most organised, with pretty much every local speaking a bit of English, making it easier to manage things on your own. I did long journeys on state buses, took an overnight train, explored small villages on a bicycle, and felt safe in the company of those I met along the way (& so will you, even as a solo woman traveller).

  • Stay: Where it is possible to find budget guesthouses in most of the places, some tourist destinations like Alleppey and Munnar can be a little expensive for travelling solo.
  • Getting around: The best and most rewarding way to get around in Kerala is by train. And where there’s no train, you will find enough public buses.
  • For more on Kerala, refer to my: Kerala Travel Guide

Solo Travel Destination For Indians 3: Meghalaya, India

… exploring tribal communities & culture and the best of nature!

Meghalaya is all about mesmerizing hills, dominating rain-forests, dramatic clouds and a lot of rain, and if you’re one of those people who appreciate the idea of being under the blissful company of nature and nothing else, there cannot be a better place. Meghalaya, by far, is the most naturally beautiful place I’ve ever seen, in or outside of India.

I moreover found Meghalaya as one of the safest places in India for solo travelling. It is majorly populated by three indigenous tribes, who believe in a matrilineal society. Women are highly respected across Meghalaya and you will find them as teachers, politicians, drivers, police, and pretty much everywhere else. English is the official language in Meghalaya, making communication with locals fairly hassle-free.

Speaking of the ease of travel, I would leave Meghalaya for experienced solo travellers only, because travel infrastructure is limited, the regular tourist circuit isn’t geared towards solo travel and it takes some ‘jugaad’ (think hitchhiking pillion on a motorbike) to get off the beaten path, unless you’re driving.

  • Travel Costs: Where it is possible to find some budget guesthouses in Shillong, most small towns have homestays only. And unlike the rest of India, Meghalaya (and the entire northeast region of India) is slightly expensive to travel in terms of transportation & stay. Food in Meghalaya, however, is cheap, particularly if you’re a meat eater.
  • Is It safe to travel in Meghalaya? Unlike the rest of northeast India, Meghalaya shares no disputed border and is totally safe to travel.
  • For more on Meghalaya, refer to my: Meghalaya Travel Guide

Solo Travel Destination For Indians 4: Munich, Germany

for nightlife, beer gardens and a rich solo-travel scene!

One thing I particularly loved about Munich is that beer is almost considered as the food there, and with more than 60 beer gardens in the city in total, it’s not tough to understand why. It’s further worth appreciating the fact that in Munich (despite being in Germany) no one frown upon on you for holding a beer in one hand and drinking from the other while walking on the road or travel in a metro. In short, Munich is vibrant, fun, laid-back and feels just too liberal to be true. The town moreover has an amazing nightlife for solo travellers.

And if you’re not into beer or nightlife, there will be enough of other things to stay occupied: from a rich coffee culture to exploring historical sights to renting a cute Vespa and exploring the town in a romantic fashion. Munich (and the entire Bavaria region at large) is moreover considered as one of the safest places in Germany to travel solo. As an Indian, the freedom and the level of safety Munich offers is quite appealing.

Stralsund city center

  • Stay: Though Munich remains the most expensive travel destination in Germany, a good number of hostels available there still makes it a little easy to travel solo.
  • Visa: Apply for a Schengen visa at VFS Germany in India.
  • Also Read: A One Week Itinerary For Munich & Bavaria Region.

Solo Travel Destination For Indians 5: Bangkok, Thailand

for budget solo travelling, nightlife, and befriendling happy locals!

I travelled across Thailand for more than two weeks in 2016, exploring north to south, and it had been a whirlwind experience. While I enjoyed most of its cities and towns and islands, nothing can compare my love for Bangkok. Bangkok happened to be my first ever international solo destination, and I encourage every newbie solo travel to visit Bangkok, particularly Indians.

Bangkok is friendly, cheap to travel, has an amazing nightlife, and a great solo backpacking scene for anyone to come alone and still not feel lonely. Though some people do complain that it is too noisy, I think my Indian dispositions helped me blend in fairly easily. And then the fact that it is centrally located is always a plus. Take a 4-5 few hours of a bus ride in any direction, and you will either end up in mountains or a postcard-perfect beach. The flights from India to Bangkok are moreover one of the cheapest to any other international destination in the world.

  • Stay: As a solo traveller, you will be happy to know that Bangkok has some of the most pocket-friendly hostels in the world. When I was there in 2016, I found a dorm bed for just 120 Baht (or 240 Indian Rupees).
  • Costs: It is possible to survive in Bangkok in under 1000 Baht a day, or less than 2000 Indian Rupees.
  • Visa: For Indians, it is possible to visit Thailand on Visa on Arrival.
  • Also Read: My 3 Day Travel Itinerary For Bangkok.

Solo Travel Destination For Indians 6: Queensland, Australia

for a premium solo travel experience!

Before anything, I would like to warn that the Queensland, or any other region in Australia, for that matter, is no place for a budget traveller. Yet, Queensland remains one of my top solo travel destinations around the world and it has to do a lot with what Australia, as a country, has to offer.

From being one of the safest to cleanest to most organised countries around the world, Australia is a great solo travel destination. I have visited Western Australia and Queensland during two separate trips to Australia (each lasting almost one month) and loved Queensland the most. Unlike other regions in Australia, if you visit Queensland, there are enough places to explore nearby. Just start from Cairns, exploring the Great Barrier Reef, to all the way to the backpacker hub of Brisbane and further down south to the party and surfing town of the Gold Coast. In Queensland, public transport is also comparatively good, and the weather is much better than any other region in Australia.

  • Getting Around: In Australia, it’s always better to have your own car to make travelling easier, as gas is comparatively cheap and public transport, not only fairly expensive but rare too.
  • Visa: As an Indian, you get a 3 month, 6-month o1-year travel visa for Australia. Read Tips For Australian Tourist Visa.

Solo Travel Destination For Indians 7: Penang Island, Malaysia

for food, street art and a rich backpacking scene!

Penang Island remains one of my favourite solo travel destinations for quite a few reasons: it was budget friendly, had an amazing nightlife, almost every second person there was an expat, local people were friendly, food was great, beaches were clean… well I can go on! What’s even better is the fact that we always have cheap flights between India and Malaysia, and a hassle-free visa on arrival process.

When I visited Penang in 2017, my original plan was to stay for only a couple of nights, but in reality, I ended up overstaying for almost 10 days. Every day, I would walk around its postcard perfect, graffiti-laden streets, befriend a few fellow-travellers in a cafe and go out with them in the night. There is a kind of energy in Penang that holds you back.

  • Getting Around: Penang is a small town, and it’s convenient to get from one place to the other on a bus. Speaking of how to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, taking a train is the best option.
  • Costs: It is possible to survive in Malaysia in under 200 RM, or about 2000 Indin Rupees.
  • Visa: For Indians, it is possible to visit Malaysia on Visa on Arrival.
  • Also Read: A 3-Day Travel Itinerary For Penang.

Solo Travel Destination For Indians 8: Hong Kong

for hikes, beaches, shopping and exciting city life!

So earlier this year, I had the opportunity to do a nearly 10-day solo backpacking trip to Hong Kong and I totally loved it. Hong Kong has some kind of energy that makes you fall in love with it.

For some reason, I expected Hong Kong to be a bit more like Southeast Asia — undeniably adventurous and wild that a country can be — than it actually was. And that’s why I developed such a liking towards it.

I mean it is always a better surprise to find a place, foreign to you, to be more organized (than you had initially thought it to be) than finding it crazy and wild. Though of course, Hong Kong can be fairly exciting too, everything there still follows a routine, an order. Buses in Hong Kong are clean and efficient. People speak fluent English. Food is always hygienic. The metro station, despite being always super-packed, never feel suffocating!

If you’re an inexperienced solo-traveller looking for a very safe, organised Asian city, Hong Kong may just be the place you should be planning to.

  • Getting Around: Invest in an Octopus Card to save time and money on MTR, buses and ferries.
  • Visa: For Indians, it was visa free entry in Hong Kong (if staying for less than 15 days) when I visited back in October 2018.
  • Further Reading: Hong Kong Travel Itinerary.

Solo Travel Destination For Indians 9: Budapest, Hungary

For Europe on a budget; and a fun, vibrant and backpacking friendly city!

If you’re bitten by the idea of Europe travel, but don’t want to spend too much money, then don’t look any further than Budapest. Budapest is one of the most vibrant and popular tourist destinations in Europe. The town is big enough in size, offering enough to see and do, even if you stay for a month. It has an amazing nightlife, a rich cultural history, and a great solo backpacking scene. You will certainly find more solo travellers and expats in Budapest than anywhere in Eastern Europe.

If you’ve enough time and want to cover a few more places than just Budapest, then visiting the nearby town that also make for the popular Golden Triangle route of Budapest-Prague-Bratislava is a good idea.

  • Getting Around: Just like anywhere in Europe, public transport (from trams to buses to metro) is the best and most economical way to get around. Buy single tickets or invest in a Budapest City Card if you think you’re planning to visit a lot of tourist attractions in a limited time.
  • Costs: If you’re not doing much, it is possible to survive in Budapest in less than 2500 Indian Rupees a day (almost 10,000 Hungarian Forints).
  • Visa: Apply for a Schengen visa at VFS Hungary in India.
  • Further Reading: What To See & Do In Budapest

Think I’ve missed a destination that can make for a great solo travel destination for Indians? Spill the suggestions in comments below!

Fojal Valley: Exploring The Unexplored Himachal Pradesh

From its placement and appearance, the town of Fojal certainly looked like a place where tourists would want to spend a few relaxing nights, avoiding the crowded Kullu-Manali trail in Himachal Pradesh. And then, Fojal is a popular paragliding site in the entire Manali region. Yet there were no guesthouses, for I was searching for one for over two hours now. Those who visit Fojal Valley, do only a day trip, try paragliding, and head back to where they came from.

So yea, after wandering confusingly and pleading a few random locals for a bed, when I had almost lost the will and decided to head back to Manali, my eyes beheld a sight totally unworldly.

The shining snowcapped mountains were appearing golden at a distance. A few local Himachali houses were moreover adding to the charm.

For a moment it felt as if I have time-transported myself into the golden age of 70s or 80s when people shared more green space around them, than concrete; when the chirping of birds echoed all day, from afar; when every Himalayan mountain looked no less auspicious. The town of Fojal, and the Fojal Valley, appeared as one of those rare places where people would want to relax, forget their busy life behind, and spend a few nights unwinding and just being (in the moment)… and I was no different!

Fojal Valley: An Introduction

Located almost halfway between Kullu and Manali, Fojal Valley is a tiny little valley in Himachal Pradesh comprising no more than a dozen (small) villages with an average of about twenty families living in each village — with the biggest, the most populated and the centrally located being the town of Fojal (yes, the same name as the valley itself!). There are literally no eating joints meeting tourist standards but a few local dhabas selling just Momos and Maggi.

There’s moreover not much for a regular tourist to see and do in Fojal Valley, except for just trying paragliding, and a bit of trekking during summer. But for an intrepid, and for those who appreciate the idea of slow travel, Fojal Valley is a perfect place for relaxing and soaking in the laidback Himachali life.

Here one can spend their holidays blissfully, under their own solitude or while interacting with a few happy locals. Lacking any modern-day tourist facility (not matching even with that of what you may find in the most offbeat corners of Parvati Valley or someplace else in Manali, or in entire Himchal Pradesh) Fojal Valley is only meant for travellers not interested in visiting places and but experiencing a different way of life.

Also read about another offbeat destination around Manali: Hallan Valley 

Among locals, however, Fojal Valley is well known for the revered deities including ‘The Maa Sharvali Devi Temple’, ‘The Maa Jwala Temple’. Both the temples (located in the town of Fojal) are very ancient and are bustling with scores of devotees during the annual fairs, needless to point out the devotees undertake the arduous trek with great fervour and devotion to a nearby lake in Fojal Valley.

Getting There

Speaking of its positioning, Fojal Valley rises almost perpendicularly to Kullu Valley near the town of Patlikuhl, before it divides itself into two halves, with the town of Fojal being located in the centre acting as the transportation hub for the entire valley.

If you’re driving, just Google Map Navigate for Fojal and you will end up in Fojal town without having to worry about a thing (the road connects Fojal and most of the villages in the valley). If, however, you’re taking a bus, get off at the town of Dobhi, on National Highway 3, connecting Kullu-Manali. From Dobhi, just take a taxi which costs about 200 Rupees per trip and drops you in the town of Fojal. The journey from Dobhi to Fojal takes about 15 minutes.

A Bit More About My Visit To Fojal

So yea, after wandering confusingly and pleading a few random locals for a bed, when I had almost lost the will and decided to head back to Manali, my eyes beheld a sight totally unworldly.

The shining snowcapped mountains were appearing golden at a distance, and that was the moment, I knew I wasn’t leaving Fojal without at least spending one night and experiencing all the beauty it has to offer. I called everyone I knew in Manali for helping me find a place, and it turned out that the luck was on my side.

At about 3km from the town of Fojal, and towards the sleepy village of Roonga, someone found me an old Himachali house lying abandoned for the previous many years. As if this wasn’t mouth-watering enough, I was told that the electricity in the house was sporadic (and only available in the common areas) and that there would be no phone connection inside the rooms. “The thick walls of the house hamper any phone reception inside,” the friends on the phone said sheepishly.

The next thing I knew, I was accompanied by two locals taking me there, with some food and a bottle of Whiskey.

As they say, the best discoveries happen with no plan, I happened to discover Fojal Valley, and this state of an art house out of luck too. It turned out that the property was originally constructed by a European about three decades ago but since last 10 years, he never returned to India, allowing someone from Delhi to lease it for starting the first ever Bnb in Fojal.

Feeling at home in the Himalayas and in this at state of an art property, I decided to spend the next few days without doing anything but just strolling along the picture-perfect villages of Fojal Valley, discovering bylanes beautifully lined with lifeless pomegranate trees, watching the locals carry firewood on their backs and stock up for the approaching winter. Fojal Valley reminded me of the Alpine countryside in Austria, sans the common language.

At around 6 in the evening, the sun had already started sinking behind the mountains, as though seeking refuge in them. The sky appeared as a beautiful mix of purple and blue, with a few twinkling lights trying to survive at a distance.

The temperature was now dipping sharply outside, forcing me to return to the royal recluse of my home for the night. Inside, the fire was already lit, and the dinner table already set, taking me back in time, and to an era that I had only read about in textbooks.

So would you like to visit Fojal Valley and explore a bit of off-the-beaten-path Himachal Pradesh?

Travel Tips For Long Term Traveling

Since I’ve quit my corporate career in 2015 and became a full-time nomad, I’ve learned that long-term traveling has its own challenges. It is something very different from short weekend trips. When you’re on the road for months, you’ve to think and act differently. From packing travel essentials to maintaining a daily personal routine to keeping a hold of your budget, long-term travel is a different deal altogether.

I mean I remember when, before becoming a full-time traveler, my weekend holidays had only one agenda: to relax, unwind, and not care about a thing. I would pack anything (always more than I wanted); spend money (on food and accommodation) carelessly, and plan more than what was necessary.

So yea, where long-term travel offers amazing life experience, it does come with its own set of challenges, and these tips will help you maintain your new nomadic lifestyle and avoid chucking it all in after a few weeks.

Pack Light

When you are planning to stay on road for months, the most important thing to keep in mind is to pack light. And to do that, invest in a good lightweight backpack and other accessories. From small things like carrying polo T-shirts (that you can roll and shove in any corner in your backpack) over carrying fancy shirts to investing in a light-weight travel-towel over a traditional big-sized one, by packing smart you can make your journey a lot easier.

For example, when I started traveling (and blogging) I owned a bulky 2-kg Nikon DSLR, and its size and weight always curbed me from carrying a few extra pairs of clothes. Moving forward, when I decided to change my camera, I bought a Mirrorless Sony, weighing less than half a kilo and a size almost half than that of the Nikon’s, and I cannot tell you how big of a difference it has created.

I mean packing light may just sound an obvious tip, but I’ve seen people still failing at it miserably. Invest in a good lightweight backpack from a reputable store. Don’t stock up on basic toiletries at home, you can buy them anywhere and you’ll find a lot of hostels now supplying these. Try to avoid the extra weight and just pack the essentials.

Further Reading: What I Pack For My Travels

Packing light may just be a clichéd travel tip, but it can really make your journey smoother if you oblige to it. For example, I take only what is necessary, and if I really need something, I buy it on the way. It’s not hard to find medicine, toiletries, clothes or even an umbrella, anywhere in the world – and that’s pretty much all you need to survive while traveling.

Save On Accommodation

For a long-term traveler, Accommodation is a big expense, making it important to be careful to not end up bleeding too much money when booking a place. I have traveled across Europe once without spending anything on accommodation, and how I did it?… By using hospitality networks. If you’re planning on staying in a town for weeks, I recommend volunteering and saving 100% on accommodation. Networks like WWOOF and Workaway are great to search for volunteer options. I’ve personally used workaway and volunteered in Europe and Australia for weeks.

If you’re traveling at someplace for only a few days, try Couchsurfing. There are hundreds and thousands of hosts welcoming travelers in their home across the world.

For those who want to pay and have full freedom as they travel, the best way to save the maximum is by renting a property. Not only renting a property/apartment is cheaper, but it also comes with benefits like getting a bigger, better and a home-like space – all at a fairly cheaper price. Use booking.com’s apartment page to find one of the biggest online inventory of holiday apartments across the world. Other than booking.com, I personally prefer and have tried Airbnb, in India and abroad.

Another way to save money is by buying a caravan, sharing the costs between a few friends and doing a road trip. This not only save you money that you otherwise end up spending on fancy hotels but also have full freedom of going anywhere. Imagine having your hotel on a pair of wheels, that’s what caravans are all about.

Here is more on Tips On Booking Budget Accommodation While Traveling

Remember, Long Term Travel Is Slow Travel

If you move too fast and try exploring new places every day, exhaustion and uneasiness will eventually take over and outweigh the pleasure of traveling. I remember I did the same mistake during my first ever indefinite solo travel journey (to Bhutan) which happened to be my first backpacking trip after I quit my job to travel.

For a period of almost 20 days, I moved at a frantic pace, hopping from one city to the other, trying to explore as much of the country as possible in a minimum time. Naturally, uneasiness took a toll and I had almost decided to quit traveling. Then as I exited Bhutan and entered India to explore the Northeast region, I met a couple from France who had been backpacking in India for the previous 3 months. They had not seen anything beyond Goa and a few places in Northeast India and yet seemed in no hurry. They had almost made traveling their lifestyle. They would wake up in the morning, do yoga, take their time to enjoy the breakfast and spend the day with no agenda. And their life seemed perfect.

Slow travel isn’t not only comforting to the body but is also more mind invigorating. By traveling slow, you learn and appreciate about local life and culture in a way you that otherwise don’t.

And while it is possible to travel at a frantic pace for a month or so, it is not sustainable in the long term, making long-term travel is only possible if you’re a slow traveler. Taking time aside for relaxing and just taking it easy is the only way to go.

Make Friends Or Find A Hobby

The only downside of long-term traveling is that it can be boring. Whether you’re traveling solo or with a partner, if you’re traveling slow and staying put at one place for weeks, you will eventually need something to keep yourself busy. Some people keep themselves busy by going out and making new friends every day, while others do it by finding an interest: photography, reading a book or something else. For me, for example, it was blogging.

I remember when I initially started traveling (and I started as a solo traveler) loneliness took over a few times so intensely that I had almost decided to return home to my normal life in New Delhi. Being an introvert, making new friends every day was never an option. But as I started blogging, I found it easier to keep myself engaged.

Though blogging, for me, has now become a way to sustain my travel goals, initially it was to only keep myself busy. And if it were not for this new hobby, I would have quit traveling a long time ago!

Related Read: How To Make Friends While Traveling Solo & Not Feel Lonely

Understand Why You’re Traveling

Just like before you start something new you know why you want to do it, for traveling too, it’s important to understand why. If you’re jumping into the rollercoaster ride of long-term travel, ponder over why you’ve decided to take this new path. What’s your travel goal? What are you hoping our of this experience? Because once you start, you will have hard times on the road and it is then you will have to remind yourself why you are doing it in the first place.

For example, when I quit my previous lifestyle behind and decided to travel indefinitely, I did it because I wasn’t happy with the corporate lifestyle. At that time I didn’t know that I’ll make travel blogging my lifestyle career but I knew that I want to travel for a year or two at least and find out about my passion. The entire agenda was to explore how different communities around me live, meet people and introspect. And this idea helped me keep going despite many lows during my initial days of traveling.

Don’t Plan Too Far Ahead

To be honest, in long-term traveling, planning doesn’t work, because there will be times when you will end up in places where you won’t feel very comfortable while there will be others where you’ll think you belong and want to stay forever. It has happened to me so many times that I visited a place with so many expectations, and once I arrived there, I just wanted to leave.

So I decided “why do I keep planning if I am in no hurry?” Now whenever I feel like leaving, I leave. And if I feel I belong to a place, I stay put for as long as I feel right. Going with the flow is the best way to deal with long-term planning!

For example, when I volunteered in Australia, I originally planned to stay for only a week, but I ended up staying for over two weeks (despite having only 1 month in the country in total) because I loved the place.

So yea, just do not worry too much. Leave it to your feet to take you wherever you are meant to go, and enjoy the journey!

How People Get Paid To Travel: Understanding The Term TRAVEL INFLUENCER

So everytime someone comes across my Instagram profile and find me traveling around the world, they ask the same inevitable question: how do I sustain this lifestyle if I don’t have a job. “Do you get paid to travel?” they would ask. And when I tell them that I do (get paid to travel) because brands hire people like me — the so-called travel influencers of the digital age — to promote their services and destinations on our channels, they sound even more confused. “What is this term travel influencer, what does it even mean? Why would a brand hire you to promote them” and a few other relating questions that come next, almost effortlessly.

It happened to me recently that I was contacted by a medical student asking me for a way to have a quick escape in her life. She wanted to travel around the world and needed a way out. And as I started explaining things, and with that, using some technical jargon, I figured that I was only confusing her more.

Speaking to her, I realized that the first thing that people need to understand before actually jumping into this business is an understanding of what this business, in reality, is.

What Is A Travel Influencer?

A travel influencer (or an influencer of another industry: say, fashion, adventure or automobile) is basically a person, who, over time, has gained followers online. Now, these followers can be following the influencer on a social media channel (like Instagram and Twitter and Pinterest) or on a blog-website or youtube. As long as the person has some sort of influence over the online community and the general public show their interest (in the form of comments on their social media channels or website) to follow the influencer’s footsteps, the person is an influencer of the digital age. Having said that, here’s a hard truth, and a simple equation: more than what you write or the kind of videos you produce, a brand is always interested in sponsoring you basis on what kind of exposure you can offer them, in terms of reach and engagement, and that makes you an influencer.

For example, when I started blogging back in 2016, I started from a scratch, with Footloose Dev having no online presence. No one knew about him. But with time, as I kept traveling and writing about my journeys, Footloose Dev gained a follower base (on his blog and social media channels). Now there was no set score bar that, when crossed, made Footloose Dev a travel influencer, but with every follower gained, he only became more influential. Meaning, brands were less interested in him when he had 10,000 followers on Facebook, then compared to today, when he has nearly 50,000 followers on Facebook.

For my readers and followers, I am a travel blogger; for brands, I am a travel influencer!

Having said that, I repeat the hard truth, and the simple equation, once again: more than what kind of content you produce, a brand is more likely to sponsor you, if you have got a higher number of followers on social media channels and more readership on your blog, than your competitors. But this doesn’t mean that the kind of content you produce has no value. Most brands give the quality of content a good weight too. And then again, if your content isn’t good, catchy and unique enough, you’re not going to get any followers in first place — so you fail, before you even start!

Can You Survive Only On Instagram?

Over the years, Instagram has positioned itself as the most useful social media channel for advertisers and promoters. And this has resulted in many influencers working hard to have a strong Instagram presence. But is it possible to survive as an influencer by only having an Instagram presence?

Well, to honestly admit it, yes. It’s possible! I know a few influencers (particularly the fashion influencers) who use no other means of digital presence and have no personal blog or website, but just an Instagram profile to promote their work. And they get sponsors or even paid campaigns.

If you have a certain amount of clout and engagement with your followers and you think someone totally random stumbling upon your Instagram profile will perceive you (in the first impression itself) as thought leaders in the world of travel, because random strangers are showing their interest in your content and endorsement, then count yourself as an influencer.

So yea, you can very well live off by having a strong presence on just one platform, and Instagram happens to be the most powerful among all. But the more presence you’ve (on different channels) the better!

How To Be Successful As An Influencer

Now that you’ve got the idea that travel bloggers and video-makers of the digital age get sponsors because they work as influencers, let’s take the next step, and learn… How to become a stronger influencer, travel the world for free and even make money traveling!

Branding Yourself Better

Just like in any business, your success as an influencer depends on how well you brand yourself. Think about why someone would want to follow you (and for brands to sponsor you) over someone else producing similar content. There may already be a dozen ‘motorbiker/rider travelers’ out there but what distinguishes you is important. Calculate what additional value you can offer to a sponsor, other than providing them with a bigger audience base.

To start with, choose a name for your blog and social media handles that synchronizes with your style. Additionally, when thinking of a name think about the future – is this a name you will be good within a few years. I’ve seen people using names like ’20 Something Traveling’ or ‘Traveling The Himalayas’ and restricting their work before they even start.

The next important thing is designing your website, blog and social media channels. When it comes to Instagram, think of it as your magazine cover. Keep your online channels impressive.

Trick Your Reach By Working For Others

As I said earlier, more than what kind of content you create, it is your reach (in terms of your followers) that motivates a brand to work with you. But this doesn’t mean that no one is going to sponsor you if you had just started yesterday.

A smart way to increase your followers from Day-1 is by start writing (or producing videos) for other already established channels out there. For example, until last year, I was writing for a couple of offline magazines on a regular basis to keep brands interested in working with me. Because if GoPro didn’t seem interested in work with Footloose Dev as it had a monthly readership of 10,000 blog readers, the monthly readership of AirIndia’s in-flight magazine coupled with 10,000 monthly blog readers of FootlooseDev will certainly do.

I hope you get the idea!

Have A killer Media Kit

When I started blogging in 2015, I had no idea what a media kit is, and how crucial it is to have one for me as a travel influencer. If the term Media Kit sounds unfamiliar, imagine it as your portfolio or your resume that you will take to an employer while applying for a corporate job — a brief document speaking about you.

A Media Kit talks about you and your blog’s market-value. It includes mentions of your skills, interests, your blog’s statistics and the value you can add to a sponsor if they decided to work with you.

So make a Media Kit, and make it look killer! Hire a graphic designer to help you out or if you want to do it yourself, use Photoshop. If you’re not aware of Photoshop, use websites like DesignBold or Fotor, to help you with designing.

Further Reading: How To Create A Media Kit For Your Travel Blog

Invest In Your Business

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day and Taj Mahal took thousands of men to set its foundation, you can not do it alone either if you want to progress quickly. So I recommend investing in yourself and your business. Invest some money in taking a course on SEO or in hiring an agency to do it for you.

Similarly, invest in good photo-editing and video-editing tools. Buy a great camera from day 1. Own technology that can help you cut long processes short. Invest in good travel products. Listen to smart podcasts or spend time reading free articles on how to grow as a travel blogger or an influencer.

If you think about it, every profession has a professional training course, but not the influencer industry. In this business, it is hard to find someone to “train you” and give you exact formulas on how to grow. There no such thing as “influencer school” but there are ways for you to learn the important aspects of the industry like SEO, social strategy, business, branding, pitching etc.

So invest in yourself and your business and escalate the process towards success!


I hope these tips helped you understand who is a travel influencer and how and why travel influencers get paid to travel. If you have any doubts, read more related articles right from How To Start A Blog to Getting Sponsored Trips As A  Travel Blogger:

LEARN THE BUSINESS OF TRAVEL BLOGGING

How Sivananda Ashram, In Rishikesh, Changed Me

It has been three years since the events that are described here took place. Three years since I was a student at Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy in Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, learning about a divine lifestyle and how not be affected by little ups and downs in life, and yet I never mentioned anything about the place here.

It is not that over the years I’ve lost touch with Sivananda Ashram (I think I’ve visited Rishikesh and stayed in the Ashram more times in the previous three years than any other place in the world) or that I didn’t want to talk about it; but the fact that I never found a compelling reason, was the reason. Sivananda Ashram, for me, is like a second home, a place that has nourished my roots and made me what I am today. And just like you don’t feel a need to write about your home and make it public to the world, I never felt it important to be writing about Sivananda Ashram either.

But this time, as I visited Rishikesh to spend a few nights in the Ashram, I was accompanied by an unbidden sense of realization — a force, rather — which motivated me to write about it.

It all happened when a friend repeatedly shared about the discontentment he was lately feeling in life. “It feels as if I am stuck in a hamster wheel and there’s no way out,” he would repeat on every meeting. Though unlike many others, he was still keeping some equilibrium while escaping his life in New Delhi, almost every weekend, trekking and recharging his batteries in the Himalayas, the fact that it was a no permanent solution and, with time, was only making things worse, I tried suggesting a rather slower but more effective and lasting solution — the introduction of a divine living and a visit to Sivananda Ashram!

How I Got Associated To Sivananda Ashram

When I finally quit my corporate career in 2015, I did it after hopelessly failing in finding my interest. I gave up my well-paying job in a media house in England, before moving to India, with a belief that things would improve here. But they didn’t. In about one year after my relocation, I switched three different companies and a few different profiles. Everywhere I would go, I would feel a little incomplete within, wanting something else but that. I would plan weekends with my friends only to return on a Monday a bit more unsatisfied.

But now that I look back at it, I see that it wasn’t my lifestyle or the monotonous jobs that lacked something (I mean travel-blogging too, if we look at it that way, can be monotonous, except for a frequent change in geographic locations) it was me, or the ever-growing void in my head that felt unresting.

So after changing three jobs in India, I couldn’t hold it any longer and (in March 2015) I decided to leave everything behind and travel. I booked a one-way ticket to Bhutan with a big rucksack and a few belongings. For the next 6 months, I traveled across parts of Bhutan, Nepal and Northeast India. But as time passed, I realized that I was only, once again, losing time with no purpose and no direction. And this time, I was clearly, and more evidently, losing money too. Where those 6 months of uninterrupted traveling was sure a highlight and I gained many great experiences, I still had no clue about where my life was heading.

Six months later, in September 2015, I returned home, feeling more restless than ever, and waiting for a spark of light, when during a casual dinner-discussions my father suggested me a two-month long Yoga Vedanta course in Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh. Of course, a regular habit of meditation and some yoga sounded like an ideal answer (as I happened to find on their website) and the next thing I knew, I was enrolling myself for the upcoming Yoga Vedanta Course.

Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy, Sivananda Ashram

Since its inception in 1948, Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh has been running three batches, every year, wherein they train a selected 40 students from across India about diving living. The training is given irrespective of their religion and professional background. The only condition is, however, they should be men of Indian origin, aged between 20 and 65 years old.

For a period of two months, you are required to stay in The Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy inside the Sivananda Ashram (with Sundays as free days in addition to a little time to go out every day) and follow a strict schedule that starts as early as 4 in the morning.

Speaking of the routine, the students wake up at 4 in the morning, followed by a daily one-hour meditation class at 5. Throughout the day, the students are bound to attend various lectures learning about Indian scriptures like Bhagwat Gita and Upanishads, in addition to studying what the many great Indian and western philosophers like Aristotle and Adi Shankara and Chanakya said, and preached.

The aim of the course is not merely an academic equipment of Yoga and Vedanta knowledge but a complete transformation of the way they think and perceive life. For a period of two months, the ashram life teaches about discipline and persistence while integrating their personalities in a way that they succeed, at least in an appreciable measure, in living a life of goodness and wholeness. Imagine it like a 20th century gurukul where students learn about a life of discipline and order — something more useful than any college degree today.

How Sivananda Ashram & The Yoga Vedanta Course Changed Me

If anything, Sivananda Ashram — thanks to its daily meditation and lectures on how to live a more harmonious and divine life — instilled a sense of positive thinking in me. If I look back to the original me I would describe myself an ‘unperturbed directionless person’, while the new me is still ‘unperturbed’ but ‘fairly nonchalant’ at the same time, and that’s a good combination.

The daily routine of meditation and yoga that I continued after my two-month course in Sivananda Ashram in 2015 has conditioned me in a way that negative thoughts are becoming a rarity inside. I mean if I think of the time when I started travel blogging in January 2016 with a little to no idea about how to make money from travel blogging, I cannot imagine how I continued doing it for the initial 8 or 9 months with no income and no hope whatsoever. If it were not for the positive thinking and persistence (and the old me were dealing with it) I would have given up somewhere in the middle, and be right now sitting with a grumpy face in an 4*4 cubicle, working on someone else’s dreams.

So yea, over time, as I continued practicing what I learned in the Ashram, I can feel a stronger and a more positive change from within.

The Factual mumbojumbo

  • The Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy runs three batches every year (March-April | May-June | September-October) with each course running for a duration of two months.
  • The course is free of cost (however, any donations are always welcome) with two months of free stay, food, lectures and everything else of daily need.
  • The food being served in the Ashram is totally Sattvik, however, you will be amazed by the quality of food (that range from fruits to wholesome meals throughout the day) and the kind of accommodation (which may be minimalistic and simple but super-clean).
  • If you think of it as an opportunity to learn Yoga and get a degree to start your career in Yoga, please don’t enroll for the course. Because the aim of the course is rather instilling a divine and positive thought process in the lifestyle of the attendees. Enroll only you are coming with a keen spiritual aspiration and deep interest in the practice of Yoga-Vedanta. There is going to be daily lectures on Bhagwat Gita and philosophy and Upanishads for at least 5 hours every day and not everyone can handle it.
  • Smoking, use of intoxicants and drugs, and such other dissipating habits are strictly forbidden. Students are expected to live an austere life in the Ashram and should be mentally prepared and physically sound to stand the rigor of the course. You will also be asked to do Karma Yoga which includes duties like weeding the gardens to cleaning toilets to serving food in Dining Hall.
  • Total group size of a batch is 40 people that are carefully selected after reviewing their academic background and their thoughts on spirituality. Applicants are required to submit an application (which can be downloaded from YVFA’s website). It is possible that you may be requested to come for an interview before you’re shortlisted.
  • There are quire a few Sivananda Ashrams across India (with two of them in Rishikesh itself, I think) with names such as Sivananda Yogpeeth and Sivananda Dhanvantari Ashram. Please note that they all operate as independent identities and have no connection with the original Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh. The Sivananda Ashram with Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy is the original Sivananda Ashram with Swami Sivanandaji’s Samadhi Shrine. So if you visit or have already visited any other Sivananda Ashram please make no connections!

   

Got questions? Write them in comments below, or connect with me on Instagram

Hong Kong: In Pictures

When it comes to photography and pictures, Hong Kong can never disappoint. I mean you just Google search for Hong Kong Pictures and you will get the idea: there is just no end to scrolling down. From one of the world’s most congested concrete jungles to green spaces to an interesting street life, Hong Kong has everything a photographer may need.

During my blog trip with Cathay Pacific Airlines, I ended up exploring Hong Kong for a few days, on my own, and never did I feel a desire to make friends or look for a company. The streets of Hong Kong and my camera were enough as companions.

Also Read: My Suggested Hong Kong Travel Itinerary

So out of a few days of directionless wandering, and an effort to capture Hong Kong and its essence in my lens, this is what I’ve produced. This is…

Hong Kong, In Pictures

Hong Kong, as a city is quite strategically located, with a cram-full of skyscrapers in the middle surrounded by lush green hills. Standing on top of one of those hills as you overlook the city, you feel like being in a different world. If today, in your country, you know it’s 2018, in Hong Kong, it feels at least 2050.

However, once you start exploring Hong Kong from deep inside, you come across seemingly ugly looking and hopelessly crammed buildings with thousands of people sharing very little space among them. If Hong Kong is otherwise known as a concrete jungle, there’s no reason asking WHY!

If you want to experience the real day to day life of Hongkongers, there’s no better place than one of its many busy streets. With the highlight being…

…the streets around the Central and the Western District, of course!

Though made of a few small and big islands, the Kowloon Peninsula (where I am standing right now, behind the camera) and Hong Kong Island (in the background) is what pretty much completes Hong Kong.

And connecting the two is the regular ferry service that takes you to a wonderful 10-minute ride from one island to the other for as less as HKD 1.5

Though if you fancy a little longer ride, and wanted to explore a few more islands, there are several private boat ride companies to choose from. One similar popular thing to do is a ride in a traditional Junk Boat. It takes you back in time and makes you feel no less than a shoddy pirate. You can choose between a day trip…

…or a more romantic evening one.

And then again, every town around the world has its own charm. Where some places look more gorgeous during the day, Hong Kong, certainly, becomes prettier in the evening. As the sun starts setting down and the skyscrapers come to life, the town regains some sort of alluring vibrancy.

So yea, Hong Kong is certainly a night city. It even makes the same afternoon boring, maddening traffic, look romantic — infusing a little poetry in you as a river does.

Where it won’t be wrong to say that Hong Kong is primarily a busy town, with most Hongkongers having no time for themselves, let alone for others, for those who appreciate green spaces, nature and some ‘Me Time’, there are certainly enough options. Just go in any direction, away from the Central District, and you will find a path taking you to a secluded hill…

… or a secluded beach, with almost no life around you.

And one of the best places to escape the town and climb higher up to find some green space, in Hong Kong, is certainly The Peak. And the best way to get there is a 10 minute Peak Tram Ride that costs HKD 40. Imagine sitting or standing on a tram at an almost 45° angle while the view is fast changing from magnanimous apartment buildings to mountain trails.

But if that’s a bit of an effort and you’re feeling lazy, you can always find a cozy corner by a waterfront promenade with a beer in hand and some lovely company of strangers.

Alright, this one is just for the sake of adding food. Because you do a picture story about Hong Kong and you don’t give a single mention of dim-sums and other local delicacies of Hong Kong? Not fair!


I visited Hong Kong on a press trip with Cathay Pacific Airlines. Where my journey and stay was sponsored by them, everything written above is solely based on personal finding and experiences. I only recommend what I personally try, and find worth appreciating.

Why India’s Blue City Jodhpur Couldn’t Intrigue Me

Before you read ahead, please note that everything that’s written below about ‘Jodhpur not being able to impress or intrigue me’ is solely personal. I am sure there are people out there who loved Jodhpur but from the eyes of an Indian backpacker belonging to Delhi, who, more than anything, wanted Jodhpur to be something more than a confusing and muddled Indian neighborhood (as he grew up watching one in Delhi, every day) this is how Jodhpur appeared!

As I alight at Jodhpur railway station, I was greeted by a confusing mob of a few hundred people — with some looking pretty familiar to the town, while others, seemingly hopeless and confusing as a  tourist, in a new city, would be. And I was no different either. As I exited the station, I got into the usual gamut of rejecting the constant soliciting of ‘Sir Auto’, ‘Sir Hotel’ requests until I walked a few steps away from anyone who could slyly put their touting Hat on me. Crowded, dusty and defiled, as Jodhpur appeared in the first glace, I realized, this isn’t the kind of Jodhpur I was hoping for.

Later in the evening, I found myself already escaping the town’s madness and looking for a quiet corner. From the popular sunset point of the Statue of Rao Rao Jodha (a 20-minute walk from my hotel) and with a thousand lights twinkling at a distance and a beer in my hand, I realized it wasn’t a bad spot at all to be concluding my first evening in Jodhpur.  A constant cool breeze on an early November evening was moreover adding to the experience. But at a distance all I could still hear and feel was people rushing across the town.

Surrounded by a canopy of dust and overwhelmed by uninterrupted honking, a voice inside me repeated again, “this sure wasn’t the Jodhpur I was hoping for!”

My First Impression of Jodhpur

I remember how when I came out of Jodhpur railway station I did something very unusual — hiring a taxi. I mean I am one of those people who, when arriving in a new place, find it amusing to be traveling in a local (rickety) bus, or Googling his directions to the hotel and walking for an hour with a massive rucksack on his back, than enjoying the luxury of a taxi. But in Jodhpur, I ended up doing exactly that. And it was because of a sudden disappointment.

I ended up in Jodhpur with a false impression, of dreaming for a town just as romantic as I found it on Instagram. What else I dreamed, or rather expected for, from Jodhpur, was a town that still resonated more history and culture than a confusing transformation of Old to New.

The 10-minute drive from the railway station to my hotel took me through a maze of interconnected and confusing by-lanes, very similar to any bustling north Indian imperial town of today (say Old Ahmedabad or Old Delhi) except for its periodically appearing fading blue buildings. The town was nothing more than a disappointing mix of crowded, bustling and dirty.

The Usual Crowded Hold No Interest For Me Anymore

For someone not belonging from North India, or say not belonging from India at all, the confusing by-lanes of Jodhpur may still hold some interest (and I am sure it does). But for someone like me who grew up in the confusing and muddled neighborhood of Delhi, the old town of Jodhpur was nothing new. I mean if I wanted to explore chaotic wild streets and inhale some more dust choking my lungs, I would have done it in Old Delhi itself, why bother with a 12-hour train ride.

So yea, Jodhpur, just as brutally as my words here, killed the romanticism in me in no time. Its historic monuments were poorly looked after. The streets were only dirty and confusing. And everyone in the town was busy adapting to a new modern — slowly killing the Blue Jodhpur we’re familiar with.

The Blue Jodhpur Is Slowly Dying

There is no denying the fact that the Blue Jodhpur we always knew is slowly dying, with anyone finding a chance to remodel their property, remodeling it from a boring blue (as I think they find it) to a fancy ivory or a striking yellow.

In the month of November of 2018, I found the old district of Jodhpur, getting a serious transformation, with one house in every twenty being literally demolished to build something fancier in its place. And that was another saddening factor.

Don’t Let Instagram Fool You

So yea, if you’re visiting Jodhpur with a romantic image of being surrounded with contrasting blue buildings, please don’t. Though of course, you will still find enough of them to fill a frame you cannot fill an entire sight with it, as I rather imagined before actually ending up in Jodhpur.

The old fort of Mehrangarh is also nothing unusual, outside of its few Instagram perfect spots.

Most of the unnamed piece of old heritage, especially those lying outside of the city wall, was moreover totally overlooked by the authorities with no restoration work in the process whatsoever —  filled with more plastic and rubbish that you want to see.

So yea, again, the Jodhpur I found, in reality, wasn’t the Jodhpur that I had initially pictured. It could be so much better with all the architectural and cultural heritage it had, forget a few natural vistas (waterfalls and caves) and a few quiet places it is surrounded with. But with how the place is currently being managed, it’s sad to get there and not find the Jodhpur we had imagined in our head.

Have you been to Jodhpur? Did you like it? Or did you hate it? Please share your comments below. Also, do you have anything to share about this article on Jodhpur being so bluntly written? Let’s please be honest for a moment here!

How To Spend Two Days In Jakarta: An Ideal Itinerary

Visiting Jakarta, in Indonesia, for a short time of only two days? This ideal two-day travel itinerary will help you plan your holiday better and get the most out of your 48 hours in Jakarta.

When it comes to the popular tourist destinations in Indonesia, Jakarta, despite being the capital city, holds no place — not even among the top 5 destinations in the country. But with most international flights (particularly the budget connecting ones) first landing at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport, many people, before making it to their original destination of Bali or someplace else, end up in Jakarta. And since their original plan had no time for Jakarta, they only often stay for a day or a maximum of 48 hours.

During my recent blog trip with Indonesia Tourism, I also ended up exploring Jakarta for just a few quick days. And as I did, I realized that Jakarta was actually a very beautiful place and had much more to offer than what most people expect — a bustling metropolis. It had theme parks, temples, shopping malls, museums and even a cluster of gorgeous islands located at just one-hour speedboat ride away.

So out of many different experiences, these are a few handpicked ones I would recommend you to fit in your itinerary when in Jakarta. What I also recommend is staying for at least 2 days in Jakarta to be able to see a bit of the town and a part of the thousand islands.

Spending Two Days In Jakarta: An Ideal Itinerary

Day 1: Flee To The Thousand Islands

I know it is only natural to feel tempted to explore Jakarta as you arrive there and not escape from it, I always prefer a slow and relaxing the first day in a new country, and that’s what a trip to the islands can offer you: a moment to relax, unwind and just be!

Those who don’t know, the Thousand Islands is basically a cluster of nearly 350 islands stretching 45 km north into the Java Sea (I wish I had a drone to capture a few impressive ariel shots but you can check Google Images to get an idea).  Out of these nearly 350 islands, over 30 islands are privately owned, with many of them now having a resort (or building one) and catering to tourists. The rest of the islands are either uninhabited or being used for fishing.

Now, there are quite a few options in the Thousand Islands for a day trip from Jakarta (or for spending a night on the island there) but if I were to suggest a place, I can suggest the island of Pulau Macan. Privately owned, like other islands in the Thousand Islands, the Pulau Macan island is a tiny one-hectare island perfect for those who are looking for a quick escape.

For those who like a bit of movement, there is also enough to see and do on the island, including: kayaking or a stand-up paddle-boarding; playing in-house games like table tennis or chess; or doing nothing but eat amazing tropical food and relax on a hammock the entire day. It is also possible to get a snorkel and explore some amazing coral life located no more than 20 feet from the island.

It is also possible to spend a night at the island or do a day trip, and since you’re short on time, I suggest a day trip to Pulau Macan.

To get to Pulau Macan, get to Ancol Marina from Pier number 17 at around 8 in the morning and you can book a speed-boat right then and there. Alternatively, book a speed-boat or a bigger Yacht online. The journey to Pulau Macan takes between 1.5 to 2 hours one side as you sail through most of the Thousand Islands region.

If you book through an agent, as we did (with Sheila Tours) you get a return boat journey, a few snacks on the boat, a buffet lunch at the island and free use of the kayak and snorkel, which I found was a pretty good deal for a price of 1,000,000 Indonesian Rupiah per person (nearly USD 70) on weekends, and a little less during weekdays.

Enjoy some amazing home-cooked meal of rice, seafood, vegetables, and fruits and spend most of the time of the day relaxing and exploring the island life in Indonesia before you head back to Jakarta. Once you are back, make your day evening special with some seafood at Jimbaran restaurant in Ancol.

Dinner At Jimbaran Restaurant In Ancol

Though for a vegetarian and the usual meat eaters, Jimbaran is not much of place of interest, if you’re a seafood lover, you are going to love the place. But personally speaking, it wasn’t the seafood or any other delicacy why I loved Jimbaran so much, but the ambiance.

Think of it as a superb dining experience while watching the sunset on a white sandy beach. Jimbaran is one of the rare places in Indonesia (and they have a restaurant in Bali too) which provides you with this wonderful opportunity.

What makes the experience better is some music and traditional live performances.

Day 2: Start With A Tour To National Museum

Despite not being a big fan of museums, I personally feel that museums are an important place to visit because they help us understand about a country’s history and people better. And that’s why I suggest visiting the National Museum of Indonesia. Filled with sculptures and reminisces of Hinduism and Buddhism, the museum gives an in-depth introduction to Indonesia’s true past.

Unlike other museums, the National Museum of Jakarta appeared fairly small and was possible to scan thoroughly in just a couple of hours. But despite its size, the museum held an impressive collection of stone Hindu-Buddhist artwork, ancient gold artifacts, some ancient ceramics and even a selection of fossils and ceremonial weaponry. To gain a good insight into Indonesia’s past, there is no finer place to visit.

Next Up, The Neighbourhood Of Kota Tua

I know it may sound a little unreal, but the sprawling metropolis of Jakarta — that is home to nearly 30 million people today — was once only confined to the tiny boundaries of Kota Tua. Yes, I am talking about the time of the Dutch rule in Indonesia, or the time of Batavia. So Kota Tua may just be a historical center of today’s sprawling Jakarta, but back in the days, it was the original Jakarta.

When you’re walking around the streets in Kota Tua, you will be taken back in time, quite literally — with old Dutch-style buildings and newly restored museums looking all fancy and vibrant. It’s possible to spend a day in Kota Tua and not get bored, however, those who are short on time should be able to explore it all and get a few Instagram worthy pictures in an hour or two.

The brightest attraction on the square is going to be those pink and yellow old-school bikes that are available to rent and cruise around the central square.

Lunch At Cafe Batavia

Once done with exploring Kota Tua, head to the iconic Cafe Batavia, which is no less a historic highlight. Housed in a 1830s building, this two-storeyed resto bar offers a colonial ambiance complemented with original-dutch East India cuisine. So when you’re in Jakarta, and Kota Tua in particular, a lunch at Cafe Batavia is a must.

Again, as an uninterested foodie, I will not talk much about the food, but the ambiance. With its tall slatted windows and period colonial-style furniture, Cafe Batavia will certainly carry you back to the splendor of colonial days.

Once done, and if you’ve some more time to spare, visit the Jakarta History Museum located right across Cafe Batavia. Built in the 17th century as the Town hall in the Dutch VOC colonial era, the History of Jakarta Museum is a place where you can observe artifacts found when Jakarta was still called Sunda Kelapa, also the agreement in stone between the Kingdom of Sunda with the Portuguese.

A quick stroll inside the museum and exploring painted is totally worth it.

Next Up, Some Shopping At Thamrin City Trade Mall

You visit Southeast Asia and not street-shop? Not possible! Though as the name suggests, Thamrin City Trade Mall is not an open street market but a massive brick and mortar setup, the idea is similar to any street/canopy market where local cheap products are available in abundance and you need to spot what you fancy and later bargain.

The entire place is overwhelmingly massive, with everything, from clothes to electronics to food on display. Thamrin City mall is also well-known for selling a lot of local products, particularly Batik clothes, at reasonable rates.

You will certainly need at least two hours to explore (just a tiny bit of) the place.

Dinner At Social House, Grand Indonesia

From the outside, Social House may not look like much, but walk in and you’ll find the entire locale pretty photogenic and of course, social! For some reason, it reminded me of those cool cafes we have in Europe where people would come for a casual and some fine dining experience at the same time.

If you’re looking for a cozy and comfortable place for a family or friends gathering, there cannot be a better place. Their all-day menu serves extensive options of Asian and Western favorites, including sushi, pizza, pasta, tapas, and Wagyu beef burger.

For drinks to go with your meal, there is a good selection of cocktail, wine and a selection of beers!

Where To Stay In Jakarta

Of course, just like any popular expat city in Southeast Asia Jakarta too has no dearth of accommodation options. From backpacker hostels to something more sophisticated, one can find it all here. But if I were to suggest a place from my experience, I can certainly vouch for the Manhattan Hotel. This is where I stayed during my time in Jakarta.

Speaking of my room, which didn’t qualify as one of the superior rooms they had, was clean, tidy and equipped with the standard furniture and amenity, including a bathtub with a view.

Speaking of the facilities offered by Manhattan Hotel Jakarta, guests can use a gym, swimming pool, sauna and steam all for free.

The hotel also serves a great buffet breakfast including an array of food, dessert, and fruits. But one thing I loved about the hotel the most was its strategic location. Located just next to Kuningan City Mall, the location of Manhattan Hotel, without any doubt, felt like living right in the in the middle of the city.

Have you been to the Jakarta? Do you have anything to add to the itinerary?

Also Read: My First Impression Of Indonesia


Disclaimer: I visited Indonesia on a blog trip with Indonesia Tourism and Malindo Air. While my trip and experiences were sponsored by them, all recommendations provided above are solely mine. I only recommend what I personally try, and find worth appreciating.