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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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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.

Why I Loved Indonesia

There are some places in the world that, almost voluntarily, and perhaps a little forcefully too, make you develop a sudden liking towards them. It may be because of the natural beauty of the place, the food you had there or something else. For me, for example, it’s always the people. If I feel that warmth in local people and connect to the community in a way I do back home, I know that I can love the place. This is the reason why I have always adored the Himalayas. And this is why I loved Indonesia too.

But that’s not the only reason why I loved Indonesia, or why I decided to write this article at first place. Indonesia, as I explored during my few days of stay in Jakarta, has much more to offer than an overdose of warmth in its people. It has world-class beaches, mountains, colorful metropolis, tantalizing food, amazingly friendly people and a promising digital-nomad scene (yes, I am talking about Bali!). Whether you’re a traveler or a fancy holidayer, if you can find it somewhere else in the world, you can find it in Indonesia.

So yea, my love for Indonesia grew in just a few days. And counting the reasons ‘why’ here are some. See if you agree:

Indonesia For Its People

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest reasons why I loved Indonesia was because Indonesians are such friendly people. I’ve traveled to over 20 countries, and never have I ever been in such a welcoming country like Indonesia. Here locals, genuinely and without wanting something in return, help you out.

I also adored how Indonesians value family and their community, over individualism. They work as one and that’s worth appreciating. I loved how despite being amazingly diverse, as various groups in Indonesia are, they live to their motto of “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” which translates as “Unity in Diversity”.

So yea, you just cannot run off a list of reasons to love Indonesia without including the natives!

Indonesia For Its Culture

Indonesia, as we know it today, is a fascinating blend of old traditions being merged with western ideals. It’s a surreal juxtaposition to see a KFC looming ominously over traditional street food, or traditional throat singing over something more modern.

But if we look into Indonesian culture and history, it has been dominating the world since the very beginning of mankind. If you happen to visit Museum Nationale, in Jakarta, you will find researches claiming that it wasn’t Africa where first homo-sapiens were spotted, it was Indonesia.

Yet if you walk around the streets in Bali (though I haven’t been there I believe it’s true) or Jakarta, you will find people with no strings attached to their cultural past, or trying to boast about their rich cultural values and county’s heritage.

You will never find an Indonesian having a slight degree of xenophobia, despite most of them being overly proud of their Indonesian roots. There’s a real enthusiasm for learning more about other cultures, that extends from wide-eyed kids to chatty old men.

Other than this, I have always adored places that do not forcefully hold back its people because of old traditional ideas, and that’s what I found in Indonesia — at least in Jakarta. Despite being a Muslim dominating state, Jakarta felt just as much Christian or Hindu as anything else. Here you may find women wearing a hijab or a scarf to cover their head, but down below, a striking pair of jeans and sports shoes. And that’s the reason for an underlying tolerance in the society, and for me loving Indonesia even more.

Indonesia For Its Beauty & Distinction

Despite being unfortunate enough to be only visiting Jakarta and a part of the thousand islands cluster (on the north coast of Jakarta) I found Indonesia a beautiful and diverse country. I mean in just about 60km deep into the ocean, as we escaped the crowded Jakarta (for the thousand islands) we found a place where tourists would seldom pass. Where Jakarta remained an overwhelming metropolis, the islands surrounding it was something totally different.

Further Reading: Visiting Pulau Macan Island, From Jakarta

And that’s the thing with the rest of Indonesia (as I was told, and personally figured to whatever extent). Since the country is majorly a cluster of small and big islands, each piece of land has its own beauty and vibrancy. From the remote islands of Raja Ampat to party-dominated Bali to something as unique as the ever-active volcanoes of MtBromo, every bit of Indonesia has something else to offer — “You need months to explore different colors of Indonesia and still not be able to see it all,” I fairly remember how apt the statement was coming from one of the guides we met during our tour.

So yea, if we keep hearing names like Bali and Ubud and Gili Islands over and over again, there’s is a reason for it. And that reason, as far as I’ve understood, is not just the unbounded beauty of each place, but the highlighting contrast between them. If one person loses their heart in Bali, the other person does it at someplace else!

Indonesia For Everything Else

And then, there are other things to adore about Indonesia — the food, the level of safety you feel there (compared to many other Asian and Southeast Asian countries) and most importantly, the value for money.

Also, being a fan of offbeat traveling I feel that even if Indonesia is now a very popular tourist destination, there are lesser visited and far unknown places in the country. And now that I’ve been there once (even if it was a very brief introduction) I’ve been researching about it on the internet and finding so many names that have hardly been mentioned anywhere. From the bizarre archaeological sites of Goa Gajah to the spectacular volcanos Flores, there’s enough to explore in Indonesia that is still rather offbeat!


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.

Pulau Macan Island: A Perfect Day Trip From Jakarta

Sitting at the patio of what they fondly named as the Sunset Beach Hut, of the incredible, sustainably built eco-resort of Pulau Macan Island, that I first realized there’s more to Indonesia than I ever knew. Here, only the distant sound of the ocean’s gentle waves kept me company, blissfully far from the honeymooners and sunbathers who often flock to Indonesia. It had been only a few minutes that I had started reading the book (about life on the Indonesian Islands) and I was already being pulled away from the world, into a sweet oblivion. A soothing Gamelan music coming from a distance from a recorded tape was moreover adding to the charm. “Life here is good,” said a voice inside me, yet, sadly, it won’t be long that I will already be bidding farewell to Pulau Macan, that, with every passing moment, appeared less like a usual island to me and more like an exception —  a place, where heaven meets the earth!

I remember the moment I stepped on Pulau Macan island I knew that my first blog on Indonesia is going to be on Pulau Macan. And no, the idea wasn’t to add it in one of those ‘Top Places To See In Indonesia’ listicles that I’ve recently started doing on my blog, but a full-fledged dedicated story talking about more things from the island than one can find on a day trip.

So before we move forward, let me tell you that we stayed on Pulau Macan island for only about 5 hours as we did a day trip from Jakarta. The journey took less than 2 hours from the mainland to the island, on a Yacht, which, nonetheless, was a constant treat to the eyes — with the sea periodically changing its shade from an impressive blue to a magical green. Occasional islands also kept appearing at a distance.

It is also possible to spend a few nights in one of the many private sea huts on the island (it has a total occupancy of over 40 guests at any given time) and that’s what I will recommend. But even if not, a day-trip to Pulau Macan from Jakarta is totally worth it, and may just end up being your highlights in Indonesia as it happened to be mine.

Pulau Macan Island: An Introduction

Located within the thousand island cluster on the north coast of Jakarta, Pulau Macan, just like the most of the islands within the thousand islands, is privately owned. And its owner owns two islands — one, where the beach huts, the restaurant and everything else of daily need is located (the one is known as Pulau Macan) and the other with no construction and no life (fondly known as the ‘little island). Please note that Pilau Macan Island is also known as the Tiger Island.

Where Pulau Macan offers an ideal escape from the bustling Jakarta metropolis, while still not being totally detached from civilization, as you find a few other people working (and holidaying) on the island, the little island, on the other side, is a deserted piece of land with no life around. It’s possible to walk between the two islands (or take an in-house boat) as both are connected with in-land (walkable) sea, though I didn’t walk it as I was short in time and had other things of priority —  clicking crazy pictures for my Instagram.

In the picture: Doing the handstand at the little island, with Pulau Macan in the background

Things To Do At Pulau Macan

For a person like me, Pulau Macan offers an ideal escape from life, a place that offers enough cozy corners to relax, unwind and just be!

For an intrepid, however, the island offers more than one can imagine. One can hire a touring kayak or a stand-up paddle-board; play in-house games like table tennis, chess or volleyball; or do nothing but eat amazing tropical food and relax on a hammock the entire day. It is also possible to borrow a snorkel and explore some amazing coral life located no more than 20 feet from the island (just be careful of stepping on a puffer-fish as there’re quite a few).

Those who are into more serious adventure will be happy to know that the island even organizes scuba diving for its guests.

What To Expect If You’re Staying At Pulau Macan

Pulau Macan (as I was told) is the only self-sufficient environment-friendly resort in the entire thousand island culter — meaning, you won’t be treated with luxury when you’re there. But then again, in a place like that, that’s surrounded with nothing but fresh air and unworldly views, you anyway do not need an aircon or other things to keep you entertained.

There is electricity available on the island, however only in the evening or in the daytime by request. From the solar powered energy, rainwater showers and a firm belief of using limited resources, the resort certainly stays true to its philosophy of eco-tourism.

They serve an amazing home-cooked meal of rice, seafood, vegetables and fruits on both lunch and dinner buffet; meanwhile, things like bread and jam and Nutella are available the whole day free of charge. Coffee and tea lovers area also kept equally entertained throughout the day. The island even has a small in-house bar that maintains a supply of fresh coconuts, superfood smoothies, beers, wines, spirits and cocktails.

They have a total of 6 different sea huts and 5 eco-cabins, all costing between USD 150 to USD 250 per person per night. Check their website for more accurate rates and preferences.

It is wonderful to see how all the cabins and huts are built facing straight to the crystal clear water, offering some of the most breathtaking sunset views ever, straight from your bed. The rooms barely have walls and, doors but it’s possible to roll the bamboo curtain down to cover the room (but why would you even want to do that?)

Getting To Pulau Macan

Since we were a big group, we had our own private Yacht (booked by a company called Sheila Tour). But if you’re on your own, there are daily boats that leave to Pulau Macan and to other islands in the thousand islands area. The standard departure point for most islands is at the Ancol Marina from Pier number 17. The boats stop at Pulau Macan and a few other islands on the way and the trip takes 1.5-2.5 hours depending on the number of stops.

The daily departure time from Marina’s in Jakarta is around 8 o’clock in the morning, while the departure from the island back to Jakarta is around 2 pm. Boat services often don’t leave after 4 pm because of high tides, and with it, increasing safety issues.


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.

Useful Tips For Improving Your Travel Photography

Want to improve your travel photography? These useful travel photography tips will help you get some creative ideas and learn more!

For the previous three years, since I quit my job to travel, I’ve been taking pictures around the world, trying different tips and self-teaching myself every day from what works and what doesn’t. And in the process, I’ve learned that photography — particularly travel photography — is a self-learning process. The more you click the more you learn.

But what else I’ve learned is that a few good tips from others can help you learn faster. I mean I remember how since I’ve started waking up early (after getting the idea from another travel blog) my pictures have drastically improved in terms of lighting. Morning and evening sunlight, I’ve learned, is best the best time for photography, and photographers around the world would have been taking its advantage. Other than this, I’ve learned is that every destination has its own feel, its own story. Learning how to capture subjects and the feeling of a place helps capture a photograph that others would appreciate, as it gives the viewers a chance, a glimpse rather, of what it might be like to venture there.



I mean I’ve never been to a photography school, and yet here I am, making my living as a professional travel blogger and photographer who regularly visit countries on photography assignments.

I’ve slowly learned the techniques of travel photography over years of reading other material out there and putting it into practice. And you can learn this way too. So wasting no more time, here are my top travel photography tips to help you improve your images.

Useful Tips For Improving Your Travel Photography

Wake Up Early

There’s no denying the fact that dawn, and moreover the dusk, is the best time for photography because more than anything, light is the key ingredient to a great picture. Soft morning light gives your images a warm, soft tone, complemented with eye-pleasing shadows. Same applies to the time of dusk, or sunset!

Waking up early also means that you will have to deal with fewer tourists. I mean if you will Google some of the iconic images of Eiffel Tower or of Taj Mahal,  you will see they were all shot during the golden hours of dusk or dawn.

You can moreover play with longer shutter speed and capture the lights of building and of on-going traffic (if you’re shooting in a city) which looks no less dramatic. Look at the picture below, for example. It was shot around 6 in the evening during my recent trip to Hong Kong. With a longer shutter speed, I could make it look like a day while capturing the headlights of the ongoing traffic and the light in the buildings. Doing something similar in broad day-light would have been totally impossible.

Daytime, moreover, has less visibility making it the worst time for travel photography. Pictures clicked during noon look hazy, colorless and overexposed.

Preplan Your Shooting Location

Wandering around in a new town has its own charm but when it comes to photography, having a little idea about the place and its best photography spots always help you save time and fully commit to producing amazing photographs. Preplanning your shooting location helps you save time and produce better images that are already available out there.

the town of Longwa in Nagaland

Read a travel guide about your next destination, search for related pictures on Google Images, dig for pictures on Instagram using relevant hashtags, visit a local post-card gallery — there are enough ways to do the research.

I often search for a city’s top photography locations on Instagram, using relevant Instagram hashtags. Once I know the names of potential photo locations, I do more research — what time of day has the best light? How to easily reach there? What other attractions I can visit nearby? And so on and so forth. Instagram, moreover,  is a great directory for finding quirky and creative travel photography ideas for destinations and activities.



Rule Of Thirds

The Rule Of Thirds is the most fundamental photography rule according to which you divide your photo frame into three sections from top to bottom and left to right. Now, according to the Rule Of Thirds, your subject should always be placed at one the intersecting lines in the frame and not in the center. Why? To make the frame look more interesting and balanced.

To make it easier for beginners, most DSLRs today come with an option where you can see the grids forming on your screen (or even in the eyepiece if it’s digital). Just turn on the option from the Menu and keep it in mind if you’re not used to it.

Now imagine the picture above with the subject (the bird) being placed right in the center of the frame. Not so eye-pleasing, right?

Always Carry A Tripod

My camera tripod is the second most useful photography equipment for me, after the camera itself. With the camera fixed on a tripod, I can take my time arranging the composition and getting that perfect shot. Even when I do not necessarily need one (for high shutter speed shots) I use a tripod as it helps me pay that extra attention I need for the image.

Other than this, we all know that tripods give us the ability to shoot much slower shutter speeds (waterfalls, low-light, stars, etc) without worrying about hand-held camera shake. You can keep your ISO low (for less sensor noise) and use smaller apertures, so more of the image is in focus.

As a solo traveler, a tripod moreover helps me take my own pictures. Rather than asking other tourists (if I am lucky enough to be traveling a place that has other people around me) to click me a picture, I prefer mounting the camera on a tripod, using the timer functionality and pose in front of it. This way I am not taking any one’s favor and I am free to take as many pictures as I want until I get a perfect shot!

There is no need to buy a full-length professional tripod in the beginning. Speaking of myself, though I own a full-length and a small Gorillapod, I only carry a Gorillapod on 9 out of 10 journeys because it’s more handy and small in size.

Capturing Local People

Capturing local life is the very essence of travel photography. And for capturing local life — the portraits of local people. But photographing people in a foreign land can be challenging. What if they said no? Or they get annoyed? Can photographing that old lady sitting on her porch not offend her? There is always a dozen question going in photographer’s mind.

It personally took me so long to find my comfort zone in actually asking people if I can photograph them. I remember during my initial days, I would do it secretly, and it hardly gave a good photo. With time, I realized that the best way to deal with the problem is by actually facing it.

The key to photographing local people is going to them and starting a conversation. Ask for directions to a museum. Or compliment them on something. Take the conversation going for a few minutes until you know they’re comfortable with you. Once you know it, humbly ask for permission and click a few shots. This way, you’re less invasive and more confident.

Also, remember to click a few repeated and similar shots to choose the best one in the end. As with portraits, one is never enough!

Experiment With Composition

When it comes to photography, in theory, it is unbelievably simple. Just Google about three things — shutter speed, ISO and aperture and you will technically accredit yourself as any other photographer out there. The only problem is, you will have to learn the composition to make your pictures better and that, my friend, is a skill that will come to you with time, and as you’ll practice.

Composing a frame that tells a story (with a play between different objects and subjects) is the key to a successful travel photograph.

To make your pictures interesting in the beginning, however, remember to do a few things:

  1. Try different angles. Low angle shots can make your subject look more powerful. High angle shots are good while capturing a crowd.
  2. Include some powerful elements to the foreground, middle ground, and background of the image. For example, if you are shooting a mountain range, adding some flowers in the foreground, or a horse perhaps can make the picture look much more interesting.
  3. Remember the Rule Of Thirds.

Here’s more on Travel Photography Composition.



Be Patient

Over years of traveling and clicking pictures, one thing I have learned is that photography is all about patience and appreciating what’s in from of you. Slow down and pay attention to details.

When I was in Australia, trying astrophotography for the first time in life, I spent pretty much all night in the coldest winter days in Western Australia, trying to get the best photos of the sky I could. I was obsessed in mind and patient in heart, to improve.

Good photography takes time. But the question is, are you willing to spend a few hours waiting for the perfect shot?

Shoot In Manual Mode

For newbies, Programmed Automatic may feel easier, more fun, and morally uplifting as each picture, if not perfect, doesn’t look bad. But if you want to go a long way in photography, learning how to shoot in Manual Mode is the way to go.

Google a bit about how Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO work, and as I said before, you will technically equip yourself (to shoot in Manual Mode) as any other professional photographer out there.

By manually adjusting your Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO to what’s needed at the moment, you can capture much more light than what’s available and thus shoot in challenging light conditions, control over depth of field, create a sense of motion in pictures and so much more.

Most professional photographers (no matter what kind of photography they’re into) shoot in Manual Mode.

Buy A Camera That You Can Carry Everywhere

After getting robbed in Bratislava, Slovakia and losing my old bulky Nikon DSLR, I’ve switched to a smaller and handier camera. And this has helped me improve my photography a lot. How? Because earlier where I would look for excuses to leave my bulky DSLR behind, now I don’t. Now I carry the new camera (which is still a DSLR but a mirrorless, hence smaller in size) pretty much everywhere I go and click more pictures than I ever did.

Similarly, invest in a camera that’s easier to carry.

Carrying my camera everywhere has not only helped me learn more but also not miss moments that I would have otherwise missed if I still had something bulkier and bigger.

I mean you never know what kind of photo opportunity the next moment has for you. It may just be an evening walk you’re taking regularly in a new city, but the clouds may play the most dramatic role they’ve in decades for the sunset. You never know.

The difference between an amateur and a pro photographer is always that an amateur photographer looks for new people and places, while a pro photographer looks for an opportunity — a chance, rather, that may stand his photo out, out of hundreds of similar photos available online.

Click Pictures In RAW

For as long as I remember, I’ve never clicked pictures in simple JPEG but in the RAW format. Though it often consumes a lot of time in post-processing the images later (and I hate it!) the difference in quality is worth the extra processing time.

Check the following two images for a comparison. The latter is the one originally clicked in RAW and later processed:

To process the images, I use Adobe Photoshop CC. It’s quick and easy to use. Photoshop gives a little edge over the Lightroom (which is another photo processing software by Adobe) when it comes to making minor changes in the photo: be it removing electric wires from a street photo to adding text in the images. I’ve been using Photoshop since years and never found it necessary to switch to Lightroom.

Don’t Get Obsessed Over Equipment

Want to know what photography gear I use? Well, here’s my photography equipment list. Want to know how much credit I give to it? Almost none. I mean of course you need a decent camera and other equipment to start with, but it’s not the equipment that creates good or bad photos, it’s how much you know and the effort you’re ready to put in capturing and developing each image.

The gear you use is not what makes a great photographer. Just like the type of brush a painter use doesn’t make them a great painter. It’s knowledge, experience, creativity and the effort put together.

Don’t think you need a 50,000 Rupee camera to start with. Just buy what your budget allows and slowly upgrade as per your interest and need. If you’ve more money, rather than investing in a super-expensive camera, invest in optics, or in other words — in good lenses.

Instead of buying expensive equipment, if you’re just starting afresh, spend your money in an online course that can help you in learning how to use your camera more efficiently. If you know all the camera settings you can do much more with a cheap 10,000 Rupee camera than one of the most expensive one out there. Remember, in photography ‘cheap’ does not mean ‘bad’!

Are you a professional Travel Photographer? Would you like to add any exclusive Travel Photography Tip you think I’ve missed above? Spill in comments below!

Looking for more Travel Photography Inspiration? Follow me on Instagram.

Providing A Confirmed Return Flight Ticket For Visa

As an international travel blogger, holding a weak Indian passport in hand, I often deal with providing a confirmed return flight ticket when applying for a visa — or worse, providing a proof of my onward journey while getting a visa-on-arrival or a visa-free entry.

I remember the first time it happened to me I was crossing the border into Thailand wanting to continue backpacking into a few other countries in Southeast Asia. Though I was exiting  Thailand in just two weeks (as visa on arrival for Thailand for Indians only allows us to stay in the country for a maximum of 15 days) I didn’t have a flight ticket to my next destination Cambodia. I wanted to travel to Cambodia by land and for that, it was only natural to be entering Thailand and then book a bus/train ticket.

However, due to my inexperience with international travel (it was my first ever trip outside of South Asia back in 2016) it never once crossed my mind that this would be a problem. I was asked for a valid return flight ticket back to India or an onward flight ticket to some other country in 15 days. And I didn’t have it. Though I managed to convince the visa officer that I will leave the country within 15 days, I learned a simple lesson the hard way.

Why Authorities Ask For A Confirmed Flight Ticket

In one sentence —  because they want to prevent illegal immigration.

With a confirmed return flight ticket, or a proof of onward travel (to another country) they get an assurity that you’re intended to leave their country and not stay back illegally. They won’t necessarily care where that ticket goes, just as long as it’s out of their country.

As an Indian passport holder, I was asked for a confirmed flight ticket in Thailand. It happened while applying for a Schengen Visa from the German embassy in India, while getting a visa-on-arrival in Malaysia and Cambodia borders. Even Hong Kong, despite having a visa-free entry for Indians (for those visiting the country for no more than 15 days) wanted a return flight ticket as a confirmation that I’ve no intention to stay longer in the country.

So yea, pretty much everywhere around the world I tried to visit as a tourist I was asked for a return flight ticket.

Many countries even pass this responsibility to the airlines to check. Eg you may just be asked for a proof of your return/onward travel at the check-in desk before you’re allowed to board the flight as I experienced while traveling from India to Australia last year in 2017. This way the immigration officials can refuse you to let you in and the airline will be responsible for deporting you back to your home country (or from where you originally flew!) but your story is pretty much the same — helpless and brutally dumped kicked out of the country.

Countries That Require A Return Flight Or The Proof Of Onward Travel

For countries like Germany, USA, Japan, and other developed nations with a strong passport, immigration laws are still pretty relaxed —  meaning, they may not require a return flight ticket while traveling to many countries. But if you happened to be a little more unfortunate, and you hold a passport that isn’t very strong (just like mine) you must be careful!

Being an Indian passport holder, I am required to have a valid return ticket before applying for a visa for any of the 24 (or are they 26, I cannot fairly remember) Schengen countries in Europe, USA, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand… well the list is long!

So as a precaution, I always have a return or an onward flight ticket before traveling to any country and I advise travelers (at least those holding an Indian passport) to do the same to avoid any last minute problems. Often, it will be mandatory to have one before you even submit your visa application.

Why I Hate This Rule

Being a long-term traveler, when I am traveling abroad, I am on a tight budget, trying to make my money last as long as possible. In this case, I try to return to India, when I am broke.

Sometimes, I also try to visit one country after the other when I am in a different region because I am getting cheaper flights/land-transport. Eg, when I visited Malaysia last year, I had planned to fly to Australia next. I wanted to use a fixed amount of budget to stay as long as I could in Malaysia and when I was actually out of money, I would fly to Australia. But because I had to show a confirmed onward flight before I was granted a visa to Malaysia, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t backpack in Malaysia for as long as my budget allowed.

So yea, I hate this rule and so do hundreds and thousands of other travelers wanting to travel the world.

Luckily. WELL LUCKING ENOUGH FOR US INDIAN BUNCH and for those belonging to dozens of other developing nations with a weak passport, there are a few easy (and legal) ways to get around this proof-of-onward-travel requirement:

Providing A Confirmed Return Flight Ticket Or Proof Of Onward Travel Without Risking It

Buy A Refundable Ticket

The safest and most legit way to deal with it is booking a refundable ticket if of course, you don’t mind waiting for a while to get the refund, and booking the flight ticket for a little extra price (Tip: refundable flight tickets are often costlier).

Once you have entered the country, cancel your exit ticket and wait for the refund. Just make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully and the airlines are actually refunding 100% of the original flight ticket cost.

Book And Sacrifice A Cheap Flight

If you can’t find a refundable flight and renting a ticket sounds too unreal for you to be risking your visa at first place, the only way is booking the cheapest flight out there and sacrificing it.

This method is completely ethical and legal and looks more legit than anything else. It does prove that you have the intention to exit the country, which is exactly what the immigration laws are requesting. I mean imagine a really unforgiving immigration officer waiting for you, sniffing your every intention of staying back in their country, illegally. Now he may doubt you for having a refundable ticket at first place, but there’s no chance for him to be doubting you for having a non-refundable (cheap) ticket. This, by far, is the safest way to go ahead when it comes to applying for visas or getting visa-free or visa-on-arrival entries. The only problem is, it is risky.

Further Reading: Finding A Cheap Flight Ticket Online

Rent A Ticket

There are several platforms like RentATicket.com and OneWayFly.com that actually allow you to not book the flight but just rent a confirmed flight ticket for a little fee. These services book a real ticket on your name and later cancel it when you don’t need it anymore.

Have I used any of these platforms? Never. But a friend of mine traveling from India to Singapore once did and it worked just fine for him. It’s cheaper than buying your own ticket and safer than trying to forge one. Most platforms take less than 20 dollars and give a confirmed flight PNR.

Never Forge A Ticket

I have come across some cases where travelers tried to develop a false flight ticket with incorrect PNR using photoshop or some other photo editing tool. My suggestion… don’t try it, you will be caught! It is moreover illegal to do it, giving the visa officer every right to blacklist your passport. And if that happens, it will have a long-term adverse effect on your identification for whenever you will try applying for a visa in the future.

It’s better to not have a return flight ticket at all, honestly admitting it to the visa officer and taking your chances than forging a ticket and committing a crime that can land you in jail. There’s no reason for you to be cheating the system!

Found this article useful? Why not share it and share the knowledge? Come on, the idea of Renting A Ticket was pretty cool, and you didn’t know it, right?

From My Travel Photography Equipment To Photo Editing Software I Use

Because I fund my travels as best I can while working from the road, I carry a big collection of photography equipment — from my camera to hard disks to tripods (yes, I often carry two tripods with me). My electronic travel-blogging and photography gear is, by far, the heaviest part of my setup which often even makes me consider carrying that extra t-shirt. But then again, my travel photography gear is the most important thing for me, particularly when I am away for long. It keeps content on my blog going.

Here’s the overview of the photo editing tools and software I use and the hardware I rely on for producing to backing up my images while on the go. Here’s a quick overview of my photo-blogging equipment:

Hardware

Sony Alpha 6300 with a 50mm 1.4 and a 16-50 kit lens: I have recently (about 6 months ago!) shifted from my Nikon D5200 to a mirrorless sony.  And this happened because of two reasons: one because my previous camera was stolen in Bratislava forcing me to buy a new camera and two, I wanted to switch to something lighter and compact, and Sony Alpha series felt like a perfect alibi.

Before I had Sony I always wondered how a mirrorless camera can compete with a traditional DSLR but trust me with all the truth in me, a mirrorless works just as efficiently as a DSLR does, with the added perk of a compact size. Sony Alpha series moreover offers the fastest autofocus than any other camera series making it perfect for travel bloggers. It has inbuilt wifi and NFC making it easier to share photos and do a lot more than you can imagine. I cannot, at least in near future, can think of switching to any other camera brand.

Xiomi Action CameraThere are many action cameras out there, with Hero GoPro leading the crowd. The only problem is, Hero GoPro is undeniably expensive. Alternatives like SJCam and others lack behind in quality. But Xiomi YI action camera, priced at INR 9k offers the same quality as that of a GoPro (visit my youtube channel to make yourself believe). In low light conditions, it surely disappoints a little, but when it comes to daylight shooting, it outruns many and competes with a Hero GoPro. I’ve been using XiomiYI for more than two years now and totally love the sound and image quality.

Go for Xiomi YI 4K Action Camera, if you want to click videos in 4k, but if 4k isn’t a particular requirement for you then go for the one I own. Please note that there are different versions of Xiomi Yi, some costing a couple of grand cheaper (priced at 6 or 7k), that are the first few models of Xiomi Yi and lack in technology, so I cannot vouch for them. I’m only recommending the one this YI Action Camera link redirects to

One Plus 6 Camera PhoneNot sure if it’s just ‘one plus 6’, I like calling it ‘one plus 6 camera phone’ because that’s what it is: a camera phone. Since I’ve got it, I’ve been often leaving my other cameras behind — particularly if I am not clicking pictures for a paid assignment and just click with my one plus 6. It gives you amazing bokeh effect, optical image stabilization, face clearing for better selfies and even slow-mo recording at 480 fps. There’s nothing more one can ask for, from a 30k device that gives you all that on top of using it as a mobile.

Lenovo Yoga: I have always been a Windows user, over fancy Mac, and the reason is: easy connectivity. For a digital nomad, it’s important to have easy shareability of files with other devices and Apple has given me a hard time doing so in the past. I have been using Lenovo Yoga 300 2-in-1 Laptop for the previous 2 years and cannot love it more. Its 11-inch screen size is just perfect to carry with me no matter where I go. What’s better is its 2-in-1 Laptop plus Tablet feature which allows me to use it as a laptop at home and a tablet while traveling on a bus or a plane. As far as its hardware capabilities are concerned, it’s good enough for a photographer using a few photo editing software and stories a few heavy files.

Lowepro Fastpack 150 AW: To carry the camera, the lenses and the laptop, I carry my Lowepro Fastpack Camera Bag which is ideal for digital nomads. I personally use Lowepro Fastpack 15 AW which is ideal to carry a 12-inch laptop, a DSLR camera with lens attached, an extra lens and a lot of power chords, if you’re not stuffing a few clothes inside. There are a few bigger version of the same series (like Lowepro Fastpack 250 and Lowepro Fastpack 350) for those who want to carry more than 2 lenses and a laptop bigger than screen size 12 inch.

Lowepro has been my main backpack for about 2 years, and despite sitting on the floors of countless bus terminals and buses, it is fairly easy to clean it with a moist cloth.

1 x Toshiba Ultra 1TB: Short of being dropped, I find my Toshiba Hard drive very reliable, in as much as any non-solid state hard drive can be. I’ve used several in the past, and never had any problems – they’re also cheap and readily available.

When I have them, I place a bunch of silica gel packets amongst various electronic bags, to help keep dampness and humidity at bay.

Editing Photos

To get the most out of my images, I shoot in RAW – the difference in quality is worth the extra processing time, especially if you like to have more control over your images.

I use Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 to process RAW images. It’s quick and easy to use. Photoshop gives a little edge over the Lightroom (which is another photo processing software by Adobe) when it comes to making minor changes in the photo: be it removing electric wires from a street photo to adding text in the images. I’ve been using Photoshop since years and didn’t find it necessary to switch to Lightroom.

If you’re happy working on a tablet I can suggest Snapseed for processing your RAW to JPEG. For an iPad, I’ve heard good things about Photogene.

I keep a backup of all the edited files on my hard drive. As I mentioned above, I also keep uploading my images on Google Drive, with the eventual aim of having a full copy of images stored online (in JPEGs only of course) – so I’m not reliant on carrying my computer all the time.

I moreover change the file size of every processed image to 1200px jpg, compressed for web use. These can be easily emailed or uploaded to the likes of Instagram. Being obsessed about backups, I also make a second high res version saved at 3MB in size, which I keep in my hard disk or upload them to my Google Drive when I get the chance.

Editing Videos

I am not a big youtube but time and again, I keep polishing my vlogging and video-editing skills (if you already haven’t, here’s the link my Youtube channel, don’t forget to subscribe).

I use Wondershare Filmora for editing my youtube videos. If you’re looking at youtube seriously, Final Cut Pro is what I will recommend (as most popular YouTubers I know, use it) but if you are just starting with vlogging or not taking it too seriously, Wondershare is a good video editing software — making editing videos quick and easy.

For editing videos on my mobile (the ones I upload on my Instagram page) are always edited by GoPro Quik App. Though Filmora also has a mobile app that I’ve seen many travelers use, my choice of a mobile app is Quik which allows you to add up to 200 images, videos, and music to create a video with just a few clicks. One thing I love about it is that it automatically analyzes the images and videos you’ve uploaded to select the best moments, so just upload all you want to share and let the app do the cropping and synchronizing the visuals with audio. It even lets you upload the final version on Instagram and other social networks without saving it on your phone at all.

Also Read: What Else I Pack While Traveling

Essential Holiday Packing Tips

Packing for a holiday divides people into two schools. The first leaves everything to the last minute, throwing in as much as possible; the second packs early and systematically, but often has to unpack again because they need something already stowed away in the suitcase. Well, I happen to be the first case (as most backpackers do) but believe me, if you want to pack for a holiday better, you don’t want to do that. For most of my journeys, I end up leaving something or the other behind and later regretting it.

But whichever side of the packing divide you fall on, don’t worry – there is a middle ground. And this middle ground, my friends, will help you back better and more efficiently.

Related Read: What I Pack For My Travels

Essential Holiday Packing Tip 1: Make A List

Without a packing list, you can so easily forget something, especially if it’s not something you use every day, such as suncream, sunglasses, or even a swimming costume. The essentials such as your passport, ticket and holiday money might not make it into the right bag if you’re not careful, and this all adds to the stress that you don’t want to feel just before jetting off.

Equally, a list stops you from over-packing and taking loads of clothes with you that not only never leave the suitcase but also weigh down your luggage (and could lead to excess baggage charges).

Essential Holiday Packing Tip 2: Rolling Clothes

To fit more into your case and prevent as much creasing as possible, the best tip I can give you among these other amazing holiday hacks is to roll your clothes, and not fold them. Once they are rolled you could even put them into vacuum compression bags and save even more space (you seal the bag then squeeze the air out, flattening the clothes rather usefully).

Rolled clothes also look more systematic in your suitcase or the backpack, making it easier to find out if you’re missing anything of need. It moreover allows you to pack your clothes in one corner and the rest of the stuff in the other.

Essential Holiday Packing Tip 3: Use All The Space

Packing well means using all available space in your bag. If you can do this, you won’t have to take more than one suitcase, and you won’t have to fill up hand luggage with all the bits and pieces you couldn’t fit in your main case. This means filling your shoes with underwear, for example, and remembering to use the extra pockets in both your bag and your clothing to store smaller items.

Essential Holiday Packing Tip 4: Keep It Fresh

When you arrive at your destination, you won’t want your clothes smelling musty from having been in your suitcase, especially if there is nowhere to wash them or hang them out to air in your hotel. To prevent this, include a bag of potpourri in with your packing or add a scented drawer liner. This will be enough to make your clothes smell lovely, and it won’t take up any additional room.

Essential Holiday Packing Tip 5: Make-Up

Packing make-up can be a problem – it often arrives at the other end of the journey cracked and potentially unusable. To stop this from happening, simply slip a cotton wool pad between the powdered makeup and the lid of the container.

Essential Holiday Packing Tip 6: eReader Over Books

For many, going on holiday is the ideal chance to catch up on all that reading you wanted to do during the rest of the year but didn’t have time for. Because of this, it can be tempting to pack a stack of books; after all, you don’t want to run out when you’re relaxing on the beach or by the pool.

But unfortunately, books are heavy. If you really do want to read and think you’re going to get through lots of books on your holiday, buy an e-reader. They can store hundreds of books and weigh less than a single book.

Essential Holiday Packing Tip 7: Carrying Valuables

Valuables such as precious jewellery, cash, your passport, and other useful documents may need to be taken on holiday with you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep them safe. Clean and empty lotion bottles are perfect for storing jewellery, and lip-balm containers can make paper money totally invisible, for example.

Although packing may not be your idea of fun, if you follow our guide and plan well ahead of time, you’ll be able to relax and get ready for your holiday without having to worry about forgetting anything or packing too much. You can get it just right!

Also Read: Packing Tips For Traveling In India 

Manali Travel Guide

Where the Beas River chuckles merrily down the gorges, and the snowy peaks of the mountains reach their fingers to meet the sky: that’s what Manali is, in one sentence. Though of course, many would argue that Manali has lost its charm due to no control over tourism inflow (including me) for me, it is still one of the highlights in the Indian Himalayans.

Manali is a go-to vacation spot for not only adventure seekers but leisure seekers, honeymooners, as well as budget travelers. It has temples, hot springs, one of world’s highest mountain passes, a rich culture and adventure sports like paragliding, skiing, and river rafting — all under a 50km radius. So if you’re planning a vacation, Manali can — no matter what your travel needs are — be your next holiday destination.

Plan your holiday in Manali with this ideal Manali Travel Guide:

Weather In Manali

Although Manali is packed year-round with tourists, it is wise to get an idea of what to expect from the weather there, because at 2050m above the sea level nature plays a dominant role. So whether it’s monsoon or winter or hot summer, in Manali be assured that it’s going to be pretty intense.

The best time to visit Manali, however, is the Indian summer season that typically starts from mid-March and stays until the end of June. Then skip the monsoon months of July and August, before you can visit Manali again until the end of November. December, January, and February are the months when winter hit Manali hard with temperature dipping below freezing point for most of the time of the day — making it hard for many to even survive, forget the enjoyment.

But if you’re into Snowboarding or Skiing, winter may just be the best time for you to visit Manali. There are many places in less than 20km distance from Manali for you to learn Skiing. Hamta Valley, located at less than 15km from Manali,  for example, is considered to be one of the best places to learn backcountry snowboarding in the Himalayas.

Manali Local Attractions & Day Trips

Hadimba Temple

Located in Old Manali, the Hadimba temple is certainly a no miss when you are in Manali. If you’re into temples, you’re going to like its vibe, if not, you’re going to like and appreciate its placement. Surrounded by towering groves of Deodar trees, Hadimba temple offers an oasis of tranquility. The architecture resembles of that of Japanese with its pagoda shaped roof and shingles. If you’re staying in the main Manali, it’s possible to walk all the way to the Hadimba temple which takes about half an hour, if walking at a good speed. Due to increasing traffic, it may take almost the same amount of time in a taxi too.

Vashisht Hot Water Spring

At 2.5 km from the main town of Manali lies the picturesque town of Vashisth and another highlight why many people choose Manali as their holiday destination — a natural hot-spring that is believed to have medicinal and healing properties. It is possible to bathe in the natural spring (for men and women both) but because of increasing popularity and with it the increasing crowd, the best time to visit is early morning around 6. A short walk away, lies the quieter Manu Temple which presents a stunning vantage point to witness the view of the valley with Beas River flowing merrily through it.

Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art

Located on Hadimba Devi Temple road, the Himachal Museum of culture and fold art was originally constructed to preserve and restore the local art in the region. It is here that you can witness models of ancient temples, houses, and forts, in addition to stone vessels, utensils and other daily use items that local families int he region used. A visit to this museum helps the visitor gain a closer look at the evolution and growth of the local Himachali populace.

Rohtang Pass

A spectacular destination and one of the highest mountain passes in the world, Rohtang Pass, at nearly 4,000m above the sea level, offers tourists an exclusive opportunity to experience snow all round year. The slopes of Rohtang Pass moreover provide an opportunity to try skiing and/or tubing. The pass remains blocked in winter due to heavy snowfall but remains open throughout the summer and monsoon season (say, between May and November). Rohtang Pass is located at almost 50km from Manali and it’s possible to visit and spend a few hours there enjoying the snow on a day trip from Manali. Regular taxis from Manali to Rohtang Pass and back can cost anywhere between 3000 to 7000 Rupees depending upon the type of taxi and how busy the days are. Please note that Rohtang Pass remains closed for tourists every Tuesday.

Pandoh Dam

Nestled amidst spectacular greenery at the distance of 10km from Manali, Pandoh dam is truly worth visiting for the views it offers. If you’re into birdwatching, you can even spot some exotic migratory species taking refuge in the reservoir here. The chaste beauty of this place is moreover worth mentioning.

Nehru Kund

Situated at a distance of 6km from Manali towards Leh, Nehru Kund is a fresh cold water spring. Named so after India’s first Prime Minister, Nehru Kund is a very beautiful and picturesque destination to travel to. One can spend a day picnicking and lazying around, or exploring the nearby jungle and discovering their own trekking route.

Hamta Valley

Hamta Valley, home to the popular Hamta Pass trek, is another highlight to explore when you’re in Manali. To get there, just drive to the town of Prini (located 3km from Manali towards Kullu on Old Kullu-Manali highway) and take a detour — the picturesque Hamta Valley has already begun to keep you awestruck with its beauty.

The Snow Point in Hamta Valley is the closest of all snow points from Manali, which remains open throughout the year offering tourists an ideal location to try snow activities during the winter season when Rohtang Pass remains closed. During summer, Hamta Valley offers a great escape for those who want to explore (and moreover stay) at quieter corners of Manali region. It is possible to drive all the way to the snow point in Hamta Valley, from Manali, which is located at about 20km from Manali main town.

Hallan Valley

Perhaps one of the smallest valleys to explore, Hallan Valley comprises of no more than a dozen villages on its either side and stretches for about 6 km with a connected motorable road, before coming to an end. The valley offers a real local Himachali experience offering a few accommodation options too for those who want to stay there. A day trip to Hallan Valley is a great way to escape the crowded Manali.

Local Tourist Markets In Manali

Mall Road

Manali’s Mall Road is the heart and soul of Manali and your answer to all shopping needs. It is a perfect place to pick up some souvenirs and handicrafts like Tibetan shawls, rugs and woolen caps among other things. One can also taste and sample local cuisines and catch the pulse of Manali. The best time to visit the Mall Road is in the evening when the place is abuzz with family tourists, backpackers, and locals.

Tibetan Market

As the name suggests, the Tibetan market is where you will find everything Tibetan. It’s a better alternative to Manali’s Mall Road if you’re looking for adventure products like backpacks and trekking shoes, or local Tibetan handicrafts including shawls, prayer wheels, and Buddhist paintings.

Old Manali Market

If shopping on crowded streets is not your thing and you like a more westernized and hippy setting, then hit the market in Old Manali and walk on its cobblestone streets to experience a completely different side of Manali. Though there isn’t a very big difference in the kind of products you may find in Old Manali’s market and the Mall Road, the ambiance both provide is vaguely different.

Adventure Activities In Manali

Trekking

For all the thrill seekers and adventurers, Manali is one of the best destinations that offers a myriad of adventure trekking options. There are at least 10 treks that start from a radius of 30km from Manali, including the popular Chandrakhani Pass, Bhrigu Lake, Patalsu Peak, Beas Kund, Hamta Pass, Deo Tibba and Friendship Peak, with some of them taking you to as high as 4500m above the sea level. Most of these treks take at least three days to complete and require your to take a local guide and proper trekking equipment.

River Rafting

Those who are into a higher level of thrill and adventure should give river rafting a try. The currents of Beas River is always abundant and perennial, making rafting in Manali area even more exciting than in many other places. The stunning mountain ranges flanking the Beas River present an idea view to enjoy while you fill your heart with adrenaline and adventure. There are at least hundreds of operators that organize river rafting in the region, so a little bargaining is always possible. Just drive past the town of Jagatsukh (about 15km from Manali, towards Kullu) and you will find an operator looking for customers at every 10 steps. Just choose a spot that catches your fancy and enjoy river rafting for as less as 500 Rupees per person.

Adventure Activities in Solang Valley

Solang Valley is a year-round magnet for adventure seekers of all types, be it paragliding, zorbing or zip-lining. During winter, Solang Valley offers skiing and snowboarding as the adventure sport. Those who are not into extreme adventure can, however, try ATV riding and a ride in the chair-lift. The valley, moreover, offers beautiful meadows to click pictures and have a fun time together with family and friends. It’s possible to visit Solang Valley and try a few adventure sports on a day trip from Manali. Readily available taxis usually take between 1500 to 4000 Rupees for a return journey from Manali, basis on the group size and the time of the year.

Skiing and Snowboarding in Hamta Valley

At nearly 3200 m above sea level and a 45 min drive from Manali, Sethan village in Hamta Valley offers beautiful views of the towering Dhauladhar ranges. A town inhabited by Tibetan settlement, Sethan is also an ideal place for snow activities like skiing, snow trekking, and sledding, among others, during the winter months of December, January and February. Unlike other places, like Auli or Gulmarg or Solang Valley, in Hamta Valley you don’t have a luxury of chair-car but that means finding less crowd and having the entire ski slope to yourself. If you’re a learner who doesn’t mind walking a little uphill before sliding down, Hamta Valley is the best place to learn ski or snowboard.

Where To Stay In Manali

If you had asked me this question about 5 years ago (when I had first visited Manali) I would have named Vashishth, Old Manali or somewhere near Mall Road in Manali if you wanted to stay in city center. But now, with increasing popularity, all those areas have become so crowded, that it’s not possible to enjoy the tranquility of the mountains there. Still, if you want to stay closer to the main town of Manali, I can recommend staying somewhere in Old Manali or Vashishth, both of which are located at a half an hour walk from Manali bus station or a 10 min auto rickshaw ride. Manali main town also has enough accommodation option but it’s just too crowded for me to be recommending at all.

If you’re, however, looking for a peaceful locale I can suggest Hamta Valley without a second though. It’s moreover in Hamta Valley (after being familiar with Manali area like the back of my hand) that I started my first hospitality venture, an adventure camping site in Manali with the name of FootlooseCamps, because of the beauty and an easy accessibility of the place.

Typical Costs

Food: Food in Manali can cost 150-400 Rupees per person in a good restaurant/cafe. If you’re a budget backpacker, however, it’s not hard to find a full meal for less than 120 Rupees for a person. Manali Mall Road has some of the most expensive restaurants that I often avoid. You can find a something similar to eat in a restaurant just as good in Old Manali or Vashishth for much cheaper than in Manali Mall Road.

Accommodation: Manali Mall Road has some of the most expensive hotels costing as much as 5000 Rupees per night during season time. In Old Manali and Vashishth, you can find a room under 1000 Rupees during season time, and much cheaper when there are fewer tourists around. If you want something cheaper than that and much quieter, look for accommodation in Hamta Valley, Hallan Valley or Naggar.

Transportation: There is actually no basic fare for taxis and auto-rikshaws in Manali. They ask for a price they like depending upon the demand so don’t forget to bargain anytime you need to hire a taxi or an auto-rickshaw. For budget travelers, public buses are the best way to get around.

Further Reading: Offbeat Places Near Manali