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Why I Quit My Job To Travel

Smiling faces

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

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

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

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

traveller

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

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

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

Discontentment Is Good

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

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

writing

The Journey That Changed It All

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

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

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

streets

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

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Exploring Rome On Segway

There are many ways to explore a city. You can ride the buses, walk the streets, or take numerous tours. But if you’re short in time and the city you’re traveling to is as massive and overwhelming as Rome can be, then what can be your best shot?

In one word: Segway!

Recently while I was in Rome, and was bitten by the idea of exploring the city, from inside out, in only 7 hours, while keeping it fun and relaxing, I thought… why not Segway it. And it turned out that exploring Rome by Segway, was perhaps the best decision.

For €120, you get a 7-hour tour of Rome’s greatest sights including the Colosseum, Imperial Forum Road, Piazza Venezia and Trevi Fountain, among others.

To make it better a delicious local lunch of Roman specialties was included! Though ofcourse, Roman specialties can never be good in a restaurant, And my 15 day experience of living with a Roman family in the heart of Lazio, validates that statement well; but for a restaurant it was surely the best you can have]

Before The Tour…

The tour started at 9:30 in the morning, with 7 tour participants and the guide. With a quick self-introduction, we started off with the 30 minute training session, because of course, there is a certain degree of apprehension required among first-time users of Segway. But it turned out that learning to ride a Segway was perhaps the most easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

The instructions were moreover unimaginably simple: Lean slightly forward to advance. Lean into your heels to reverse. Pull back slightly to slow down. Rest the Segway against a stable structure to get on and off the platform. Within moments all the seven participants were chasing and racing each other, looping figure eights, feeling like pros.

We were licensed to rule the roads in Rome as Segway riders! We were ready to go!

[PS: If you’re in Rome and are not licensed to drive anything that has a motor attached to it, perhaps Segway is your way to make it to Roman roads]

Rome On Segway

The 7 hour tour was divided into two equal halves, a 3 hour segway run in the morning and a 3 hour segway run after the noon. And in between, when the sun was intense: a relaxing lunch.

The first destination during the first half of our tour took us between the Palatine and Aventine hills, and to the historic site of the Circus Maximus. Once a track for chariot races and gladiator fights, Circus Maximus is now a vast public park. We paraded down its long stretch, on our Segways, almost getting back in time, feeling what it could be to race a chariot at ancient Rome’s  (and perhaps even the world’s) largest sports stadium.

The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the elegant Spanish Steps, the magnificent Imperial Forum Road, and the ever impressive Colosseum, among others, were the other highlights of the day, to learn a bit about the Roman history and explore the city, on a fast track. Even a few open romantic market-sites and public parks, were in the list. 

I think what makes Rome a beautiful place to be is the fact how it looks different every time you see it. It has a different feeling, a different charm in the day, and a total opposite of it, and perhaps far more appealing, in the evening.

As we expanded our exploration of the city, in the afternoon, venturing into the heart of the Rome’s historic center, and explored a few postcard-perfect sights like Imperial forum road and the colloseum, once again (we covered them during the first half morning tour as well) I was literally amazed by realizing how the two looked looked entirely different now, as they did in the morning.

Why Explore Rome On Segway?

My decision to go for a Segway tour in Rome, was purely based on curiosity. I wanted to try this experience. Also I was struggling with a bit of lack of time. Though I stayed near Rome for almost two weeks, I still wanted to familiarize myself with the city in just one day, and then explore it later as I wished. So if you are restricted with time, a guided segway tour can be a solution. Get an overview of the city on a fast track and then explore the rest, independently, as it suits you. Moreover, a comfy ride on Segway can save you from the brutal summer days in Rome.

A Bit About The Factual mumbojumbo

  • Minimum age to ride a Segway is 16 years
  • You must not weigh under 100 pounds (45 kilos) or over 250 pounds (113 kilos)
  • Though I opted for a Full Day Segway Tour that costed around 120 EUR, after discount, which included around 6 hours of segway tour and 1 hour of lunch (as all inclusive package), if you’re looking for something less than that (in terms of experiences and costs), I’d advise a 3 hour tour that takes you to most of the prominent sites in the city.
  • In order to take part in a segway tour you must have good mobility, in the sense of being able to get on and off by segway alone.
  • I booked my tour with a tour company called Rome by Segway, and I’ll totally recommend them.

Have you ever tried a Segway tour? Where? How was the experience?

How To Skip The Crowds Of Vatican City

Everyday, around 20 thousand people visit Vatican City. And in Vatican, the holy Sistine Chapel. They hope of experiencing a sublime or spiritual moment, but more often than not, their visit ends up into a long, soul-destroying process. I mean how can you, in God’s name, feel anything peaceful in a place where all you get to see is a steam of people pouring in, and guards constantly shouting “no pictures, no pictures”!

The solution? Take an exclusive tour carried out before the opening hours (for general public) of Vatican.

Private tours to Vatican City were usually reserved for celebrities, royals and politicians. But almost a decade ago, Vatican City opened its gates for general public, and for those who want to pay a little extra and escape the crowds. And this time, as I travelled through Rome, I ended-up being one among them.

I booked my early morning Skip The Crowds tour (for a little extra cost compared to what an ordinary walking tour costs) with a tour company called Through Eternity Tours, who claim to have guides hand picked, with backgrounds in Archaeology, Art History, etc, and with that, someone whose knowledge about Roman history is no less profound. And it turned out that they delivered exactly what they promised.

Upon reaching our meeting point around quarter past 7 in the morning, our tour began at 8am, one hour before the opening time of Vatican City, and we were lucky to be just three (a couple from USA and me) of us in the group, plus the guide. We skipped the queues that had already started to form outside and entered the mysteriously quiet Vatican City.

I have always been skeptical of tour guides, preferring to do my own own homework, but overwhelmed by the crowds I might have to deal with had I planned my own visit, and the amount of information I could miss, I thought it would be foolish not to have a guided tour in Vatican.

As we entered the Vatican Museums, and our guide started with his (what I think the usual) gamut of information overload, things started turning out as I planned… interesting! He led us through the 120 metre-long map room, past the huge tapestries by Pieter van Aelst, and the Raphael rooms that include a painting of the all-star line up of Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael himself in the School of Athens. Being a phd student, researching on Roman History, he know a lot about the subject and throughout the tour shared his personal ideas and philosophies coupled with what’s written in text books. I was baffled at first, but later realised the fact that it was perhaps going to be a long Google-Your-Doubts night!

At about 8:30 in the morning (and still half an hour before the gates were to open for public) we took a sharp turn and made our way through a small unassuming door. Slowly, we emerged inside the grand Sistine chapel – just us, a handful of other privilege tour groups, and Michelangelo.

Michelangelo spent more than four years here painting the chapel by himself, and this is the closest one can get to being alone in it as he was.

There were no guards asking us to be quiet, no banging into other tourists, and no gesturing to move on to let more people in. Just silence. And as we were busy studying in the unbelievable many frescoes, stretching from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, a priest, in his all black robes stepped in and called prayers.

We savoured the experience, and later soaked up more of the vivid blue restoration of the Last Judgement, finding Michelangelo’s frowning face in the distance, and moving at leisure from the Separation of Light from Darkness on.

Following up with the tour, as we did, we walked through the Raphael Rooms, before finally making it to our last stop… Italy’s largest, richest and most spectacular basilica of St Peter’s. Built atop an earlier 4th-century church, it was consecrated in 1626 after 120 years of construction. Its lavish interior contains many spectacular works of art, including three of Italy’s most celebrated masterpieces:  Bernini’s 29m-high baldachin over the papal altar, Michelangelo’s Pietà, and his soaring dome.

Looking at its magnificent richness, I realised that we may not have reached heaven, but we have definitely reached a place I’d call ‘the most impressive (at least visually speaking) place of worship human has ever created.’

Have you been to Vatican City? How was your experience? Was it overwhelmingly crowded?

My First Impression Of Ljubljana, In Slovenia

Before I go any further, I’d like to confess that prior to my visit I knew a very little about Slovenia. Other than vaguely being aware of it as ‘a part of Eastern Europe’, I knew nothing more about this teeny-tiny country. And to my guilt, my heart was always more drawn to the neighboring countries of Italy, Austria and Croatia – as is often the case with a majority of tourists travelling through Europe. Perhaps that’s why, while crafting the itinerary, I gave Ljubljana (the only town in Slovenia where I stayed) no more than four days, out of which I even planned a day out and visited Lake Bled and Postojna Cave.

But as I left Budapest, in Hungary, and inched my way towards Slovenia, I realised that we are only moving towards west, and to a place that looked far more organized and reformed, than what I’d initially thought, or had been experiencing for the past few weeks. I realised that Slovenia is actually not very Eastern European – neither by its geographic location, nor by its appearance. And speaking of Ljubljana, the capital town of Slovenia, it held the beauty and surrealism unlike many other capital towns in the world.

There is no doubt that Ljubljana is one of the smallest capital cities you will find in Europe, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty. Ljubljana, after all, means “Beloved” in a literal translation, and it doesn’t take long to understand that well, and fall under its charm.

A Paradise For Nature Lovers

Slovenia is a paradise for nature lovers, and no less so in Ljubljana, its capital city, than in the rest of the country. With less than 300,000 inhabitants and more green spaces in the city than there are houses, Ljubljana promises a healthy stay for its visitors. Speaking of some mind-blowing figures… around 46% of the city’s total area is covered by native forests – with over 70% of the land claimed by green spaces.

The drinking water in Slovenia is among the purest in Europe and even the world, and tourists can use the fresh water fountains throughout the city to fill up their own personal re-usable water bottles. There are electric powered karts called kavalirs that offer free transport around the old town, that is otherwise closed to traffic. The city’s bike sharing system, which boasts a network of 220km (136mi) of managed bike routes, is also one of the best in the entire continent.

Perhaps I’ll sum up by stating… Ljubljana is currently The European Green Capital, as declared in 2016.

 An Old World European Charm

The old town of Ljubljana is an atmospheric web of cobbled streets and colorful buildings topped with terracotta tiled roofs. A few churches spire in the center, with a castle perched on a hilltop looking down on you. And flowing through the middle is the emerald green River Ljubljanica, with its 17 criss-crossed bridges, including Plečnik’s Triple Bridge and one dedicated to the symbol of the city – the dragon.

The entire old town of Ljubljana is moreover a no-traffic zone, which further adds to its own town charm and takes you back in time, much easily.

Perhaps The Most Surreal Riverside

One thing I totally adore most of the popular European cities I’d recently visited, including BaselBudapest, Zurich, and Prague, among others, was their beautiful riverside. Each city defines its charm by defining how beautiful their riverside can be. And they all excelled in it, almost equally.

But when it comes to the riverside in Ljubljana, even sipping on a cup of coffee or a pint of lager, becomes far more pleasurable, for the city has one of the most surreal riversides I’ve seen in my life.

Lined with beautiful, old buildings in pastel colours and overlooked by the castle, Ljubljana’s riverside promises a romantic time. A vibrant outdoor eating and drinking culture around the river furthermore adds to the charm.

A Small Town Vibe

From the day I arrived at the train station in Ljubljana to my hostel and back, and during the entire time in between, there was never a time I felt taking a public transport to go somewhere. Walk from the hostel to the city center — 5 minutes. Walk from one corner of the city to the other — 15! And that’s sums up life, as well as travelling in Ljubljana — which is simple and old town-ish, but in a beautiful way.

Right across the street, from the place where I was staying (at Hostel Vila Veselova), was the Japanese embassy, and few blocks away, American and British. Almost everyday, I’d walk up the castle with a beer in one hand, and come back after midnight and the town would seem just as safer as an ideal town should. And life in Ljubljana pulses in that spirit. Only a bit of morning and afternoon chaos against silent intervals around.

No wonder, the town enchants with its balance, proudly stomping in rhythm and temperament of European capitals.

Have you been to Ljubljana? How was your experience? 

Further Reading On Ljubljana:

Day Trip To Lake Bled, Predjama Castle & Postojna Cave, From Ljubljana

Slovenia may seem like a tiny little country sandwiched between between countries from all its four directions, but it’s not. At least not when you think of all the beauty it holds. Throughout my 4 day stay in the country, I was amazed by its diversity, and the experiences this country had to offer. From serene lakes to gigantic cave parks to medieval towns — Slovenia has something for everyone.

But out of all the places of interest three highlights that complete your trip in Slovenia are Lake Bled, Postojna Cave, and the Predjama Castle.

Located at only an hour’s drive from Ljubljana, it is fairly easy to explore the three places in one day, but only if you’ve your own car, given that the lake Bled is located in an opposite direction from Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle. And since I’d only a day to spare, and I didn’t want to rent a car and drive in solitude, I carefully chose a company called The Roundabout, which runs day trips from Ljubljana and Zagreb, and explored the three highlights on a fast-track.

First Half Of The Day: Lake Bled

Lake Bled is one of the most popular places to visit in Slovenia and is unarguably one of the most beautiful spots in the whole country. And in a country so breathtakingly beautiful, that really is saying a lot!

The journey to Lake Bled, from Ljubljana took only around 30-45 minutes, and was rather straight forward, but speaking of the beauty it offered, every sight was a sight to behold. Surrounded by lush green mountains, with a periodic snow-capped ones, the highways in Slovenia turned out to be more picturesque than in any other country I’d seen in Europe before. Honestly speaking I’d rate them one point higher in my list than the overrated highways – and the beauty they offer — of Switzerland.

Located in the North West of Slovenia, on the edge of the Triglav National Park, Lake Bled is the only natural island in Slovenia. But that’s not its original charm. The original charm, however, is its beauty — so dramatic and unreal in its appearance that it reminds you (at least it reminded me of it!) of the Disney movies you have grown up watching.

Speaking of the unrealistic beauty, picture this: A fairytale medieval castle with a Roman style tower, overlooking a serene lake, which sometimes appear green, and sometimes blue. Almost in the middle floats a small island — home to a church and a couple of al fresco cafés creating an enjoyable ambiance. The lake is moreover so calm and undisturbed that any movement in it is done either by a flap of a duck wing or the dip of a kayak paddle.

Upon reaching the location, inside the Triglav National Park, we first set off to explore the Bled Castle – one of the oldest in Slovenia, dating back to 1011. It was very famous during the 19th century when it was used as a sanatorium founded by Arnold Rikli. The rich and famous of that day flocked there for his therapies. Today, it’s a popular destination for nature and bliss junkies.

Other than the great views of the lake, what’s worth visiting the castle is its blacksmith’s shop and a winery (where you can fill your own wine bottle, seal it, and get a certificate). The castle also holds a publishing house (a small room) depicting how Slovenia got its first few letters printed back in 16th century.

As we finished the castle visit, next in the list was a hand maneuvered boat ride to the Bled island and back.

Second Half Of The Day: Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave

The second half of the day required us to come back to Ljubljana and then drive south of it where we reached Predjama castle.

Built into the rock itself, the white walls of Predjama Castle feel like a stark statement on the surrounding landscape. Its romantic appeal is further emphasized by the idyllic River Lokva, which disappears into the underground world deep down below the castle. Today, Predjama castle might just be a spectacular tourist site and one of Slovenia’s many photogenic vantage points, but centuries ago, it served as an impenetrable fortress. 

Built up on the foundations of the original medieval castle, the whitewashed walls that we can see today were put in place sometime around 16th century. Moreover the castle received another makeover much later, after it was destroyed in a siege, but as you wander through its drafty passages, you can still feel it’s a place echoing with ghosts and memories. 

With a continuous feed of information, our guide led us up to the top of the castle, up the stairs and through a network of bare rooms, pausing at a corridor where the natural rock met the Renaissance façade. We were told about the many famous castle inhabitants, but among all, the story of knight Erazem of Predjama, who rebelled against the imperial autocracy in the 15th century seemed most fascinating. As nowadays Erazem is the main protagonist of numerous legends, which on the one hand glorify him as a passionate, handsome, noble knight, while on the other hand, describe him as a bandit and a robber (the Robin Hood with a twist) who eventually breathed his last while in the toilet.

It took almost an hour to finish our visit of Predjama castle, before starting with the highlight of the day — exploring the cavepark of Postojna!

Though I’ve been to a few caves in my life, and have walked, swam and even paddled a canoe through them, and they were all pretty impressive in their appearance, but Postojna cave turned out to be unlike any of them. After all, Postojna cave is one of the world’s largest karst monuments — it had to have its own distinguishing appeal.

With its 21 km of passages (yes you read that correct, 21 km it was!) galleries and magnificent halls, the cavepark of Postojna offers a unique experience of the underground world. The guided tour, which is offered in 15 different languages, takes about an hour and a half to finish – with two 20 minute train rides inside the cave and a half an hour walk.

The first signature of Postojna cave dates back to 13th century, but it was only after 19th century that any modification in the cave was done. In 1899 the world’s first underground postal office was operated in the cave. Today, it is Slovenia’s biggest tourist attraction that has welcomed over 37 million people so far… and counting!

Have you been to Lake Bled, Predjama Castle & Postojna Cave too? Or any of them? What was your highlight of the trip?

Metelkova District: Graffiti Art In The Streets Of Ljubljana

Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, has always been a mystery for its visitors. Not many people travelling here have an idea what to expect, and I was no different. But as I arrived in Ljubljana, I realized that it was a town meant only to be loved. With its rich riverside café culture, and an old world European charm, it turned out to be unlike many other places I visited in Europe.

But while the overwhelming charm and a chilled out vibe of Ljubljana Old Town enchants visitors, there is also an entirely different side to this fascinating city, which sometimes doesn’t. And you explore it as soon as you walk past the old historic heart, and enter into a shabby area of Metelkova, but of course, with a difference.

Where graffiti, in many places, is considered, and even appear to be, a symbol of vandalism, in Ljubljana’s graffiti area the case was rather the contrary. Here it looked more like an art form. At Metelkova City artistic space, Ljubljana’s own graffiti area, several weird and wonderful buildings, stand still, almost harmoniously, for you to marvel at, for hours.

But there’s more to Metelkova City than its strange graffiti. I was told by a local guide that in reality, Metelkova City artistic space is a non-residential squat for artists and activists. What’s interesting is that it moreover has no legal status, which means people here don’t pay taxes and sell alcohol without a licence.

This autonomous ‘city within a city’ which now houses artists studios, galleries and bars, once included buildings that were barracks of the Yugoslavian army.

Did you visit Metelkova graffiti area in Ljubljana? How did you feel about the place?

Further Reading:

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Vienna On A Budget

A city of culture, history, music and art, with a night life to rival with that of any city in the world, that’s what Vienna is, in a nutshell. Walking through its many fairytale-like streets you wonder if there can be a place so royal and majestic in its appearance. No wonder, Vienna deserves its nickname The Imperial City, fairly well.

But where on one side every experience, every sight in the city, is a total treat, the cost of travelling here — whether you talk about a 10 Euro cup of coffee, or a 150 Euro ballet performance — can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re travelling on a budget. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to fill yourself up with the city’s history and culture, without having to spend too much. Because with my #ViennaNow budget travel guide, you can explore Vienna on cheap. And here’s how…

[Also Read: What To See And Do In Vienna]

Arriving In The City

If you’re flying into Vienna, the best and the cheapest way to get to the city center is by taking the S-bahn connections from Euros 2.50 to Euros 4.40 (depending upon how far you’re going). Find the nearest S-bahn station in the city and walk from to your hotel. You possibly won’t be walking more than a kilometer. You can always buy the tram ticket once you’re in the center and still be bailed out in under 6 Euros.

Alternatively, If taking a train, and haggling around with interconnections seem overwhelming on your first day, you can use take Vienna AirportLines (or the Vienna airport bus), for around 8 Euros.

Invest In The City Card

For those who are travelling for a short time, and are intending to visit as many attractions as possible, investing in a Vienna City Card would surely help in saving more money. Moreover, unlike many other City Cards I bought in Europe (especially if I think about Budapest and Zurich City Card, which costed around 50 Euros for 72 hours), Vienna City Card was fairly cheaper. At a cost of 24.90 Euros, it gives you free unlimited travel by public transport (for 72 hours) as well as discounts on over 200 different museums, sights, shops and restaurants. You can buy the cards at the Tourist Information Centre in Albertinaplatz, at the airport or online (with a free delivery to your hotel).

Walk Along Ringstrasse And See It All For Free

By far, I’ve not found any street so beautiful and full of treats as Ringstratte — a 5 kilometers long ring road that runs around the center of Vienna, taking you to the city’s top tourist attractions including the State Opera, Imperial Palace, Parliament and City Hall, in addition to others.

It is only by walking along Ringstrasse, you can visit most of Vienna and pretty much everything that it has to offer – alright, may be from outside but you know that selfies always look better from outside of a building than inside. And then there are a few free sights too like St. Stephan’s Cathedral, the gardens of Schonbrunn Palace and Belvedere Palace, among others, on Ringstrasse.

Take A Free Walking Tour

There are a few good options in Vienna when it comes to a free walking tour, but the one I ended up taking was hosted by the hostel where I was staying — Wombats City Hostel in Naschmarkt. The tour took us to across Naschmarkt (an open market with over 100 market stalls selling food and drink), the state Opera, and a few other places in and around Ringstrasse. The tour however was free only for travellers staying at the hostel.

Entertainment In A Bargain

Vienna is a city of music and entertainment, but the entry tickets can make you go flabbergasted, for example a one time show in its famous opera can set you back Euro 150 plus. I heard there are so many tourists, who visit Bratislava and watch the opera there, because it’s almost the half price and offers a similar experience there, unless they knew about the standing tickets for the State Opera House, which unfortunately go on sale about two hours before the performance, but cost only 4 Euros. Yes, you heard that right, only 4 Euros.

Similarly, for the popular Spanish School of Riding, the only place in the world that’s still practicing generations old riding techniques, and is surely a no miss when you’re here, you can buy the morning exercise performance in under 15 Euros.

Dining In A Bargain

I’d recommend visiting the open market at Naschmarkt and eating a satisfying meal in under 5 Euros – at one of its many Falaet stalls, or at more studenty areas like Neubau or Josefstadt, or trying some hog dogs at one of the Würstelstands that can be found pretty much across the city (especially around the city center, where food is generally very costly).

If however, you are heavily bitten by the idea of eating sumptuous sit-down meals use the lunchtime to do so, as many places around the town offer a cheaper mittagsmenü, where you can get a multi-course meal from a set menu in under 10 Euros.

So those are my tips for seeing Vienna on a budget. Do you know of any more Vienna bargains? Spill in comments below!

I wrote this post in ViennaTourism, under #ViennaNow campaign. Though my tour in the city was partly hosted by them, all the recommendations and ideas are solely personal. And I only recommend what I personally experience or see.

Back To From Where It All Started. Back to Basics

By the time you’ll be reading this, I’ll be flying over the Black sea, inching my way towards Oman, before finally boarding the flight to New Delhi. If you already do not know, I am arriving home after a 2 month backpacking trip across Europe. But all this time, as I backpacked across Europe, a part of which seemed more like a business trip, and less like backpacking, I wondered if this was originally how I planned my travels would end up as I progress as a travel writer.

I mean after exploring 8 beautiful countries across the green European continent, why do I still miss a part of what I’d left behind. Why do I still crave to explore some empty rain-forests, or the colossal Himalayas, where I’ve already been a thousand other times before. Why do I find such vast spaces more charming than ever – despite them being a place where Google hardly works, and cell phones lose their reception too, making the all too unfavorable for me as a web-blogger?

And yet, I very well remember that before the commencement of this journey, I had almost thought that these two months in Europe are going to change the way I travel. I thought I’ll venture into a kind of lifestyle that would follow more short-term, comfortable, and pre-planned trips than hitting the road for a longer time, and with no sense of direction! Yes, I thought I might find a way out of slow travel. But I never knew that I was not prepared for such a thing. And it is therefore I think I’d not be travelling for a purpose, at least not for a while. And there’s a reason behind it. And it is… I’m learning to walk away and go back to from where it all started!

Two Local Experiences Vs Everything Else Put Together

To give you a vague idea about what I did in Europe during the past two months… I divided the entire experiences into two parts. One part included two (lasting 15 days each) workawaying experiences at two places (a very slow way of travelling, where I’d live with a local family and experience their way of life); while the other part included travelling through a dozen cities (across 6 countries) in 1 month period – giving me an average of less than 3 days per city.

During this time I was, very rapidly, hopping cities, working on one FAM trip to another (I worked with 6 tourism boards and more than 10 independent travel companies during this time), as they wanted me to “see everything” from 9 am to 9 pm on each day of the trip, then write more stories than there were days, and I couldn’t understand what was happening. I mean to tell you truth, this is how FAM trips for journalists have always been run and that’s also how many Indians like to travel. But to tell you honestly, I don’t think that you can say that you’ve experienced a country if you haven’t mingled with the locals, experienced their way of life, sampled the local drinks, tried the public transport, and found the beauty of a place by losing your way.

So I repeat… I’m learning to walk away (learning because I’d still be taking FAM trips from time to time, to fulfill the need of the hour, and explore more places, until I find a reliable source of income to fund my travels) from partnerships like these, that neither offered me the freedom to travel on my own terms, nor compensated me for my time and efforts. The temptation to accept an international trip on poor terms is far too great, and I’ve battled it with all my might.

The Other Half Of My Trip, Or The Better Half

For the other portion, or the other equal half of my time in Europe (that is one month again), as I said before, I workawayed at two different places (lasting around 15 days each). This included staying with a local family in their house and helping them in whatever job they asked to be done. From looking after their garden, to painting a room, to babysitting and cooking… I TRIED it all. (will soon write about the two experiences in detail in the upcoming blogposts).

Though I admit that during this time I could not explore many places, because I had to pretty much seize my movement in and around the town I was staying, but speaking of the experiences, I think I managed to travel far more within and without.

I explored a way of life that I could not, had I not stayed with them, shared their dinner table and learned all those wonderful ideas I was not grown up learning. There was more learning and self-development, than I could imagine (whether it included the way I used to think or the way I shared a joke)!

So I’m breaking my professional blogging-like travels (for sometime now) with such introspection, and with an announcement that that my upcoming journeys will include a more slower and a more local way of travel. I’ll be talking – if not more, than just as equally – about people, than places.

With the final call to board my flight I slowly closed my eyes, trying to get a flashback, and a quick rendezvous of all those moments of wonder, and an uncountable memories I’m bringing back home with me. The momentary blink reminds me of what Robert Frost had once reminded us all…
“Two roads are diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that’s what made all the difference.”

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Farewells: My Biggest Travel Enemy

As I left the dinner table, and entered my room – a normal daily routine I was consciously repeating since the past couple of weeks, I wondered why it was the toughest, to leave and wishing THE FAMILY (I was staying with in Italy for the last 2 weeks) a ‘pleasant sleep’ tonight. As I slammed my room’s door behind me, and started typing a set of careful words, I realized that I may be feeling an overwhelming set of emotions, under the influence of some wine, but no, there’s nothing unusual in today’s circumstances; I always feel the same. Bidding farewells and saying final goodbyes have always been the toughest part of my travels. They make my life so much difficult, and a lot more unsettling.

I always thought that after traveling for sometime, living more experiences, and bidding adieu to all the people I’ll meet on the road, I would somehow, almost naturally, master the art of saying farewells, without being driven by the moment.

But this time as I departed, I realised that I’m pathetically failing in what I’d initially hoped for. Yes, I’m still the same! I’m still the person who would cry his heart out as he leaves the known ones behind.

Though of course there’s nothing wrong with feeling overwhelmed for an experience, and reminisce the fond memories you’ve had with people, but it’s also important not to let that sentimentality cause you to lose your course. Yet almost always, saying goodbyes bring me to a point of ambiguity, that I always have to remind myself that I’d initially arrived here only to eventually leave.

I mean for a traveler, going away is, after all, just as significant and necessary in his life, as arriving in a new place.

The Last Dinner Together. The Last Morning Tea. And The Final Good Bye!

So I pushed myself, yet again, and tried to ignore the brevity of the fact, that I soon would no longer occupy space with them. Soon, I’d no longer be a part of their family. I’d not be working in their garden, or helping them buy their groceries, or sharing their dinner table. As very soon, I’d be on the road again, continuing my European leather tramp.

And to only look strong – as I waved the final goodbye, to each one of them, individually – I numbed myself to a degree that they felt that I never cared about them. But as always, I now wish that I could make use of the time and had told them how much I loved them, how much I’ll miss them, and how much they mean to me. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t breathe that infinite void. And I hope they understood that I was only struggling to let go. I hope they understood that it was not goodbye I wanted to say, it was I’ll see you later.

My heart now swells with them behind trapped inside whom I will meet later through a certain song, a wafting smell, or a secret joke.

Do you also find it hard to say goodbye? How do you cope with it? 

Top Holiday destinations For Wheelchair Users

Everyone enjoys going on holiday – but it’s easier for some than others. If you use a wheelchair to get around, for some of the time or always, you need to research the accessibility of locations. The surrounding area and terrain is of upmost importance, and you’ll want to know the hotel can cater to all your requirements.

In addition to picking up the phone and talking to someone, this guide to travelling with a medical condition suggests using Google’s Street View to get a feel for the local area – if there are any shops or other facilities, and whether you’d be able to get around with ease. But to help you decide where to start your search, I’ve done my bit too, and handpicked some top holiday destinations for wheelchair users:

Tenerife, Spain

If you’re after a bit of sun, Tenerife is one of the most popular destinations in Europe for disabled travellers. With a bit of online research, you’ll be able to find an adapted hotel or apartment to suit. There are walkways, roll-up paths to many beaches, as well as accessible toilets and changing rooms. For example, the municipality of Arona – covering the southerly resorts of Los Cristianos, Playa de las Américas, Las Galletas and the Costa del Silencio – has won an award for its accessible beach facilities.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

In the Netherlands’ capital city, they take the accessibility of public buildings, public transport and parking facilities very seriously. The aim is that visitors with various forms of disability can experience Amsterdam in a similar way as anyone else.

Of course, the city is well-known for the prevalence of locals and tourists travelling around by bicycle, or via the canals – and this is something disabled travellers can also enjoy, the Official portal website of the City of Amsterdam explains. They cite canal cruise operator Blue Boat Company’s use of wheelchair lifts and Star Bike’s specially-designed bike as great examples how disabled visitors can get around.

Almeria, Spain

With a beautiful, flat promenade stretching five miles along the beach, Almeria is a great destination for those using wheelchairs. Plus, there are plenty of park benches for your group to have a rest, and take in the scenery. You could stay in one of the hotels along the front, where you’ll always be near dozens of restaurants and bars. It’s an easy choice for anyone looking for a summer holiday to re-charge the batteries.

Manchester, UK

When most people head to the UK, they focus on the capital city – London. But the rest of the country has much to offer. Up in the north, Manchester’s centre was largely rebuilt in the late 1990s and now it enjoys wide, step-free pavements, as well as easy access into most shops, bars and restaurants. Indeed, it’s known for great nightlife – and this isn’t something you have to miss out on. Check out this list of disabled access bars in the city, including an amazing rooftop bar with views over the city.

Florida, USA

Of course, no list of accessible destinations would be complete without mention of Florida – the world’s most popular destination for those with mobility problems. Key attractions, beaches, camping spots, hotels and resorts, restaurants, and state parks – all have provisions for disabled travellers. For example, adaptive wheelchairs are available so you can go across the sand and all the theme parks provide special parking facilities. At Disney World, you can access the Magic Kingdom using the monorail, accessible for wheelchairs – so there’s no reason to miss out.

Singapore

Heralded by the Lonely Plant as the most accessible city in Asia and one of the most accessible cities in the world, Singapore should be near the top of your must-visit list. The city boasts infrastructure with stepless access to most buildings and no shortage of kerb cuts. From its street food hawker centres to its marvellous zoo, disabled travellers can enjoy the majority of Singapore without worry.

Barcelona, Spain

Despite the city centre being medieval, there are relatively few cobblestoned and inaccessible areas – including in the popular Gothic Quarter area. This means the city offers a much smoother ride than many other European destinations. Even the beach has disabled access, with ramps onto the sand and wooden paths leading all the way to the water. For a wheelchair user, it offers the perfect balance of a city break with the opportunity to chill out on the beach – all without worrying how you’ll get around.

Have you visited any of these destinations? Share your experiences with us, or feel free to add some more accessible destination suggestions ideal for those using a wheelchair.

Budapest: In Pictures

I have so much to write from my recent trip to Europe, that even after writing a dozen stories, it looks like I’ve just scratched the surface of it. Sure two months was a good amount of time to get an idea of what travelling in Europe is about, but it was sure not enough – especially if you want to understand the culture and history of a place.

And when we’re talking about places like Budapest, things become even more tougher – for Budapest, and Hungary at large, has a rich history associated to it. However, during a total of 7 day period (the time I stayed in Budapest), I still managed to learn a bit about it, even if from a very shallow perspective. So I thought of putting up at least one pictures post on Budapest where I can tell some stories via the pictures. Here you go…

A view of the city divided by the River Danube. Pest on the right side and Buda on the left. These two cities were merged to form the Hungarian capital Budapest.

Which looks something like this, from the Gallert hill, in the evening.

The Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest – one of the oldest legislative buildings in Europe. It was built in 1904.

One of the many monuments representing the time of World War, Anarchy and the social revolution in Hungary.

The statue of US president Ronald Regan at Liberty Square… honoring the man that many Hungarians credit with for ending communist rule in their country.

A street overlooking Budapest’s St. Peter’s Basilica.

The (almost) 100 meter high dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. If you get to visit only one church in Budapest, let it be this one. Awesome stained glass windows and breath-taking dome.

The popular Jewish quarter, where streets were walled off and turned into a ghetto during WWII. Today, it’s a popular tourist trail with a number of synagogues, old stores, workshops and the many colorful streets.

The Great Market Hall. An ideal place to shop for souvenirs and eat the local delicacies. Built in 1897, the place still serves as Budapest’s largest and oldest indoor market.

The memorial of Shoes on the Danube Promenade in honor of the Jews killed after ordered to take off their shoes and walk along the river, so that they can be shot down, and their shoes could be reused, during the World War II.

The popular Boldog Fountain. Perhaps some of the most interesting water fountains I have seen in my life. These jets were motion sensitive so you could walk through them and not get wet. It was symbolic to being caged though.

One of the many beautiful white tiled underground metro stations in Budapest on the UNESCO World Heritage metro line M1.

The M4 Underground Metro line is also worth exploring for its architectural marvel. Almost every station on M4 takes you through an awesome Psychedelic trip with its perfectly symmetry and repetitions.

I visited Budapest under a blogging assignment with BudapestTourism. Though my tour in the city was partly hosted by them, all the recommendations and ideas are solely personal. I only recommend what I personally see and like.

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