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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, practising 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 journey. It is always the beginning.

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

It has been a few years now since I have been travelling full time, or I should perhaps say a few years since I’ve made travelling my life, and my source of income, 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 was bored of the monotonous 9 to 5 corporate job and I didn’t want to keep continue doing it until I turn 60, ready to be retired. I wanted something 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. And I wanted to do that by breaking free.

traveller

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

Travelling 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”. And I think with all these questions, what people 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 those recreational holidays – as people often term them – in my life. When I was working I found myself escaping the boundaries of New Delhi almost every weekend, with a couple of friends, drinking a bunch of beers and returning with an unsatisfied soul. And I remember, the minute I entered the premises of my office, after completing that sweet, sally trip, it always felt as if it actually never happened.

So I realised that I wanted something more than that. Something bigger. Something permanent. I wanted a life of uninterrupted travelling, of permanent movement.

Further Reading: 6 Reasons To Start Travelling Today

Discontentment Is Good

Discontentment is the very first step to a new beginning. My discontentment towards my job forced me to quit my job and start travelling. I had always loved India, but I never loved my life in India. I always loved my profession (of writing), but I never loved my job. It seemed I was just accepting things as they came because everyone around me told me “this is life and you got to learn to deal with it.”

But I think I wasn’t good at it. Though I tried to suppress my unsatisfied soul the traditional way, by changing jobs and running after money, 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, and it was a life-changing experience. Though there was nothing extraordinarily great about the journey, the freedom in travelling solo was, in fact, most 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 is true, when I quit my job in 2015, I had no idea that I will soon start blogging, but I had a belief that something good will follow. I remember during the initial few months of travelling and searching for a better life, I tried seeking a way to become a community journalist (I even wrote a few articles addressing social issues but couldn’t find the courage to get them published somewhere) and make it my permanent career, but I couldn’t. And I think it was because I tried and failed that in the end I decided to be a little easy on me, and chose a more freestyle kind of writing – travel blogging.

So the point here is, if you’re discontent, wanting a little shift in your life, there is no harm in quitting what you’re doing and trying to change the present. Because if nothing else, you can always return to the same present and say to yourself “I at least tried!”

Three Years Later Since I Became A Full-Time Blogger In 2016

Update: It has been nearly two years since I wrote this blog (and three years since I have been travel blogging) and I am fortunate to still be able to travel full-time and make money from it. Though my journey as a full-time traveller has had many highs and lows when I look back and think of what travelling has given me during all this time, there’s just one thing that comes to my mind, and it is – the satisfaction and the thrill in waking up every day!

And speaking of what’s next, I think now that I’ve got good riddance of my corporate career and have attained the financial stability, I’ll continue travelling for as long as my heart will desire, and if I ever wanted some stillness in life, I can always go back and resume what I was doing. But this time, I will only do it a little better!

Respect my decision? Like my lifestyle? Then why not follow me on Instagram or Youtube.

7 Ways To Kill Time On A Flight

Traveling is one of the most fun things that you can do in your life. This is because visiting new and interesting places broadens your mind and gives opportunities for making new friends. If you are traveling solo, then it can also be the best self-development tool that can make you more confident and equip you with communication and problem-solving skills.  However, when your trips involve long flights, then killing time can become difficult. The following are a few tips for that:

  1. Watch Movies/ TV Shows/Read a Book

It would be a terrible idea to board a plane with your laptop or tablet. This is because you may need it for a variety of reasons, one of which is killing time. For instance, you can use it to watch a movie or two (depending on the duration of the flight) or even a new TV series. Just be sure to pack your headphones in your carry-on luggage unless you want to irritate you co-passengers with loud studio laughs or action movie sound effects. And if you’re a bit of a reader, you always have in-flight magazines to give them a read.

  1. Listen to Audiobooks

Nothing can beat the experience of reading a classic book lying on a comfortable couch on a Sunday. However, when you are traveling, then audiobooks come close to the second-best experience. In fact, they can be quite relaxing and keep you busy for hours easily. If you don’t know which audiobooks you should download, then you can check out the top 10 books of 2018 here.

  1. Play Online Casino Games

Did you know that you can earn money even when you are traveling? I don’t recommend this, as its gambling, but as long as they’re openly available online, they cannot be, at least, illegal. So why not! The online casino industry is flooded with all kinds of games like poker, slots, roulette, etc. For instance, you can check out 7 jackpots in India, if you’re looking for a casino game. If you have some experience with gambling, then the sky is the limit for the amount of money that you can win on these platforms! One of my friends has changed his fortune by playing this game.

  1. Doze Off

Traveling can be quite tiring even if you are in an air-conditioned aircraft with comfortable seats. So, it can be a good idea to take a nap before you land. If anything, you will feel refreshed and energetic by the time you will reach the destination. One piece of advice though- you may want to carry a good pair of noise-canceling headphones to get some quality sleep. Think of them as a one-time investment for uninterrupted periods of sleep in all your future flights.

  1. Use Your Social Skills

Some travelers don’t like to socialize with others and prefer staying in their private zone. However, you won’t know unless you say “hi” and see how they respond. If you are a particularly chatty person, then you can easily pass hours getting to know your co-passenger. If they are an attractive individual, then you have all the more reason to strike a conversation 😉.

  1. Plan Your Trip

If you are the type of person who plans everything last minute, then you can certainly use your time in the flight to figure out how you want to take your trip forward. For instance, you may want to create a basic route that you want to follow to visit all the places that you want to go in the least amount of time possible. You can also crunch the numbers while you are at it i.e. the amount of money you have spent so far and how much you have in your bank account that can be used for the trip, etc.

  1. Put Your Thinking Cap on

Are you a songwriter or a novelist? If your answer is yes, then you can use your time in the plane writing a new chapter of your novel or experiment with the lyrics of your new hit song. You can even start something totally new. Believe it or not, you can get some of the most creative ideas when you are traveling. So, don’t let this time go to waste and make something valuable out of it.

As you can see, there are many ways to enjoy your time when you’re flying. So, don’t let your journey become dull at any moment and make the most of your time no matter where you are. Happy traveling!

How to Earn Money While Traveling

Isn’t traveling an amazing experience? It allows you to explore exotic locations, meet some of the most fun people, and enjoy outdoor activities with friends and family. However, to make the most of your journey, you need a lot of money. So, what if I told you that you can make money even when you are traveling? If you will read this blog in its entirety, then you will see that not only it’s possible, but it’s also actually quite easy.

The following are some of the best ways to earn money when traveling:

Freelancing

Did you know that you can get paid to travel if you become a travel writer? That’s actually the dream of millions of people and many have succeeded too. That said, it’s not easy to make it a reality as you need tons of inspiration and grit. So, instead, you can just do freelancing to make some money in your free time when you travel.

There are various ways you can earn money by freelancing. For instance, you can be a freelance blogger, video editor, eBook writer, etc. There are many platforms like Upwork and Fiverr where you can find well-paying gigs in different domains. All you have to do is create an account, share samples of your work, and start applying for the projects. Depending on your skills and experience, you can easily make enough money to cover 20% to 30% of your travel expenses.

Play Online Casino Games

The mobile gaming industry is thriving in today’s era and it’s largely on the back of the online casino industry. This is because only a limited number of people have access to land-based casinos, especially in India. However, online casinos can be accessed with any smartphone in any location.

If you want to make money while having fun, then you can go a website like leovegas.com/en-in/ which offers a slew of interesting games like video poker, slots, and even live casino games. Again, I don’t endorse gambling, but a friend of mine has literally made a lot of money playing casino games online. So why not! And if nothing else, these games can certainly help you kill time on a flight or a bus ride.

Earning by Saving Money

The money you save when you are on a vacation is the money that you earn. In fact, you will be surprised by the amount of money that you can save by just being a smart traveler. For instance, there are many ways to save money on accommodation which include staying in a hostel or a guest house, traveling overnight, staying at the homes of locals, etc. Similarly, you can use special travel credit cards to get discounts or cashback offers for your purchases at select restaurants, retail stores, etc. So, by simply shopping smartly and choosing alternative accommodations, you can save a lot of money which you can use on some of the more interesting aspects of your trips.

Photography

Many travelers are also avid photographers. If you are one yourself, then you can capture some of the best photos of the places that you visiting and sell them on platforms like Shutterstock. If you have a decent DSLR camera and enough creativity, then you can easily earn thousands of bucks by selling the photos alone.

You can also use your photography skills to make money directly by setting up a travel blog. There are thousands of well-earning travel bloggers who are funding their trips with the money generated by the blogs. In the same way, there are many popular YouTubers who create and share their travel videos with their fans on the platform to generate revenue through ads, affiliate marketing, etc.

So, as you can see, earning money and traveling can go hand in hand if you are willing to put in some effort and have a skill or two. There are many options to choose from too all of which are discussed above. So, be sure to test them when you set off for your next dream destination. Good luck!

Jawa 42 Owner Experience: From Mileage To Performance

Booked a Jawa 42 or a Jawa Classic? Wondering how’s its mileage and performance? Read this detailed Jawa 42 owner review, and find your answers!

I understand, for a travel blogger, whose focus area always remained documenting people and cultures and destinations, writing a few simultaneous stories featuring a motorbike can sound a bit fishy. So, before you make any assumptions, first things first… I am not being paid to promote Jawa. And neither am I expecting some unsolicited favors by the company by doing so.

I have noticed there is fairly limited information about Jawa motorcycles on the internet at the moment, and since the company has reappeared in the Indian market after being discontinued a few decades ago, the craze is even bigger. By writing a few articles on Jawa, I am just bridging the information gap.

Since I have started making videos about my Jawa 42 experiences and learning (yes, I am vlogging too now, since last week) on My Youtube Channel, I have realized people are, in fact, craving for some first-hand owner information about Jawa motorbikes. In just about 10 days, I have crossed 3000 subscribers, with almost all my videos – as soon as they go live – getting a few hundred comments.

How much mileage Jawa 42 offers? What accessories does the bike come with? How’s the bike performance? How do I rate it? Should they buy one? Do I recommend it… they ask all kind of questions.

A long waiting time (due to an overwhelming number of bookings) and very few Jawa 42 and Jawa Classics on the road has, moreover, made the suspense bothersome. So here’s an attempt of bridging the information gap (in the form of a more explanatory article) and bringing to you some first-hand Jawa 42 owner experiences.

Here’s a quick video about removing the DB Killer from the exhaust and increasing the exhaust note to maximum…

Jawa 42: Mileage, Performance, And Everything Else In Between

Before we get into details, let’s get into a bit of specification.

Jawa and Jawa 42 come with exactly identical technical specifications. Both are powered with a 4 Stroke, Single-Cylinder, Liquid Cooled, Spark Ignition, DOCH; and offer an impressive 28 N.m @5000 rpm of torque, guaranteeing a much quicker acceleration, compared to other competitors in the retro segment.

Here’s an easy compilation of some other useful Technical Specifications & Dimensions:

  1. Engine Oil Capacity (service fill): 1.25 Litre
  2. Fuel System: Electronic Fuel Injection
  3. Gear Box: Constant Mesh 6 Speed
  4. Fuel Tank Capacity 13.2 Litre (3.0 Litre reserve)
  5. Battery: 12V, (9Ah)
  6. Weight: 179 Kg (with 90% Fuel, Tools, etc.)
  7. Overall Length: 2071 mm
  8. Overall Width: 833 mm
  9. Overall Height: 1090 (Jawa) | 1065 (Jawa 42)
  10. Minimum Ground Clearance: 165 mm
  11. Seat Height: 765 mm

With that said, the company also claims that the above dimensions are subjective to change for further improvements.

The Pride Behind Owning A Jawa

There is no denying the fact that both the Jawa models are designed to impress. Where Jawa is more retro and classic in its appearance, Jawa 42 is trendy and new-age (I prefer Jawa 42 to be honest!). And since it’s not the first time for Jawa to sell its motorbikes in India, the company already has a powerful fan-base and a legacy associated with it. Having said that, there is a certain degree of pride associated with owning a Jawa.

It happens to me that every time I ride my Jawa 42 in my city, people notice. And their reactions, if nothing else, are assuring this motorbike is at least not letting me down because of its appearance. From its price to specifications to the waiting time, people inquire about all kind of questions. Many even shared stories about how they, or someone in their family, owned a Jawa back in the days and how eagerly they’re waiting for market reaction to finally book a Jawa for themselves.

Jawa 42 Mileage

Though the company is claiming for Jawa and Jawa 42 to have a mileage of 37.5 kmpl when I tested the mileage on my Jawa 42 (during the first Mileage Test, a video of which you can see on my Youtube Channel) I got nearly 34 kmpl. The second mileage test, however, gave an improved result of 36 kmpl. Having said that, the mileage is improving, as it happens before the first service.

I am expecting my Jawa 42 to give a mileage of over 40 kmpl after the first service. Stay tuned on my Youtube Channel for the before and after mileage comparison video. You can search me on youtube as ‘Footloose Dev’.

Jawa classic will have an exact same mileage since Jawa and Jawa 42 are identical in all specifications.

Jawa 42 Heating Issues

For some reason, people have been noticing a bit of heating issue during a few minutes of demo ride. But Jawa 42 comes with a liquid cool engine, with a powerful radiator and coolant doing their work at the backend.

So rest assured, the heating mechanism has been well placed by the company and there should be no reason to be worried about it. Speaking of the heating mechanism, as soon as the engine temperature hits the mark of 98 degrees Fahrenheit, the radiator starts functioning its effort to cool it down to 92 degrees. There is moreover an overheating indication given in the odometer that signals RED ALERT as soon as the temperature hits a certain level.

I will be better able to comment on heating issues after the first service.

How Good Is The Handling

Thanks to a great riding posture, light-weighted body, and the overall design, Jawa 42 and Jawa offer great handling/maneuvering – especially if we compare them with their most common competitor Royal Enfield Classic 350.

A low seating (of 765mm) makes the riding posture more confident for me, as unlike with higher seating motorbikes (even if I compare it with my previous Bajaj Pulsar 200) it’s not just my toes that touch the ground now but my entire feet do. This moreover makes taking U-turns exceptionally easy. Speaking of my height, I am 5’7”. For people over 6 feet, Jawa 42 may feel a little tiny, but that is a minority in India.

How Is Jawa 42’s Ground Clearance?

To be honest, Jawa 42 does feel a little disappointing when it comes to its ground clearance, especially if we position it as an off-roader. For a street-tourer, however, Jawa 42’s ground clearance should be okay.

It happened to me a few times that I scratched its exhausts on bumps (exceptionally bigger ones though) and regretted not slowing down a bit more.

About Jawa 42’s Service Interval

I am really happy that Jawa offers a good service interval of every 6000 km, allowing people like me to stay on the road and not worrying about servicing every few thousand kilometers.

Speaking of the numbers, the first service will be due at 1000 km, followed by a service interval of every 6000 km thereafter.

Also Read: Details About The Delivery Time & Company Fitted Accessories

About Company Fitted Accessories

This is where Jawa disappoints a little as they’ve really kept everything as an add-on accessory – a trick to take every little buck out of its customers. Even the essentials like crash guards and backrest are paid add-on accessories. Their rates aren’t available at my Faridabad dealership at the moment. But as soon as they have more details to share I will update the information.

Jawa: An Urban Scrambler

Before anything, I would like to claim that my knowledge of motorcycles is still very limited. The technical jargon makes little to no sense to me, and I understand a machine with its feel and emotions. Having said that, though Jawa 42 can be well classified as a retro motorbike, I found it as a perfect urban scrambler – if only, of course, you install dual-purpose tires and install a higher exhaust (to improve the ground clearance).

Jawa 42’s quick acceleration, impressive power, and a light-weight body make it a perfect street motorbike with great off-roading abilities. Unlike its most obvious competitor (Royal Enfield Classic 350) Jawa offers an impressive in-traffic-handling and maneuvering. And this remained a fairly significant reason why I chose Jawa over a Royal Enfield.

Do I Recommend It: The Conclusion

To cut things short: I am super happy with the performance of my Jawa 42 and I will certainly recommend it (if you’re considering buying a Jawa at all). Until now, I have done nearly 500 km in Delhi and there seems no problem with my motorbike. Given its aesthetics and design, Jawa 42 offers good handling, making it easy to filter through traffic.

It offers all the new-age technology: a BS6 engine, Fuel Injection, liquid cooled, 6-speed gearbox and torque to challenge other competitors in the class. As said above, Jawa 42 attracts those who are looking for a retro motorbike with the perks of a scrambler. It is light-weight, easy to maneuver, quick, powerful, with looks to die for.

So knowing how my bike performs, coupled with all the things I like or dislike about Jawa, would I buy it again? Hell yes. A hundred times!

Do you own a Jawa or a Jawa 42? How has been your experience? Let’s share in comments below!

Jawa: The Delivery Time, Company Fitted Accessories & Other Ownership Details

Booked a Jawa? Wondering what’s the delivery time? What accessories your Jawa motorcycle comes with? Read my ownership experience so far, and the delivery details!

After more than four months of waiting time, Jawa has finally delivered my motorbike on 7th April. And as soon as I got it, I realized one thing “the wait was worth it”. The looks, the technical specifications, and the emotion behind riding a legendary motorbike, coupled with the fact that I was among the first few customers in India owning a Jawa was a great feeling altogether. Call me a fool prejudiced Jawa owner, and I will take no shame!

But let’s be honest, when I booked my Jawa 42 on the first day of its launch, on November 15, I had no idea about what to expect out of it. Though I knew that Jawa has a fair understanding of the Indian market, for it was a popular choice back in the days (I am talking about the time of Yezdi). To make the decision even tougher, there were no company dealerships in the entire country. All I had was a website, an official video and a few pictures to decide. But then, I knew that Jawa is at least working with a name that has a long history and a work culture that we, at least in India, cannot disregard. Yes, I am talking about Mahindra (those who don’t know, Jawa is operating with a joint venture with Mahindra this time).

Also, read the more recent article I wrote after testing the motorbike for a few weeks: Jawa 42 Owner Experience

So yea, that was what I was dealing with at the time of booking the new Jawa. And I booked a Jawa 42, in comet red color.

How Long Did It Take For Jawa To Deliver My Motorbike

In three words: SURPRISINGLY LONG ENOUGH!

The company promised that they will start the delivery of Jawa classic and Jawa 42 in March and their dealerships will be open by December 15. Both the things got delayed. Dealerships in Delhi NCR were still opening in the month of February, and the delivery of motorbikes never happened in March, at least not in Delhi NCR. In short, everything worked with an Indian sense of time and commitment.

When March came, I was assured (at least thrice in that month) that being the first customer of my dealership in Delhi NCR region, I will get my bike in the month of March itself. But March turned out into April and I, at last, got it on 7th April (it was ready on 6th, but I picked it on 7th).

But a regular touch with the company’s marketing team was a regular assurance. See, the lively in-store team of Jawa Faridabad Ownership below (lol!).

My Experience Of Getting A Jawa

Since it’s a new company I understand that ‘cutting the red tape’ can become challenging. There are government norms especially when we have the Indian government to deal with.

So as far as my Jawa ownership experience is concerned (being the first few customers in India, and the first one from my dealership in Delhi NCR) I have no complaints. Of course, the ever-delaying delivery time was a little agitating at times, but in the end, if I am getting a product that makes my heart smile, I am happy. I mean I would prefer a few weeks of extra waiting time (even if it’s tiring) and get the right product then get it early and regret forever.

And so far from what I’ve experienced, out of the 150km ride that I’ve done in the previous three days, I know that this motorbike is here to stay. It is meant to impress!!!

When Are You Going To Get Your Jawa Motorcycle

As a journalist (of a different kind) I cannot help my habit of gaining insider news. Though this isn’t something unique or undercover, but useful for those who are still waiting for their Jawa motorcycle’s delivery. So let’s get into technicalities…

Speaking of the delivery time for Jawa motorcycles, the company is following the First-In-First-Out method of inventory (also known as FIFO system). According to this, every delivery will be decided as per its booking date. Those who booked early are going to get it first than those who booked later, following a fair sequence order. Having said that, one thing is sure, those who have booked their Jawa online are going to get it first before those who booked through a dealership.

And so far (by the first week of April) some dealerships have delivered one motorbike, and some have delivered nothing. It will, moreover, be hard to guess the confirmed delivery date, but for an idea, let me tell you that some dealerships have as long as 8 months as their waiting time. Speaking of mine, I got the delivery of Jawa42 in  4 months and 23 days to be precise. This was when the company had just a few bookings ahead of mine (as I booked it on day 1 of its launch and in just a few hours after the payment link on their website went live!).

The Response So Far: How Many Jawa Bikes Have Been Booked

Well, that’s a personal question you are asking about Jawa, but my journalist self has an answer for you. According to one dealership, their figures had already reached over 500 bookings (most of which happen to be the Jawa 42) until April 5. And that’s just one out of 100+ dealerships across the country.

Naturally, the number is going to escalate now that the motorbikes are on the road and people like me are super happy to own one, excited to write more about their Jawa experience. And speaking of my two days of experience riding JAWA in and around New Delhi area, I don’t think there could be a better investment. I won’t swap my Jawa 42 with anything else out there, at least for now! Let’s see what I’ll have to say about it in a few weeks or months as I will take it to the mountains.

Ownership Details: What Accessories You Are Getting

To be honest, if you always thought that Royal Enfield was good with marketing and selling their merchandise, be warned that Jawa is better!

Below is the picture of the Jawa 42 with ex-showroom accessories. It has an engine, a seat and a side-stand, and that’s all. Well, not literally, but you get the idea!

When I saw my Jawa 42 the first time my biggest disappointment was that it didn’t come with the handle-bar side mirrors (whatever you call them) – the ones that are shown on Jawa’s website and all official promotional videos. Having said that, you are getting the same old boring traditional mirrors mounted in the center of the handlebar. If, however, you want the fancy ones, you need to buy them. It’s an add-on accessory.

If this surprises you, what can be more surprising is the fact that your new Jawa won’t even crash-guards. Did you say, crash-guards is a basic necessity you may need to protect your legs? Well then buy it. You aren’t getting it for free!

Other add on accessories and merchandise that you will find in your Jawa store includes T-shirts, helmets, backrest, saddlebags and so on. Their prices aren’t out yet and you cannot buy them at this moment (as per 9 April when I visited my Jawa store) but soon!

My Experience: How Do I Rate The Product

As I said it earlier, I won’t change my Jawa 42 for anything else in the world (at least not now) because I am that impressed by it. Its looks, its specifications, everything is better than its much-hyped Indian competitor, as I’ve personally found. Its engine and technical specifications are also comparatively much impressive and reliable, and since all that information available abundantly online, we aren’t talking about the specifications here.

What’s better is, it’s lightweight, easy to maneuver and comes with 6000 Km service window – giving a good time frame to people like me who often like redefining the definition of Wanderer.

Speaking of the wanderer, have I mentioned that Jawa’s WA suffix stands for the word Wanderer? Well, that’s another reason to buy a Jawa. If only, of course, you fit in the description!

For more about Jawa ownership and performance reviews, find me on Youtube (as Footloose Dev) for daily videos.

How To Trek In The Himalayas The Ethical & Eco-Friendly Way

Last year I had the opportunity of doing the Hamta Pass trek in the Indian Himalayan region. It was a great 5-day trekking experience that took me to amazing mountain landscapes, with a little more introduction to the beauty that the Himalayas has to offer. The experience was undoubtedly refreshing and, to be honest, slightly educating too. During those 5-days I saw at least a few dozen tourist groups — of nearly 10-15 people — all wanting to take back home the memories of their lifetime.

Where it was indeed a great feeling to see so many people, especially the young urban ones, now taking to mountain outdoors, wanting to enjoy the thrill that comes from trekking the mountains, the fact that the pressure that over-tourism is bringing on the fragile mountain environments was quite disturbing. During those 5 days, I saw more plastic trash struggling to decompose and become nature again than I saw in big towns like Manali or Shimla put together.

Though I understand that curbing tourist inflow can be an effective and the quickest way to control this problem (as the government did in Kasol, Malana, and other regions of Parvati Valley, in Himachal Pradesh) what can be more successful in long-term, and a rather wise approach is following the ethical and eco-friendly ways when it comes to trekking in the Himalayas. Because just like any other problem, the solution to this problem too, lies when individuals like us will take the matter in their own hands, and act responsibly.

Trekking In The Himalayas The Ethical & Eco-Friendly Way

With the growing number of people visiting the Himalayas for trekking and other recreational purposes, the pressure on the fragile mountain ecosystem is growing too. Many of us, both knowingly and unknowingly are bringing harm to the mountains.

Visiting the mountains, and trekking in the wilderness is undoubtedly a great experience. And no one is asking anyone to not do it. But if we want the ecosystem to stay beautiful as it is today (and if we want our children to explore its beauty as we did) the least we can do is follow the concept of “Ethical Trekking” and refuse to trek with companies that don’t follow these basic concepts :

1) No Fixed Camps: To tell you a truth, traditional trekking involves no fixed Camps. Fixed camping is a bane to mountain ecosystem, especially those that are established in the wilderness, because even if fixed, they are temporary in nature and organisers often don’t really care about the surrounding land, because in few months, after the trekking season, they are leaving the place behind. Fixed camping is a bane which has been bought about by large trekking companies and aggregators.

To make sure you’re camping the ethical and eco-friendly way, always set up your camp at afternoon and decamp the following morning. Fixed camps are a bane to the Mountains and cause untold immense damage. Do not go with a company that follows a fixed camp format. The environment will thank you for it.

2) No Instant Noodles: I don’t understand the fascination behind eating Maggi in mountains. I mean if I am visiting an offbeat himalayan village located 900 km away from New Delhi, at a remote location, some 3000m above sea level, I would like to eat and drink what local people are eating. Eating Maggi or a pack of crisps that I can find at every corner in New Delhi is a waste of an experience, on top of all the plastic waste they leave behind.

Say no to your favorite brand of Instant Noodles when in the mountains. Their plastic packaging is one of the most polluting things up in the mountains. Always check the menu and refuse to have these. Stick to rice, dal, chapati and other local delicaies. Keep energy bars and dry fruits for some quick nibbling.

3) Look After Porters: In the entire trekking business, the porters are the most hardworking and least paid people. I understand there is nothing we can do about the pay but we can at least make sure that they are getting the same food that we are getting, and and their sleeping conditions are satisfactory.

Another thing you can do is making sure your porter isn’t carrying more than 25 kgs, as that is not allowed lawfully.

If your porter is carrying more weight, ask your company to hire another porter, or, as a noble person, help him share some load off his shoulder — maybe stick that extra water bottle in your backpack.

4) Look After Ponies And Mules: Make sure that the pack animals are not over loaded. To make sure they are not, just study their steps for half a minute or so, and you will naturally understand if they’re having difficulty in walking.

Also watch out for any sign of injury or illness in them. They are an indispensable part of your team. You need to watch out for all team members.

5) Take Back Your Non-Biodegradable Waste: Naturally, the first thing that comes to our mind when we talk about the ethical and eco-friendly ways of travelling in the Himalayas is leaving no non-biodegradable waste behind. Bring back whatever plastic you’re taking to higher mountains to the nearby town (the best thing to do is bring it all back to your city) or village where it’s disposed of. I mean we are all well aware that even at the bases there is no proper disposal system but its much better than leaving it up there on the mountains and not only harm them in a long run, but also spoiling their beauty instantly.

As for human waste, in an ideal situation even that should be bought back, but since situations are not ideal you should at least dig a small hole in the ground, make a temporary compost pit, and do your waste there. Always cover the human waste with mud. Never do it near a river or some other water source. 

These are the top 5 things that instantly come to my mind thinking of ethical and eco-friendly ways while trekking in the Himalayas. Do you have anything to add in the list? Please share in comments below!

Should You Buy Travel Insurance?

Despite being a world traveller for a few years now, and being absolutely privy to the importance of buying travel insurance, I still find myself struggling with the same question every time I travel abroad: “Should I or should I not buy travel insurance?”

I mean we all know that travel insurance (and I am talking about a full coverage policy and not some cheap ‘cover-me-only-if-I-have-a-heart-attack’ policy) can be a useful thing. It keeps us safe from any personal damage, whether it’s a road accident or losing our passport somewhere on the journey. Yet, when we are buying it, our mind tells us how the chances of using the insurance premium is highly unlikely. But what if we had to use it? What if we lost our baggage at the airport, or worse, we got robbed overseas?

Wait… What? Did I say our travel insurance can cover us if we get robbed?

Yes, I did!

What Is A Travel Insurance?

Before anything, let’s start with the basics and understand what travel insurance actually is. I’ve noticed the term Travel Insurance being commonly mistaken, with most people believing that it acts as a medical insurance when travelling abroad, when in reality, it can be much more than that.

When buying a travel insurance you should know what kind of coverage your insurance policy entitles you to. A travel insurance is not just a medical insurance. There are different types of coverage available based on your needs.

  • Travel Health Insurance: Most commonly and widely used, a travel health insurance covers you if you have an accident. It’s your free ticket to a hospital when you’re away from home.
  • Trip Cancellation Insurance: Covers you for any interruptions in your travel plans, including flight delays/cancellations etc.
  • Baggage Insurance: Gives you full or partial coverage for theft or damages to your travel gear.

…and there can be more types of travel insurance, but you get the idea!

Your insurance can also offer more than one type of coverage. Most vacation plans include basic coverage for trip cancellation, flight delays, medical emergency, lost baggage, delayed baggage, passport loss, and so on and so forth. So read your policy carefully and buy what suits you best.

Do You Need Travel Insurance?

And now comes the inevitable: do you need a travel insurance at all? Well, it’s a totally personal choice (unless you require one to apply for a visa).

I have met plenty of people who travel without any travel insurance, and I’ve done it too in the past. But since my Bratislava Slovakia experience, where a few people robbed me in full daylight and took my expensive DSLR away, I’ve realised how a little investment can save me in similar situations. And since then, I’ve started buying travel insurance whenever I travel. Moreover, it gives me peace of mind and a little freedom to take risks while on the road.

And well, it’s not just me. Throughout my travels I’ve heard horror stories of travellers falling unexpectedly sick or getting injured in continents like Europe and other places that are considered to be the safest and most travel-friendly. So yea, the choice of buying a travel insurance remains totally personal but if you want some assurance, some peace of mind, and if you’re travelling with a lot of expensive gear, getting yourself insured is a wise move.

A travel insurance can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars (against paying a very small amount) which you can otherwise lose pretty quickly, if not insured.

Remember, shit can happen! And it happens when you least expect it.

What Kind Of Insurance Should You Buy?

Again, a personal choice. I recommend you calculate the different factors that can affect you to help you decide.

Do you carry a lot of expensive photo/computer gear? (If yes, look for an insurance policy that gives you cover for your gear). Does your insurance include medical evacuation? (You may need it if you have any pre-existing condition). Are you the type of person who books hotels/flights/activities in advance? Or do you just wing it and pay for services as you use them? (If booking hotels and flights in advance, get an insurance that covers you in the event of trip cancellation). Make sure to choose your insurance based on your personal requirements.

And speaking of a personal choice, I’ve used SafetyWing on my previous few international trips and quite like it. Since the company was started by digital nomads themselves, the kind of coverage and service that SafetyWing offers, suits digital nomads like me fairly perfectly. It gives me coverage for medical problems and accidents, travel delays, lost checked luggage, natural disasters, and even personal liability. To get in touch with like-minded nomads, they even organize different events and meetups worldwide.

Sounds fantastic, right? Well, it gets even better: SafetyWing offers the cheapest insurance option for digital nomads and long-term travellers on the market. Starting at 37 USD per 4 weeks, it is only 1/3rd of what many other similar companies charge.

So yea, SafetyWing remains my choice (or at least has remained since the previous few trips). But if you’re looking for other options, World Nomads is another popular name among travellers, particularly long-term ones. Like SafetyWing, it lets you take up the policy when you are already out of your home country, which many other insurance companies do not allow. It also offers extensive coverage for extreme sports and adventure activities. But honestly speaking, I have never used them so I can’t say how good they are.

Speaking of the traditional names, however, Bajaj Allians and Reliance Insurance are a couple of good and reliable ones too, particularly for Indian citizens.

Check SafetyWing’s website by clicking here, for more.

A Few Quick Travel Insurance Tips

  • Read the fine print carefully. Find out what you’re covered for. Know every detail even if it says you’re covered. When it comes to insurance, there are always many confusions.
  • Take photos of all your gear, in case you need to claim for them tomorrow.
  • Contact your insurance immediately in the event of an illness or accident for which you need treatment, so they can advise on the proper claim process. Your provider may also have a network of recommended partner hospitals and clinics that they can refer you to at your destination.
  • Save PDF copies of all gear purchase & hospital receipts. Keep originals too.
  • Write down serial numbers, policy numbers, and insurance contact information.
  • File a police report immediately after any theft or accident.

Happy Travelling!

Top Tips For Renting A Car In Europe

Planning to rent a car in Europe, and doing it for the first time? Read these useful tips.

During my recent blog trip with Germany Tourism, I ticked off a major bucket list thing — a solo road trip in Europe. Though I understand it was a short one, and a part of me wanted to ride a motorbike over driving around in a car, I think the fact that it was my first time ever attempt for solo driving/riding in Europe, and that too on the wrong side of the road (according to my Indian disposition) driving a car felt like a safer plan.

So if are just as helpless as I was before the trip, renting a car in Europe from India (or some other country overseas) for the first time ever, this article will help you answer your questions.

The Hidden Costs: My Experience Of Renting A Car In Europe

Driving around in Europe is indeed a great experience. But there’s more to the deal than just a great experience. Thanks to hidden costs that you figure out at the reception desk before your dealer hand-over the keys, renting a car in Europe can actually kick your butts (and wallet).

I remember when I booked myself a car, sitting in the cozy corner of my apartment in New Delhi, drinking a cold beer, I was so happy that I found an unbelievably cheap deal. According to the payment invoice, I booked a Ford Fiesta for 7 days for just 125 EUR in total (some 9500 Rupees). And then 3 days later, I flew to Germany, and the reception desk happened. I presented the invoice at the reception desk of Buchbinder Car Rental at Frankfurt airport and I was told that there are an additional 40 EUR taxes that are not mentioned in the invoice. To make it worse, I was told that my agreement includes no insurance and has an 800 EUR excess fee, meaning, a single scratch on the car would make me liable for 800 EUR straight. Another scratch, and another 800 EUR penalty. On top of that, they will hold 1200 EUR from my credit card as a security deposit (nearly one lakh Indian Rupees).

Though I understand, I was liable for any damage done to the car, the very explanation of paying 800 EUR straight (which they would cut from my security deposit I assumed) for even a minor scratch on car’s body put me in a vulnerable situation. And what was the solution? To get my car insured for an extra EUR 140.

Well, that’s the kind of hidden costs your car rental company can smartly trick you in. They make you feel so vulnerable (at least Buchbinder Car Rentals at Frankfurt Airport did that to me) that you find no other escape but doing what you’re being told.

In the end, I paid an additional EUR 180 (140 EUR insurance and some 40 EUR of taxes) when my rental invoice, at the time of online booking, said, I have to only pay EUR 125 at the reception desk.

But all that said, hiring a car has its own perks. And when you’re travelling in a continent like Europe, with beautiful countryside drives, the perks become even better. It gives you greater freedom on your travels, allowing you to visit remote and beautiful locations that public transport would not be able to take you (or may take you if you’re prepared to take three buses, two train and walk for another 45 minutes in the end to get to your place).

Having said that, renting a car, even if you’re as inexperienced as I was, or you’re coming from a country like India where car laws and driving habits are quite different, does not have to be a nightmare. Just read ahead and learn from my experience.

Renting A Car In Europe: Top Tips

Choosing A Company

After my bad experience with Buchbinder, I shared about it in a couple of Facebook groups and asked people if they had a similar experience while renting a car in Europe, and I figured that Buchbinder wasn’t a popular choice, after all. Major rental car companies in Europe, as I was suggested, include Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar, and Sixt. A little research on Quora only assured the fact.

Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar, and Sixt, are the top players in Europe, and are most people’s first choice, basis on who is giving the best deal at the time of booking. And since they’re big and reputed, the chances of them ripping you off with hidden costs are moreover less.

To find the best deal, however, it’s a wise idea to check a price comparison website. AutoEurope.com, for example, is a great resource for finding out the best rates comparing all the major players under one window. It’s something similar to what Kayak or Skyscanner does for flight comparison.

The Driver’s Age

Some of the rental companies charge a higher fee if the driver is younger than 25 years in age, at the time of car hire. Though the legal age of driving is much younger, and you need to be only 21 to be able to rent a car in Europe, the rental companies charge a little extra if you’re young. So make sure you look into the company’s younger driver policy.

The Number Of People That Are Going To Be Driving The Car

Another strange thing that I never expected can add a difference to the cost of your rental agreement is ‘the number of people that are going to be driving the rented car’. For example, if you’re a squad of 4 friends renting a car, but only one person is going to be driving throughout the trip, it’s fine. But if you told them (at the reception desk or while booking online) that there are 3 drivers out of 4, you will be charged 5-20 Euros extra for every extra driver. Strange, but true! Such a thing doesn’t exist while renting a car in India, or elsewhere in Asia.

The Number Of Countries You’re Driving To

Where border-less Europe remains a valid reality in every other transportation method, whether you’re flying or taking a bus or a train, when it comes to a rented car, you pay an extra fee for every country you travel to. In fact, some rental companies don’t even allow you to to take the car to certain countries. So make sure you check your car rental company’s policy or perhaps contact their customer service to tell them what all countries you’ll be travelling to and if allowed, how much it’s going to cost you extra. Compare the cost with a few companies and find the best deal.

How Many Kilometres You’re Going To Drive

Unless your rental agreement says that you have ‘unlimited kilometres’, you are only allowed to do a limited distance (usually less than 250km a day) everyday, or you pay the fine when you return the car. So double check with your company on their policy, especially if you have a long trip/distance planned.

You May Not Need An International License, But Get Yourself One

When you go to pick up your car you are asked for a valid Driving License. You will be happy to know that most countries in Europe allow you to drive with your home-county license (eg in my case, they allowed me to drive on my Indian driving license without asking for any sort of international driving permit) but they can still potentially ask to see your International Drivers Permit (IDP), particularly if your home Driving License is not in English. So get yourself an IDP.

It is moreover important to know that an IDP does not replace your Driver’s License but only supplements it. You may not be asked to show your IDP when picking up your rental car in these countries (as was the case with me in Germany) but it’s still a good idea to have one just in case.

Dealing With Expensive Insurance

Lawfully, every car rental agreement in European Union countries comes with a ‘reduction of liability’ insurance under which any damages to you or other vehicle, during an accident, is covered. It doesn’t matter how cheap your rental agreement was, or whether you unchecked all boxes (particularly the insurance ones), if you’re renting a car, your car rental company is providing you with this third party ‘reduction of liability’ insurance. It’s mandatory by law.

Now, what your car rental company will most likely try to trick you in, is provide a cover for your car, which is often around EUR 20 per day, as was the case with mine, adding EUR 140 in my rental agreement for a 7-day period. Standing at the reception desk with a long queue behind me, forcing me to act fast, and with no experience of how to deal with the situation and avoid the insurance, I did as I was told and ended up bleeding EUR 140. But there are quite a few ways to actually avoid it, and still have your own car insured (for free, or at a much lower price).

Many credit cards offer car rental insurance. Check if one of your credit cards have that too. Use that credit card to make the payment for the car rental, and you are taken care of. If not, there are quite a few third-party insurance companies in Europe that provide full or partial coverage of your car, at a much lower price. Eg, iCarHireInsurance.com is a great option (PS: I am not being paid to advertise them!) that I later checked and found, was giving me the same insurance that Buchbinder gave (for 140 EUR) at a mere price of EUR 35. Though it’s true that it was a third party insurance company and any damages had to be first paid out of my own pocket first before I could claim the money back from iCarHireInsurance. But that was only if I had to use the insurance at all, which is often very unlikely. The difference between the two similar insurance was huge!

Key Takeaways:

  1. Don’t use Buchbinder, from my personal experience. Try to stick to the reliable and bigger companies like Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar, and Sixt.
  2. Use comparison websites like AutoEurope.com
  3. Read the company rental policy for any extra fee for young drivers, number of kms per day restriction and country restrictions (if you’re visiting multiple countries).
  4. Find a way to save on additional protection of your car insurance if you can.

Also Read: Germany’s Most Beautiful Route: The Romantic Road

A One Week Road Trip Along The Romantic Road: Germany’s Most Beautiful Holiday Route

Last year, while backpacking in Bavaria region in Germany, I got introduced to Germany’s most beautiful holiday route: The Romantic Road.

It all happened when I planned a day trip to Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, almost unknowingly that it is located on the Romantic Road trail, or, the fact that there is something called the Romantic Road, and found out that Germany has not just one but several such picturesque fairy-tale towns.

“You should do the Romantic Road sometimes, if visiting similar small medieval towns is your thing” I remember being told as I picked a brochure that read ‘Medieval Germany’ at the tourist information center in Rothenburg At that time I paid no interest in what the lady at the reception desk was saying, and neither did I bother inquiring more on the subject. But as I got back to my hotel later in the evening, and looked at the brochure, I came across the same term again “The Romantic Road”.

Naturally Intrigued, I Google more about the subject and found that Romantic Road, in fact, is Germany’s one of the most picturesque and top-rated Holiday Routes.

Fast Forwarding Six Months Later…

Six months later, I planned another trip to Germany, but this time it was a bit more specific. The itinerary was well defined, for I knew where I was going. On Agenda, was a one-week road trip along Germany’s Romantic Road.

I hired a car from Frankfurt Airport and covered the entire Romantic Road (though not staying or visiting all the towns on the Romantic Road but travelling from its north to south end!) over a period of 7 Days and 6 Nights, and it turned out to be the most memorable visits to Germany I ever had.

For those who don’t know, I’ve been to Germany four times in the previous three years, and the Romantic Road remains my favorite!

Romantic Road Germany: An Introduction

Running from the River Main to the Alps, the name ‘The Romantic Road’ offers a landscape change from river valleys to fertile agricultural lands, forest and meadows to dramatic mountain scenery. And that’s not all. A journey along the Romantic Road offers more than the beautiful countryside. Here you will find 30 inspiring German towns too that not only define Germany’s but entire Europe’s history, art and culture. Some of the towns you will find are as old as 15 b.c, with architectural buildings surviving since the 15th century, or older. No wonder, a trip along Germany’s Romantic Road brings about the fascination and a sense of being transported back in time.

The route starts from Wurzburg in the north (about 120km from Frankfurt) and runs straight south of the country towards the Alps, before concluding itself in the town of Fussen (the border town to Switzerland).

There are actually three ways of covering the Romantic Road…

  1. The Romantic Road drive: it is by far the quickest and most convenient way (we will talk more about it following my 7Day/6Night journey below!)
  2. The D9 Long-distance Cycle Trail Romantic Road: It runs from Wurzburg to Fussen, covering a total of 460km and running parallel to the Romantic Road on little-used side roads, local link roads and tracks through consolidated farmland and forest. There are short sections too that are ideally suited for short-stay and weekend visitors too. From April to October, there is a coach service that runs along the Romantic Road and accepts bicycles on the advanced reservation. So you can use it to cover individual stages of the route or to return to the starting point of the journey. Check romanticroadcoach.de for more information about the coach and the Romantic Road bike trail.
  3. Long-distance Walking Trail Romantic Road: Starting in Wurzburg and ending in Fussen, the Romantic Road’s long-distance Walking trail covers a distance of nearly 500km. Just like the cycling trail, the walking trail is also signposted all the way to make it easy for those who dared to walk its 500km long trail. Details for the entire route, as well as of the stops for each stage can be downloaded from the internet both as a map and in GPS data format at romantischestrasse.de

How Do I Recommend Exploring The Romantic Road

I believe cycling is a great way to see more of the Romantic Road’s countryside and the beauty if only, you have the time and the fitness level for it (given, you will be driving over 30km every day while enjoying the landscapes and clicking pictures at the same time).

I would have, myself, done a bicycle ride had I visited the Romantic Road between April and October. And this is for two obvious reasons: pleasant and more favorable weather, and the availability of the Romantic Road Coach.

But since I was short on time and wanted to do the entire journey — starting from River Main to the Alps — a road trip was the only way. Additionally, a road trip was more comfortable and could be done in the month of March when the weather was still too cold and periodic rain was still quite prevalent.

So yea, the basis on how much time you have and what you want, driving or cycling, both are great options. Walking, on the other hand, is going to take just a little more time, can be boring and will take you to the same route as cycling would others do.

A One Week Road Trip Along The Romantic Road: The Itinerary

If you’re starting the journey from the northern end i.e. Wurzburg, Frankfurt airport is going to be the nearest and most convenient for you.

Frankfurt Airport is one of the busiest and resourceful airports in entire Europe. And when it comes to renting a car, there is no better place. You will find pretty much every rental company at Frankfurt’s Terminal 2 including the popular ones like Sixt or the unheard-of ones like Buchbinder (though I do not recommend them, given my experience). So if you want to compare prices and rent a car on the spot you can do it all in one place.

However, it is always a better idea to book one online than doing it directly because of higher prices. Moreover, just like flights, the closer (to your pickup date) you book your car, the more expensive it is going to be. It is advised to book a car for at least 7 days in advance. Read these useful Tips On Renting A Car In Europe for more.

Day 1: Frankfurt to Wurzburg (120 km | 1.5 hours)

Frankfurt to Wurzburg is an easy 1.5-hour drive via the A3 Autobahn. To be honest, the route doesn’t offer anything great and is more or less just a highway drive.

If you haven’t been to Frankfurt before, a quick stopover at the old town of Altstadt is totally worth it. Head to the Eiserner Steg pedestrian bridge and catch the beautiful views of Frankfurt Skyline. A stroll along the Frankfurt Main-Riverside is quite a highlighted thing too. Here’s a more detailed Travel Guide on Frankfurt that I have covered in another blog.

The town of Wurzburg is a charming little town with interesting architecture and a special atmosphere.

Visit the Marienberg Fortress, which sits atop the hill across from the old town, explore the baroque style Residence Palace, walk the 16th century Old Main Bridge (Alte Mainbrucke in German) across the Main River, there is so much to see in this little town.

And to spend the night, I recommend where I stayed in Wurzburg, GHOTEL hotel & living which is located very close to the Residence Palace and the old town. Its high rise building moreover gives sweeping views over the city.

Day 2: Wurzburg to Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber (64 km | 40 minutes)

Wurzburg to Rothenburg, again, is a very short drive, and a not so interesting one, given you will be driving pretty much over a highway for most of your drive, but the town of Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber will make it up to you.

Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber remains one of the most visited towns on the Romantic Road. I have personally visited Rothenburg twice in the previous still couldn’t get over its beauty. From architecturally restored houses to a completely intact medieval town-wall, everything about this cute little town spoke of nothing but a hint of medieval well-preserved history. In short, if Europe, for you, is all about cobblestone streets, small alleyways and street cafes, Rothenburg is going to prove you right.

Visit the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store, eat a Schneeball, visit the medieval crime museum and do the tower trail. These four things will complete your Rothenburg visit. And here’s a complete Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber Travel Itinerary, if you’re looking for more tips.

Day 3: Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber to Nordlingen (85 km | 1 hour)

Rothenburg to Nordlingen is another short drive of the only 1km but the drive starts getting a little better from here as you’re not on the highway for all the time. Additionally, to make it better, you can avoid the A1 and take B25 which runs pretty much parallel to A1. This route will moreover take you to the town of Dinkelsbühl, which is another destination on the Romantic Road and a very picturesque one. I took B25 as my route but skipped the town of Dinkelsbühl.

Speaking of Nordlingen, however, the town is another medieval looking with its old town still surrounded by a city wall, just like it might have been back in the days, making it one of the only three towns in Germany (Nordlingen, Rothenburg, and Dinkelsbühl) that still have a 100% intact town wall, giving it a medieval charm.

What’s more interesting is that Nordlingen is actually located in a crater caused by a meteorite hit about 15 million years ago making it one rare town, not just in Germany but the entire world.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Upon first glance, Nördlingen actually draws hints of a typical German town. It has a city wall surrounding it. At its epicenter sits a towering church dominating the skyline. The church is perfectly alibied with red pitched roofs of hundreds of timber-frame houses and shops. The entire vibe of the place is quite unlikely, making Nordlingen a must do on the Romantic Road.

Read more about Nordlingen here: Nordlingen Travel Guide

Day 4: Nordlingen to Augsburg (75 km | 1 hour)

Nordlingen to Augsburg is from where the drive will start becoming a little picturesque as you will no longer be driving on a highway and but country roads taking you through small towns and villages.

Augsburg, as a town, is one of the oldest in Germany, with its foundation dating back to 15 bc. Statistically speaking, Augsburg is Bavaria’s third biggest town, but when you’re there you don’t feel it that big. To me, Augsburg felt like one of those places that still holds that old European charm from yesteryear where an intriguing blend of history, culture, and art is still prevalent; where trams still chase each other on cobblestone streets; and where there are more people walking on streets than cars.

Here’s more on Augsburg: Augsburg Travel Guide

Day 5: Augsburg To Schongau (66 km | 50 minutes)

From Augsburg, the more your drive south, the more picturesque the journey gets. Between Augsburg and Schongau, you get patches of highland, with beautiful farmlands running on either side. However the closer you get to Schongau the journey starts getting a little hilly. In the town of Schongau, you see alps erecting at a distance.

Schongau is popular among tourists for its well maintained medieval Stadtmauer. Funnily, for years this fortification defense wall protected villagers by keeping people out & now it’s the reason for wanting to get in.

Another remnant of the Middle Ages is the 15th century Schloss Schongau. This old castle’s been through it all parts of it have been torn down, blown up, and everything in between. Another highlight is the 18th-century Polizeidienerturm (or Police Servant Tower).

Unlike other stops on the Romantic Road, particularly those mentioned in this list, Schongau proves to be a little weakling in terms of the tourist attractions it offers, but the entire small-town vibe that it has makes Schongau one of the must-sees on the Romantic Road.

Day 6: Schongau To Fussen to Hohenschwangau (37km | 40 minutes)

Schongau to Fussen will take you to the most beautiful part of the journey with alps coming nearer at every kilometer. The drive is going to be the shortest, making it easy to cover more than one highlights on the Romantic Road in a day.

Make Fussen your base and do a day trip to Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwanstein.

Fussen’s Altstadt (old town) is a pretty blend of brightly coloured buildings, many of which are adorned with frescoes.  The typical Bavarian architecture and cobblestoned streets give the town an old world charm.

The highlighted thing to do in Fussen, however, remains the royal castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, related to King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Both the castles are quite spectacular to explore. Set in a mountain setting, on the foothills of the Alps, it’s hard to visit them without conjuring up thoughts of fairy tales and royal musings. You can find the castle of Hohenschwangau on many brochures highlighting tourism in Germany, and when you will see it on your own, you will easily understand why!

Day 7: Fussen To Frankfurt (420 km | 5 hours) & fly back!

Following the A7 and A3, drive back to Frankfurt. Your Romantic Road road-trip has sadly come to an end!

5 Ways To Brain Train While Travelling

Travelling is an education in itself — few things are more intellectually stimulating than planning precise routes, finding affordable tickets and accommodation, meeting new people and immersing yourself in unfamiliar cultures.

But during a long-term sabbatical, fatigue can set in after a while, which sparks a mental slump for some adventurers that means they might not be feeling as focused and fresh as usual.

Fear not — these five ways to brain train while travelling will keep you feeling sharp as a tack and brilliantly on the ball.

Rubik’s Cube

The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by Hungarian architect Erno Rubik, who originally envisioned it as an educational model for explaining three-dimensional geometry. It’s since become a favourite brain-teaser for millions of brainboxes worldwide and because it’s so compact, is the ideal travel companion for tuning up your spatial skills and manual dexterity.

If you’re tempted to take up this challenging hobby again, pop a cube in a corner of your rucksack and play with it. I have seen a lot of travelers travelling with a Rubik’s Cube and playing with it (which not only pass time but also stretch brain muscles) whenever they have time. I have, personally, tried it in the past and loved it. There are different versions of Rubik’s Cube. Once you solve the 3*3 Rubik’s Cube move to a 6*6 Cube and so on.

Download a Quiz App

If you’re a fan of TV quiz, you can also download a quiz app. A quiz app won’t only keep you close to the real world and improve your knowledge but also keep you entertained.

There are hundreds of Quiz apps available for Android and iPhone. I have personally used quiz apps a lot during my solo travels, and have particularly loved the app called The Chase app (Available on Android). It helped me boost your general knowledge while on the move and perhaps even build enough confidence to take the plunge and appear on the real-life version whenever I returned home.

Audible

Reading widely from a variety of texts is a terrific way to keep your synapses sizzling, but the most convenient way to take in books while travelling might be in their audio incarnations.

Millions of titles are available — for instance, you can listen to Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past on Amazon’s Audible service while you wind your way around the world and learn everything imaginable about ennui and the time-twisting power of tasting madeleine cakes.

Blinkist

For an audiobook experience at the other end of the brevity scale from Proust, try the Blinkist app.

This handy service condenses key takeaways from the world’s best nonfiction books into easily digestible 15-minute segments which you can listen to at any time, anywhere.

If you’re into self-help books or business thought leadership, Blinkist is a brilliant idea.

Anglia Ruskin Distance Learning

Provided you’re disciplined, it’s possible to complete an online degree while travelling long-term — many mainstream universities now offer online equivalents of popular courses which can be taken from anywhere with a decent Wi-Fi service.

For instance, studying with Anglia Ruskin Distance Learning can earn you a qualification in digital marketing or project management — skillsets which are in demand anywhere in the world.

Adopt these five ways to brain train while travelling and your faculties will be firing on all cylinders.

That’s my list! Share your own brain training tips in the comments section.

Visiting Munich? Don’t Miss The Town Of Augsburg

Last year I spent three days traveling in Munich and I know a lot of Indian and Asian tourists doing the same — spending a good share of their Bavarian holiday wandering and lazying around in Munich. Where Munich is certainly a great destination to travel to, and you won’t find such amazing beer culture (I still miss its beer gardens!) anywhere in the world, it still makes no sense if you spend all your time there and lose the opportunity of exploring another great town located at only half-an-hour train ride away from Munich. Yes, I am talking the town of Augsburg, on the Romantic Road Trail.

If you’ve not heard of the Romantic Road Trail, read about it here: Romantic Road Trail in Germany.

My First Impression of Augsburg

Despite being located only 70km away from Munich (or a quick half an hour train ride) Augsburg is unlike any part of Munich. I mean statistically it may just be Bavaria’s third biggest town, but when you’re there you don’t feel it that big.

Augsburg still holds that old European charm from yesteryear where an intriguing blend of history, culture, art is still prevalent; where trams still chase each other on cobblestone streets; and where there are more people walking on streets than cars — something that Munich has, unfortunately, lost. Though I am not claiming that Augsburg is better than Munich, or that you should not be visiting Munich, the fact that Munich caters to a more younger action-loving audience, whereas Augsburg is comparatively slower, more romantic and idyllic, cannot be disregarded.

So yea, if you’re visiting Munich, I suggest you to not miss visiting the town of Augsburg!

I spent an entire day exploring Augsburg, and honestly speaking, the experience was quite similar to that of holidaying in a small German town. All tourist highlights in Augsburg were so closely located that I could easily cover them on foot. And if I felt a little tired and needed a quick lift, I could hop on to a tram, take a few quick breaths and resume walking.

Speaking of the locale, the old town of Augsburg kind of time-transports you back in the time of Renaissance when wealthy traders still ruled its streets. The town’s 2000-year-old past comes to life in its historic city center with baroque townhouses, lovely boulevards, and romantic street cafes.

A Little History

Before I go ahead with suggesting my usual ‘top tourist highlights for Augsburg’, let’s start with a few facts and know the city better.

Augsburg was founded by the Roman emperor Augusta in the year 15 b.c. and it is because it was ruled by the Romans, you can find a lot of baroque architecture around its old town. Due to its strategic location for trading, the town grew in wealth and population over the following centuries.

Today, Augsburg is home to nearly 300,000 citizens and is Bavaria’s third largest city.

Getting To Augsburg

If you’re driving, as was the case with me, you will be glad to know that there are no toll taxes on the way to Augsburg, irrespective of where you’re coming from (Munich or the north/south of the Romantic Road). Parking is also affordable in Augsburg (less than EUR 2 per hour, depending on where you’re parking with some places offering space for EUR 0.60 per hour). Overnight parking in Augsburg is possible in under EUR 5.

If you’re taking public transport, the best way to get to Augsburg is by train. Trains from Munich Hbf to Augsburg Hbf take only about 30 minutes. From Nuremberg, they take about 1.5 hours. The central train station in Augsburg is only about 2 km from the old town and is easy to walk.

If, however, time is no problem and you’re looking for the cheapest option to travel to Augsburg, try ride-sharing apps like BlaBlaCar or perhaps take a bus. There are very few buses from Munich to Augsburg, but they are quite cheap and are available at a price of less than EUR 10 for a single journey. Trains between Munich and Augsburg cost around 20 EUR.

Once You Get There

The first thing I will suggest you do when you arrive in Augsburg is visiting the Tourist Information Center located in Augsburg market square and getting a city walking map (unless you’ve found one in your hotel).

Nearly all the tourist highlights in Augsburg can be accessed by foot, or you can rent a bike to make it even easier.

Top Tourist Highlights In Augsburg

The Town Hall & The Golden Saal: If you’re interested in seeing a bit of the Renaissance period and studying some expensive ceiling paintings, visit the town hall and the Golden Saal (located on the top floor of the town hall).

Constructed in the early 17th century, the Golden Saal is one of the most important cultural monuments of the late Renaissance in Western Europe. In 1944 the Town Hall and the Goldener Saal were destroyed by an air raid and were reconstructed after the war. It is free to visit Town Hall, but for the Golden Sall, there’s an entry ticket of EUR 2.10.

Fuggerei: Perhaps the most interesting attraction in Augsburg, Fuggeri is the world’s oldest social housing project that was started in 1516 by Jakob Fugger, a powerful merchant banker. Within a decade 52 houses were constructed in a walled housing pattern. The idea was to give poor people a place to live.

Today, Fuggerei acts as a tourist attraction, with a handful of residents still living there. 

What’s interesting to note is that the residents still have to abide by similar rules to the ones set out 500 years ago, stipulating that they must be of the Catholic faith and pray for the souls of the Fuggers! The annual rent for the residents is a token €0.88, less than a quarter of what it costs to visit as a tourist. This makes Fuggeri the cheapest housing community in Germany and (as it’s termed) a unique housing complex for poor people.

Other places of interest in Augsburg that I didn’t visit but were advised to me include Augsburg Cathedral, Mozart House, the church of St. Anna, Perlach Tower and Diocesan Museum.

It is also worth exploring the shopping streets in the new town center in Augsburg.

Where To Stay In Augsburg

Augsburg is a kind of place that feels rich and royal. Naturally, to complete your visit, you would want to stay at a place that matches the wavelength. Having said that, there is no better place than a hotel that offers not just luxury, but absolute luxury and my hotel Steigenberger Drei Mohren certainly fit that description.

The hotel is located directly on Augsburg’s grand main street Maximilianstraße and is only a stone’s throw from the old town and the major attractions such as the city hall or the Perlach tower.

The interior of the hotel had an atmosphere of traditional elegance. I booked an executive room that came with a beautiful bathroom, upholstered sofas and armchairs, a mini-bar and flatscreen TVs for my comfort.

On top of that, the hotel’s in-house restaurant Maximilian’s had an open kitchen which was one of its kind and is known for serving regional specialties alongside excellent wines.

The hotel also had in-house spa and wellness facilities that included a gym, several saunas, and even steam.

So if you’ll ask me for a place to stay in Augsburg that matches the tone of the city, you know what I am going to recommend!

Have you been to Augsburg? Would you add anything in the article?