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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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Want To Become A Frugal Backpacker? Learn To Sleep And Shit Anywhere!

It’s not the appearance or the idea of lugging a 70L backpack, but only your habits make you a real frugal backpacker!

Frugal backpacking is more than slinging a backpack over your shoulder, wearing the same shirt for a week, and doing laundry in sinks. It’s a way of living, of compromising with the worst imaginable situations, and yet, not complaining about them.

I remember during my early days of travelling, how a few habits or the little insecurities of my mind, made this lifestyle so difficult for me. Though I could easily travel in rickety buses and eat at someplace totally disgusting, I was still not a right fit.

Every time I left home (or even before leaving) to have that grand adventure of my journey, I made sure that I find a roof at night and a shit-hole in the morning. And these habits always only curbed me from living my perpetual backpacking dream. It moreover curbed me from stepping out of fray and travelling of the beaten path. Because if you’re going to places where you can find hotels and guesthouses, you’re never going anywhere new.

I often get emails from readers claiming that they want to travel to unknown places, explore the unexplored, and do crazy things like their hero Bear Grills does. And the next thing they ask, something as sillier as: Is it safe to ride solo to Spiti Valley? Would I easily find a hotel there? Getting food will also not be a problem, right?

And these little insecurities always play their part in stopping them, from being a careless backpacker.

The more I travel the more I realise that there’re apparently only two things that stop us from going wherever we wanted – our inability to sleep and shit anywhere. But if only we manage to conquer these two die hard – born out of comfort and our secured lives in cities – habits, we can travel anywhere, and at any budget we wished.

I made camping a way to sustain this lifestyle for a while. And it is because of camping that I did some of the cheapest journeys in life – including my bike expedition to Spiti Valley in less than five thousand Rupees. Or wandering in the other parts of Himachal Pradesh, even in Northeast India, on a budget of less than 300 Rupees a day. And I did that for many months!

At places where camping didn’t work, I stayed with locals, not worrying about a home-like comfort.

In the age of digitization and an active backpacking community, you moreover, always, have the option of using hospitality networks and getting free or cheap accommodation. All you need to do is not care about whether you’ll be sleeping on a comfy bed or a tiny couch, whether the toilet seat in somebody’s home would be clean enough as yours.

Because backpacking, my friend, is no luxury travel! It’s a way of living!

And this mind, and those habits, well… they can be trained!

Further Reading: 7 Things I’d Tell A New Traveller

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4 Things I Hate About Travelling In India

I know you must be thinking how I can hate anything about travelling, when I love it to a degree that I quit my well-paying job to travel and live out of a backpack. Well you’re right. I love travelling and I immediately plan my next trip, as soon as I return home. Travel is in my veins. But sometimes I just hate certain things about it, and being on the road for month at a time, simply amplifies the feeling.

These are not the periodic disappointments like paying high prices during a peak tourist season, or missing a flight/bus, or lacking the comforts of home. Though they sure make travel life tougher, but I never considered them among something that would make me want to hate travelling. The things I hate about travelling, however, or the things that I’m going to talk about below are the ones that really irk me time and again. This is a list of stuff that no matter how often I see it, or no matter how prepared I am, I hate to the core:

Dirty Toilets

As a budget traveller, and after travelling in India for a pretty long period of time, I can very strongly say that I’ve seen my share of gross toilets. I can handle a lot of filth in my travels, but when it comes to dirty public toilets, I’ve had enough. And no matter how better I become at holding my breath for a longer time period, it turns out that I always end up taking that last whiff of eternal disgust before making it out for my rescue. I just hate dirty disgusting toilets. And they hold the first position in this list.

Dirty Bedsheets

I consider myself as a frugal traveller, but not frugal to a point that I’d save every buck possible, particularly not if saving that extra buck means staying in a shitty dorm room, or someplace worse. I can handle a lot of filth in my travels (well, I’m reminding again!), but when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, a clean bedsheet and a super clean pillow – giving a fresh smell of detergent – is a must. But sometimes you have no option. For example, you arrive in a new town, after the wee hours of midnight, and you agree to take the first room you’re offered right next to the bus station. Or worse, you end up in an Indian railways’ retiring room. Hotels close to bus stations are the worst, trains are a close second. I remember the last time I’d to rent a room at Gaya Railway station in Bihar, I pleaded for a new bedsheet, and then decided to put it on the floor and doze off. Dirty beds and pillows make my travel life tougher to a level.

Getting Off The Bus

I love moving to new places when I travel. But I absolutely hate getting off the bus, or coming out of a railway station, when I arrive at my destination. It is exhausting being inundated by touts trying to push you for a ride in their taxi, or help you find a cheap accommodation somewhere. I already hate the idea of searching a guesthouse while lugging a heavy rucksack on my back. But I hate having to deal with the mob of people waiting for tourists even more. So as my destination and the time to get off the bus draws near, the dread grows to a long moment of uneasiness.

Bidding Farewell To Locals

After travelling a few countries in the world, if there’s one thing I love about India the most, it’s meeting local people and experiencing their spellbound hospitality. People in small villages, across India, are so hospitable and welcoming that in just a few days you become a part of their family. There is a strong bond that happens with people when I travel and I never forget the new friends that I make.  But when I have to part ways and move on, it sucks. It sucks even more in India,  because half of the times, you know that this is perhaps your last meeting and because they own no phone and internet is almost an unheard-of technology for them, you might moreover not hear their voice ever again in your life.

But what about you? What part of travelling do you hate the most?

Weak Indian Passport: Making Our Travel Life Tougher Everyday!

Indian Passport: You Weak, Useless Thing!

After living in the United Kingdoms for a few years, travelling a bit of the world, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is: being an Indian is a proud thing. People around the world like Indians, respect Indians, and are always eager to know more about Indians.

While I was backpacking across Southeast Asia last year, there were so many instances which made it so much easier for me to connect with others – locals and travellers alike – as I told them I’m from India. Bollywood and Yoga made my identity even more interesting.

But feeling cooler and wanted is one thing, and feeling empowered is another. Sure my identity, as an Indian makes me feel good, perhaps even respectable, but it does not make me feel empowered – not as long as I hold a Navy Blue coloured passport saying ‘Republic of India’.

Indian Passport Makes Me Feel Weak, Forget About Being Empowered

There’s no denying the fact that Indian passport is embarrassingly weak – given our country is considered as one of the leading economic powers in the world. From Chinese to Americans to Russians, everyone consider India an important state to trade with, but when it comes to welcoming its members they all take a step back. I won’t blame them for this antagonistic behaviour though, our former government’s sloppiness towards foreign relations has, in fact, much to do with it. But let’s not go into politics and rather remorse on how fucked-up position Indians are actually in.

Before I say anything further, let’s take a look at the following two maps… the grey part of the world are countries where I, being an Indian passport holder, cannot access without applying for a VISA in the respective state’s embassy (and even most of the other colourful countries, as shown in the map, only offer a disappointing VISA-on-arrival, with a travel time of less than 15 days):

Now let’s compare it with someone who holds the passport for the Great Britain (consider the top 50 strong passport holding nations having an almost similar picture):

 Pretty disgraceful, Indian passport is, right?

And in case you thought, I compared India with UK or other such strong nations, let me tell you that most of the ranking systems consider Indian passport among the few least powerful passports in the world, and we rank below countries like Kazakhstan, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, and even Cambodia and Bhutan – now that’s a real shame!

Anyway, my point here is not to make any false generalizations or make you look down upon our national identity. All I’m saying is that our weak passport curbs us from travelling, and makes our life tougher as a global citizen.

A Weak Passport Makes You Bleed Extra Money

Last year, when I backpacked in the Southeast Asia, I ended up paying an extra few grands because of my passport. How? I wanted to travel by land from Thailand to Cambodia, but only to make sure that my VISA on Arrival doesn’t get rejected, I’d pre-book an exit flight as well (from Thailand to Cambodia). Where the road transport would have costed me about 1,200 Rupees, the flight costed 5,500. A loss of more than 4,000 Rupees without any positive outcome.

I moreover wanted to visit Malaysia, from Thailand, but that again would’ve meant an extra flight, because despite an open border, Indians are NOT ALLOWED to travel to Malaysia by land. Most of the Europeans and other strong passport holders can however do that. We moreover can’t apply VISAs to most of the countries if we’re not physically present in India. For example, if you’re in US and want to apply for a Thai Visa, you’re required to first return to India, kill at least 15 days here and then fly to Thailand (unless you’ve a few good reasons, and backpacking is definitely isn’t one of them!) whereas English, German, French and god knows how many other nationalities can fly straight from US to Thailand to Australia and wherever else they wanted to.

Now one thig is that Indians already couldn’t travel much because of their disappointing salaries. And if somehow they manage to save some money and planned travelling abroad, their passport makes things tougher for them, to a next level.

Why It’s Tough To Find Indian Backpackers Abroad

During my last couple of years of nomadic life, I’ve met an unaccountable number of non-Indian backpackers living a peripatetic lifestyle – moving from country to country, and not caring about money as much as experience. They jump borders more easily and frequently than we as Indians jump a traffic light. Travelling abroad, for us, has always remained a big deal. Because even when a visa is possible for us, it’s far from simple.

After all there must be a reason why it’s so tough to spot an Indian face lugging a heavy rucksack, jumping one country to another – because they know that such a lifestyle isn’t possible for them.

I mean even if you look at the many Indian travel bloggers of today, you won’t find a single freestyle backpacker blogger who writes about cheap backpacking tips on travelling abroad. Why? Because they can’t! If they need a VISA, anywhere outside a few sillier countries like Mauritius or Bali, they’re required to show a complete end-to-end itinerary. This is moreover a pre-requisite for countries including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and other such, which offer us a VISA ON ARRIVAL option, and some of boast that Indians can visit these countries as and WHEN they want. NO! We Can’t! Because if we pre-book our itinerary, book all our hotels and transportation before we even arrive in the country, the entire idea of backpacking is already lost somewhere in oblivion.

Applying For A VISA Is Like Applying For A New Birth Certificate

I was recently into the process of applying the Schengen VISA and it turned out that other than a return flight, and pre-booked accommodation, I was also required to provide the proof(s) of my means of transportation inside Europe. The only thing I was free to do is eat and shit where I wanted, everything else had to have a reason. No wonder, getting VISAs for Indian is a tough nut to crack.

For a tourist visa application to even approach success, I need to present bank statements, letters of recommendation and introduction, return tickets, hotel bookings, proof of employment and even tax records. I have to make every possible move (even use some creativity) to convince the visa officer, beyond all reasonable doubt, that I’m planning on going home at the end of my stay.

As a freelance writer, my income is not regular, I don’t have a place of work, and I don’t even have a two-week holiday block. And because my income was not taxable last year, I clearly don’t have a safety net now. Now that I’ve applied for the VISA, I have a certain amount of fear all the time, until I get my passport back – either accepted or accepted (I’m afraid of saying the other word)!

But I also wish to see the world. My heart also desires to explore more countries, and just as much as a German’s or a Korean’s. But alas!, I’m an Indian and because my passport is a bitch, I’ve to take it upon me as a lifelong curse!

Are you an Indian passport holder too? Let’s share our experiences in the comments below!

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6 Reasons To Visit Genting Highlands While You Are In Malaysia

Malaysia always turn out to be one of those countries that never disappoint tourists. From Highlands that are a breath of clean, cool air; to mesmerizing islands; to new-age modern cities – it has something for everyone. But among all, if you’re looking for something that fits best to your few days family holiday, look no further than the Genting Highlands.

For those who don’t already know, Genting is approximately an hour drive from Kuala Lumpur and is nestled on a mountain peak! So expect really cooling weather.

What else you can expect here is a crazy theme park, a strawberry fun farm, mesmerizing cable car rides, some memorable shopping experiences… well the list is long. But if I were to suggest the top experiences you should head to Genting Highlands for, as soon as you’re done with the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur, they would be these:

A ride In The Cable Car

Though you can reach Genting Highland via your own car, the best way to get there, however, is in a cable car. As you swiftly fly over a breath-taking view, overlooking the lush green mountains, you realise that your time in Malaysia couldn’t be more picture perfect. The ride lasts about 15 minutes and it’s a great activity for the whole family.

Trying Your Luck In A Casino

If you’re already of legal age, and are a little positive about your shining stars, do not forget to try your luck at a poker table, in one of the 24 hour casinos in Genting. After all, there is no harm winning a little more cash for your trip, when you can, right? But before you do that, check the dress code, because patrons wearing sunglasses, slippers, short pants and other sports attire are generally not permitted.

Picking Your Own Strawberries At The Strawberry Farm

The Strawberry Farm at Genting Highlands allows you to pluck strawberries and get that authentically 100% fresh strawberry taste. Just roam around the lanes of the garden and pick the best juicy ones for yourself. Alternatively, those fresh strawberries can also be purchased by weight.

Along with the strawberry garden, they also have a Mushroom and a Lavender garden, where you can see how they’re grow, and harvested.

The Outdoor Theme Park

Once you’re in Genting Highlands, be prepared to experience some thrilling, sky-high rides in the outdoor theme park. The vide variety of rides you can find here will surely leave you awestruck – the happy, the scary, the easy, the wet, you name it. Though the outdoor theme park is currently under construction for a bigger, better Fox themed theme park and is supposed to launch around June 2017, I wonder what its next version is going to be like. For a tip, when you visit the outdoor theme park, make sure you carry a pair of extra shoes and clothes for you to look like a sane, civilized being, upon your return.

Play Around In Snow City

As you might have guessed, Snow City, is a mini artificial city covered in snow. It’s about 22.8k sq. and the temperature inside is -6 Celsius. A nice change from the everyday heat in Kuala Lampur, if you visit here with your kids, be rest assured that this is going to be their trip’s highlight. The snow city is definitely a no miss for families. It is located just a few yards away from the indoor theme park.

Enjoy The Natural Vistas And A Perfect Weather

If none of the above strikes your fancy, then you’d definitely be enthralled by the eye-soothing landscapes of Genting Highlands. Just find a quiet corner to make yourself comfy and enjoy the serenity and the peace on these mountains. Genting Highlands is moreover always a few good degrees cooler than Kuala Lumpur and other neighbouring flat-lands, making it a refreshing and breezy getaway!

Where To Stay

Though there’s a wide range of hotels in Genting Highlands, the First World Hotel, Genting, would be my recommendation. People coming here can drive up to the resort or stop at the Genting Skyway Station and take a cable car up to the summit. You can find more info and other options at the Traveloka website.

All picture credits: kuala-lumpur.ws

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What I Pack For My Travels

The ease and convenience of any backpacking trip depends on what you’re carrying in your backpack. It is important to carry everything necessary, yet not going over the limit. I remember the first time I left home for a few months long journey, my backpack looked like a 70L bin-bag. Obviously, overwhelmed with the idea of long term travel, I had no idea what I was doing, and shoved in everything that I thought can be of use. This is one of the common mistakes that newbie backpackers do, and I was no different.

Now, after years of travelling, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned it is – Travel Light! And that’s pretty much the mantra I use while packing for a journey. Take as little as possible, perhaps half the clothes and other things you think you will need… and you’ll realise that it was the best thing you did.

I take only what is necessary, and if I really need something, I buy it on the way. It’s not hard to find medicine, toiletries, clothes or even an umbrella, anywhere in the world – and that’s pretty much all you need to survive.

The more I travel, the more I realize I don’t need a lot of stuff while travelling. Everything I own fits into one backpack. Packing light is a cliché, yet one that has a lot of truth to it. But then again, the question always remain to: What Should You Pack? And if you too are struggling with it, here’s my suggested list:

Clothes

  • 4-6 t-shirtsT-shirts because they’re easy to pack and easy to wash.
  • 2 pair of shorts or capris | Because they’re convenient and take less space in your bag.
  • 1-2 pair of khaki or cargo pants | No fancy zip-off pants but something lightweight, wear-anywhere, quick-drying, decent-looking pants for travel, hiking and relaxing.
  • 1 long sleeve shirt or a t-shit | In case you need to cover your arms or look more presentable.
  • 1 pair of jeans or trousers Again, to only look presentable.
  • 1 swim suit | Because you never know when you’ve to swim in public, and doing so in your underpants is not cool.
  • 1 towel | Though I carry a long sardine cloth – that long scarf that Asian women wear around their head and shoulders. Because you can use it as a towel, as a scarf to cover your head under the sun, and unlike a towel it even dries super-quickly.
  • 5-7 pair of socks | Because you’ll lose a few of them on the way, and you won’t even realise that. So packing extra socks always come in handy.
  • 1 pair of slippers or flip flips
  • 1 pair of sneakers or trekking-shoes
  • 1 Sun-cap

 Toiletries

  • 1 toothbrush and toothpaste
  • 1 Electric shaver
  • 1 small bottle of shampoo
  • 1 small body soap
  • 1 small bottle of liquid shower soap
  • Deodrant
  • Sun-screen
  • Other items like Nail-cutter, plucker, scissor | Not only for their obvious use, but to also use them as your hardware tools.

Medical Kit

  • Band-Aids
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-allergy tablets
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Mosquito repellent | You can also use some Tea-tree oil instead as it works equally well.

My Blogging Gear

  • Nikon DSLR
  • Action Camera
  • Small Tripod
  • Laptop
  • Universal power adaptor

Miscellaneous

  • A few empty zip-lock bags (to carry unwashed clothes/wet towel etc)
  • A padlock
  • A small needle and thread
  • Sunglasses

And to carry all this: A camera+laptop bag (on my chest) for all my blogging gear and anything delicate; and a 50L rucksack (on my back) for everything else. Read more about choosing your backpack here.


This is pretty much everything I carry on any trip. Additional items like your sleeping bag, tent etc; and the type of clothes (eg. you won’t need shorts/capris while trekking in Himalayas, but perhaps an additional pair of cargo pants) depends on what kind of trip you’re going for. So have your wits about it.

For more, here’s a list of 10 travel packing tips that will further help you reach your full travel ninja potential:

Take earplugs. Because snorers are everywhere and you need your sleep.

Skip the towel. As I said, rather take a long sardine cloth, because it is handy and muti-functional.

Always have an extra USB charger. To make sure you don’t run out of batteries.

Take a light rain jacket. To save yourself from unexpected chilly nights, light showers and even breeze.

Get good shoes and slippers. Shoes, because you walk a lot when you travel and don’t want to beat up your feet. Slippers because they make your stay comfortable and relaxing. Moreover, in unexpected dirty toilets it always feels good to have something under your feet.

Carry a basic first-aid kit – especially a lot of band aids. Because accidents happen, and you must be prepared.

Pack a flashlight. Always! And this should be other than the flashlight in your phone.

Carry a book. Because reading and travelling is a great combination, especially if you travel alone.

An extra copy of your passport and important documents. Also Don’t forget to e-mail a copy to yourself.

Always carry a lock. While travelling in Asia, use your lock rather than the one given by your guest house.

And last but not the least… Remember to PACK LIGHT!

NEXT STEP

Looking for a backpack? Read How To Choose The Perfect Travel Backpack

Travel Confession: I Hate Flying

I always think that this world would be a much better place if man hadn’t discovered flying yet. And I’m sure if there were no aeroplanes, science would have invested more resources in improving train travel, and we’d still be able to cross continents. Though we might not be able to travel from New Delhi to Boston in a few hours, as we can otherwise do in a supersonic jets of today, but we’d sure be somewhere closer. And then again, it would be a much better journey, passing through I don’t know how many countries and the infinite ocean, than just tripping in a boring aircraft, entrapped with a few hundred impatient co-passengers.

Before you make generalizations let me get this straight, I am not scared of flying.  I am not afraid that the aeroplane I’m on will fly into a mountain because of pilot error, or that a Korean Navy ship will decide that the Boeing flying above their head is an enemy aircraft and knocks it off by mistake. No I don’t find flying a scary thing, and I feel perfectly normal even during the worst of all turbulences. Moreover, I know flying is, by far, the safest mode of transportation available today. Yet every time I have to fly it scares the living shit out of me.

Flying Only Seems More Dangerous Until I Actually Board The Flight

The idea of missing a flight, arriving at the wrong airport, or worse, forgetting the passport, scares me to death. Because missing a flight, for no matter what reason, means losing a big chunk of money from your bank account.

During one of my recent trips to Southeast Asia, something similar happened, and the horror game of boarding flights, I was always scared of, turned into my worst nightmare. It all happened when I had to book three multi-destination flights, as I was travelling from New Delhi to Thailand, then Thailand to Cambodia, before finally coming back to India from Cambodia. So three flights in total – each one scheduled in next 15 days from the previous one.

As I reached the New Delhi airport to board my first flight and initiate my journey, I found that by mistake I’ve booked it exactly one month later from today. Rather than on 20/8/2016, as was the date the day I showed up at the airport, I booked the flight on 20/9/2016. Now I’d two options, one that I cancel the flight, get no refund, and re-book another flight, almost at a double price. And second, that I return after one month to board the same flight but miss the next two flights and ruin my entire plan altogether. And there I was, overwhelmed by the ambiguity of emotions – sadness, anger (which was slowly turning into wrath!) confusion, helplessness, all playing their part together! And that’s the problem with flying. You’re always out of options, and so vulnerable to be ripped off. One simple mistake and you’re done!

Airports are like train stations, except that in an airport you can’t say ‘fuck it, I am taking a taxi’, and if you miss your flight, you’ve no other option but to book another 20,000 Rupee flight with this time, a middle seat, and right next to the emergency door – which means you cannot even recline your seat. So I hate flying. And I find it risky.

Other In-flight Difficulties To Make Things Worse

Now, if I somehow made it on board without committing any serious mistakes, the discomfort of flying in an aeroplane is another intricate issue to deal with.

Unless you want to bleed hopeless money, you are required to sit in the economy class, crammed in a little metal tube for hours, while staring out of a tiny window – if only the person sitting right next to it, allows you to peek through.

And then not to forget that you’re trapped in a tiny seat with no leg room whatsoever. Unlike trains, a plane moreover doesn’t promise any movement, meaning you’re surely going to lose any sensation in your buttock, unless you’ve brought a super-fluffy pillow for its rescue.

Though buses also don’t offer much movement, but they at least make periodic stops, allowing you to stretch your body and make some contact with the real outside work. If, however, your plane decided to make a stop, it is even worse – because consider that a brutal 4-8 hour layover at its very least (yes, I’m talking about the transit time between connecting flights) – with high probability that it’s going to fall during the odd hours of midnight.


So yea, flying in aeroplanes is no fun. It’s time consuming, boring, haunting (for one reason or the other), tiresome and is more or less a no-alternative choice why most people chose to fly. Consider myself included! After all, I got places to go. Don’t we all?

Do you have an unreasonable fear of flying or any other secret travel fear?

Top Signs That You Are A Backpacker At Heart

Backpacking is more than just lugging a 70L rucksack on your back. It is a way of travelling, of feeling comforted even during the most uneasy conditions. And if you ever wondered whether or not you qualify as a savvy backpacker, now is the time to find out.

If you do most of the things mentioned below, chances are you’re a true backpacker at heart:

  • You always write down your parents address when asked for your permanent address.
  • The occupation column on application forms leave you confused.
  • You have friends pretty much in every corner of the world.
  • You love the idea of slow travel and getting lost in a new city.
  • You sniff-check your clothes to find out whether they’re wearable or not.
  • You can wear the same shirt for a week, and jeans for two weeks.
  • A pleasant outdoor weather is more important to you than anything else.
  • You do your laundry in the sink.
  • There’s always a pouch of detergent in your bag. And a tissue roll.
  • If surprisingly you find a toilet roll in the bathroom, you never miss a chance using it. And using a bit extra.
  • You love the free stuff a bit more than the average person.
  • Hot water feels luxury to you.
  • And so is air conditioning.
  • Despite travelling solo, you haven’t slept in a room by yourself pretty much since you last left home.
  • You secretly look down upon travellers with a big rolling suitcase.
  • You love staying in remote areas with no phone reception.
  • You never know what day of week it is today.
  • Pretty much every time a traveller invites you for a drink or dinner together, you end up saying YES!
  • You have slept on airports and train stations to save money on accommodation, at least once.
  • You have learnt to find positives in challenging situations.
  • You know how to sleep in a rickety bus or an uncomfortable train ride.
  • You can pack your bag in less than a minute.
  • Your wallet contains at least three different currencies.
  • You spend more money on experiences than things.

Further Reading: Want To Become A Frugal Backpacker? Learn To Sleep And Shit Anywhere!

You can also follow my journeys more closely, and catch me travelling in real-time on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

Is Studying Abroad As Good An Experience As Travelling?

“So how many years have you travelled for so far?”
“Almost two. I quit my job to travel, in February 2015, and that’s where I’ve been ever since.”
“And you said you lived in United Kingdom for a couple of years while studying, right? That makes it four man. Not two.”

I clearly remember how a small conversation with a fellow traveller made my day, during one of the evenings at Agonda, in South Goa. I suddenly felt proud, and moreover realised that I’d always underrated my travel stint. It really have been 4 years, accumulatively, that I’ve been exploring the world. Though of course I won’t consider myself a traveller for the time I lived in UK, but it wouldn’t be wrong, even if I did!

When I’d initially moved to Scotland, to complete my master’s degree, there was nobody I knew. Sure my sister stayed in England, some 700 kilometres in the South, but technically speaking I was on my own, and in a land I was barely accustomed to.

And since it was my first life experience ever, outside the boundaries of India (and New Delhi, for that matter) I had no clue what to expect. The food looked alien, local customs felt strange, even the kind of English people spoke there was no less surprising. Simply put, I was a stranger in a strange land!

For the first few weeks I felt almost similar to how you feel when you come out of the airport, for the first time, in a new country. From taxis to traffic lights – everything felt strange. I’d enter a supermarket and exit buying a few pack of biscuits, a good combination of bread & jam, and a pack of 12 eggs, because they were the only products that looked familiar. This is moreover the case, when you’d dined in a country like India for all your life, and then suddenly one day you wake up somewhere in Europe where people considered fish and chips a proper food. You do not believe life can be so different!

That was more or less my story, at least for the initial few weeks – or months, I can’t remember – when I first landed in UK. I sure went there to pursue a college degree, but the experience was no different from that of traveling.

So am I saying that studying abroad is as good an experience as travelling?

Perhaps! Or perhaps not!

When you’re in a different country, your mind pulls you towards your own community. You look for more Indians (if you’re from India) to speak with, and to share your experiences with, so that you feel at home. And it particularly happens when you’re there for a much longer time.

I remember during my university days, there was a group of Indian students, around 7 of them, who happened to share a dormitory, inside the university campus. Now the problem was, because they found a comfort zone in being one among the 7-happy-and-young-Indians-ruling-the-streets-of-Britain, they never felt a need to mix up with other communities – to befriend a German, or hang out with a Chinese.

Though they were blissfully content doing what they did, the problem was, their lifestyle did them no favour. All 7 of them, returned to India, right after finishing their college degree because they made it too tough for themselves to fit in.

If something similar is the case with you, consider studying abroad, no different than studying in your home country. And such an experience is definitely far from travelling a new country and experiencing a new culture.

But if you embrace the change more positively, mix up with other communities and look forward to enjoy a few dinner turkeys on Thanksgiving, then it can be a much more invigorating experience altogether. And in that case consider yourself no less than a long term slow traveller.

Speaking about myself, I was somewhere in between. Neither a socialite, nor a reclusive.

Looking Back In Time

For the initial few months, as I remember, I did nothing exciting. I would take a bus straight from my rented flat to the university, and vice-versa, minding my own business. I hardly ate out, or explored the city after university hours, or during weekends.

But as the time went past, and my reclusive nature withdrew, slowly as it happened, things became easier. I soon found a part time job, befriended a few people – representing different communities, and even planned my first ever weekend trip, out of town.

Though now that I look back at my initial few months in UK, I sure consider myself as a dubious, insecure little fellow. But it was because of those unsure moments, and cautious explorations of a foreign/uncustomary world around me – that a seed of travelling was germinated inside of me.

I remember how exploring the alien streets in Scotland, for the first few months, felt no less than an adventure. I was in pursuit of the Alexander in me. And he somehow always dwelled thereafter.

Studying Abroad – A Right Thing For Everyone?

I think studying abroad is a great way to expose yourself to new cultures and accept new realities. And as you’ve a much longer period of time with you, it is moreover easier for your introvert nature to slowly step back, at its own pace, allowing yourself to easily blend in.

It is a phenomenal opportunity for an international exposure, learning a novel language and culture, and moreover feeling confident in being different communities – which you’ll eventually have to do at some point in your life. However, financial issues and nostalgia can bring in some vacillations about taking the decision to study abroad.

But I believe when our interests and this world are so broad, why not study abroad? 😉

Fear of Unknown. How To Deal With It As A Solo Traveller

The most common reply I get every time I talk to someone about my nomadic lifestyle is that they wish they could do it too. People tell me about their solo travel dreams, and share the fantasies of being a solo backpacker somewhere in Amsterdam, then they come up with common excuses as to why they can’t realise them:

They fear they will feel bored alone.
They fear it’s not safer for them as a woman.
They fear their parents won’t allow.

Fear. It’s what keeps us from living our dreams and doing what we’d always wanted to do.

I remember when I’d initially decided to quit my job to travel (& I’m not asking you to do so), I was equally scared, as I was while leaving for my first ever indefinite backpacking trip to Bhutan. And two years later, even today, as I plan a trip, or worse, find myself standing behind the exit door of my home in New Delhi, or inside a railway station in another city, I feel no less scared to start the journey. Fear of unknown has always remained there. It has always accompanied me, and proved to be more loyal than any friend, any habit, I’ve got in this lifetime.

With all that fear, it was much easier to stay at home in my comfort zone than to break out and travel. And that’s what most people choose – a lifestyle based on public opinions and industry standards. They stay at home, held back by their own fears, wishing they could travel but never doing so.

And I always encourage people to travel solo, at least once in their lifetime, because I’ve learned that such an experience educates us more than a job, a school can ever do. We learn to be humble. And to be stronger. To be self-reliant. And being positive, even in the toughest conditions. We meet people from different backgrounds, who help us expand our horizon, and see things more clearly. We learn about finding solutions to our fears.

Sure being on your own, in a new land, we do not know about, takes a lot of courage. But while different people give different excuses as the reasons, I think fear of the unknown is really what holds them back. But looking at these fears logically, they have no substance:

You Aren’t The First Person To Travel Solo

One of the things that comforted me when I began traveling solo was knowing that lots of other people have done it before me. People have travelled the world on their own. And if all of them could survive it, and go back home in one piece, there was no reason I wouldn’t, too. You aren’t the first person to leave home and do a bike trip to Thailand. Columbus had a reason to be afraid. You don’t!

You Are Just As Capable As Everyone Else
Don’t doubt yourself. You’re just as capable, as smart. If other people can travel the world, why can’t you? What makes you think you lack the skills? Can you not say hello to strangers? Have you not bargained for prices, while living in your city? Do you not make it home every evening after your office? Don’t doubt yourself. You got by in your life just fine now. The same will be true when you travel. Trust yourself.

You Will Make Friends
People always ask me how I make friends on the road. They tell me that they’re not very social and that it’s hard for them to meet strangers. The truth is that when you travel, you are never alone. There are many solo travelers out there in the same boat as you. Though you might not find many solo travellers from your home country, as is the case with me, being an India, you’ll always find people from other communities, who are ready to share a part of your journey. Meeting people from across the world moreover only makes travelling a lot more fun.

When I’d initially started travelling, I used to be nervous talking to strangers, but the fear subsided as I eventually realized that every traveller is willing to make new friends. And one of those friends was me.

The World Isn’t As Bad And Unsafe As You Thought

If you fear solo travelling can be unsafe, please don’t. I’ve been travelling for over two years, with 90 of my journeys, both in India and abroad, being conducted and completed solo. I’ve lived with locals, slept in their homes, and even hitchhiked with them. I did solo bike trips and even camped out in the wild – all by myself. And if you think I could do it because I was a man, (which sure makes things a little easier, I don’t disagree) but let me tell you that there is a good share of solo women travellers out there. And there’s no reason for you to find it scary because you’re a woman.

The anxiety of travelling on our own sure curbs us from doing it at all and heading off into the unknown. But once you look at why you are afraid of doing it, you’ll realize there’s no reason to be. You can travel. You are capable. It’s not as hard as you think.

Don’t let fear win.

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Want To See Local Art Forms In Kutch? Try Nirona Village

Kutch has always been known for its wealth of culture and handicrafts. And when you’re here on a holiday, one thing that you really do not want to miss is exploring a few local art forms. Kutch produces some of the world’s most unusual textile products, as well as intricately crafted metal works. In the book, Kachchh: The Last Frontier, author Tejinder Singh sums it up pretty well: “The intricate embroidery stems from the Kutchi lifestyle… One can see the influences of the Cretan stitch of Greece, surface interlacing stitches from Armenia and the French tambouring techniques. It is a reflection of their lifestyle… of camels, peacocks, parrots, flowers, trees and women churning milk. Each pattern tells a story.”

The best way to experience local art forms in Kutch, however, is by village hopping. As you pass through various artisan villages of the indigenous tribes that inhibit the district of Kutch, you find a striking contradiction. But one needs days to explore them all, or perhaps even a week. But those who have only one day in hand, can take a drive along the dusty road, and explore the humble village of Nirona.

Located around 40 kms north of Bhuj, Nirona village is where you can find three very unique local art forms — one of which even made its way to The White House. Yes, I’m talking about the popular Rogan art, a legacy art form that has been taken forward, for the past 300 years, by the Khatri family of Nirona.

Resemling the characterstics of embroidery, Rogan art is when you paint on fabric using a thick brightly coloured castor seed oil (castor is a commonly grown in the Kutch region of Gujarat). To prepare the paint, castor oil is heated for more than 12 hours till it catches fire, it is then mixed with cold water and vibrant colors to give a thick residue called rogan. The artist then uses a six-inch thick metal needle to paint with a fine thread of rogan on a piece of cloth. Even the simplest design takes days to complete.

The Khatri family gives you a free demo, before showcasing a variety of different roganed fabrics, should you wish to make a purchase. Simply walk in or call them in advance to book an appointment, Khatri family welcomes all. You can call Abdulgafur D. Khatri at +91 98257 53955, or Jumma D. Khatri at +91 96013 24275.

Next in the list is The Luhars of Nirona, and their popular Copper Bell art. Preserving it for the last 10 or so generations, many families in Nirona get their livelihood totally out of this. Copper Bell art has mainly originated from Sindh, and even today many villages, around the border area inside India and Pakistan make it.

Just like Khatri family of rogan art, if you visit any Copper Bell artist, he will show you how it’s been made. I ended up at Lohar Haji Saddiq’s shop in Nirona and was given a small demo of making a bell from scratch right in front of my eyes. The ease and finesse with which his hammer moved to create a musical masterpiece that uses no welding joints but a unique interlocking system had me impressed, and I ended up buying a medium size copper bell for myself.

You can get in touch with the Luhars of Nirona at +91 97248 81026 and address the person as Ali Jaji Lohar. He will personally come to escort you to his workshop and even give you a demo.

Once done with Copper Bell, I moved to familiarize myself with the art of Lacquer. Practiced by a semi nomadic tribe called Wada, in the Banni area in and around the villages of Nirona and Bhirandiayara, Lacquer at turned out to be yet another distinction. I was told that the art and the tribe practicing it are the original migrants from beyond Sindh, before partition.

Obtained from the sap of the Rhus Tree which changes colour from white to brown upon exposure to air, Lacquer is a simple reflection of Zigzag patterns creating waves of colors mixing with one another and adorning simplest of the products like wooden spoons, bread rolling pins, containers, toys, utensils etc.

And if the lacquer work starts to lose its sheen, just apply some oil on it, and it will look no different as new.

What most people miss out on their trip to Kutch is visiting the local villages to witness their arts first hand. But if you’re visiting Kutch anytime soon, do not do that. I mean the experience of shopping local art after seeing how its done with all the effort and practice behind it simply takes the shopping experience to the next level. It moreover helps local people sustain and continue preparing such legacy art forms.

Update: I just found out that a few ecommerce players are selling the same sized copper bell, that I bought from Nirona at a whopping 650 Rupees. Whereas the amount I paid in Nirona was only 150 Rupees. I wonder how much profit are they sharing with the original artists, or if they’re selling the original product at first place!

Further Reading: A Backpacker’s Guide To Travel In Kutch | Why Kutch’s Highlighted Rann Utsav Couldn’t Intrigue Me

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