If I Planned My Trips The Way I Plan My Dates…

Somebody recently pointed out to me that travelling is a lot like courtship. It is best if you try not to burden the destination (or person, in the case of courting) with a lot of unrealistic expectations. To a great degree, I agree that going on a long journey is a lot like dating. The only difference here is that you travel not to decide whether you will stay at your destination forever, whereas the ideal motive of a well-intentioned date is to see if you indeed will marry that person. The best trips (and likewise, the best dates) are those where you don’t have a rigid bucket list or boxes that need to be ticked. You begin with an open mind and discover the beauty of the unknown, slowly unfolding before you.

Should You Complain When The Going Gets Tough?

I hope I will not complain about muscle pain when I finally get to hike on the Bernese Alps.

I hope I will not complain about muscle pain when I finally get to hike on the Bernese Alps.

Before I went on my first multi-day snow trek in the Himalayas, I had an almost romantic view of trekking. I would think it was all about sleeping in pretty little tents, trudging up soft mounds of snow and looking pretty in 3 layers of winter-hiking gear. Then reality hit me like a hard slap on my face. The 70+ kilometres of walking in heavy shoes made my feet swell. When the terrain and view refused to change even after several hours of hiking, I forgot the very reason I had signed up for the trek. My peeling skin, rough hair and tanned face did not make me feel pretty anymore. But I rediscovered my joy when I realized I had pulled off the feat. Travelling, much like courtship, throws a lot of curveballs at us. While it is not a bad thing to complain, it certainly isn’t advisable to give up halfway.

The Worth of Simplicity

Will I be able to appreciate the simplicity of laidback European countryside?

Will I be able to appreciate the simplicity of laidback European countryside?

Sophistication seems to be the “in thing”, especially when it comes to luxury travel experiences. One cannot fall asleep until one knows the thread count of one’s sheets, one finds it hard to digest one’s meal if one isn’t sure the ingredients are organic, the pictures aren’t perfect till they have been varnished with filters. In my honest opinion, sophistication kills real beauty. When you let the real things just be, they are most beautiful. In the context of a soulmate, truth dwells in simplicity. External adornment may be attractive, but it is, after all, a lie.

Beyond What Meets The Eye

Journeys are more beautiful when you can see beyond your immediate surroundings.

Journeys are more beautiful when you can see beyond your immediate surroundings.

When I had first begun travelling solo, I would weigh everything at face value. If I was happy with the number of things I could see, activities I could participate in and the types of food I could eat, I would consider it a good trip. It is after years of being conditioned by long journeys that I have now become a different kind of traveller. I look to make memories, I travel slow, I talk to the locals more often and for much longer. I had contacts then. I have friends now. You may not find your date to be your potential mate at the very first meeting. But you will discover things you did not expect to find when you hang in there a little longer.

Appreciating The Little Joys Along The Way

Can you find your joy in small things? (Miniature Europe at Madurodam, Holland)

Can you find your joy in small things? (Miniature Europe at Madurodam, Holland)

If travelling is your way of getting a dose of that elusive medicine called “happiness”, then you would do well to enjoy the small things that most people think nothing of – a smiling stranger who helps you with your luggage, an extra dollop of butter on your aloo paratha, a softer bedspread than you had paid for. It is hard to be happy when your eyes are only trained on the flashy things that the billboards suggest you should lust after. So it is in matters of finding a partner. The lower your expectations are the happier you’ll be when you find absolutely anything of value in your companion.

Is It Tunnel-Vision Or Narrow-Mindedness?

There is no room for narrow mindedness, either in courtship or travel experiences, even when you cross the narrow canals of Venice.

There is no room for narrow-mindedness, either in courtship or travel experiences, even when you cross the narrow canals of Venice.

I have often come across travellers who will plan everything down to the very last detail (and that includes listing down which snack they will eat where). Then there are those who cannot stand alternate points of view or ways of doing things. Some may say that they have a tunnel-vision. But most hover dangerously close to being narrow-minded. Over planning and bucket listing have murdered the romance of travelling to a new place. We really need a culture of blind-travelling, like blind dating, where you have no idea of where you will go or what you will do even if you know where you’re going. My long trip to the USA taught me how interesting life can be when nothing is planned beforehand. #TheBlindList is a good idea to have a blind (travel) date with the world – a list without expectations.

The Best Ones Help You Rediscover Yourself

Trips are meaningful when they help you indulge in some self reflection.

Trips are meaningful when they help you indulge in some self-reflection.

Both places and life-partners play a part in helping you know yourself better. A trip worth making is one that will make you sit quietly and reflect on your life, your dreams, and where you’re headed. Likewise, a relationship is most fragrant when it makes you rethink who you are and how you serve your better half in the capacity of the other half. If our vacations are only making us busier than our workdays, we should be redesigning how we do them. There is a definite need for downtime, soul-searching and introspection.

When Things Don’t Work Out

Don't let a bad travel-date get you down. (I sulk after a particularly bad time in California.)

Don’t let a bad travel-date get you down. (I sulk after a particularly bad day in California.)

I’ve saved a vital piece of advice for the last. What happens when a long trip (or many months of dating) doesn’t end well? We must remember that travelling helps us discover a new place (and ourselves at the same time), just as dating helps us know whether a person is “the one”. The ending will only make things clear. And clarity is precious. We emerge wiser and better equipped for the next date, and to #SayYesToTheWorld on our next trip.

Do you still make bucket lists?

Wish to go on a blind-trip, knowing nothing about the destination?

Let me know through your comments below. 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more tips and insights on travelling around the world. This piece celebrates Lufthansa’s efforts to get more people to travel.

You Travel And Live Better When You Are Proactive

Many people tell me they wish to do a lot of things, visit a lot of places, but they wonder whether they’ll have enough time and money to achieve all those dreams. The answer to the first doubt about “time” is quite plain. We are living longer, and we’ll certainly have a lot of time post retirement to pursue our hobbies and wishes once we are free of our full-time jobs. The second factor of money is a tricky one. We’ll need enough to adopt a lifestyle that lets us do whatever we like. The best way to control how money works for you is to exert your control on it early. Be proactive in following a few steps, and you’ll realize how the benefits are far-reaching.

Don’t Lose Sight Of Your #LifeGoals

I don't fear heights anymore now that I know the beauty that can be beheld from the top. (The farmlands in Purushwadi, Maharashtra)

I don’t fear heights anymore now that I know the beauty that can be beheld from the top. (The farmlands in Purushwadi, Maharashtra)

Doubts appear big when you have forgotten how much bigger and infinitely precious your goals are. If you have your eye set on your dreams, it won’t matter that you have no experience of the goals that you ultimately wish to pursue. When I was growing up, I didn’t know a thing about travelling alone. I learnt on the go and gained confidence when I started doing solo trips around India and the world and discovered that the doubts were only in my head. When I did my first solo hike in the Austrian Alps, I was scared of being attacked by a wild animal or losing my way. But I returned to the base that evening unscathed. And I’ve observed a similar trend with most of my former doubts which I have lost by pursuing my dreams.

Take Help And Ask Around

Manhattan (New York) urges all to lose their inhibitions and mingle.

Manhattan (New York) urges all to lose their inhibitions and mingle.

I was all by myself in New York City last year, intimidated by the giant buildings, supersized food-portions and the swarms of people from (perhaps) every country on the world map. But I eased into the NYC culture when I started talking to the people around me. They were much friendlier than I thought they’d be. To the common man who probably fears making bad investment decisions, it would be a good idea to take advice from the experts. All of the time that I’ve spent travelling has not made me poorer financially, only richer experientially.

Put Those Thoughts Of Uncertainty Aside

The world is full of beautiful colours which you can see only when your mind is not preoccupied (Kala Ghoda Arts Fest in Mumbai).

The world is full of beautiful colours which you can see only when your mind is not preoccupied (Kala Ghoda Arts Fest in Mumbai).

Many of my friends are nervous of undertaking adventure sports because they fear losing a limb or something even worse. If you are so afraid of death, it makes even more sense to realize your dreams as soon as you can. If you are just worried about not being able to provide for yourself and your family in your golden years, plan for those times now! Only last month, Bajaj Allianz launched a unique ULIP that provides return of life cover charges for life maximizers. The product – Bajaj Allianz Life Goal Assure is designed to reward the policyholder for outliving the maturity period by returning the cost of life-cover when the policy matures. And if you choose to receive the maturity benefit in instalments over 5 years (and not lump-sum), you get a return enhancer of 0.5% of every due instalment. And of course, your money still remains invested in the fund(s) of your choice! When you have taken care of your old age, will you still be afraid of death?

Don’t Wait For Your Best Friend To Do It First

You never know how long the person standing next to you will be there for you (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

You never know how long the person standing next to you will be there for you (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

I often notice that people are unreasonably hesitant to be the first to do anything, even if it is as innocuous as watching a new movie which hasn’t been critiqued yet or eating at a newly opened restaurant which hasn’t been reviewed. Do you even know how wonderful it feels to be the first to do something? When it comes to investments though, you must be careful. Put your earnings only into a product which is managed by an institution you trust and that which has good fund managers. Bajaj Allianz Life Goal Assure lets you choose among 4 portfolio strategies and gives you the flexibility to switch unlimited times between funds (you can choose from 8 available funds). Besides, benefits are maximized for long-term investors and there’s the element of convenience, thanks to the facilities that can be availed of online through their website. Being a life-insurance ULIP, the product also gives you tax benefits under section 80C and 10D.

Experience The World With Childlike Wonder

We have so much to learn from carefree kids.

We have so much to learn from carefree kids.

The older we get the more morbid our thoughts become. Why don’t we look at children who are always excited about little things, enjoying the company of their friends and strangers, and happy with very less? They know that life is valuable and holds a lot of promise for them. If you trust your days to bring you cheer, will you still be sullen?

Are you avoiding chasing your dreams because you fear something will go wrong?

Write your comments below! 🙂

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Have We Forgotten That “Travel Blogging” Is Also About “Blogging”?

A few years ago, blogging meant writing long, sincere articles on topics close to our heart. The very word “blog” comes from the term “weblog” which literally means “an account (or log) maintained on the web”. Over time, the wave of “microblogging” (think tweeting, Instagramming, etc.) has reduced this art to a shadow of its former self. These days, I come across a lot of people who claim to be bloggers but don’t have a website or even an article to their credit! Does an Instagram account with a bunch of selfies or a daily addiction to posting disappearing stories of one’s private life justify the title of a “blogger”?

Where Has Writing Disappeared?

Attila Jozsef's statue sits by the Hungarian Parliament building, this Hungarian poet's lines from one of his poems raised on the steps below.

Attila József’s statue sits by the Hungarian Parliament building, this Hungarian poet’s lines from one of his poems raised on the steps below.

I am reminded of the days when writers and poets had the courage and the strength to pen their thoughts down to be immortalized even as foreign armies mortified their will to live. They wrote so much in times of war. We write so little now that we have peace. I was strolling by the Pest side of Budapest one day, taking one step at a time on the cobbled embankment by the River Danube. There, beside the architecturally imposing Hungarian Parliament building, I noticed the bronze sculpture of Attila József, the poet who wrote: “By The Danube” (A Dunánál in Hungarian). A couple of verses from that poem stood out on the marble steps below the steps where he was seated. Is it not ironical that precious writing is engraved on stones and preserved in our museums with the same enthusiasm with which we delete e-books from our phones to make more room for apps that promote narcissism?

Are Pictures Really Worth A Thousand Words?

Lake Fatehsagar in Udaipur entices me to linger here a little longer.

Lake Fatehsagar in Udaipur entices me to linger here a little longer.

There was a time when travel blogging was about painting a picture of the place with the brushstrokes of words. Each article would at the max have a couple of pictures. Fast forward to today, and a DSLR, an editing app and a string of carelessly thrown phrases (as caption) are making photographers believe they are travel bloggers. A famous saying goes – “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I beg to differ. A picture does not show you what your eyes cannot see. It does not tell you of the sounds that accompanied the sights or what the touch of a feather felt like. A great photo may attract an audience, but only great writing can keep them there.

How Should One Swim Against The Current?

Few of us have friends who tell us where we're going wrong.

Few of us have friends who tell us where we’re going wrong.

If you too, like others, are guilty of introducing yourself as a blogger without owning a blog (and no, a Facebook page or a Snapchat / Instagram / Twitter account doesn’t count), it is time you rectified your mistake. Either acknowledge that you only do microblogging or (what I recommend) get your own blog! You will thank me later when you discover the joys of long-form blogging. If writing does not come naturally to you, practise different styles until you know what feels more authentic to your personality.

Do You Need To Be Tech-Savvy To Blog?

Just like saplings that need a pot to grow their tiny roots in, our thoughts need space to fledge in.

Just like saplings that need a pot to grow their tiny roots in, our thoughts need space to fledge in.

Many gifted writers I know do not write on digital platforms because they cannot be bothered with the perceived hassle of managing a website. They are intimidated by the thoughts of getting a design for their site and paying through the nose for web hosting. Setting up your own blog is not rocket science! ResellerClub, for instance, provides pre-installed hosting so you can hit the ground running with zero assistance even as someone with no technical knowledge. Use my promo code – OINDRILADE to get 30% off on all of their WordPress Hosting Lite plans. You also get an SSL certificate free for the first year (the secure sockets layer padlock green sign on the browser assures your audience that your website is trustworthy). Did you know that your site will be hosted by ResellerClub on the cloud, so it’ll be quite fast?

Did Anybody Say “Vlogging”?

If only blogging could be done this way... (The Serai Bandipur's welcome note on a leaf.)

If only blogging could be done this way… (The Serai Bandipur’s welcome note on a leaf.)

A popular argument against old-style writing is the diminishing attention-span of the youth. Apparently, nobody has the patience to read a good, long article! But show them a video that takes just as much of their time, and they’ll watch it till the end. Video blogging or “vlogging” has become the latest “cool thing to do” for bloggers. But can that medium really give the viewer the freedom to vividly imagine a place guided only by the words of a writer? Don’t motion pictures put an end to the imagination by declaring what is and what isn’t? Can videos let the audience stay in their makebelieve world for as long as they wish? The second the clip ends, the magic is gone. Stories woven by the written word stay with people a long while, especially if they’ve taken a long time to read.

Will Blogging Ever Be Meaningful Again?

An early morning breakfast can get your creative juices flowing.

An early morning breakfast can get your creative juices flowing.

As a writer, I have daily wars to wage. Wars against naysayers who think I’m wasting my education and youth. Wars against the millions of mini Kim Kardashians out there who hog most of the social media attention, thanks to the ever-changing and degrading notions of what is “cool”. Wars against my dwindling confidence in my ability to make a living out of a career that I consider cathartic. And also those wars against blank pages that refuse to be filled. Then, I remember the writers who wrote all through all the big wars that have made History such a heartbreaking subject. And I know that the best writing happens in the middle of a war.

Do you still believe in long-form blogging?

Let me know through your comments below!

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Precious Jewels From Around The World

Every time I step out of my house, whether to explore a new country or a new place within my land, I mostly think about what my eyes can see. And, most of that is above the ground – the buildings and monuments, the streets, the mountains and valleys, the lakes and rivers, the trees, animals and the culture of the locals, and then, the sky. What I often overlook is what lies under the earth. I am not talking about tubers or roots or the exotic dishes that are made of those, but what lies further below – several feet under, formed by immense heat and pressure – precious stones.

Austria – Emerald Waters And Emerald Rings

The beautiful country of Austria is also a major producer of emerald.

The beautiful country of Austria is also a major producer of emerald.

When I went solo to Salzburg a couple of years ago, I was busy admiring the lovelock bridge that spans River Salzach, connecting the modern world full of gardens and courtyards to the Old Town paved with cobblestones. I gazed at the lime green grass carpeting the banks on either side of the emerald river and longed to hike on the moss-covered hills in the backdrop. But not once did I think about Austria’s prominence as an emerald producer and exporter to the world. Even my journeys back home yielded similar results…

Diamonds In Golconda?

Golconda (Hyderabad) is popular not only for its fort but also for diamond mining and trading.

Golconda (Hyderabad) is popular not only for its fort but also for diamond mining and trading.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have visited Hyderabad – both when it was a part of Andhra Pradesh and after it became Telangana’s. I have even climbed all of the steps that lead to Golconda Fort, and spent a lot of money buying Hyderabadi pearls. It is only now that I see Golconda differently after my mum inquires why I never brought back any diamonds from this place that has one of the world’s most famous diamond mines.

“Czeching” Out Garnet

Czech Republic might be famous for Kafka, but it stores some of the world's best garnet, topaz and opal.

Czech Republic might be famous for Kafka, but it stores some of the world’s best garnet, topaz and opal.

3 years ago, I was exploring central Europe, and my journey had brought me to Prague – the capital of Czech Republic. Over days of checking out the most vibrant Old Town, its cathedrals, sailing over the Vltava river, being surprised over Kafka’s fame and buying copper rings, I discovered Czechia is also popular for its gemstones such as garnet, topaz and opal. But I asked myself how far and wide I’d have to travel to collect beautiful stones from different parts of the world. Could I not get all such precious stones from the comfort of my home? Would expensive gemstones always be too expensive for me to own? I’ve recently found an answer to my quest:-

Jewel On Fire – Gemstone Jewellery In Your Budget

Did you know Germany's Alps could have gemstones such as beryl, topaz and emeralds under them?

Did you know Germany’s Alps could have gemstones such as beryl, topaz and emeralds under them?

I came across the online jewellery store Jewel On Fire which lets you buy precious stone ornaments priced up to 90% lower than their retail cost. This is possible only because they cut out the middlemen and source jewellery directly from jewellery craftsmen and manufacturers. And their online presence means you can shop without having to spend a bomb on travel. They have a splendid collection of low-cost genuine diamond jewellery and those of other precious stones. I have a sweeter information for you! When you use my promo code “OINDRILADE” to make a purchase on their site, you get an additional discount on their already amazingly priced items! 🙂

Won’t You Travel Differently Now?

It's not only Sri Lanka's lakes that are associated with aquamarine!

It’s not only Sri Lanka’s lakes that are associated with aquamarine!

When I told my mum about this, she was elated. She won’t have to worry about lugging heavy jewellery back from her trips now. And travel would only be about the sights and experiences, not the expenses associated with shopping of gemstones. I will again be able to visit Germany for its castles, and not think about beryl or topaz or emerald. I will again be able to enjoy the forests and lakes of Sri Lanka without hunting for good quality yet affordable aquamarine. “Aquamarine” would only make me think of the water bodies again, and not the stone on my ring finger.

Still, You Should Know…

Hungary's creamy white skies know that that this country has a lot of creamy opal stones as well.

Hungary’s creamy white skies know that that this country has a lot of creamy opal stones as well.

Even though you will mostly shop online, lounging in your sofa, it helps to know a little more about the things you buy. It is the stories behind each earring, pendant and bracelet that makes the gemstones more precious!

Do you ever wonder where each of your jewels come from?

Write your comments below! 🙂

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A Travel Secret Up My Sleeve – Urby Passport Holder

So much goes into planning a holiday, especially if it’s a long one. I have a big trip coming up this week, and all of the planning is stressing me out. Yet, I know the tension is temporary. My joy on reaching that faraway land will drown even the memory of the hassle I’m going through right now.

On-Trip Euphoria Is Greater Than Pre-Trip Anxiety

Alone on a German Island - Old Town in Lindau.

Alone on a German Island – Old Town in Lindau.

This is not the first time I’m travelling to another continent (read – Lleida – A Reminiscence), but this will certainly be the longest I’ll be away from home. I know from experience that the jitters are only before I set foot in that foreign country. All that I explore afterwards, will make me smile ear to ear. It is always a good idea to have all your travel essentials in place – the bags, the documents and the cash. If you are travelling to a country with specific rules, ensure you are prepped for the immigration procedures. Your passport is your first document of importance. It helps to keep it easily accessible.

A Passport Holder Also Helps Hold Yourself Together

You need a handy holder for all your essentials at the airport.

You need a handy holder for all your essentials at the airport.

At airports when I’d mostly be in a hurry, I would often struggle to find my passport in my handbag. Some scrambling later, I’d catch hold of it, only to realize I’d have to keep digging for my boarding pass next. Sitting down for a snack at an airport cafe would require some more ransacking of my bag for currency or cards. I was starting to get worried my passport would fall apart with all of that frequent manhandling. I needed a saviour. That’s when Urby came to my rescue!

A Leather Sleeve Brought Me Sound Sleep

Traveling means exploring living rooms full of books and music.

Traveling means exploring living rooms full of books and music.

My Urby passport holder is essentially a jacket for my passport. It also has 4 slots for me to slip in my multicurrency prepaid card (which acts as an ATM cum debit card for all my spends abroad), credit cards and perhaps a business card. There is also a sleeve which I can use to slide in my boarding pass or air tickets. This elegant way of organizing my air-travel essentials is going to give me a smoother travel experience. That means more time to catch forty winks during layovers! 😉

Luxury Is Personal

Urby sent me a personalized passport holder to make my travels more comfortable.

Urby sent me a personalized passport holder to make my travels more comfortable.

True indulgence is not in plainly sporting a premium brand, but having it customized for you. My limited edition passport holder from Urby’s “Wanderlust” collection is handcrafted and feels great to touch. I have my name printed in gold on the baked-cherry coloured high-end grained leather. I also have a drawstring canvas pouch to store my passport holder when I’m not travelling. Genuine leather needs care, especially during monsoon. The pouch will help keep moisture away, so my little piece of luxury stays luxurious for longer.

I Like To Travel Every Season

I watched the trees change colours during fall in Austria.

I watched the trees change colours during fall in Austria.

When I was growing up, most of our family trips would happen in summer (because we had holidays). Monsoon was considered a bad time for vacation as my folks didn’t like rains (and the ensuing sludge on the roads). We were also quite cautious of getting out in the winters lest we should catch a nasty cold. These unnecessary restrictions made it quite hard to travel frequently and enjoy different climatic conditions. I had decided when I was very young that I would travel far and wide, in every season and every situation. I’m filled with delight as I tell you today that I’m doing exactly that these days! 🙂 (Read – For Travel Goals that are Long Term…)

Travel More, Work Even More!

Urby passport holder has a pocket at the back (so you can easily slide in a business card).

Urby passport holder has a pocket at the back (so you can easily slide in a business card).

My friends often wonder how I’m jobless, yet not penniless. Conservative culture has led them to think there are only traditional ways to earn a livelihood- you slog all day if you are not born rich. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. And contrary to popular belief, my parents are not funding my travels. Over the past 5 years that I worked hard in the corporate world, I managed to save up a little bit. And now that I am a full-time freelance travel writer, I work even harder. More travel means meeting more people and developing lasting relationships, many of whom later become my clients. This is why I always carry my business cards on me. (Check out my friend, Grenville, who designed my card!) Urby’s passport holder has an extra slot at the back of the jacket (which I use to carry a couple of extra cards for serendipitous meetings at airports). You can also use it to carry loose change or some currency notes.

Carry Your Belongings The Way You Would Carry Yourself

Some parts of the world are so bright, you need sunglasses at night! ;-)

Some parts of the world are so bright, you need sunglasses at night! 😉

Immigration desks across the world have convinced me that sharp dressing goes a long way in having a trouble-free clearance. When you carry yourself impeccably, wouldn’t you want your passport to be carried in a similar fashion?

Do you ever struggle to find your passport in your bag?

Are you a fan of leather?

Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter to know more about my new way of living. Do share this article and let your friends know about organizing their travel documents!

Disclosure: The passport holder was gifted to me by Urby. However, the review reflects my honest opinion.