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! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more insights from my experiences around the world. Do share this article with your friends who fear unnecessarily!

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Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail (And How You Can Have Fail-proof #LifeGoals)

We are 18 days into the new year, and many of us have already started giving up on those resolutions we so talked about on the 1st of Jan. Even if you belong to the rare group of people who are still hanging on, you know very well that your resolutions will be long forgotten when it’s time to ring in yet another new year. Have you wondered why we generally don’t follow through with our resolutions? Let’s explore why!

Do You Suffer From Resolution-Myopia?

I resolve to wake up with the sunrise and enjoy my mug of coffee in peace.

I resolve to wake up with the sunrise and enjoy my mug of coffee in peace.

More often than not, our resolutions are aimed at achieving quick results, our timelines being no longer than one year. This is one of the biggest reasons why new-year resolutions are ineffective at driving any lasting changes to our lives or lifestyles. A powerful alternative to having resolutions is to have #LifeGoals. Life-goals are a mix of long-term (read – For Travel Goals that are Long Term…) and short-term goals that don’t put pressure on you to achieve those within a year. Therefore, even after 365 days, you know you are dreaming of the same thing. There is consistency.

Do You Know Why You Want What You Want?

I dreamt of and visited Bhutan last year.

I dreamt of and visited Bhutan last year.

Reason #2 for failed resolutions is not having clarity on why you want to accomplish something. When you have a strong reason driving your goals, you have much higher chances of achieving those. Most of my goals revolve around travelling and writing. I recently went on a long trip to the USA, and my foremost reason for that journey was to learn to live independently and be away from home for an extended period of time. Despite the seemingly exorbitant budget, I made it happen. My reason was the clincher.

Do You Fear What You Have Never Tried?

I finish my bowl of greens with chopsticks at a Teppanyaki restaurant in California.

I finish my bowl of greens with chopsticks at a Teppanyaki restaurant in California.

An oft-overlooked reason for failed resolutions is having poor-quality ones. You would never want to stick with something that does not appeal to you. Our goals are often watered down by our miscalculated assumptions on what they will take to achieve. Many of us are scared to even admit we want a villa at a beautiful destination. The more I have travelled around the world, the more I have lost my fear of the unexplored. I no longer think twice before trying a new cuisine or a new activity. When you are unafraid, you have a wider and richer variety of goals to aspire for.

Do You Procrastinate When You Have To Take Action?

You cannot be a good swimmer if you only stare at pools.

You cannot be a good swimmer if you only stare at pools. (Photo from my stay in Udaipur.)

The most obvious cause behind dead resolutions is the absence of the fuel that it takes to keep one alive. Your dreams are of no value if you don’t “DO” anything to realize those. For your #LifeGoals, you need to have an action plan. If your dreams need money, you need to start investing. I attended the Bajaj Allianz Bloggers’ Meet on 8th Jan and discovered how much has changed in the world of investments and insurance. Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) are instruments that have undergone a lot of changes, and can be useful tools for you to save for your dreams. Bajaj Allianz will soon launch a ULIP product to help you focus on what matters most to you and #InvestBefikar. (More on that next month.)

Do You Suffer From The Herd-Mentality?

Don't follow the flock. Do your own thinking.

Don’t follow the flock. Do your own thinking. (I captured these jungle babblers in Bandipur, Karnataka)

Resolutions can also fail if they are not yours to begin with. If you have been copying the world, trying to follow the latest fad, or blindly aping celebrities, you are not living your own life. And you certainly aren’t dreaming your own dreams. Make sure you understand your priorities and invest your time and life in making your real wishes come true.

Do you have your #LifeGoals listed out?

Are you making financial investments to fund those goals?

Write your comments below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more insights and pictures from my journeys around the world and into my soul. Do share this article with your friends who struggle to plan for their goals!

How To Travel Smart And Stop Spending Unnecessarily

The biggest question travellers ask themselves is arguably “How do I stop myself from going bankrupt?” The rate at which most of us full-time travellers head overseas (read – Travelling Does Not Mean Saying Goodbye To Earnings) can be mind-boggling to most. Even if you don’t travel very frequently, today’s article on travelling smart will save you some precious bucks when you next jet off! Let’s start with the basics:-

#1: Hunt For Flights Before The Hunting Season

My Virgin Atlantic flight waits for me in London.

My Virgin Atlantic flight waits for me in London.

Last year, I clocked more air miles than the Managing Director of my erstwhile organization!! As crazy as that sounds, I probably spent less than 10% on the flights than he did. Your goal should be to plan early and keep scouting for good deals online before you rush to book. Join Mr. Rebates to get cash back on every purchase you make. Signing up is free and you will also get a $5 BONUS when you shop for the first time. Last minute flight bookings can be quite expensive, not to mention, stressful. And this is where a little bit of pre-planning comes in handy.

#2: Stay With Locals (If Hostels Are Not Your Thing)

Trips are better when your hotel/hostel feels like home.

Trips are better when your hotel/hostel feels like home.

I personally find hotels extremely boring and cold. So my favourite choices are homestays and hostels (read – Dorm Etiquette For Frequent Backpackers). I know, some of you don’t like the idea of sharing your room with strangers, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to shell out a bomb to live in a foreign country. Check out warm hosts on Airbnb or Couchsurfing. If you’d rather have your semi-luxurious stay at a hotel, save some extra bucks by using my referral link to make your hotel bookings through Mr. Rebates.

#3: Drive Down Instead of ‘Ubering’ Your Way

Driving down to Woodward Park in the USA.

Driving down to Woodward Park in the USA.

When I lived in India, radio taxis seemed so affordable. But that’s not the case in expensive countries such as USA. Taking Uber everywhere can burn a big hole in your pocket. If you are in a big city with a well connected public transport system (I love New York for this!), you are good. But what when you explore little hamlets with no humans in sight for several miles? That’s when it really helps to self-drive. Mr. Rebates has tie-ups with several car rental sites (Alamo Rent A Car, for instance) where you will actually be able to earn some cash back (into your Paypal account or opt for a check payment or a gift card) when you book your mean machine.

#4: Choose Your Food Haunts Wisely

Many of us tend to waste a lot of money eating trash at posh restaurants, without really trying out anything unique or local. Eating out takes a little bit of strategizing. You cannot just step out and randomly walk into a place, hoping to have your mind blown. It pays to know what you want and how much you are willing to pay. Do your research online on interesting places which offer experiences instead of just plating out food (read – Vegetarian Food In Sharjah – What Nobody Tells You About Emirati Cuisine). I was able to enjoy some live teppanyaki in California without paying through the nose just by picking a weekday afternoon instead of walking in for some a-la-carte on a Friday night.

#5: Shop When The Big Sales Are On

I have the Millerton Lake behind me on my drive to Friant in California.

I have the Millerton Lake behind me on my drive to Friant in California.

No matter how much you control yourself, you are bound to buy a bag full of nonsense on your next trip abroad (read – When A Traveller Takes A Holiday). Because it’s impossible to reign in your impulses, the least you can do is shop during shopping festivals or holiday seasons. I’m currently holidaying in The States and I think I’m going to need another suitcase just to fit all the stuff I bought on Black Friday!

Do you have any travel tips you’d like to share?

Are you guilty of spending unnecessarily on your vacations?

Write your comments below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more pictures and tips on travelling like a pro. Do share this article with your friends who are planning their vacations!

Dorm Etiquette For Frequent Backpackers

Many of my friends are wary of checking into hostels because they fear a lot of things – nasty roommates, sleepless nights (thanks to incessant snorers), dirty rooms, dirtier bathrooms, theft… and the list goes on. Today, I’m not going to tell you how to find a fool-proof hostel, but how to be a good roommate. If you travel frequently and don’t want to be hated by all your hostel-mates, follow my etiquette guide for staying in dormitories and shared rooms:-

#1: Don’t Be Judgemental

In Prague - before my roommates arrived.

In Prague – before my roommates arrived.

You may have heard scary stories about sharing a room with strangers, but trust me, your roommates are just as wary as you are. Do not heed preconceived notions about people you haven’t even spoken to. This also means you shouldn’t close yourself up and only expect others to talk to you first. Be the friendly roomie who says hello and makes the others in the dorm comfortable.

#2: Don’t Act Like You Own All The Space

Luggage rooms are where your giant bags (which you won't need immediately) should go!

Luggage rooms are where your giant bags (which you won’t need immediately) should go!

Most hostel rooms are cosy spaces where bunk beds and lockers occupy most of the area. If you are backpacking, you are expected to travel light. But we all know how some of us think we need to change 5 outfits in a day, and we carry huge suitcases to supplement our rucksacks. If you are a culprit of overpacking, make sure you don’t take up unreasonable space (to the point of inconveniencing others) in the room. Arrange for your extra bags to be stored in the hostel’s luggage room.

#3: Get Your Snoring Problem Under Control

Be mindful of how you treat your roomies! (My dorm in Warsaw)

Be mindful of how you treat your roomies! (My dorm in Warsaw)

The only one who gets sound sleep in a dorm is the one snoring. If you have a snoring problem, your roomies will most likely have a sleeping problem! Be a good roommate and use an anti-snoring mouthpiece to have a peaceful night (for you and everyone else). Use my promo code – OINDRILADE to get $10 off on VitalSleep’s anti-snoring mouthpiece. This device is easy to carry and comes in its own cute case – perfect travel accompaniment! VitalSleep is FDA-cleared for the treatment of snoring and opens up your airway by controlling the position of your lower jaw. When you sleep better, you’ll also wake up happier and be a friendlier roommate! 😉

#4: Leave The Bathroom Clean

The shared bathrooms are not only yours! Leave things dry after you're done.

The shared bathrooms are not only yours! Leave things dry after you’re done.

We all like our toilets clean and dry. Unfortunately, when you have a careless roommate, your bathroom looks like a crime scene straight out of a horror movie. It doesn’t take too much effort to clean up after yourself. Be sure to leave the restroom just as you found it, if not better. I’d also like to highlight the point of carrying your own products into the bathroom and bringing those back with you (so you don’t hog the limited rack space).

#5: Keep The Noise Down

Are you guilty of slamming doors?

Are you guilty of slamming doors?

Your hostel room is meant for you to relax after a tiring day of exploring the city. You are not generally supposed to stay in all day. Whether you feel like having a quiet time or not, your roommates do. So, don’t play those random Insta-stories on full volume! Use earphones for personal entertainment, and if you need to call somebody, use the common rooms or kitchens for the jabber. If your roomies are sleeping, you should be extra careful. Try not to turn the lights on. Use your phone’s flashlight instead. Don’t slam doors or walk noisily. Nobody likes to be woken up from deep sleep.

#6: Do Your Laundry – Don’t Stink!

Wash your clothes so you don't stink through your stay!

Wash your clothes so you don’t stink through your stay!

Most backpackers are notorious for their poor hygiene. Some bathe only once a week, some never change their clothes throughout their stay, and some do both! Don’t be that painful roommate who smells like a rotten onion, making it hard for others in the room to breathe. Many hostels have washing machines you can use for a small fee. If yours doesn’t, use a public laundromat to ensure you have clean and nice smelling clothes to wear every day.

#7: Use Locks – Know When Not To Trust Strangers

Don't blame others for your stolen stuff if you forget to secure your lockers!

Don’t blame others for your stolen stuff if you forget to secure your lockers!

When you live with strangers in a dorm with multiple beds, you cannot be foolish enough to think everyone is going to be honest. It is always your responsibility to take care of your belongings. Use the locker in your room to store your money and bags (that fit) if you’re not taking them with you. If you ever lose anything due to your own oversight, it is useless to blame your roomies.

#8: Remember That Your Bed Is Not A Dining Room

Hostels have common kitchens so you won't have to dirty your bed.

Hostels have common kitchens so you won’t have to dirty your bed.

How often have we met people who carry their kitchen with them and start eating wherever they sit! Your bed sure is not a place to eat that sandwich you just made! Hostels have rules for a reason. You wouldn’t want rodents sharing your blanket with you in the middle of the night, would you? Also, your roommates don’t exactly want to smell the beef stroganoff when they’re getting dressed to go out. Carry your food to the common kitchen or dining room, and eat as much as you like.

You are a brand ambassador for your country when you go abroad.

You are a brand ambassador for your country when you go abroad.

We all need to realize that we represent our country when we stay at a multi-ethnic hostel half-way across the world. Everyone is going to judge your countryfolks based on how you behave. You cannot just think you’re a stranger who no one will remember (and continue to be a brat). You have many places to go. Be the roommate who makes others want to visit your country!

Have you come across roommates who’re nightmares?

Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

Write your comments below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more pictures and tips on travelling solo. Do share this article with irritating roommates you’re in touch with! 😉

Khor Fakkan – Sharjah’s Best Kept Secret

“Sharjah” – this name would often conjure up an image of a desert with mosques scattered across its parched terrain. I thought this Arab city would be a quick trip – a short walk by the souqs, a desert safari, and I’d have seen pretty much all that this place has to offer. I would realize on my maiden trip to this emirate how wrong I was in my imagination.

Khor Fakkan - beyond the desert plains

Sharjah – beyond the desert plains

Big Surprises Come in Small Packages

On my third day in Sharjah, the plan was to visit the town of Khor Fakkan. Little has been spoken or written about this place which technically is a part of Sharjah, but geographically surrounded by Fujairah. It was a long road journey which took us through the Hajar range of mountains, and well into the emirate of Fujairah.

Our terrain transforms from plains to mountains

Our terrain transforms from plains to mountains

Time-Traveling to the 15th Century

We passed a couple of mosques on our way to Khor Fakkan, but the most striking of all was Al Bidiya – a mosque wrapped in layers of plaster from 1446 AD. This mosque is quite unusual in its architecture as it has four pointed domes – something missing in the modern mosque designs.

We had started ascending the Hajjar Mountains soon enough. And, I knew this when it started to get cold. I wasn’t carrying a jacket as I’d assumed Sharjah would be anything but cold on that sunny afternoon. I did not have the time to hike up those mountains, and I know I’ll have to go back to do just that someday.

We start gaining altitude on the Al Hajar mountains

We start gaining altitude on Al Hajar mountains

Mountain-Top Local Markets

We stopped for a while in a little village to have some Suleimani chai and succulent dates. You will be surprised to know of the amazing variety of fruits and vegetables that are grown in the Emirates, especially around oases. The fertility of the soil varies here. This land is not all dry and barren. Local markets are also where you can bargain well. The friendly shopkeepers will let you taste some of their dry fruits on display when they know you will be buying. Food aside, you can also find warm kaftans and jackets with middle eastern prints as you stroll through the roadside.

A fruit market in a village in Fujairah

A fruit market in a village in Fujairah

Seeing the Arabian Sea

As we drove further, our view changed completely! We were driving along the Gulf of Oman, gulping down the dazzling waves of the Arabian Sea with our eyes. Khor Fakkan (which literally means ‘gulf of jaw’) is the only town in Sharjah which lets you see the Gulf of Oman.

The Gulf of Oman beckons!

The Gulf of Oman beckons!

A Bite of Luxury at the Oceanic Hotel

Khor Fakkan’s 4 star Oceanic Resort and Spa was the perfect place to put up my feet and take in the view of the turquoise waters of the Khor Fakkan Beach. Even though alcohol is strictly prohibited all across Sharjah, you will miss none of the beach excitement when you can spend your lazy afternoons sipping on some iced tea and gazing into the horizon before you.

Chilling at the private beach of the Oceanic Resort at Khor Fakkan

Chilling at the private beach of the Oceanic Resort at Khor Fakkan

Meandering into Mleiha

A short drive from Khor Fakkan lies the Mleiha Desert. Its sand is distinctive with a touch of orange in the light brown. The Mleiha Archeological Centre is where they study fossils unearthed from this desert. There is a museum here that every kid touring Sharjah must be taken to. It’s quite experiential and informative.

We arrive at a gorgeous oasis and see scores of palm trees

We arrive at a gorgeous oasis and see scores of palm trees

Time for Desert Safari

Mleiha is also where you can take a desert safari over the undulating sands. Unlike in Dubai, the experience you have in Sharjah will be more intimate as you won’t have the crowd. This is also a no non-sense desert safari which focuses on nature, and skips the belly dance in the end. Plus, you get to stop at some locations to examine some fossils yourself! (I can already see the paleontologists smiling 😉 )

The smooth sands of Meliha desert are perfect for a safari!

The smooth sands of Mleiha desert are perfect for a safari!

Khor Fakkan and Mleiha may not be Sharjah’s only (open) secrets, but they sure are worth exploring! We often make the mistake of judging a place by the first look or through someone else’s opinion. It is time we went out on our own to discover what popular media won’t tell us. Some secrets are better kept when shared, don’t you think? I’ve let you in on Sharjah’s secret. Won’t you tell me yours?

Soaking in the breeze of this arid land

Soaking in the breeze of this arid land

Have you also discovered lesser known things about popular places? Let my readers (and me) know through your comments below! 🙂

Don’t forget to follow me on InstagramFacebook and Twitter for more pictures, tips and stories from my travels! Do spread the love by sharing this article with your friends who think Sharjah is all about sand! 🙂

Disclosure: I was hosted by the Sharjah Tourism and Commerce Development Authority. However, all views are entirely my own.