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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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! 🙂

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What If You Could Wear The World On You…

On one of my trips to the interiors of India, I had the pleasure of meeting another travel writer – one who had twice my experience in the world of writing and travelling. One could tell she loved to travel and had travelled far and wide just by looking at her. Before I could even begin a conversation, my eyes fell on her bag from Barcelona, placed over her crumpled scarf which read “Made in Romania”. She would later tell me about her passion for collecting things from every place she visited while showing me stuff she had accumulated from all over the world.

If A Dress Could Remind You Of A Song…

I watch a pair of Latvian musicians in their traditional clothing in Riga.

I watch a pair of Latvian musicians in their traditional clothing in Riga.

That girl made me rethink my views on shopping. I had almost renounced my habit of excessive buying on my trips, knowing very well that those things would lie forgotten in my closet once I was home. But I did not know how powerful a statement it is to wear your journey on you. A hat from Houston, a necklace from Nairobi, a dress from Dresden, a bracelet from Brazil, a scarf from Scandinavia, earrings from Italy, shoes from Sri Lanka, and a bag from Burgundy. It sounds poetic. And feels even better. Besides, that would make a great conversation starter wherever you go! I still remember a pretty yellow frock which a Latvian singer wore as she sang a daina (read – The Romance of Riga) in Riga’s Old Town Square. Every time I think of that dress, I can hear her sing.

Inspiration From The Streets

Colourful apartments line a Philadelphian sidewalk.

Colourful apartments line a Philadelphian sidewalk.

I really wished I wouldn’t have to travel so much to own pieces of other countries. So, when I heard about VIDA & Co, and how they are shaking up the world of fashion and design, I was interested. Their unique concept of getting designers from across the world to submit their designs makes them a global hub for international art. And what’s more? You get to wear those designs! So, an artist in Abu Dhabi could have her work replicated by a Pakistani weaver on a fabric sourced from France, so a girl like me, sitting in California, could buy that online! Doesn’t this dissolve distances? Watch VIDA’s story in this video:-

The artists who contribute to VIDA are painters, photographers, sculptors, textile designers, calligraphers and sketch and 3-D artists. This means you could wear a work of art or an actual photo of a real scene somewhere in the world. VIDA is running a sale on their site and you could get some amazing scarves and skirts designed by global artists for a steal!

Smell The Grass On The Other Side

The shades of brown contrast beautifully against the green.

The shades of brown contrast beautifully against the green.

When you hold an artefact made in a different part of the world, you buy into their culture. You can’t not think about the lush fields of Punjab when you pull on a satin Patiala and feel a little Punjabi yourself. Nor can you forget the vibrant tulips of Holland when your handbag is painted all over with those. A simple piece of clothing can activate a lot of our senses. A top can transport you to a different land. You could be sitting in Mumbai, smelling the handcrafted perfumes of Paris when your cushion covers tell the story of a Parisian perfumer.

When Weavers Weave Stories In Their Fabric

A Bhutanese weaver has her work examined in Thimphu.

A Bhutanese weaver has her work examined in Thimphu.

Many months ago, I was in Bhutan with my family, and we hopped into this textile museum in the capital. The female weavers looked elegant in their kira-skirts (the traditional outfit which every national sports with pride) as they carefully wove kiras with a combination of fabric textures and colours, yarns of colourful wool by their side, to add warmth to their designs.

Persian Carpets That Can Magically Make You Fly

An old Irani trader displays Persian carpets at a souk in Sharjah.

An old Irani trader displays Persian carpets at a souk in Sharjah.

I began the year 2017 with my first foreign trip to UAE. In Sharjah, most of my spare time would be spent exploring souqs full of rich fabric. The Persian stores, especially, had some of the finest carpets I’ve ever run my fingers over. A little chat with the Irani owner would reveal to me that each carpet is 100% hand-made, some with years of effort. Imagine sitting on one of these plush carpets, feeling like Jasmine (with or without an Aladin) as you fly (in your mind) to another destination! That is the power of a good product from a different culture.

When A State Is On Your Shoulders

I wear a Rajasthani designer's kurta to peer over Sajjangarh (near Udaipur).

I wear a Rajasthani designer’s kurta to peer over Sajjangarh (near Udaipur).

My recent trip to Udaipur and beyond saw me wear Indian kurtas all through. The intricate designs and the light fabric worked really well in the sun and kept me smiling through the high temperatures. You too should try going traditional when you travel. And, don’t forget to get a memory you can wear!

Do you buy clothes when you visit abroad?

Would you like to own a designer outfit from another continent?

Write your comments below! 🙂

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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! 🙂

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