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! 🙂

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! 🙂

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5 Souqs In Sharjah You Shouldn’t Miss

Most of us have fingers that itch to spend ‘just a little more’ money to buy ‘yet another something we may barely need’. Today’s post is for all such shopaholics who can’t leave a place without bringing back a part of it with them. I have been writing a series of posts on my trip to Sharjah (read Sharjah at First Sight), and I had to write one just about the souqs – the markets that can keep you busy for hours on end.

Get ready to fill up your shopping bags! (My photo was clicked by Anuradha Goyal! :-) )

Get ready to fill up your shopping bags! (My photo was clicked by Anuradha Goyal! 🙂 )

Know When To Go Shopping

In the Muslim world, religious norms of prayer are strictly followed. They pray 6 times a day, of which 4 are likely to fall between your shopping time. These times are usually around 12:30pm, 4pm, 7pm and 8pm. You’ll see boards that notify customers that the shopkeeper is out for prayer. In fact, on the inaugural night of the Sharjah Light Festival (read Glimpses of the Sharjah Light Festival), the show was paused for 15 minutes to allow for prayer at 7pm. You might have to wait for anytime between 5 and 25 minutes when the prayers are on, and you’ll usually find every store deserted (except for the tourists). Fridays are dedicated to worship, so most shops close early or don’t open at all. Apart from prayer times, there’s also a lunch hour (1-2pm) during which many establishments are shut.

 

Once you have your shopping schedule ready, you can follow my quick and easy guide to splurging your way through this emirate! 😀 I know how most of us are pressed for time, and have only a few hours that we budget for shopping. Therefore, for your convenience, I’ve curated my special list of 5 souqs that will give you a good a flavour of the middle eastern culture while you’re in Sharjah.

#1: Blue Souq (a.k.a. Central Souq)

Blue Souq (or Central Souq) is flanked by a large manicured garden circle.

Blue Souq (or Central Souq) is flanked by a large manicured garden circle.

This is the largest souq in Sharjah, and that’s no secret (unlike Khor Fakkan – Sharjah’s Best Kept Secret). The Blue Souq has a distinct blue roof and dark blue borders along its pastel walls. The marketplace is quite huge, with two wings connected by a bridge and two floors full of middle eastern goodies – artifacts and jewellery made of precious stones, glazed pots made of ceramic and clay, glass-work, especially the decorative lamps, and perfumes.

The Central Souq’s ground floor is full of dazzling gold ornaments, and a few stores dedicated to abayas (the Islamic robe-like outfit which every woman wears over her regular clothes. The floor above has beautiful Persian carpets with intricate handmade designs. Card collectors will find gold-plated playing cards, and a lot of other interesting collectibles here. Chandeliers and lamps hang low from the ceilings of a few shops that showcase the detailed glass-art on the lampshades. Even perfume-collectors have something to look forward to! Emirati perfume, or ittar, has an oil base, which makes it stronger than the regular variety, and a little goes a long way. Ittar is not sprayed, it is dabbed at the pulse points and rubbed for the skin to absorb it well.

#2: Souq Al-Masqoof

Traditional shoes are arranged on the wooden doors of a store at Souq Al-Masqoof

Traditional shoes are arranged on the wooden doors of a store at Souq Al-Masqoof

Located in the old town area of Sharjah, Souq Al-Masqoof reminds one of yesteryear. Everything form its roofs to doorways to walls seem to tell a story from another time. This is where men gather to discuss their business over some tea. Even if you are not much of a shopper, a stroll through its narrow alleys will do you good.

#3: Souq Al-Arsa

Souq Al-Arsa exudes old world charm with its stucco exterior.

Souq Al-Arsa exudes old world charm with its stucco exterior.

The oldest souq in this emirate is at Heart of Sharjah. Souq Al-Arsa has a central square with benches for tired feet that have shopped a lot. Its galleries are full of handicrafts and trinkets from Islamic countries as far as Yemen. Coral necklaces, wooden bracelets, iron daggers – you’ll be surprised at the amount of unusual tchotchkes you can buy here!

I enjoy a cup of Arabic coffee at Al Alrsa Cafe

I enjoy a cup of Arabic coffee at Al Arsa Cafe

I always need to sit down and eat something every time I’m on a shopping spree. Staring me in the eye was the Al Arsa Cafe, with its interiors resembling that of the Irani cafes in India. I hopped in for some Arabic coffee (read Vegetarian Food In Sharjah – What Nobody Tells You About Emirati Cuisine) and sat down to a room full of old men in their traditional attire looking grave in their photoframes.

Clocks, planets, jugs and ropes - a lot of interesting antiques are paraded inside Al Arsa Souq

Clocks, planets, jugs and ropes – a lot of interesting antiques are paraded inside Al Arsa Souq

If you’re a fan of antiques, this is the place to be! Swords, scabbards, clocks, jugs and other interesting vessels in various stages of wear and tear are stocked up at this place. Even old furniture is not hard to find in these little shops.

#4: Souq Sagr

One can smell the aroma of spices from a distance at Souq Sagr.

One can smell the aroma of spices from a distance at Souq Sagr.

The foodies and cooks reading my blog must be waiting to hear about the spices and local produce of UAE. I’ve saved the best for the last! 🙂 Close to Souq Al Arsa, Souq Sagr has a lot of stores that sell local dates and a plethora of condiments. Take your pick of lavender, dried rose petals, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, saffron and more from these shops that let you taste their dates before you buy them.

#5: Souq Al Jubail

Souq Al Jubail is Sharjah’s largest market for fresh produce. It is located on the coast and has 4 sections for fish, meat, fruits and vegetables. There is a large circular courtyard at the centre where at 5pm every day, the fishermen bring in their catch, straight from the sea (one can see their boats docked outside) and start haggling with traders to sell their fish. This is quite a spectacle to watch! Their sections for dry fruits was where I went for a lot of free tasting of dates, walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachio and raisins, and also bought bagfuls of dates from various regions. Dates are cheaper in Dubai, but if you aren’t planning to visit there, get your fill from this souq in Sharjah.

You can't leave the UAE without buying dry fruits!

You can’t leave the UAE without buying dry fruits!

Are you a shopping-pro who’d like to share some tips?

Do you know more places to shop in Sharjah?

Let my readers (and me) know through your comments below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook and Twitter for more pictures, tips and stories from my travels! Do spread the love by sharing this article with all the shopaholics you know! 🙂

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