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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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.

Dudhsagar Plantation – A Homestay Hidden Away From Goa’s Beaches

Goa, a place synonymous with beach-life (to the casual traveller), has much more to offer those who seek something different. My friends reading this account will be flabbergasted when they learn that I did not see a single beach all through my recent trip to the ‘party capital of India’. What I saw instead was this:-

Acres Of Greens With No Sand Or Sea In Sight

Farmers prepare to work on the paddy fields

Farmers prepare to work on the paddy fields

If you are a fan of nature and forests and everything organic, get away from the coastline and drive into Sanvordem, and then further towards Kulem until you reach Karmane Village. There, where the road ends and the boundary of the Mollem National Park begins, you will find Dudhsagar Plantation – a farm-stay that is removed from the smoke of the cities and the noise of the parties. I had a chance to stay at one of the cottages here last month when monsoon was in full swing. This was perhaps the best way to begin my career as a full-time travel writer.

The Cottages At Dudhsagar Plantation

The property has 5 cottages with brick roofs which have 4 glass-patches to let light filter through in the mornings. There’s a nice sit-out area in the front porch of each cottage, with wooden lounging chairs to enjoy the view of the plantation. This eco-stay is basic, but comfortable. Every cottage is spacious and furnished with a double bed and a divan, besides shelves on a wall to store your things. The bathroom is well ventilated with grills, and the exposed brick and cement sections lend a rustic touch to it. The all-out in the room keeps mosquitoes away, but don’t be surprised if some harmless caterpillars, bugs or lizards stop by to say “hi”. 😉

Know Your Host

The Malkarnekar brothers - Ashok (right) runs the property

The Malkarnekar brothers – Ashok (right) runs the property

The plantation was started by the Malkarnekar family in 1985 and their home is built on the farm itself. Today, Ashok Malkarnekar, the eldest son, stays here and looks after the administrative bits of this home-stay. I was fortunate to be here when Ashok’s family and friends were around for a reunion, and we spent some good time chatting over chai and singing along with the guitarists in the house. The Malkarnekar siblings (2 brothers and a sister) are half German and half Goan, and fluent in Konkani, Hindi, German and English. They are all very friendly and warm. Throughout the duration of my stay at Dudhsagar Plantation, Ashok graciously showed me around the estate and took me to some interesting parts of Goa I’d never explored before.

Take A Spice Tour

(Picture courtesy: Ashok)

Every guest here can opt for an hour long guided tour of the spice garden. Spread over 50 acres, the plantation is a tropical paradise! Here, you will find a variety of trees and herbs – coconut, betel nut, starfruit, pepper, cinnamon and cashew, to name a few. Speaking of cashew, you can also learn how cashew feni is made through the fermentation process. A milder version of feni is the urak, which is distilled at an earlier stage. During my stay, I had their distinctive jungle juice – a cocktail they make with urak, limca and some “secret spices”. 😉

Jump Into The Family Well

Dive into the 15 feet natural well

Dive into the 15 feet deep natural well

Water babies will leap at the mention of a pool in a farmstay. Dudhsagar Plantation has something even better – a giant natural water well which is 15 feet deep! It was a lot of fun to swim here, the trees secluding us from the rest of the property. You might spot some friendly frogs and little fishes while you take a dip here. It is not uncommon either to sight snakes. (Yikes!!)

Relish Home-cooked Meals

A hearty Goan meal of pao, rice and curries with plenty of coconut

A hearty Goan meal of pao, rice and curries with plenty of coconut

I thoroughly savoured the freshly prepared meals at this homestay. The ingredients are locally sourced and mostly grown on the plantation itself. The food is completely organic as no pesticides or fertilizers are used for farming. Natural composting is practised here and manure is used for the plants. Ashok also showed me the nitrogen-fixing plants which absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere and plug it back into the soil to improve its fertility. This reduces the need to add artificial fertilizers for the regular nitrogen-guzzling flora.

 

The food is generally vegetarian, but sometimes, the cook also prepares some fish or meat. You can have egg preparations for breakfast, and these are free range eggs from the domestic chickens on the farm. I had my fill of local vegan Goan curries which have a little bit of coconut in the form of its flesh-shavings or as coconut milk. They also use a lot of mushroom, which are my favourite! 🙂 I particularly loved the dishes for their mild flavours (I’m not a fan of spicy food) and judicious use of oil. Don’t forget to try their pineapple-banana butter, a house-speciality which I fell in love with! You will also like their homemade pickles and puranpoli.

Walk In The Rain

Take a romantic walk through the plantation under a cozy umbrella

Take a romantic walk through the plantation under a cozy umbrella

Dudhsagar Plantation is a nice place to spend an intimate weekend with your significant other. The property feels especially romantic in the monsoon (read: Lavasa – A Lyrical Journey in the Rains) when the raindrops rhythmically pelt on the brick roofs of the cottages and the thatched central dining gazebo. You may also want to want to laze in the swimming pool while you wait for the sun to set.

Swim In The Infinity Pool

The swimming pool which gets its water from the well

The swimming pool which gets its water from the well (Picture courtesy: Ashok)

Not all visitors like natural wells, so the plantation also has a modern-style swimming pool that looks out to the green foliage. Fortunately, the pool’s water comes from the well, and has no chlorine. The host is building a yoga-shala close to the pool, which will be ready in a few weeks. He has plans to build a large hut which can serve as a dormitory for budget travellers who wish to learn yoga. This place has the potential to be a tranquil yoga retreat. Can you imagine how relaxing it will be to practise yoga in the middle of nature!

Read, Nap Or Do Absolutely Nothing On The Veranda

Sit back and relax on the lounging chairs in your balcony

Sit back and relax on the lounging chairs in your balcony

Rejuvenating holidays are those where you don’t squeeze too many activities into your itinerary. The best way to spend your time at Dudhsagar Plantation is to read your favourite book or do a little bit of writing. The atmosphere is ripe with inspiration for those who find their joy in composing poems. Bring along a guitar and a mouth-organ, and make some soothing music if you are musically tilted. It really helps that internet connectivity is intermittent and slow here. You have another reason to tune out the world and tune in to your thoughts. The property has a wifi router installed at the common dining area, but that only worked for a few minutes during all the days I was there. No complaints, though. I quite enjoyed playing with the cute toddler (Ashok’s nephew) and the dogs (which guard the estate from trespassers and wild boars).

Things To Do Around Dudhsagar Plantation

Capturing River Kushavati at Usgalimal

Capturing River Kushavati at Usgalimal

If you are the restless type of traveller and cannot sit still, there’s plenty you can do around this place. I did the Tambdi Surla waterfall trek (close to the eponymous 12th century temple), peeped into a Portuguese villa, strolled atop the Salaulim dam and checked out 20-thousand-years old petroglyphs at Usgalimal. More on the activities in a separate blog post. 😉

Have you ever lived on a plantation?

Do you know of more non-touristy things to do in Goa?

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

 

Follow me on InstagramFacebook and Twitter to stay updated with pictures and stories of more such interesting hideouts that I keep discovering! Do spread the love by sharing this article with all the Goa-fanatics you know! 🙂

Disclosure: I was hosted by Dudhsagar Plantation. However, all views are entirely my own.