The not-so-rosy side of travel.

In the age of social media, a picture not only speaks a thousand words, it speaks a million words actually. Our life is not just about having great experiences but is more of documenting them for the voyeurs on social media that we refer as friends/followers.

The advent of social media has also given rise to mini celebrities whose perfect lives, on point sense of humor, envious travel itineraries, fancy fashion choices are all a scroll away.

India has immensely grown post 2000, i am sure all nineties kid would agree that India in our childhood was way different than the India that we live in today. Well paid private jobs, plush apartments, fancy restaurants, pubs , breweries, malls , eating without looking at the right side of the menu or not checking for the price tag while buying something weren’t things/luxuries we enjoyed in our childhood.While our jobs have made all our desires come true, it has also made us increasingly dissatisfied of our mundane lives and crave for experiences that would make us forget our stressful jobs even though that means only for a little while. Social media has only increased this misery. There are actually people who have been able to do that, break from there routine lives, pursue their passion for travel and even get paid for it.

Our Instagram feeds are full of such people, who find the perfect location, the perfect angle, the perfect dress, the perfect smiles and as we sit in our cubicles and scroll through our phones, our lives become a little more miserable with every scroll, our longing to quit everything and just travel increases a little more.

I think travel and photography are the drugs that our generation is most addicted to. Almost every other person own a DSLR , they might not know how to click good pictures but they sure as hell know how to over edit them, add their signature watermark and post on Facebook. Travel is becoming less about passion and more about proving a point or a race where I have to run ahead of others. Not to say articles like, solo woman traveler who is traveling so many countries on bike, or a family that took a road trip to so many countries, this couple quit their job to travel the world, how to make money while traveling, why our generation is investing more on experiences rather than material needs,are just messing us up more. If they can do it, why can’t I?

But there is a not so rosy side of travel that neither the travelers nor these travel blogs/sites tell you about. And i think it is time we address the elephant in the room.

  • Nothing in this world is free – Yes, no matter how many stories you read of people traveling on shoe string budgets, earning while traveling etc, please know travel isn’t free, the food on your plate isn’t free, your clothes, your shoes everything comes with a price. So people with all those wonderful pictures on Instagram have actually paid to travel to that place, to buy expensive gadgets to document it perfectly, to  wear fancy clothes. Now some do find that way to gather followers, get sponsored trips or clothes and actually get paid but it’s a long tedious road and not all can make it till the end.

 

  • Is solo travel really that liberating? –  I have made a couple of trips all on my own and i really do not understand this desire some people have to travel solo. Honestly! To me it was a forced one, as i wanted to travel and I did not have friends/ partner or a group i could tag along with. So i went solo. Much like my relationship status, I would like to come back home to someone, eat dinner together and just talk about my day, but since i do not have a befitting partner i choose to stay alone , lead a single life. Does not mean i want that or have chosen that, it is more of a the path between not being able to compromise on 2 things that are equally important.

 

  • Safety for women travelers – while we all romanticize and applaud how woman travelers are going solo exploring places, what we do not talk about is the risks involved. Every woman traveler will tell you stories about how she has been followed, passed lewd comments, been groped in crowd or public transport or even been sexually assaulted. I recently heard of a solo woman biker, who is exploring the mountains on bikes and never spends a single penny on stays. She sometimes pitches her tent on green grass, under a star studded sky, inside lush green forests, by the riverside. Dreamy right? Well she also sleeps with a pepper spray in one hand and a paper knife in the other! Travel blogs never tell you the full story, and this same woman will only post her selfies by the adventurous highways she has traveled on!

 

  • This is not for ever! – We all know it right, it is just that our generation has not been conditioned to think about 10 years or 20 years down the line. We have not learnt to save for a rainy day like our parents because we haven’t seen one! We did not deal with the post independence struggle in fifties and sixties like our parents did, where there were  no jobs, no luxury, everyone just survived. So finally in seventies and eighties, when people started seeing some money they also made sure they saved it for a future that was unknown. Travel blogs tell you how it is okay, to have 0 savings, to not buy a house and travel the world, which all seems perfectly okay now but what about the future? Maybe 20 years down the line we will be talking about how some in our generation had a misguided conception about a dreamy life and ended up losing all their money. They have seen the world, but in their sixties when they can no longer work, they have to do temporary jobs to make ends meet. I recently read about a couple who quit their jobs to travel for 8 years , used up all their savings , sold their house and car and are now scrubbing toilets to put food on their plate.

 

Everything in life needs balance. You could invest your money in a fixed deposit or a house  that has guaranteed returns , or take risky chances in share market that can make you extremely rich or extremely poor. The choice is definitely yours but just make sure it is a well thought one!

 

 

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5 relationship advice I would give my 25 year old self!

We learn through failures and experiences. We have had our hearts broken, have learnt lessons and moved on with life, sometimes vowing never to love again and at times desperate to find love again. But here are 5 things i wish i knew when I was in my twenties.

  •  The one – Stop believing that he was the one for you and you aren’t going to find anyone better or as good. He was definitely not the one which is why you did not actually end up with him.
  • Do not generalize – Once you have had your heart broken, you decide that every man who comes along is going to do the same. Don’t enter this sphere of negativity, it takes away lot of good years of your life.Not everyone is same!
  • Do not try too hard – Do not go out of your way to do things for him . If he loves you, he will stay no matter what.
  • Do not get obsessed – Do not read between the lines, do not imagine why he did not text you back, do not assume reasons behind his silence and definitely do not day dream about what he is doing when he is not with you.
  • Do not expect – This is tough, to stop expecting , to be only at the giving end, but expectations destroy our peace of mind because more often than not, they won’t be met. If you do not want your world to come crashing down every two days, just stop having unrealistic expectations.

 

It’s actually kind of funny, that I could write those 5 points having been guilty myself of doing some of them at some point. But I wish my 25 year old self could take life and relationship a little less seriously, and just let Universe unfold its plans.

Yes! Me too!

Yes Me too and I know maybe you too but you won’t say, you won’t open up or even stand up with the others. We still live in a society where a woman is believed to bring sexual harassment upon herself, where victim shaming is easier than punishing the perpetrator, where most women live in denial that they have been harassed sexually or otherwise, where most men do not even realize when they are sexually harassing a woman!

Yes, you read that last thing right. So when recently social media was abuzz with Me Too hashtag, I too went ahead and posted it because yes why not! I too have been subjected to sexual harassment infinite number of times. Be it while using public transport, or in a crowded marketplace or the lecherous eyes of a boss. It’s everywhere!  I was also expecting some nincompoops to question me about this. And yes, one afternoon at work, the day after i posted me too, pops a screenshot of my post on whatsapp and a male colleague’s one word text, Really?

In my head, i am like yes Really! Why is it so hard to believe? But sensing a tensed conversation ahead, i just write a yes! He goes a step further and asks me ‘on a serious note’ whether someone has really ‘Forced himself’ on me! i can feel the anger slowly rising in me but i keep calm and ask, what do you think is sexual harassment? He sends some dumb reply and in a bid to educate him( who btw is a software engineer in a reputed firm and already in his thirties) i tell him , if he ever made a lewd comment on a woman’s body that makes her feel uncomfortable , even that can be termed as sexual harassment, he need not ‘Force’ himself on her. Like Akshay Kumar just had to say one thing that he thought was funny to actually make Mallika Dua come out and question others if she was the only one who found it offensive. Yes that is what we are taught to do, doubt ourselves before we blame the man. I ask him to go back home and ask his wife, if while growing up and living in India, she has never been inappropriately touched by a random man in a crowded public place/transport, if yes then she can go ahead and post me too as well. He finally gets my point and says Kudos for your bravery! And i am like really?!!

And then came the group that questioned what will posting Me too do? Valid. Well to just give one example, it will educate people and raise awareness that how many women are actually harassed everyday! And that awareness itself can make such positive change in our lives. Big revolutions do not happen one fine day, small steps lead to it. For example, within just a few days of this campaign I came across an article where Kolkata police said it was overwhelmed by the number of women posting stories about harassment and requested women to shed all fears and start filing complaints about such offenders and that they wouldn’t go unpunished. Yes, that is the power of social media now! And I am sure many such small and significant changes have happened elsewhere in the world.

Then comes the group of women, who think women put themselves in that zone where they can be harassed. What Vidya Balan said when she claimed that she has never ever been sexually harassed at work, is a classic example of victim shaming! Making the victim believe that she brought it upon herself, that somehow she caused it to happen, that she could have walked away from it but she chose not to! Hello, if a woman chooses it, its not harassment and if she is calling it harassment, she did not want or invite this to happen to her. You know what, I have had enough of this privileged self proclaimed feminists! All words, no action! When you doubt not one but hundreds of women who are coming out to share horribly unpleasant stories of their lives, you are shattering the very base of a sisterhood that this society needs to battle such evils.If a woman cannot even stand for another woman, why do you even expect the men to?!

Just couple of days back, i went out for post work dinner with a friend. It was a small roadside joint and halfway through the meal, she tells me that a guy is sitting in an auto right outside ad shagging while looking at her. i turned my head in disbelief , yes there was a guy and there was an auto but he was just sitting there. I smiled at her and tell her she’s getting paranoid, and in just 2 secs i realize i was doubting the victim without full knowledge of what was happening! i turned again and then i saw the thing between his legs, hard and erect. He was not in his senses obviously or who would indulge in such an act in front of other people. But my friend was traumatized through this episode , the guy kept circling the restaurant for us to walk out. Who knows what he wanted to do next, maybe follow us , come up and feel our boobs. I keep my calm and tell my friend to finish the food, who by then had lost her appetite. By the time we pay the bill, the guy had returned for the 4th time. I get up and quickly check the alley and i see no signs of an auto, and I tell my friend that we have to flee before he comes back for the 5th round This is how we finally dodged him and reached home safely. The stories are endless, in Udaipur a drunk uncle groped me when the crowd was out in the streets celebrating Holi. Ever since, i tell women that solo trips are not as romantic as travel blogs will make you believe, there are risks and dangers lurking everywhere. Not all scars need to be physical, the emotional ones are deeper. So yes, to the uninitiated men and women, it can happen in a new city, in your neighborhood, workplace or even home and which is why we need a me too hash tag and we need more women to come out and talk about their experiences.

 

 

My first river rafting experience at the Kundalika river, Kolad, Maharashtra.

I am nowhere close to what can be termed as an adventurous person. So when my friends wanted to go for a Rafting trip, I was still quite unsure whether I should go or not. Next day at work, I googled ‘Kundalika river Rafting pics’ and what showed up was quite scary for me. I was still dwindling between should I or should I not because by then it had started raining heavily in Pune.

Finally the D Day arrived and with groggy eyes at 5 am in the morning we started for Kolad, Maharashtra in a car. It was going to be a 140 km ride.

So, there are 2 batches on Saturday and Sunday , one at 9 am and another at 2 pm. I would suggest taking the morning batch as that looked less crowded and also the sun is not that strong. The rafting charges are 1400 of which 50% you have to pay online and 50% on reaching there.

One raft typically carries 9-10 people plus the lead. Depending on the number of people in your group , you might have to team up with others who are there. Once you are done with the registration, you are led to a place that has a pile of helmets, shafts and life jackets. Pick one of your choice and you are set for the 15 minute instruction by a Nepali guide who can barely speak English.

Once you have been ‘trained’ on the basic rules, it’s time to push your own raft down the river. I have Aqua phobia by the way, fear of deep/rapidly moving water. And there I was in an open raft, holding a shaft on one hand and a plastic rope tied to the raft on the other. The first few minutes was terrifying and I did not know what to expect, I even fell over the person sitting opposite to me once. In the next 10 minutes that followed, I learnt how to shift between following the guide’s instructions and holding on to the raft, basically how to keep myself glued to the raft and not go flying up in the air!!!

The Rafting stretch is about 12 kms and took us around 2 hours to cover that stretch. There are stretches when it was like the lazy river ride I took in an amusement park as a kid, where you just sit or lie down on the raft looking up at the sky and the slow moving current of the river just pushes the boat forward. But there were also places where the currents were scary and at one point( which the guides have amusingly named ‘double fucker’) , you have to duck down inside the raft while water splashes on top of you. The two hours of rafting had alternate periods of heavy rain, light drizzle and sun shining hard on us, nature and its weird ways of enthralling its lovers!

We ended the journey with a hot cup of tea and onion fritters from a dhaba at the finishing point.

Rafting tips! (Preparation for first timers/ amateurs like me :))

  • Do not drink the night before. You need your muscles strong and awake if you actually intend to raft.
  • Wear clothes that would dry off easily.
  • Wear shoes that are water proof. Slippers might flung off .
  • Carry a change of clothes as of course you’re going to be drenched at the end of it.
  • Last but not the least, let go off your fear! You’ll survive this one!

Facebook : KundalikaRafting

 

 

 

 

Whirlwind Trip of Udaipur in 2 days

I sometimes think that it’s kinda sad that being an Indian and having lived in India all through,I have seen very little of it. It was couple of my foreigner friends who would not stop telling me how much they loved Udaipur! With a long weekend in hand, I was sure which place I wanted to spend it at.

In a new place, I start the day early. Nothing like a morning stroll to know the streets, the places to eat, the things to do.

After a sumptuous breakfast at Grass root cafe, I started my first day at Udaipur.

Day 1 : The city has mainly developed it’s touristy areas around 2 lakes, Pichola and Fateh Sagar. S since I opted to stay around Pichola (you should too!), i started my day at Fateh Sagar. Bad decision if you want to go for a boat ride. Just opposite the lake is a maharana Pratap Garden that they’re still developing but I chose to have a look around. You can give this one  a miss!

Saheliyon Ki Bari – My first brush with Royal Architecture. This is a well maintained garden with a complex that houses a beautiful fountain. It provided me the relief I needed from the morning sun.

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Vintage Car Museum- 

Although I do not have much interest in cars, let alone have any knowledge on vintage cars, I still decided to check this place out. What’s a royal kingdom that can’t take pride in it’s collection of old cars and jewellery?!

Well this one is a treasure and also a lesson on the evolution of automobile!

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The City Palace, Udaipur

The main palace of Udaipur, this one is going to take a lot of time to explore if you are really interested in history or if old palaces charm you. Do not make the mistake of taking a guide as they are usually crap. They were my source of entertainment, as I moved through the narrow lanes that sometimes echoed what the guide said to unsuspecting foreigners eager to know Indian history.

The view of Lake Pichola from the top of the palace is drool worthy, so if you can time your visit with sunset then nothing like it. Also you can see almost the whole of Udaipur and it’s matchbox like houses from the top.

There is an ATM right outside if you run out of cash. And if you have to take  a few gifts back home try the shops outside but make sure you bargain well.

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Gangaur Ghat – I ended the day watching the sun set from Gangaur Ghat and let me tell you there are very few places that have such a calming effect on you despite the crowd. I strolled back towards my hostel and decided to sit and sip coffee at one of the cafes by the canal and sink in the feeling of this beautiful city.

Day 2 :

I started the day by taking a walk again till Jagdish Chowk( the main chowk near Lal Ghaat). By now I have started exploring lot of different Cafes. Funnily enough, it’s tough to find Indian cuisine because these cafes cater to people from other countries mostly.

Monsoon Palace

I decide to start the day with the Monsoon palace which is quite far from the city. The auto rickshaw guy charged me 300 bucks for the to and fro ride. I have no clue if he charged me more because I had no other option. The challenge is that you will have to wait for a ride to take you up to the palace which is on top of a mountain and usually there is a long queue. I managed to escape the queue as I was alone and got a seat next to the driver. The uphill ride could have been nice but the dry winters haven’t been very kind to the trees on the hill and so we made our way up through crude nature devoid of any greenery. 17201079_10206655479385300_6521417622717378922_n

As beautiful as the Sajjangarh Fort or the monsoon palace is from outside, it is as disappointing on the inside. Going by its name, I am hoping this ride or the view from the palace will be totally different during the monsoons.

Tired from the Fort visit, I settled for a sumptuous lunch and a quick afternoon nap at my hostel before venturing out again.

Bagore ki Haveli – An old palace by Gangaur Ghat turned to a museum. I did not waste my time going through the various rooms as most of them had scary puppets. I strolled through the porches, the backyard, rested under a tree in the courtyard. This place has a dance show in the evening but I decided to give that a miss.

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I ended the day, dancing to Bollywood Holi numbers on the streets of Udaipur with mates from Backpacker’s Panda (yes, that’s where I stayed and maybe you should check it out too!)

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(All photographs have been clicked by me)

How to make Summers better?

The heat is killing us here in India. For me the months April- May suck and I keep waiting for the rains to come. During these two months I mostly hibernate in the darkness of my room and refuse to go out.

However here are some Crappy Ideas that can actually end up making your summer better.

  •  Go to a beach – I know it’s super hot but then beaches have shacks and shacks have chilled beers and fruity cocktails. And the cool breeze in the evenings cures all summer woes.
  • Dress cheery, summery – To lift up your spirits, dress the part. Wear bright colors, flowy fabrics and florals. This is the time to show off your Sunglass swag! Pair it all with a big tote( that hides your water bottle and umbrella ) and flip flops. Upping the style quotient never hurt anyone.
  • Brunch time – Start your day early, when the sun is not that strong yet and start it with a nice hearty meal. Look for outdoor restaurants that serve your favorite cuisine and just chill out with your friends.
  • Party all night – Get hold of that friend that has a terrace or a garden. And if it is not too humid, light the place up with fairly lights and just hang out with your closest friends, food and drinks. This way you get to sleep through the entire day the next day. No sun, no problem.
  • Learn to make cocktails/ mocktails – Wanna be the perfect host? Please your friends by learning the coolest cocktails/ mocktails and serve them chilled and colorful. Immediate mood lifter this!

 

Not convinced? Then get a good book, draw up your heaviest curtains and just chill in the peace of your room. Happy Summers.

Breaking Myths around Hostels in India.

Till a few years back India had negligible hostels and trying them was never an option. I always looked for a hotel thinking of the hygiene, safety etc. Needless to say, hotels cost a bomb, even the very simple ones would charge you at least 2000 bucks per night.

To be honest, before watching Queen ( a famous Bollywood movie), I did not have any idea about travelers’ hostels. There too the things that came out prominently were that hostels are usually cramped, over crowded, have dirty rooms, pest infested toilets etc.

I stayed in a hostel for the first time in India in my last trip to Udaipur and immediately fell in love with the idea.

Myth 1 : Hostels are cheap and hence dirty.

There wasn’t a spec of dust anywhere. The rooms, the stairs were perfectly cleaned. The bunk beds had very clean white sheets, pillows and blankets. The bathrooms were squeaky clean too.

Myth 2 : Hostels are unsafe places for women.

If you are a solo woman traveler, hostels are the safest actually.

Myth 3 : Shared bathrooms filled with insects and pests.

I stayed in a 6 bed female dorm and when I walked in it was the cleanest shared bathroom I had walked in to , definitely better than  a lot of cheap/moderately priced hotels. And although there were 6 people when I left, It was still in the same condition.

Myth 4 : Food sucks

Its a hostel after all, how good can the food be?!! That’s what I thought too. Of course it wasn’t gourmet but it tasted like homemade food. Which is even better isn’t it?

Myth 5 : A hostel is so cramped, makes you feel like you’re stuck in a dungeon

Well the  dorms are small I agree and their is not always much space left after putting the bunk beds. But who says you have to be locked up in those rooms. There is usually a chill out zone complete with books, music, board games etc.

The best part of staying in a hostel is that you meet a lot of fellow travelers not just from your country but from all over the world. It not only opens your doors to the culture of their country but also gives you insight into the way they see your country.

** In my last trip to Udaipur, I stayed at Backpacker’s Panda and everything I wrote above is based on the experience I had at their Lake Pichola property. Definitely recommended if you are up for meeting new people and having great experiences*