On a sunny afternoon, I sit on the steps outside my room, gazing at the bare, brown mountains and their snow-clad peaks. I’m lost in thought when four kids, wearing maroon sweaters and warm stockings, their heads shaved off, come and sit next to me. Word has gotten around that I speak Hindi, and the curious ones have come to check for themselves. On first glance they look like young boys from the village, so I ask Aap sab bhai hain? (Are you brothers?). They solemnly nod no, point towards the nunnery, and tell me they are nuns.
I often look back upon my life, wondering at what point I went from being a regular, 20-something Indian girl trying to figure life out, to someone who (sometimes) gets paid to travel the world! Well, I’m still the regular, 20-something Indian girl, and I haven’t quite figured life out. Someday, this blog will remind me of all the things I was in my twenties, and if you’ve been following my travels, I’m pretty sure this little list is going to surprise you.
There are some stories that I promised myself I would never write. Like the time I fell into an open drain in Rajasthan. Or when I was convinced a leopard was going to eat me alive. Or a painful trip to a hospital in ‘paradise’. In the crevices of my mind, I’ve been hiding away such memories. But it’s time to pen them, for these are the moments that keep travel real, and have gradually become good stories or memorable lessons:
Somewhere deep within, I feel a quiet longing. When I brace my ailing heart to say goodbye to a place I’ve come to love. When I’m filled with adrenalin by the uncertainty of where the road will take me next. When the soles of my feet hurt from days of traveling. When I feel my feet itch from being in the same place too long. On days good and bad, warm and cold, happy and sad. I feel a quiet longing for home.
One month ago, when I became one of the four worldwide ambassadors of the #WeGoSolo movement and announced a contest in partnership with Hostelbookers, I didn’t know that it was my turn to be inspired. I received over a hundred entries to the contest, and besides sharing your dream solo travel destinations literally in every part of the globe, you shared your stories and how you faced or plan to face your challenges. As the sisterhood of women travelling alone grows from strength to strength, the time has come to announce the contest results (oh yes, the EUR 150 voucher from Hostelbookers.com) and answer the big questions – why women travel alone, and what is on their list of dream solo travel destinations.
It’s been five months since my trip to Bahrain, but so many memories still linger on. Every time I’m at an airport and hear of a flight leaving for Bahrain, I am overcome by the urge to run and catch it. The warmth of its people was the kind that could get me through a cold night. I remember it as the land of a thousand friends.
Back in early 2011, I remember sitting at my cubicle on just another day at work in Singapore. I had pictures of Spiti open before me, while all my pending work lurked away in other tabs. After spending so much money, time and effort on obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a subject I really couldn’t care less about, graduating in the middle of a recession that people wouldn’t stop talking about, and spending the first six months of corporate life in a role involving spreadsheets that made me absolutely miserable, I was finally doing work I actually liked.
While looking for unusual things to do in Vancouver, I asked you on my Facebook page which place I should check out. You voted for ‘the neighborhood where the wilderness meets the sea’. So I headed to Tsawwassen (pronounced Tawasen, means “facing the sea”) in southwest Vancouver, best known for its ferry terminal, and became convinced that it is indeed one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets.
Planning your first solo trip can be a daunting task, exciting as it is. From the best places to travel solo, to where to stay when you are travelling alone, what to pack, and how to prepare, here are practical tips based on my own solo travels. So you’ve decided to stop waiting for company and take the plunge to travel alone. Fantastic! As you make your first foray into the world of solo travel, your mind must be boggling with questions. Where should you go? How should you break it to your family and friends? Should you book everything in advance? What should you pack? Use these ideas to get started:
While in Valencia for Spain’s famous Las Fallas festival, I found my way to Valencia’s best kept secret – La Albufera, a national park on Valencia’s countryside. Home to the largest lake in Spain, rice paddies and potato farms, small fishing settlements, pine forests, and El Saler, one of Valencia’s finest beaches, a trip to Albufera is highly recommended on any list of things to do in Valencia.