In retrospect, I consider myself incredibly lucky for the opportunity to study and live abroad at the age of 17. I grew up in a protective middle class family in the small bubble town of Dehradun. In search of my independence, I applied to and got accepted in a university abroad, and flew away with a big study loan and bigger dreams. I remember being extremely nervous about traveling out of the country all by myself. There are too many myths circulated among Indian families, and after years of traveling, I hope to simplify it for you: 1) How to choose your first foreign destination? My advice: Don’t follow the crowds. I’ve met many travelers who swarm to museums abroad just because everyone else does, even though they don’t particularly enjoy art or history. Choose a destination based on your personal interests, check the weather during your travel dates, research the visa process for Indian citizens, and find someplace within your budget. It’s okay to miss popular attractions if they don’t appeal to you; find your bliss and don’t feel judged. Remember …
It’s easy to spend big money in the big apple. But if you’re like me, you probably want to indulge in some unusual cuisines and be on your way to Central America; I leave in 24 hours for Guatemala! In my three weeks in NYC, I’ve had my fair share of fun with tons of free things to do, free events and free activities to choose from. Take my list and go, and be kind to that wallet of yours:
I’m sitting on a window sill as I write this, feeling the cool breeze on my face and watching the incessant rains spring new life into the wilderness that surrounds my (temporary) home in Goa. The joy of driving, walking and just being in the monsoons is not mine alone. The village folk are out in their carpet-like rice paddies, tilling the land in their colorful ponchos, humming along cheerful tunes at the late monsoon arrival. It took me a few days of being here to slip into the susagade mode of Goa, feeling content with life, appreciating the little things like hot tea and freshly-baked Goan poi on rainy evenings, happy to gaze out at the wild beauty that surrounds me.
Earlier this week, I arrived in my hometown Dehradun, to find a big box waiting for me to open. I was overwhelmed to find a sparkling trophy inside, engraved with my name – a physical testimony to the “Best Travel Blogger” award that I won at the Indian Blogger Awards 2013, held by Indiblogger! A big THANK YOU to everyone for your support, especially those who spared a moment to write a testimonial for this blog.
I first caught the travel bug as a college student in Singapore. I had very little money, lots of spare time, and all of Southeast Asia to explore. I would pool in my savings with friends and try to find cheap ways to travel far and long. The tables turned when I landed a job with the Singapore Tourism Board, one that left me rich (relatively speaking) but at the mercy of weekends, public holidays, and a kind boss who understood my need to head out every chance I got.
My first memory in the Seychelles is standing on the deck of a ferry, with the wind caressing my hair and the seagulls whispering my name, as I counted the shades of blue in the vast ocean before me. I slowly realized it was a pointless task. Over the last three days, I’ve rekindled my love affair with the Indian Ocean, spent lazy afternoons on a hammock, snorkeled into the underwater world, rediscovered the goodness of Creole curries, and settled into the susagade island life. These are my first impressions of Seychelles.
Over 2 years ago, when I quit my corporate job to follow my dream to travel the world, I didn’t imagine I would one day land up in a township dedicated to the same ideology. Auroville is it. A place where people come to live their dreams. I’ve come across countless stories; of a market researcher turned organic farmer; a policeman turned village school headmaster; a corporate honcho turned teacher; a teacher turned mechanic. It’s a place to ditch the life you’ve lived, and live the life you’ve always wanted, even if for a few days; here your conviction to follow your passion holds more value than your salary or title (Read: Auroville: Utopia or Something Like it).
Back when I was a Delhi-dweller, I always felt a tad bit jealous of the way people in Bombay talked about the city; the je ne sais quoi, the laid back attitude, the cosmopolitan food. Every time an opportunity took me to Bombay, I indulged in the city. I talked to street vendors peddling their wares, to baristas in coffee shops, to the cabbies I rode with, and every time, the chalta hai way of life in the “city of dreams” shone through. 24 hours might be too short to experience that spirit of Bombay, but they certainly can give you a flavor of the city, literally and figuratively. These recommendations are compiled from my various trips, and focus on the western suburbs of the city:
As a child, I always dreamt of being a writer. While my friends fantasized about being astronauts and detectives, I wished I could weave stories that would give wings to the imaginations of those who read them. I wrote often, but mostly for myself or on the many blogs I started before this one. It was only after I quit my job and moved back to India in 2011 that the dream of seeing my words in print revisited me.
In an effort to keep costs low, I always prefer to apply for international visas myself, torturous as that can sometimes be. After three painful Schengen visa applications, applying for a visa to Canada, even with my Indian passport, was almost a breeze! The visa requirements for Indians applying for a Canadian tourist visa are simple, and the process, facilitated by VFS in most of India, is efficient. I scored a multiple entry 7-year visa for Canada, and here are my tips to get you entry into the maple leaf country: