My trip to Spain materialized so quickly and unexpectedly, that I really didn’t have enough time to contain the excitement of flying business class on Turkish Airlines, revisiting Turkey enroute, and losing myself on the cobbled streets of Europe again. The start of the trip felt like I was coming a full circle; my tryst with travel blogging took a serious turn on my first Euro trip a little more than a year ago, and this week-long invitation from Spain Tourism meant everything I had worked so hard for and dreamt of, was finally coming true!
I’ve dreamt about Spain ever since I heard my first Spanish song, read Pablo Neruda’s poetry in Spanish, and learnt my first phrase in the language; soñar no cuesta nada, to dream costs nothing. I’ve dreamt about hopping from bar to bar, sampling tapas and listening to the Spanish guitar. Whiling away time with a glass of Sangria at a quaint seaside cafe. Cycling along the cobbled streets of a small Spanish town, thanks to Woody Allen. Driving along its gorgeous coast, because Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. And falling head over heels in love with the “Spanish” way of life. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t dreamt about ogling at its beautiful men 😉 So when the Tourism Office of Spain, Turkish Airlines and UNESCO World Heritage Cities of Spain, invited me on a week long trip to Barcelona, Ibiza and Tarragona, I had to pinch myself several times. Schengen visa woes ended yesterday. I’ve decided to extend my stay by another couple of weeks, during which I intend to go down south to Andalucia, and experience more …
This is the 4th post of my Travel Secrets series. It is a common assumption that someone who travels as much and as often as I do, is a backpacker. And that as per the conventional definition of a backpacker, I carry only a backpack when I travel, I get by with the lowest possible budget, I stay in hostels, I spend a large amount of my time interacting with fellow backpackers, and I swear by a guidebook (most likely the lonely planet). While I have nothing against such a style of travelling, and in fact have a certain sense of admiration for people who travel that way, I have a confession to make: I’m not a backpacker.
I wrote this story for The Hindu. We maneuver our way through Northern Turkey’s gorgeous countryside, across alpine meadows sprinkled with the colors of spring, past cattle grazing on fields of wild purple grass, and alongside carpets of blooming sunflowers. It’s been eight hours since we boarded the bus for the famous Sumela monastery in eastern Karadeniz, our last stop in the Black Sea region of Turkey, before we head into Kapadokya’s underground cities. When the sun set an hour back, it took with it the pleasure of gazing out the bus window at the majestic landscapes, and the monotony of the dark quickly set in.
I wrote this story for Tourism Malaysia and Travel Wire Asia. Few travel adventures in my life have come close to the experience of climbing the twentieth highest peak in Asia – Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia’s half of Borneo. It was exciting, daunting, exhilarating and surreal, in that order. It was where I turned 21. After a month of light training on the steps of the 12 floors of our apartment, my brother & I flew to Borneo, and arrived at the Timpohon Gate, located 90 km from Kinabalu National Park. We didn’t know then, but this national park is reason enough to visit Eastern Malaysia; beaches, islands, wildlife, the region has it all. After a compulsory briefing, we were assigned our guide, a small-built lady called Yeta, who I would come to know and admire during the course of our climb. We were each handed a walking stick, which we looked ridiculously at first, and later thanked our stars for carrying.
Itchy feet and an Indian passport are a deadly combination, but you already know that. If you’ve travelled, or intended to travel much out of india, you are only too familiar with toiling over lengthy visa applications and the sleepless nights before a visa gets approved. Not to mention, pre-planning a holiday to the smallest detail – where you’ll stay, how many days to each city or town, when you’ll fly back – can suck the excitement out of any trip, unless of course you love planning. I know I don’t; I’ve found my greatest adventures in the most impulsive of trips, and it may as well be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is no secret that I was blown away by Mauritius; who wouldn’t, with its stunning blue coastlines, charming mountain hideouts, and picturesque sugarcane fields? Yet I constantly found myself craving a younger version of the island, when chunks of its coastline were not cordoned off by resorts, and maps of the island didn’t come laid out with a platter of restaurants and activities. I wanted a Mauritius that could let me be impulsive and discover its treasures serendipitously.