Year: 2015

How I’m Funding My Adventures Around the World Through Travel Blogging.

I started 2015 on a private island in Panama, with 150 rupees ($2.5 USD) in my account. That’s the lowest my account balance has ever been since I quit my corporate job over four years ago. It was just one of those weeks when every single payment I was expecting got delayed. I had no idea how I would pay for my meals and transfers – they didn’t accept credit cards and my alternate debit card wasn’t working – but instead of panicking, I immersed myself in the Nat Geo-like setting of my hideout (think sting rays doing backflips, dolphins swimming with their kids, bioluminescent algae lighting up the waters). As luck would have it, by the time I checked out and went to an ATM with my host, one of my payments had *just* come in! PHEW. The life of a travel blogger (or a freelancer)  is just as adventurous financially as it is in other, more envy-evoking, ways. Since I last wrote about how I afford my travels, three things have changed: I no longer run (and hence …

Could Dying Be Beautiful? Fall Colors in New York City.

Before I landed on a cold, rainy night in New York City last September, my mind was filled with images of the crowded flashy streets of Times Square, the Statue of Liberty raising its torch to welcome scores of tourists, and well, Hollywood-inspired conversations. Those pre-conceived notions surprisingly turned out to be true, but away from bustling midtown and “touristy” New York sights, I found a world I loved so much that I came back for seconds – the world of fall colors! On the upper west side of Manhattan, I found my haunt near Riverside park. At first, it was just somewhere to get away, hear birds chirping in the trees, admire old church spires reaching out to the sky. Somewhere to glimpse a fiery red sunset above the Hudson River and wave to the night lights of New Jersey across. Then came fall, almost like a slow death, only more beautiful than any of my notions of dying. When we humans wither towards the end of our time on earth, we become bleak and sad. But not nature. At …

Awe-Inspiring Hideouts in Uttarakhand to Tune Out of Life and Tune Into the Mountains.

Deep in the mountains of Uttarakhand, I discovered a secret. I first experienced it while sitting with an old, back-bent, wrinkled-face lady under the shade of a tree, as she waited more than three hours for a passing car to hitch-hike with. I began to comprehend it while walking alongside two young, shy girls on their way home from school. And it dawned on me like an epiphany on my hike through isolated village homes, set miles away from the next house and the road. What you and I might describe as idling around, is an art that lends itself to contentment here – the art of doing nothing. In our always connected lives, it has become rare to break away from technology and free ourselves to do nothing, let our thoughts flow and tune out of the mental baggage we carry around. In the mountains, it’s a way of life. This post is about places where I’ve let my mind wander in the backdrop of the snow-capped Himalayas, and reconnect with nature and myself. I’m only highlighting environmentally-committed accommodations in Uttarakhand, because I would hate to …

Culturally Intriguing Ways to Experience Europe.

Even before my first trip to Europe over four years ago, I imagined whiling away time in charming medieval villages, people-watching in quaint little cafes and soaking up gorgeous landscapes on long summer days. I was lucky enough to live that dream again and again, from falling irrevocably in love with Gargnano on Lake Garda (Italy) to a surreal alpine encounter in Chamonix (France). But it wasn’t until I was invited by iAmbassador and Visit Europe to experience Europe differently, that I started to see beyond the obvious charm of the continent, into its very heart. Meet the “Cultural Routes” – 24 themed trails across Europe, where along with the lure of country life, you can travel through time and learn about the continent’s fascinating history in unconventional ways. I’ve traversed only one cultural route so far, and shortlisted the others for future trips: Hiking: Camino de Santiago I’ve heard of the adventures of three women who’ve walked the Camino – alone – and while part of me wants to do it, part of me is not sure I’d survive! This 800km pilgrim trail, …

Meeting The Real Nomads: The Bedouins of Wadi Finan in Jordan.

Under a million stars in the pitch-black sky and the occasional cry of the desert fox, I let the cool breeze lull me to sleep. Surrounding me are the stark, barren, make-your-eyes-sore mountains of Wadi Finan, and in the distance, a community of Bedouins have pitched their tents. The constellations above me are their compass, a half-dry stream their source of water, and nomadism the only way of life they know. It took us four sweaty hours in the old car of our Jordanian friend from the mountains of Orjan, then a bumpy four-wheel drive to arrive here. We left the last traces of civilization behind when we turned off the Dead Sea highway that connects the country from north to south, and were left awestruck by the lonely desert landscapes that these nomads choose to call home. Why would anyone choose to live here? That was the only thought swirling in my mind when we entered the earthy Feynan Ecolodge – an off-the-grid lodge managed and run entirely by the Bedouin people who live in this community. …

Contest Alert: Travel Anywhere in The World With Lufthansa!

In my four years of traveling, I’ve met a lot of people, made some friends, lost some too and said many goodbyes. Making unexpected connections with people I meet in remote corners of the world is at the same time, blissful and heartbreaking. Deep within, I know that no matter what, my itchy feet will keep me moving. So when Lufthansa announced their Diwali contest, it immediately struck a chord with me. It’s the perfect excuse to reconnect with friends in another part of the world, with a chance to win flight tickets to go see them or have them come visit you! What do you win? 9 lucky winners will win pairs of return flight tickets to any country connected by the Lufthansa network! That means you could be going to see friends / family anywhere from Southeast Asia to South America, and they could be coming to see you. How’s that for an excuse to get back in touch with everyone we’ve met on our travels? As part of this contest, Lufthansa has also partnered with Help Alliance to support their projects …

Svaneti georgia, shivya nath, the shooting star blog

Easy Ways to Take Awesome Photos When You Travel Solo.

When I travel alone and post an introspective photo of myself gazing into a magnificent horizon beyond, I often get asked if a photographer is shadowing me. The answer is no, but thanks for the compliment! Those dreamy pictures rarely do justice to the overwhelming feeling of solitude, in a place of raw beauty. Indeed, some of my earliest travels, like to pristine Bunaken in Indonesia and remote north-western Vietnam went completely uncaptured. I eventually decided to start taking photographs on my travels in the hope that it will lure others to kick their comfort zone and go exploring. I now use my beloved iPhone 6 and handy Sony Cybershot RX II on the road, and here are my tips: Remotely control your camera with a smartphone This is my favorite way to get an introspective shot. I connect my camera using its internal wifi to my iPhone, so I can see exactly how I look in the frame and have no time limit. It works brilliantly, so much so that I prefer getting my own photos even when I’m …

Things I Learned From Running and Selling My Travel Startup.

This morning, with an argile (shisha) by my side and the sound of the Muezzin’s call to prayer in my ears, I signed off on the final transfer-of-ownership documents of India Untravelled – the responsible travel startup I co-founded in 2012. My shaded courtyard on a hill above the old city affords me an uninterrupted view of the barren cityscapes of Amman, reminding me why I decided to sell: In the three years of running India Untravelled, traveling for two weeks with little to no connectivity, like I did in the surreal desert wadis of Jordan, was out of the question. The irony is that I had started India Untravelled for the same reason that I decided to sell it – to live like a nomad. Here’s what I’ve learnt from my brief entrepreneurial journey: Starting up is not as hard as they tell you. I spent half my time in college learning how to write the perfect business plan, pitch for venture capital, do SWOT analyses, bootstrap, draft marketing strategies and press releases, and network …