All posts filed under: Offbeat

cuicocha lake ecuador, solo travel ecuador

My First Impressions of Ecuador.

My tryst with Ecuador started even before I boarded my flight from New York to Quito two weeks ago. I think it was 2014 and I was off on my first trip to Central America (Guatemala) then. The elderly Ecuadorian gentleman sitting next to me on the flight, wearing a black hat above his ponytail, smiled warmly as I tried to practice my rusty Spanish with him. When we got off in Miami to change flights, he waited in the departure area to hug me goodbye. Ecuador is your kind of place, he said, as we parted. I had no plans of visiting Ecuador then, and quickly forgot about him, his kind eyes and his wrinkled smile. Until I nervously boarded my flight two weeks ago – my first time in South America, alone, a newbie vegan. I saw him, again and again, in elderly men, wearing black hats with long ponytails, with an understated elegance, on the cobbled streets of Quito and in indigenous Andean villages. And his words sort of sum up my first impressions of the country: …

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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, …

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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. …

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Go to The Caucasus Mountains, Find Your Soul, Set it Free.

When I see a mountain, I’m not gripped by the desire to conquer it. I hope instead, that the mountain will conquer me. That walking on its slopes, I’ll hear my own heartbeat. That in its open meadows, my thoughts will flow. That in its magnanimity, I’ll realize just how tiny a place I occupy. That it will reveal myself, honest and unmasked, to me. And so it was with the Caucasus mountains of Kazbegi in northeast Georgia. *** Among the wildflowers of summer and mist-laden valleys I wandered, not knowing what I was searching for, yet finding it in the raw beauty that encompassed me. I found comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one drawn by the inexplicable notion of solitude. 700 years ago, a monk seeking solitude in these very mountains, built the Gergeti Trinity Church in the daunting backdrop of Mount Kazbeg, and it is in his conviction that I found mine.   We walked in the rain, through the clouds, up steep paths, balancing on small rocks, seeking shelter under stray …

cultural routes europe

Retracing the Journey of Europe’s Forgotten Refugees.

Having grown up in a protective Indian family and been on the road for almost four years, I like to think I know a thing or three about freedom. Breaking away from the shackles of a cubicle-bound life was easy. Breaking away from the expectations of society continues to be a constant battle – and one that I’m not the first or last one to face. Today, I’m hopping over to Western Europe to hike through the secret trails of the Huguenots and Waldensians – religious refugees who were once banished from their home for rebelling against the popular religion; they walked through the mountains, valleys and vineyards of France, Switzerland and Germany in search of freedom. I hope to follow in their footsteps, find solace in their monasteries and truth in their wines, and bring you stories from a region that hasn’t been discovered by most. Why is this trip special? This trip is a milestone in my journey as a travel blogger. It will be my first campaign with iAmbassador, perhaps the most successful travel bloggers collective of our times and one that I’ve …

Kazbegi, Kazbegi photos, Stepantsminda

If You’re Looking for the “Shire”, Come to Georgia!

Somewhere deep in the Caucasus mountains, I sip a glass of fine Georgian wine, watching the clouds playfully swirl around the snow-clad Mount Kazbeg and my gregarious Georgian hosts lovingly tending to their vegetable garden below. I’ve spent my days indulging in the country’s sumptuous gastronomy, drinking mineral water right off the spring, lounging in my remote mountain home as though nothing else in the world matters. The mist descends on our postcard village of Stepantsminda, a woman in a traditional black dress carries fresh lavash bread from the neighbourhood bakery, the valley echoes with the laughter of men, children and horses.  This isn’t the Hobbiton trail in New Zealand, but the closest you can get to life in the Shire (Lord of the Rings style) – where people live beautifully, eat well and be merry. Two weeks ago, I landed in Tbilisi, Georgia’s photogenic capital city, with a friend, a one month visa and no fixed plans. The rugged mountains, chilled out locals, Soviet-era homes, underground wine taverns, artsy cafes and quirky cultural vibe instantly cast a spell on me. I …