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Travel Tales

Maiden trips could also mean falling in love with yourself

I had always dreamt of travelling solo to far fetched places to experience how that adrenaline rush really feels like. After getting into the corporate world, I would hear stories of my coworkers’ travels and how the trip transformed them. Ever since, travelling to unknown land became the first and most desired item on my bucket list. However, I always knew that things to do from my bucket list would involve a lot of explanation and confidence building all way as I hail from a very conservative family and have  friends who are more skeptical to travel.

Times later, I learn about women only travel community—WanderingJane, who they are and how they successfully cater to various needs of female travelers. Their concept further fueled my desire to travel. Moving fast forward, I was excited to travel but then had this fear of managing it all by myself.

I was doubtful if I will be able to manage travelling solo for the first time and that too to an international destination.  Thankfully I met our local host at airport itself and her synergy was contagious. I had the time of my life on the trip and now have memories that I can always look back on, to remind myself about the good times. The majestic view of the mountain peak and pathways, fun bicycle rides through paddy fields, first time underwater aquatic life experience with scuba diving, mesmerizing sunrise and sunsets view at beach, late night walks and some life changing conversations with fellow travelers  on empty roads.

Being a first-time traveler, I had many apprehensions about almost everything. The moment the journey started, all of them began to fade away and the only thing that stayed permanent was my smile. All 5 days and 6 nights were so well planned. There were no linguistic barriers as most people understood English and for rest, our wing-woman, our local host was approachable. Never for once did I feel being stranded in an unknown territory. From booking adventure trails and local theater shows to taxi rides, all was done and included in our initial expenses. Bali proved more economical and less place hunter experience.

I got a good blend of solo me-time to introspect and energy punch  while taking a hands-on experience with scuba diving, trekking on volcano sites, learning to surf by the beach and other activities. These activities also developed sense of team building and leadership skills in me. Our ice breaker sessions with fellow travelers ended up connecting me with them in a way that we are soul sisters now! Fortunately, I not only got a chance to bond with people from India but also with people from Brazil. Learning and practicing yoga with the  group was not only good fun, but was also a self-esteem and confidence building experience.

Amidst all the talking, one thing got missed out. I packed 3 Cameras—a polaroid, KTM and DSLR. Not to forget my own hand phone. Despite photo storage on so many devices, I still had crisis to store memories. To capture the true beauty of Bali and the memories of my first trip, all day photography proved less. Even though I am not much of a foodie, but the local delicacies did interest and activate my taste buds a lot.

After this journey came to an end, I felt more empowered and I could feel people around me were looking up to me. Re-living experiences from my maiden trip make me yearn for another solo trip already. I can’t wait to make more memories with WanderingJane !

In the end, we only regret chances we did not take, so forget everything and travel solo for once. Take your own leap of faith!

#UnforgettableExperienceAssured #BeautifulBali

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Travel Tales

Ladakh will transform you as a person – make a trip !

Leh- Ladakh makes to all travelers’ bucket list and certainly is one of the most fascinating destinations in the world.

Ladakh is not just a destination, its an experience in itself. The magnificence of the mountains, harshness of the roads less travelled, glory of the blue skies, brilliance of the changing landscapes and the mood swings of the weather makes you wanting more. So much so, that almost every corner of the place just ensures that you fall in love with it. This picturesque romance demands making a trip to Leh-Ladakh an annual affair.

Below are a few of the things you will relate to post this trip, that is sure to transform you into a brand new self.

  • Humility
The stark beauty of Ladakh and the forces of nature from the limitless horizon will leave you feeling forever humble.  You will appreciate how happiness comes from simple emotions.
  • Passion
“Journey is more important than the destination.”
Well, travelling across Ladakh will make you feel this, quite literally. You will understand that life is better when you bring passion into everything you do.
  • Courage
Battling through inhospitable terrain, unpredictable weather and arduous roads will        certainly toughen you up and prepare you to stand strong against all odds.
  • Respect
Gorgeous lands, beautiful flowers, ice walls, purity of the mountains, cloudless blue skies and the nature running wild will fill your heart with admiration. Interacting with the locals will make you realize how they find peace and happiness in minimalism.

You will respect people, the nature and of-course yourself more than ever.

  • Gratitude
A lake with 50 shades of blue, mountains with so many colours, the miracles of the magnetic hill and a cold desert, the pure magic of the confluence of rivers and the simplicity of the locals will make you more thankful and content.
  • Adaptability
You will come across travelers from all over the world, intermingling with so many people from different cultures and experiences will make you more receptive to other’s ideas. Living in basics and in unconventional places will make you easy-going and will open your mind.
  • Self belief & Renewal
Lastly and most importantly the moments you breathe in this paradise will stay with you forever. The aura of Ladakh and the energies around are bound to make you feel rejuvenated and restored.

Don’t wait, book your tickets, your metamorphosis awaits! 

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Trips & Tricks

11 things every female solo traveler must do in Bali

Bali, Indonesia is a complete destination unto itself and caters to all of ones’ holiday needs. Whether you are someone who loves to relax by the beach and enjoy a sun downer or someone who is an outdoor buff, Bali is the perfect holiday destination for you.

Here are top eleven ways you can experience the best of Bali as a solo female traveler.

  • Hit a beach shack at Seminyak Beach

Bali has the most amazing sunsets, nothing like a gorgeous and relaxed sun-down at one of the best beaches in Bali. Most shacks play live music every day and the same coupled with a picture perfect sky makes this a must do in Bali.

  • Take a Surf lesson at Kuta Beach

Surfing is the most loved sport at any beach destination. We recommend taking a surf lesson with a reputed provider at Kuta Beach, an entire section of the beach is dedicated to beginner surfers. This one-hour session will leave you feeling gratified and confident like never before.

  • Yoga – at the beach

Bali is a popular destination for Yogis from all over the world, the yoga vibe is contagious and is a great energy booster. Nothing like a soothing 45 min yoga session just before the beautiful sunset.

  • Scoopy Ride

Bali has narrow roads and traffic that can blow you off a little. If you can ride a gearless two-wheeler, rent their popular ‘scoopy’ and ride around the town. In case you can’t ride one you can go as pillion on the local scoopy taxis.

Besides beating the traffic this is also the best way to enjoy the beach town breeze.

  • Active Volcano Trek

Mt. Batur sunrise trek offers you one of the most magical and unforgettable sunrises you will ever see. Scaling this active volcano in the wee hours of night/ morning will certainly make you feel like you are on “Top of the World”

  • Hit one of the popular beach clubs

Potato Head and KuDeta both beach clubs offer the best sunset views of Bali. An infinity pool to relax in, comfortable lounge set up, great music and awesome cocktails, you must find time to visit at least either of the two.

  • Cycle through the paddy fields

One of the most beautiful ways to enjoy the breath-taking paddy fields is to cycle your way through the interiors of Bali. You don’t need to be a fitness freak for this, the cycling is mostly downhill.

  • Ubud Art Market

A mix of culture, handicrafts, hand made goods and art, Ubud Art market is worth a visit.

Be sure to negotiate and you might find a perfect bargain.

  • Kecak Dance at Uluwatu temple

A trip to Bali is incomplete without a visit to one of the temples. Kecak dance ( a depiction of the Indian Ramayan ) is a must watch if you visit the Uluwatu temple.

  1. Scuba Dive

If you are a little adventurous do take out some time to discover the deep blue. Bali is a great destination for beginner divers.

  1. Spa it out!

Last but perhaps the most important, it’s a must to take a Spa in Bali. Nothing like a perfect Balinese Massage – Pure Indulgence.

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Travel Tales

The Royal Affair – Girls and their Royal love for the Enfield

Ever since I can remember, I have always identified the “dug-dug” of an Enfield with my dad’s Dispatch Rider bringing him the day’s file work for review. While the DR used to wait in attention (such is the discipline of our Defense folk – you wonder if they are even breathing), my brother and I, like many other kids, would often run and struggle to get on top of this royal being (pun intended) and pretend to be the two most important people in the world. Many a times I tried to get it off the stand by myself and invariably would get buried under its weight. Every time that happened, I could feel it smirk. Every time I crossed it in the MT (that’s Army for a parking lot –  Mechanical Transport), the temperature around would just dip. Such has been my relation with Her Highness – The Royal Enfield.

But when love and hate collide, the impact reverberates. It has been reverberating for a really long time now, year after year. And marrying an adventure enthusiast has not helped the case. On top of that, finding ardent riders in my best friends has brought back the memories of those years growing up, straining my ears at 4 PM in anticipation of that rhythmic beat pulling in front of our house; when the Enfield looked so much bigger, so intimidating, and I would just be in awe, a puny ant in love with this beautiful giant always playing hard to get. I have grown up trying to keep these memories suppressed. But as that guy we read about in Physics said, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Please go look up the antonym for “suppressed”.

Since the time I figured out the responsibilities of life, I have never been an advocate of taking risks, big or small. I don’t see the adventure in uncertainty. I always have with me: a plan, a backup plan and a backup for the backup plan. And maybe as an excuse for being shunned by Her Highness as a kid, I had started associating riding as plain STUPID. But this perception was soon to change, owing to Road Survivors, and owing to my notorious peeps associated with this enigmatic bunch of riders. You can never prepare enough for the experiences you are about to have, the people you are about meet and you definitely never can be prepared enough to meet JoJo and his merry Survivors. Whenever I meet JoJo, in my head he transforms from his usual soft demeanor to someone straight out of a mafia book – sitting on his Thunderbird with all the world’s bling, he is the sugar daddy of the riding world to me. Even though I feel like a misfit amongst them, I feel like I am trying too hard and maybe to them I am just a wannabe. Nevertheless, I have had the opportunity to observe these guys very closely, and just being around them feels like therapy. They play with uncertainty, but they play safe. They ride into the wilderness, but they are never arrogant about it. Yes they are loud, like any other riding group, and yes they have skulls and leather all over themselves, yet they keep each other’s negative tendencies in check. I have witnessed their legendary “Meets”, and am always stunned at their meticulousness. If there were ever any kind of Green Belt, Black Belt certifications for surviving it, these guys would be top notch. And theirs is a responsible bunch too; forever ready to ride for a cause. Their contingency plans, be it for a breakfast run or when they traverse the length and breadth of the nation, make one realize that here is a grounded bunch who will never mess with destiny.

I am not a Road Survivor, not yet, and my blood rushes when I hear the stories of their jacket patches, the history of the various scratches on their bikes, the tales of the hinterland that gets etched on their speedometers, because I want those stories to be mine and I can’t wait enough.

Here is a confession – I am not the kind to keep regrets. Lessons of life, yes, but never regrets. However, not riding enough will definitely be a regret that I may live with. I have been an aspiring rider for a long time now and I don’t quite know which one of these rides/events will be the last straw for me.

For Now… Dear Enfield – Let’s get this party started. Who am I, you ask? Not that you need it, but I am just a girl here to help you accessorise !

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Travel Tales

Why travel solo?

Every once in a while, i feel like getting away from the chaos. Chaos can be different for everyone- for me its my household responsibilities. I feel like getting away from all this, only once in a while

I am otherwise a very well read and educated girl who was working in the IT sector for 5 years before i married the love of my life and decided to focus on the house part of the ecosystem.

Not that is was a one sided decision or my hubby suggested it or anything, its just me that thought about taking a break and being the engine of the new ecosystem we had built. Now i wish to take a break from this “break”.

My first solo travel was not very hard to conceive as my husband is a very free minded person himself and was in the least happy about me doing something new in life for myself. I decided to go to a quaint home-stay in Kerala and read a couple of books. I took along Tuesdays with Morrie and The three sisters. One of these was a re-read, you can guess which one

While i was arranging my logistics and the household’s logistics while i would be away- i read up about this Belgian yogi who was travelling throughout India at that time. It fascinated me how this woman from a society at least 30 years ahead of our’s, was so interested in bought-in in the yogi lifestyle that she embraced it full-time. She had been travelling across the world and practicing and teaching yoga for over 7 years now, so it couldn’t have been infatuation- I had to try it out!

I contacted her through her blog and enrolled for a 4 days yoga-essence lesson. Yay! my vacation had a purpose now.

To be honest it was a lot of work to make this trip happen, book the home-stay, find out and arrange for a transport from the airport till the home-stay, things to carry, chargers, books, clothes, yoga clothes, non-yoga clothes, find out other things to do, buy a lonely planet, pretend to read it, so on and so forth. It did not matter though, I was doing it all for MYSELF.

On the day of the flight, i felt quite free even before i embarked on it! funny!, but i thought to myself, when was the last time i did anything for myself. I have done huge projects for the company, not so huge but equally tedious ones for the house, never ever have I done anything JUST FOR MYSELF. as if everything else vanished from my equation- the house, the husband, the responsibilities, the pressure, the DULLNESS of life in general. I felt happy.

The home-stay was really sweet and small, it had 4 rooms and a very large central veranda. It was quite a bit from the airport but the taxi was comfortable and the location was nestled between coconut trees and I could faintly hear the waves crash- so I knew it was close to the beach. I was rather glad that it was not on the beach, because usually that is such a farce. You can do hardly anything on the beach at the night but have to constantly bear the loud waves crashing, i have never liked it.

The host was just enough involved and detached at the same time that i still felt alone. That is what i wanted !

I read up both my books during the 4 days and the yogi was fantastic. I have to admit it was funny learning yoga from a non-Indian, to endure the life lessons in that acquired English accent- god it took me a while to not smirk. But the feeling of being alone, all by myself and surrounded by these girls who were also looking for a similar freedom i suppose, was really a multiplying factor. None of us really talked much to each other besides pleasantries. Few of the girls really got together on their interest of photography.

The whole environment felt something like it would in an Osho ashram i suppose. Never been to one, but i suppose a place where everyone is for the common goal but do not get into chitter-chatter about other worldly things and just remain focused.

The 4 days DID NOT go through in a breeze and i am glad they didn’t. I could soak in the fact that here I was, at a wonder place, doing what id rather do everyday and learning a new thing which Id have never done otherwise. It was a truly fruitful trip.

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Travel Tales

My first trip

When I announced my most awaited Kovalam trip to my friends and family, I almost got a synchronized reaction from all, “Who are you going with?”  I proudly replied, “I am going on my own, by myself!”  My statement resulted in a loud discouraging voices “Wow that is very brave of you!” “Aren’t you scared?” “Will it be safe?” “Alone? I could never do that.”

It’s 2016. Women have made strides in all walks of life. But even the friends,

whom I considered to be modern and forward-thinking, questioned my decision to travel alone.

As a single 26-year-old living in in a metro, I was almost tired of seeing my friends with their significant others post photos of their incredible journeys together. Every time tried to get a group together for a trip, I failed, for the dates didn’t match or spending capabilities were starkly different. My well settled happy couple friends almost felt bad for me for I had no one to travel with.

I’ve been quite independent all throughout and would often go for movies by myself or ended up in some or the other weekend class.  I somehow mustered up the courage and extended my weekend one hour yoga class to a four day yoga retreat. I have to admit, it was daunting once I landed there and had my inhibitions in spending four days with complete strangers. After all what would I be doing all alone?

Travelling Solo does not mean you are travelling alone, Yoga or any other activity, brings together a set of like-minded people and that’s the first filter for a trip! Isn’t it?  Activities are more than star signs, you instantly connect and bond. My fears vanished somewhere in the dark alleys of the society.

I met travelers from all over the world, we sang, danced, had the best wine, shared our stories, shopped and above all had the most soulful experience while we started our day with a YOGA session on the beach. I made new friends, some soul sisters perhaps. I felt empowered like never before and I was not alone.

To all the ladies who often face the same dilemma as I did in the beginning, my advice to you is to take the plunge. I channelize the Zen from my trip whenever I feel stressed out. It’s true, wanderlust is indeed contagious. I’ve already booked my next trip.

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Trips & Tricks

Items to carry on solo trips

What items to carry and what could be left behind was one of the most important, critical yet frustrating experience for me. So after my 5th solo trip, i created a list of my own. It used to have a lot more items in the beginning, but eventually i trimmed it to the bare essentials, rest I could manage during the trip from time to time.

I have carried some very funny stuff in the beginning,

like one time i thought a hair dryer was worth carrying along, or a travel iron for that matter

Keep a designated day bag or a carry on for everyday- This is the one you will carry along locally after reaching your destination also-

  1. Passport
  2. Transit tickets and passes (air, rail, road)
  3. Your ID card
  4. Your medical card with emergency contact number
  5. Extra photographs (There are a lot of forms which could be filled out there)
  6. Your cash and prepaid cards
  7. Your field notebook with research
  8. Emergency phone numbers for local authorities- The nearest police station and its contact number, the nearest hospital and its contact number.
  9. Travel money belt
  10. Medical kit

This will be a series of articles, next up I will list out the essential clothing items to carried along according to me.

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Trips & Tricks

Medical kit for travels

So I started on lists but I feel this one deserves a separate list-

Medical emergencies or irritants can be the biggest spoiler in a trip and since you are traveling alone, you do not want any irritant to spoil your trip even a tiny bit. Assuming you are not a health hazard to yourself and to the society, these are all the items you might need to protect yourself from unnecessary illness and keep you going on enjoying your solo time.

  1. Pain Killer: For any untoward pain or a tiny injury that might happen while getting off the train or flight or hauling your luggage across the pathway of a dream villa. You don’t want any tiny injury or pain to spoil your trip.
  2. Balm: For any muscle pain that might irritate you.
  3. Antibiotics and anti-allergens: In case you get an infection from any water source or from something you eat.
  4. Band-aids: for the unavoidable bruises if any. Somehow i always end up getting bruised on my treks and camping trips.
  5. Metrogyl: for the stomach cures J
  6. Soframycyn: Skin cream

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Trips & Tricks

How to choose where to go?

How to choose the next vacation’s destination?

That is how my mind runs when I am thinking about my next destination…

I usually have the most confusion and trouble getting through this part of my trips.

I am always fighting between the famous places where I want my friends and family to see I went and the places which are quaint, 

not so glamorous, but have that epic activity which I would love to do- like scuba diving. I fell in love with scuba diving on my trip to the Andaman Islands 4 years ago.

It was difficult mentally to strap on that BCD and think that it would be fine meandering through the water with all that weight around me. It was a huge mental block to ignore that fact that down underwater 10-15 Mtrs, I will have only the pipe attached to mouth to keep me alive.

But thankfully the 1 day of practicing inside a pool really takes out the fear of it and makes you much more comfortable knowing that there is a backup mouth piece and also an instructor.

But it is AMAZING, the feeling as soon as you get deeper than 10 Mtrs cannot be put in words. You feel different. The world is gone! It is just you your partners and this new totally different world out there. You hardly get the time to think about other things when you are scouring for the next thing to see down there.  Anyways, scuba diving will take another piece from me.

So it was quite some time ago when I decided I will travel according to my interests rather than what other people found pretty or astonishing. It was a way of making my vacation even more MY OWN. On my first trip I chose Yoga and learned the basics for 3 days. It was amazing. I returned a YOGI from that vacation

Likewise, I returned a Surfer from my second solo trip.

Now I travel according to the activity I want to do, subsequently I have done 3 more yoga trips. It doesn’t have to be a new thing every time for me. This one time I combined guitar lessons with Yoga on the Beach trip. It was the most eventful trip I have to say. I was pretty comfortable doing yoga by now and I chose this group of 15 women who practice yoga at the beach in Goa. Since one is in Goa, I decided I wanted to look for a guitar class in Goa, I am a basic strummer and can make the difference between a A-minor and a C-sharp

I enrolled for a guitar lesson by the beach for 3 days- twice daily and ended up playing a pretty decent version of smoke on the water.

Long story short- Choose who you want to be for the 5 days- a yogi, a guitarist, a scuba diver, a camper and choose the best place which gives you this opportunity to become a new version of yourself for the 4/5 days that you are there.

Choose a place which is inherently safe, usually the south of India and the North east and North Hills are the most safe in terms of statistics.

  1. Choose the activity that interests you- scuba, surfing, trekking, camping, yoga
  2. Choose the inherently safest place where this activity is undertaken
  3. Book your transport to the place in advance
  4. Find out the vendors facilitating these activities
  5. Find out about their reputation and past experiences of people if any
  6. Contact the vendor and ask for classes’dates and prices
  7. Find out if they take individual participants or have a batch requirements
  8. Usually they will ask you to come in a group so find out a few friends who are interested
  9. In case no one can make the time when you want to go then request them for adjusting you in a batch which already has a good number of people in it.
  10. Book and GO BE THAT DIFFERENT PERSON for a week!!