8 things to do next time you travel

My trip was not so much of a trip. I spent half of it under my blanket, waking up at regular intervals to force idlis down my throat. Yet, I learnt loads from it.

1.   How smart I must have been to have planned a four day trip to Lonavala at this time of the year! How smart I must have been to have conveniently assumed the place to be a pretty hill station type place simply because it had Sterling Resorts. How shocked I must have been to have alit the bus to realize the place is no hill station, not pretty, the place is brown, barren, hot and dry! How stupid I must have felt to have realized that I have at least 10 Pune and Mumbai inhabiting friends whose opinions I never bothered to ask.

It is foolish to spend too much or too less time at a place. Research a place well before making plans. Know what to expect at a place and when the time comes, let yourself free.

2.   Planning the itinerary can prove to be more important than one can imagine. It is stupid to travel to point A, travel all the way to point B and travel back to point C which is less than a kilometer from point A. Do some research in advance, make a list of places you do not wanna miss. Make an itinerary though you don’t have to adhere to it strictly. It certainly helps to have a rough agenda.

3.    The people you travel with, can play a critical role in how much you enjoy your trip. There are the people who like to stay in the room and chill. There are the adventurous ones that might wake up at three in the morning for a trek. There are the ones that want to shop and do nothing else. There are the others that want to dress appropriately, click five pictures with pretty smiles and get back to the resort. There are the junkies that like the high and then some more high. And then there is you. Plan your trip with the right people.

4.    Do not put together a business trip with an adventurous one if you’re expecting to hike all day. Do not try to make a visiting-someone trip something else, unless the person you’re visiting wants to join you on your plans. Do not plan any trip that depends on someone who may not exactly be interested in your plans. Or if you do any of this, keep an open mind.

5.  If you’re too excited about staying at the best hotel in town, book it. The room won’t wait for you.

6.  If you carry around a phone camera, if you really want to click pictures of your travel, do not listen to music on the same phone till it dies.

7.   Every place you visit, take time to breathe in it and breathe it in. There is no hurry. Visit a place and stay. Walk around. Talk to people. Click pictures. Just sit and gaze. Gaze at people. Stare into the horizon. Feel it. Then walk away.

8.   Eat well before the trip. Take in your vitamins regularly. Drink loads of water. Take care of yourself. Falling sick during a trip does not feel good. It is very very disappointing. It is a pain for people around. It does not feel good to have to stay back under the sheets. It is not fun to eat idlis while everyone else is at the best restaurant in town. It does not feel nice to have to throw away the dhal rice cause it has too much of spice and masala for an unwell person. It certainly does not feel good to have to drink hot water when it’s 40 degrees outside, simply because you’re ill.

Travel can never be fulfilling while one is not in the best of health. Nothing is more important than health. Period.

I hope I do better the next time. For now, a plate of wholesome food’s waiting to be eaten.

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Eager and Hopeful

To be able to travel is a blessing. What can be more fulfilling than seeing everything there is to see in this world we live in? Every bit of me yearns to see so much.

I have traveled a little- Except for a week in the UK and two months in the US with my family, not so much outside India. I was quite young then, when we traveled across the USA. It was the summer of 2008. I still remember New York so fondly. I remember how I was fascinated by the Times Square: the humongous screens, the neon colors, the illuminated signs, the huge structures, the advertisements. I remember how the place was so busy. There were the tourists looking up in awe, quite typical of the place and the others, walking on hastily in different directions, like they all had something important to finish right away. They must’ve been the locals. I remember how my brother and I were thrilled and ecstatic when we spotted Mark Henry (or a man who resembled him too much) outside the RAW stadium. But much beyond all of this was the Liberty island. The view from the island – the waters leading to the impeccably picturesque New York skyline was a sight to behold. That picture, I still have safe in my mind. The Liberty Island gave me some kind of peace. It felt different, different in a tranquilizing way. I was proud that in a city as urban, metropolitan, busy and noisy as New York, I had found my quiet soothing spot. New York will always be special.

I wish I had been a little older and much wiser then. I wish I had appreciated what I saw better. I wish I had traveled the way I would now. But there is no place for regret where there is hope and time. There’s a whole life left, to do this and more, my way.

A large part of my traveling (otherwise) has been quite vicarious. I spend hours of ardent reading on travel blogs. They have taught me one important thing – the most beautiful places are always the unknown ones one finds on exploring. Every post I read, every picture I see of all the travel sites I’ve subscribed to, every time I think of Paris, Greece, the Caribbean, Australia, Sikkim and so much more, my desire to travel intensifies. This has all inspired me to want to travel-write. I hope that someday, my travel diary narrates delightful stories about interesting people, adventurous trips and unbelievable scenes, just like the ones I follow. The start is not too far away.

Tomorrow is the day I leave. Three days in Bombay. Four in Lonavala. Half a day in Pune. And 24 hours of traveling by train – something I have been missing sorely. I hope it is an enriching week.

Eager and hopeful,
Ashwini