Friday, December 2, 2016

The Do's, Don'ts and Don't Care's of a Vacation

Sitting by the pool at the Trader’s Hotel, watching the city, I cannot help but reminisce the first time I was here in Kuala Lumpur. While I have been travelling ever since I was about a year old, Malaysia was the first holiday I planned and paid for, and went on sans my family. 
Malaysia 1.0 was a fun, but an unbelievably foolish holiday. I was travelling with a friend(also a novice at backpacking) and we were unprepared, na├»ve and stupid. You live and learn, as have I, and based on the little wisdom and immense joy I have gained over the past 3 years, I have here, a list of do’s, don’ts and don’t care’s for backpackers.

Do- Research:

It is essential that you read up or find your way of, “researching the hell out” of the place that caught your fancy. Independent travel blogs, posts on Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, food and lifestyle blogs provide you with a rounded overview of the city.  The research will keep you from having unrealistic expectations of an alien land. The research also helps you realise if you actually want to visit the place at all and keeps you from wanting to go trekking in Manhattan.
The food and lifestyle blogs tell you about the culture, the shopping districts and what you can expect gastronomically. This in turn, helps you pack and prepare for a comfortable holiday.
Research also helps you stay safe.  Keeping yourself equipped to handle an untoward situation is a smart thing to do and just the knowledge that you can take care of yourself makes the vacation that much more liberating.

Do- Have a Plan:

It is okay to change it, nix parts of it or even abandon it completely, but you should know what the trade off is. It is important that you understand the geography of the place enough so you can plan your activities based on ease in access and general convenience.

Do- Be culturally sensitive:

Be aware of general cultural practices, dress appropriately, learn how to greet people and thank them in the local language. Be aware that there are gestures that might be normal in your culture but might be construed offensive by others.

Do – Try localized versions of foods from global franchises:

Franchises like Mc Donald’s, Burger King and KFC modify their menus to suit the local tastes; several items on these menus are available only in those countries.  Try these out, observe the average young person and use these foods as an introduction to the local flavors if you are unsure.

Do- Interact

Talk to everyone. Talk to the locals and to other travellers. If your accommodation of choice is a homestay, try to pick one where your hosts like interacting with you.  This trip(Malaysia 2.0) introduced me to Jeremy( host at El Studio, Langkawi), who made my time memorable just by his warmth and vast knowledge and understanding of the country and the fantastic food.  Similarly,  the hosts at Revopackers in KL made a good day better over a shared meal and a conversation.
Sometimes, locals aren’t too aware of the available attractions and details, or are disinterested in them. Talking to other tourists yields better results in two ways – firstly, you get detailed information and secondly, their perspective might be more similar to yours than a locals’.

Do- Let go :

Use the plans and itineraries to your advantage, but don’t let them shackle you. Decide what you want on your holiday and do what makes you happy. It is for you to decide if you want to slum it and backpack and eat off the streets or five star resorts, shopping and Michelin starred restaurants. Like with most other decisions in life, do what is right for you and makes you happy, not what appeases the people around you.

Don’t- Worry about information taking away the charm:

 The information does not change the way the place affects you, and surely doesn’t come in way of your discovering the place’s soul.

Don’t – Hesitate from being impulsive and forging friendships:

These friendships might last a day, the length of your vacation, a lifetime or something in between, but don’t let the impermanence stop you.  On my first day in Malaysia(2.0), I explored KL with two strangers . Walking around Bukit Bintang, Chinatown and then up to the Twin Towers to see what they look like at night was the best thing I could have done that day. I wonder if this holiday would have been the same if I had held on to my reservations and simply stayed in.
Similarly, I made a wonderful friend in Hong Kong, one who introduced me to Sushi and Genmai Sencha(Rice Tea). Life certainly hasn’t been the same ever since!

Don’t care - about what the books and blogs say:

Use the books and blogs as information, not as commandments that must be followed.

Several travellers will extol the joys of doing all things local, only eating local food, only using public transport, frequenting all places the locals haunt, and then there is a large population that lives in luxury.  You must decide what you want to do. Remember that it is okay to grab a slice of pizza and mocha now and then, for they are comfort food for a reason. Ditch the streets in favor of the mall if you feel like it. 

Don’t care – about being judged:

It is an alien land; it is okay to be a little goofy. Break into a little jig if you want to, eat a Happy Meal, sing off-tune to an audience if you feel like it.
I think everything is okay as long as you stay smart, safe, sensitive and most importantly, happy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Musings of the Wistful Wanderer 2.0

Cruising over the South China Sea rather uncomfortably( like being driven on the roads of Bangalore, replete with potholes, by an irate auto rickshaw driver) I start to pen down my experiences of what I believe is my most adventurous holiday. 

Now, why I should be inspired on a bumpy plane, sleep deprived and kicked continuously by a "little beast"(brat, devil's soldier or just a kid) in the seat behind me is logic that eludes me.

My musings begin with the strangeness of the situation, that for someone who is always writing or doodling away, I have not even scribbled on sheets of paper to check my expenses( on day 6 of my twelve day vacation). Have I been that happy, content and in control? Or has it then, killed my creativity? And then suddenly, it hits me that neither of these situations were true. I have firmly believed that documenting anything removes you from the experience and makes it impersonal.
The art and the stories are still there, more potent than all others and maybe, right now, all I am supposed to do is relax, soak up and feel the vacation on my skin, in the sharpness of the air against my tongue and in the blankness of my mind. The stories and the doodles are biding their  time, they will come and bring with them a different surge of happiness.
14th August, 2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why Does It Bother You?

What do you see?
Does the lack of explicit expression bother you?
Is it the fact that the fire I carry within doesn't need eyes, a smile or even an arched eyebrow to be felt?

What bothers you the most?
Is it the joy that doesn't fit into boxes you understand?
Is it the spirit that refuses to die?
Surely, it bothers you,
For you seek explanations in words
So you can chain each movement, cage my soul
Put it in a box, nice and neat
Dim the colours and label them
Red,Blue, Green, Black and White

Why do you need to know the secrets my veiled eyes might hold?
Or what my smile really means?
Surely, it is not curiosity
For I am every colour of the wind
I am everywhere, I am everything
My spirit fills the air
You can feel my soul reach out to you in the goosebumps on your skin
In the colours, in the blur, the tunes and the beats
Everything in and around me echoes my spirit
And yet, all you want is a face, a quantifiable entity
You overlook my truth because it is brave and unbound
It bothers you
What is it though, that really bothers you?

Why does it bother you ?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Of Fears and Cynicism

I am afraid the fear and cynicism that lurks in the deep dark corners of my heart will eventually pervade the rest of my being.

I am afraid my fears will turn me into a weak, meaningless caricature of myself. Surely, the fears are now an entity of their own, feeding off each other and magnifying in the presence of my insecurities. They must have turned into a strong, rotting mass that is rotting everything around it.

The fears make me don many of the masks I put on. These masks I believe are protecting who I truly am. I am afraid I will forget who I am sans the masks and pretences, or that I will lose the ability to wear the right mask.I am afraid there will come a day when I am no longer hopeful, that the sun will not rise for me any more and that I will not find my strengths.

My biggest fear however, is the realisation that no matter how hard I try, I am not and will never be self sufficient. My happiness, despair, hope and strength lie in me, and just as much of them lies outside of me.I exist outside of my being and carry the universe within and I have enabled it to strengthen, weaken and destroy me.

 Despite my vulnerabilities, I move on, treading deep waters and miraculously surviving, and finding the strength, confidence and vanity to display the best parts of me, for the world to see, validate and judge. The being within and the person spread across the universe must be very, very special, for it is a gloriously scary world out there.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Wanderlust : travel Diaries


Cruising at 35000 feet, a glass of Moet, some chocolate fudge brownie, an episode of Friends in the background makes for the most perfect white noise; looking out, I can almost make out the geography of the landmass down there, almost tell what part of the world it is. And then, somewhere over the Thai and Vietnamese airspace I am enveloped by the feeling of exalting joy, of absolute happiness. For a glorious fifteen minutes, I experience pure bliss, a happiness so intense, it is almost tangible.

I love travelling, I love every aspect of it - the detailed research and love affair with Lonely Planet, blogs, Tripadvisor, ticketing and travel websites et all. Booking tickets is almost sacred, an affirmation of my intent to set out.

It is a wonderful feeling, setting out. It is amazing how each destination has a story to tell, every town, village and city is an intriguing,large , feisty, quirky living  and breathing organism, wordlessly expressing what it has undergone over the ages, how it has changed, and how, sometimes, it has , like a petulant child, stubbornly, refused to change.

I think I become a slightly better person each time I travel. With each getaway, I fall in love with the new stories, and with myself. The new landscapes, alien cultures and yet something small that makes me belong in every city, the feeling of how things change and yet remain the same is intoxicating.

However, while each holiday is a wonderful experience and a revelation, even if it were not, I would save up, scrimp, plan with care, over and over again, for those fifteen minutes of perfection.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Of Candles, Light, Warmth and Hope

I light a candle for you
For every time your heart breaks
And for each time mine does
For each time I lose hope
I light a candle
Another when I am frozen, paralysed with fear
I'd light a candle
When I hurt with you, my friend
And one when we heal
When I find strength and confidence
And when you do
Each time I find reason to smile
Each time I find success, each time you do
I'll light a candle for me
I'll light a candle for you
I'll hope the light and the warmth chases the monsters away
Thaws our cold hearts
Mends our charred, broken souls
I will always light candles
for you, for me
Till we need the strength
And later, so the light and the warmth never fades away

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Strength 2.0

As dramatic as this post sounds, it really is not. Each one of us has met with depression, failure and heartbreak. So this post, is dedicated to all of us, for staying strong, changing, facing our fears, failures and pain, and emerging victorious.

To have loved the way she did
And to have lost it all
For she took that leap of faith, and bore the fall
And she fell
Into that bottomless crevasse
It loomed darker than ever 
She struggled, she couldn't breathe
And then, the pain that had enveloped her
Became her strength
The fire that had charred her heart
Caressed her feet playfully
She was golden, she was steel
She was all the colours of the wind
The eye of a raging storm
A lake of calm
A brutal war
She was everything and nothing
A whirlwind of excitement, sanity and madness
Emboldened, she rose 
To find strength, in her shackles, in the fire, in the fall
In pain she found strength
In strength, she found freedom, she found herself