Saturday, May 9, 2009

How to travel – A beginner’s guide to the untamed world

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Mark Twain

For different people, travelling means different things. The destination too thus depends on a lot of factors, depending on what you are looking for. For me, travelling is about knowing and understanding the people, their culture and well - having a lot of fun. It’s that time of the year again, the time to go on long holidays. Here are some tips for those of you who’ve been bitten by the travelling bug and want to get away from this mad mad life.

First, get rid of the travel agent. Sure you might have a lot of money, but if u really want to blow away ur money u might as well just give it to me. If u want your expenses to balloon by 3 to 4 times the actual cost feel free to contact ur friendly neighbourhood travel agent. Two years ago I went to Uttarakhand on a “backpacking trip” and our cost for a 15 day trip was about Rs. 15 thousand. The next time we did it properly when we went to Himachal, and our cost was just Rs. 3750 (including travel both ways), that too for a 15 day trip.

Backpacking in India is possible. You don’t have to go to Europe to rough it out. Sure your parents, siblings and friends might think otherwise but it is quite safe to travel without a plan on a tight budget or even alone if you want. You just need to be street-smart. Sure you cant experience the comfort of a nice plush bed, room service or possibly even hot water when its really freezing outside. But then you have the knowledge that you can take whatever life throws at you and still go on with a smile.

Choose your travelling companions with care. You might want to rough it out, not caring about what you eat, where you sleep etc. but if ur mates have a very different idea than you, the trip can be a disaster, not to speak of how it can royally screw the budget.

When packing for your trip, remember one thing – you are not going to use most of the stuff u are carrying and since you are the one who’s gonna be lugging it around, you might as well keep it as light as possible. You don’t need more than 2 pair of jeans and one pair of shorts. You can wash it wherever you are staying. But remember to keep the important stuff like a torch, a first aid kit etc. Always carry lots of plastic bottles. You end up spending quite a bit on water, so you might as well fill it up wherever you are staying. If you are going someplace unsafe, and if you are alone it isn’t very wise to carry your camera, especially if it is expensive. Leave your iPod, iPhone etc at home . U don’t want to be attracting a lot of attention when travelling by public transport.

It is not below your dignity to sleep in dhabas or crap in the bushes. (Haven’t tried this yet but definitely gonna do it on the next backpacking trip I go for) It’s a great way of saving some money and gives u a new experience. Also when looking for a room, bargain hard. Don’t accept the first offer you get. Or go to the first hotel which is close to the bus stand or the railway station. Try further down the road. U will probably get a much better deal. And yes if ur up for it try sleeping in the open, right below the stars. Just make sure that there are no snakes and other dangerous stuff around.

Get a map of the place you are going if possible. Usually each state has its won tourism department and they have their offices at WTC Mumbai. So u might wanna go there to get info about locations which interest you and to get a map of the region you are going to.

And finally be careful. Travel safely and don’t take more risks than u need to and can handle. It’s not just a physical journey. Broaden your thinking and your view on life. Talk to the locals. Don’t just chat among ur friends, u will be missing a lot if u don’t interact with the locals. Remember they stay here, so they can guide you on what to do and how. Experience the local cuisine. It might just surprise you.

Just go out there and enjoy urself.


Below are a few of my favourite pics of my trips...