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
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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.

Peace…

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












8 comments:

Sanket said...

The best travel guide i've ever read. Well done friend. I agree on everything that you just said. Maybe we'll go together backpacking next year. I like to do my trips without travel agent, in this way it's economical, plenty of surprises in the way and you can customarise your trip as much as you want. Unlike any organised tour, you have no restriction to see a particular place in a given time duration. Very nicely written.

Rishi said...

ya.. totally agree.... the best guide ever...

yugandhar said...

very well written...though i would want to point out some things to you....
1."our cost was just Rs. 3750"....i really counted it it was much more...u conviniently forgot to count all the food which u took along..i mean sure u carried it off well..but really eating bread butter n maggi for most meals wudnt be much of a vacation,,,

2."or possibly even hot water when its really freezing outside"..."not caring about what you eat"...."fill up water werever poss to sav on water budget"...i mean i frankly feel tht if u hav a bat with cold water wen its freezing cold outside with temp 0 or 1 degree or drink bad water..or food...n u fall sick(doesnt happen wid me but jus sayin)..it really doesnt make sense to hover wround ur trip wid a horrible health...

3."Talk to the locals"...'amhi mulge...amhi mulge'....!!!!

4.n sinan i agree with u on mostly everything....n its great tht u ve shown hw its done cheap...but ser u go ther to enjoy hav fun not liv lik a beggar ...thts fun too...but not always...i mean planned trips are also not great but still ..i hope u get my point..u ve travelled more so i guess u knw more...jus a piece of advice...not everyone is lik u!
hav fun in ur upcomin trips...!

losin_my_soul said...

@sanket
thanks... agree with u... lets go somewhere next year... hopefully!

@rishi
thanks again

@yugi
1.The cost would be a max of Rs 5000 if we hadnt bought the packed food... which i think was a mistake cos the packed food cost more than the food there... btw maggi tastes better than a lot of food sometimes... ;)

2. Well, if its freezing outside its not really tempting to have a bath... hot water or not... sure you wouldnt smell great, but you cant have it all can u? if u really have to, do it in the afternoon when its warmest...
When i said about filling water, i meant fill it from a water source that the locals drink from... if ur up in the mountains, you can directly drink from the stream, no problemo ...

3.lol!!! i was doing my best...

4.I just want people to know that they can get a better deal if they try themselves... I wouldnt recommend anyone to do any of the above if they have had a decent amount of experience travelling in india... Its not about living like a beggar but letting go of your inhibitions...

@everyone
Backpacking is fun but not very easy either... Your trip would revolve around the timing of the buses wherever u are going... and if u miss the only bus to ur destination,ur itenary can get ruined... With an organised one, if u have a vehicle it is definitely more convenient and u dont have to get up at unearthly hours in the morning...
But when you do it by urself, its you who decide what you want to do when you go to a place, where u want to stay, what you will eat and not some guy behind a desk...

Btw there is a lot more which i could have written but decided not to,since this post is long enough anyways... if u want any travel advice feel free to contact me...

and ya check out the site indiamike.com for travel information related to indian locations...

yugandhar said...

agreed ... totally! all your trips are LEGENDARY!!...as i said u hav travelled more so you know more....just wanted to write all that...so did!! man...AMHI MULGE AMHI MULGE lol!!!

annnanymous said...

Take a bow!
There is something about all u'r posts that i can so relate with and consequently find so appealing..Cheers...

losin_my_soul said...

@yugi
thanks for writing what u felt... see that uv been watching a lot of HIMYM recently... ;)

@anna
thanks...glad u feel that way...

sukanya said...

Heyy. Himachal is one of THE prettiest places.
Most of our family vacations are self planned. So i know what you mean. And its a lot better than going with a bunch of people you are going to be judgemental about for the whole trip anywyas.

Uttarakhand is a civil engineer's paradise currently. Its booming with big infra projects... Pass on the word. =D

Oh and another thing for wannabe travellers - if you have less time or don't wanna go too far - Maharashtra has some oddball places tucked away. you can aaram se spend 2-3 days. Of course greenery is not one of the USPs. The mountains are though :D