Saturday, January 14, 2017

iAppend | 2016's Accommodation Recommendation

In continuing with a self-created and self-initiated tradition that is now in its third year, I present before you a compilation of homestays and hotels that I’ve stayed at during the course of my travels in 2016!

Just like last year’s post, this one also serves as an easy reckoner if you’re going to be in these parts of the country at any point.
I have mentioned availability of free WiFi and the shoe-string budget traveller that I am, I have three tariff brackets* :
< 1000 INR
< 2500 INR and
< 4000 INR.
*These are single night rates on double occupancy basis.
 
Maharashtra, door, rural, village, India
Doors such as these have welcomes me across the different states I have travelled to this year as well 
Karnataka
2016 was the year when I finally struck Hampi off my invisible travel bucket-list. The White Elephant is run by an enterprising and enthusiastic, Moin who will keep you enraptured with his stories. A repeated and disappointing theme that emerged from my conversations with him was about the difficult-ness of Indian tourists!
WiFi: Yes
Tariff: < 1000 INR

Hampi, Karnataka, restaurant, India
The very relaxing restaurant at White Elephant in Hampi, Karnataka

And continuing with the spirit of #HaveFeetWillTravel, from Hampi I made my way to the chilly Chikmagalur and nestled myself at Gonakal Homestay .
My most cherished memory is this:
"Instead of sitting and reading, you should have taken the local bus to some of the local sights!" Meet Mr. Gowda My homestay host in Chikmagalur. His is a 350 year old heritage home on a 40 acre property of coffee bean and spice plantations. At a little over 60 years, he is far more fit and agile than folks less than half his age. He is a man content with his family (which includes 4 dogs). And while he was most curious about me disappearing into the nearby thicket when not reading (instead of taking that bus to check out temples and what-not in the vicinity), he didn't let that limit the scope of our conversations. We had somewhat similar interests: he despises cities and pigeons with intense fervour! It was naturally then quite heart-warming to eavesdrop as he spoke to his wife and neighbour about me in Kannada; for in spite of the language barrier I caught one word: धैर्य (Hindi for guts, nerve). It's a word he repeatedly used to describe whatever he understood of my life as a solo traveller! 
WiFi: No
Tariff: < 2500 INR (inclusive of meals)
You can read all about my experience with courting solitude in Hampi and Chikmagalur here

Chikmagalur, Karnataka, India, homestay, coffee plantation, estate
The magnificent homestay at Chikmagalur, Karnataka 

Maharashtra
Adgaon is a sleepy fishing hamlet located on the other side of Murud and not too far away from other popular haunts of Shriwardhan and Lohagad. Our village stay was a house from right across the beach – an image I had until then conjured up in my head as the place somewhere on the map in some remote corner of the world that I’d love to retire at. But here it was. No imagination required!
WiFi: No
Tariff: < 1000 INR (inclusive of meals)
Look up more about how I was allured by Adgaon in this post

Maharashtra, coast, beach, homestay,
The inviting beach at Adgaon along coastal Maharashtra right across the entrance of my homestay
  
Punjab
Amritsar, Virasat Haveli
There are places that people sometimes presume you’ve definitely travelled to. Because, well, you are a traveller!
But then you haven’t and it causes eyebrows to disappear into foreheads.
Hampi was one such place.
Amritsar was another.
Amritsar
Historically speaking, because of the Jallianwala Baug massacre.
Culturally speaking, because of The Golden Temple.
Politically speaking, because of the Wagah border.
WiFi: No
Tariff: < 2500 INR
Punjab was a lot more than just history, culture and politics. It was also about its people. Read about them here
 
Amritsar, Punjab, farmstay, wheat, field, grains
Punjabiyat is food, fields and more - glimpses from my farm-stay 
West Bengal
Makaibari is where you’ll meet Amma and Baba
A mother and a father in the disguise of homestay hosts.
It's not every day that you get treated like a daughter of the house when you're in a distant town miles away from the place you call home and the people you call parents.
WiFi: No
Tariff: < 1000 INR (inclusive of meals)
Here’s why Makaibari was not only about tea but also tales and ties

And while I was in West Bengal, I also trekked to Sandakphu!

tea plantation, women, work, West Bengal, India
Women at work on a tea-plantation at Makaibari

Sandakphu, trek, West Bengal, Nepal, India
Up above the world so high... Inching closer to the top at Sandakphu
  
Tamil Nadu
A one month volunteering project with Manitham in Manamadurai brought me from West Bengal to the state of Tamil Nadu; after which the wanderlust continued.

school, students, voluntourism, volunteer, Tamil Nadu, India
School students from a small district near Madurai in Tamil Nadu

 Thanjavur, Hotel Valli
Located at a stone’s throw away from the railway station, Hotel Valli turned out to be an excellent find. Besides being budget-friendly, it’s also clean and safe. The staff is extremely helpful in helping you find your way around town.
WiFi: Yes (near the reception area only)
Tariff: < 1000 INR

Pondicherry, Mantra
Mantra was quite the find. It was luxury that came at a rather affordable cost and what made that even better was the fact that we had most of the property to ourselves as there weren’t other guests around at that time. Mantra is an earth-friendly construction, BTW!
WiFi: Yes
Tariff: < 2500 INR
You can read all about my exhilarating cycling experience in Pondicherry here

Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, India, earth friendly building, ecotourism, responsible tourism
The beautiful interiors at Mantra (Pondicherry) - where we had the entire basement to ourselves

 Valparai, Green Hill Hotel
Just like in Thanjavur, Green Hill Hotel is a no-frills, no-fuss hotel with modest rooms. But then again, when one is in Valparai why would one sit inside the hotel room while the great outdoors beckon you?
WiFi: No
Tariff: < 2500 INR
You can read all about my slow travels through the state of Tamil Nadu that spanned over 40 days here


Kerala
Vembanad Lake, Vembanad Lake Villas
Do you imagine what it would be like when you open the door and you have a water-body gaping at you invitingly? Vembanad Lake Villas is a family run property that is far away from the maddening crowd and ridiculously priced properties across from Kumarakom! It is the ideal kind of place to sit by the lake and read while occasionally glancing around to spot some avian populace! The merits of travelling during the off-season is that you are provided with an upgrade!
WiFi: Yes
Tariff: < 2500 INR

homestay, Vembanad, Kerala, India, lake
That's what you see when you step out of your room at Vembanad Lake Villa in Kerala

After hobo-ing some of my days in Trivandrum at my friend’s ancestral home, I moved to Vasco Homestay at Fort Cochin
Centuries ago, Vasco Da Gama lived within the walls of this exact same structure! Need any other reason why you should not give it a miss? The host family is extremely warm and welcoming. And similar to Vembanad, because I was visiting during the off-season, I got a room upgrade at no extra charge!
WiFi: Yes
Tariff: < 1000 INR
Want to know what tickled and intrigued me about Fort Cochin? Read this post

Fort Kochi, Kerala, homestay, Vasco da Gama
Walls so thick, I felt like I was living inside a fort(Fort Kochi, Kerala)

Uttarakhand
Pantwari/Nag Tibba, The Goat Village
My first ever invite as a travel-blogger for a property review brought me to Garwahl and I was on top of the world – somewhat literally. The Goat Village - an eco and responsible tourism venture - is all things modest and environmentally sensitive; at least to the extent possible. Every meal follows the 'farm to table' route implying that everything you eat is locally grown.
P.S.: Non-vegetarianism is not encouraged, not at every meal.
WiFi: No
Tariff: < 2500 INR
Want to know what it’s like to be ill-prepared for a trek? Read about my experiences here

Uttarakhand, The Goat Village, responsible tourism, eco tourism, Nag Tibba, Garhwal,
The Goat Village's sit out area where many a meal was had, most often in the quiet company of the mountains

Not all travel in 2016 has been solo but it goes without saying that all of the above mentioned places wouldn’t have made it here if they weren’t safe, clean and managed well.


Do let me know if you've found this post to be helpful and share feedback please!

***
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P.P.S.: For opportunities to collaborate on freelance projects and to work with me for workshops on expressive writing, click here
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Friday, January 6, 2017

iQuery | What kind of traveller are you – the frequent flier or the rail reveller?

I am often asked, “Are you a beach person or a mountains person?”

But the Indian-travelling-through-India type of traveller that I am, my favourite question to ask is, “Are you an Indian airlines person or an Indian railways person?” 

It may be evident from my blog and social media posts that I am more loyal to the railways while choosing my preferred mode of transportation.
But it wasn’t always like this.


 When I first started travelling solo, I took flights to get to my destinations. But somewhere the lure of slow travel and revelling in the sensation of watching the world passing me by from the window seat took over and train travel made a comeback.
That and the fact that the inside of a train’s coach is a microcosm of the external journey!

But trust work-related travel to necessitate efficiency and therefore make me board aeroplanes when I’d much rather still take a train. In spite of all my travels, I have travelled by air a mere 8 times since 2015!

Goa, train, railways, rail, Indian Railways, India
The famous Dudhsagar rail route in Goa
I appreciate train travel because I enjoy observing human behaviour and travelling by train offers the perfect opportunity. As it turns out, co-passengers at airport terminals are no less quirkier than those at railway stations.

Below are ten of my own observations from the terminal and the tarmac – 
  • There is at least one person ahead of you rummaging for their ID at the airport entrance
  • You can never go without watching someone drag their trolley bag the wrong way
  • Security screenings are incomplete without somebody forgetting to deposit all their electronic gadgets in the plastic tray
  • There has to be one fidgety restless soul who cannot seem to wait for the boarding gates to open and then wants to be the first person in that queue
  • A passenger with a seat at the tail-end of the aircraft will forget to board from the tail-end of the aircraft
aeroplane, airlines, Air India, mountains, Himalayas
Somewhere in Jammu and Kashmir en route to Leh
  • There is always that one person who comes in after almost everyone else is in their seat and wants to put their bag while displacing those already in the hand-luggage compartment
  • There is also the passenger who cannot decide whether they have on their person everything they need from their bag in the compartment above or whether they need to get up yet another time
  • Never has a flight taken off without the flight attendant repeatedly making pleas to someone about switching their mobile phones off and wearing their seat belts
  • Incidentally, it is this same person who is the first to switch their mobile phones on and release their seat belt the instant the wheels of the aircraft make their first contact with the tarmac
  • And of course, there will be those who queue up to leave the aircraft even before the doors have been opened

So tell me, what do you observe while flying?

Disclaimer: This post has been written in collaboration with Cleartrip. All opinions are my own.

***
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P.P.S.: I am running the first round of workshops on expressive writing in Mumbai on the 7th and 14th of January. If you're around and interested, click here
For opportunities to collaborate on freelance projects and to work with me for workshops on expressive writing, click here
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Sunday, December 18, 2016

iEvolve | 6 Quotes That Sum Up Year 2 After I Quit My Job

I don’t know what’s provoked me to write this post. But here I am, writing down my learning, reflections and everything in between from the year that has been.

In many ways 2016 was a different kind of laboratory experiment – it has been Year 2 since I quit my ‘job’ and every semblance of certainty that had come along with it. So if Year 1 was about braving the big bad world on the outside, Year 2 has been about braving my equally (if not more) scary inner world.



And without further ado, here are 6 quotes summing up Year 2 after I quit my job –

I] “Assume nothing. Question everything” – James Patterson
This time last year I was in the throes of confusion.
It had been a year with no job and a first with no steady income; a year of silently bearing witness as every plan I had conjured got derailed. Demoralisation came easier than expected. A year of uncertainty had put a lot of strain on my otherwise positive disposition towards life.

But in the aftermath of letting go of the 9 to 6, it was my 'illusion of control' - that came from holding on to some version certainty - that had been chucked out of the window and I had had nothing to hold on to.

I began 2016 with a nerve-wracking and excruciatingly painful process of locating my inner compass - also known as the voice of reason.

Like many others, I had muted mine out. But locating it wasn't easy and I couldn't do that on my own. So I sought professional help and along with my therapist began to puncture every belief - personal, professional and otherwise - that wasn’t serving me well anymore.
I began being my own devil’s advocate.
I stopped assuming and starting questioning, almost incessantly. Needless to say, old habits die hard. But they do die. Especially when you are relentless.
The trick however is to know when to stop questioning and when to let go and move on.

This was the beginning of some BIG letting gos for me. 

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


"Stirring sugar crystals lying at the bottom of my cup of tea, in the stillness of those moments up in the mountains I was forced to contemplate on a friendly reminder to myself -- the "wisdom to know the difference"
The difference between 'carpe-ing the diem' and 'delayed gratification'
The difference between 'ignorance is bliss' and 'knowledge is power'
The difference between 'act then think' and 'think then act'
The difference between 'letting go' and 'holding on'
The difference between 'being the change' and 'changing your being'
The difference between 'the person you once were' and 'the person you have the potential of becoming'"


II] “Be impeccable with your word” – Don Miguel Ruiz
In the process of finding my voice of reason, it struck me strange how misaligned my thoughts and actions were.

I wanted to travel more and travel deeply, with a purpose and bring to life those experiences through words. I still do. And yet either fear or inertia (which is fear wearing a mask) would sap the energy out of me. Instead, I found myself seeking and sometimes even saying yes to opportunities that were not aligned with my intentions. Why? Because I was letting ‘money’ be the decider!

I had to acknowledge that nothing was going to change if I was not going to change my approach. For that, I had to stop measuring my story against everybody else out there who had quit their job. Or not. Because in my pea-sized cranium, I was inflating their success at the cost of my own journey. And this was not healthy.

Slowly, my travels have become what they once were - more personal and less public.
'Delayed gratification' when posting online became the oars I used to steer my way through the waters.

An even more significant shift happened when I began breathing life into #BeYouForYou. I was scared about putting myself out there and running these expressive writing workshops. But having had the privilege of doing four of them in 5 months, I know that nothing makes me come more alive.

This has been my beginning of honouring what I want for myself by putting ideas in motion.




III] 'Don’t count your chickens before they hatch'
...The most challenging part of my story so far!

I have mentioned that I have a rather positive disposition towards life; in that, I like to believe that things will come through – eventually, if not immediately. This, as I would come to learn, takes on a very different avatar for a hungry-and-starving-for-work-and-food kind of person like yours truly!
Which is to say that for a fairly long period of time I would prematurely celebrate every positive outcome  in the guise of a conversation or an email about a probable collaboration or work opportunity. 

Sadly, premature celebrations are mood-killers.
And in spite of knowing this, I have struggled to not lead myself on. Talk about being your own cheerleader.

But having uncertainty flirting with me rather intensely for the past two years has finally taught me a thing or two about not switching into celebratory mode until I have received my dues for the projects I have worked on.

A part of me was and still wishes everybody else around me was also impeccable with their word. And I can hear my inner realist sighing ‘wishful thinking’.

A beginning about another kind of delayed gratification.




IV] "Fall down seven times, stand up eight" - Japanese proverb 
There is so much during this past year that hasn’t worked out the way it was supposed to and much of this has fallen apart at the eleventh hour – when I was least expecting it. Travel plans, potential projects, workshops - you name it, everyone of them has taken turns in making me feel like I've accidentally stood on a Lego block!

In addition, I have had my inner demons (on that note, have you met Mr. Boa?) take over and make me doubt my every intention of choosing this path – whatever this path is. On a real bad day, I have doubted my very existence and purpose.

Disclaimer: I cannot and do not intend on fool-proofing my life.
When I decided to quit my job, I knew it stemmed from a place of wanting to know the answer to my many ‘what ifs’. I knew I was taking a risk. I also knew that if things did not work out, I would return to the workforce. At least, I’d be wiser because of my decisions and experiences. Wisdom - something my two Master’s degrees had failed to provide me with until then.

In standing up every time things have fallen through and I have fallen apart, I have learnt that it is never too late to course correct and start afresh.
Easier said than done? Yes, and absolutely worth it!

Because when things didn’t work out, I learned that it did not mean I was a failure; it simply meant that the method or the approach deployed didn’t work. And I've said this to myself when my bank statements have plummeted to four and three digit figures.




V] “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we'll ever do” - Brené Brown
Everything about the person I am in the here and the now has its ties in me wholeheartedly being accepting of myself; my quirks and peeves included.

It's taken me this entire year to tell myself that...
I am not a somebody only if I cross X number of places off my travel bucket list*.
I am not a somebody only if I see X number of articles written and published under my byline.
I am not a somebody only if the work I do allows me to earn X amount.
I am not a somebody only if another somebody approves of the choices I make.

Because over the course of the year, I have cultivated enough self-compassion to absorb the brickbats and stand not just by my decisions but also the consequences of my decisions. Even when I earn in 7 months what I once earned in a single month!

I have travelled a lot less than I would have liked to this year partially because I couldn’t afford all of it and partially because I do not see myself travelling merely for the sake of travelling (also known as social media posts).

#HaveFeetWillTravel is about travelling with a purpose. I want to be able to engage with the world around me in a way that allows me to contribute one way or the other. And I want to take #BeYouForYou to many more people around me in 2017!

*P.S.: I do not have a travel bucket list




VI] "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." - Zen Buddhist proverb
If you’re expecting me to say that I have found the key to the crypt of Life and unlocked it, then I am afraid I am going to disappoint you.

I am no less confused about what lies ahead than I was in 2014 when I quit my job. It’s not like my travels have armed me with a crystal ball. But two years later, instead of the anxiety, I am training myself to retain my wide-eyed wonder of looking forward to another year and its own kind of roller-coaster ride. 

2016 saw me launch my own venture - Be You For You
2016 saw me become a bigger fan of long term slow travel
2016 saw me continuing to write to challenge myself and my readers
2016 saw me struggle and conquer my inner demons - professionally and personally
2016 saw me weigh in on self-compassion to tide over both professional and personal hurdles
2016 saw me learning to say NO to things that don't serve me well - professionally and personally

I’ll still continue scavenging for work and looking forward to collaborations with kindred souls with a little less self-doubt and little more self-assuredness. I'd like to believe Rumi when he said, "What you seek, is seeking you". 



***
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P.P.S.: For opportunities to collaborate on freelance projects and to work with me for workshops on expressive writing, click here
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Monday, December 12, 2016

iVisualize | Tehri Garhwal In Photos

I cannot seem to have enough of the mountains.
Perhaps because until my recent trip to Uttarakhand in November, it had been a while since I'd surrounded myself in their company!

Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
Nope, it's not a painting. That is the view of Bandarpoonch from Jhandi (after you've crossed Nag Tibba) | Uttarakhand

The experience of being elevated above sea level - right at the very time when DeMonetization hit India, Trump became President-elect of the United States of America and the Toblerone triangle change upset its fans especially in the United Kingdom (at least according to BBC.com) - was clearly godsend for me. I couldn't be any more grateful that I had managed to scavenge around for enough notes of 100s in cash to get me to the Himalayas.

So a month later, here I am back home vicariously living through my own photographs...

Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
Isn't this just stunning? Now imagine witnessing it for real
These ranges folding into the never-ending background
Sometimes revealing snow clad peaks

What a visual treat for someone who hails from the coast!
If you haven't, do give my trek to Nag Tibba and Jhandi a read...


Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
When the sun set and moon rise are so properly coordinated. If this isn't magic, I wonder what is! 

Sunsets.
Sunsets speak to us. I've often wondered why though...
And for seven straight evenings, I stood in rapt attention watching this miracle repeat itself!
Because at The Goat Village, watching the Sun disappear behind the peaks was not without witnessing the Moon rise at approximately the same time.


Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
Sun at night (left). Moon at daylight (right).

And for the love of celestial bodies, I never seemed to have enough of either the Sun against the night sky or the Moon in the morning. I haven't been able to witness this phenomenon this marvellously any place else until I was in Garhwal!


Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
Lo and behold, it is the Supermoon!

This beauty.
This celestial torch of the night sky - the Moon in her Supermoon avataar - left my jaw hanging and rest of me freezing as I struggled to overcome the chill air of the mountains while trying to get a couple of decent/good-enough photographs of the Moon this close to the Earth - the closest it has been since 1948 and won't be again until 2035!


Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
For the love of monochrome <3

The many monochromatic moods of and at The Goat Village (above) and those in colour (below). I'd spend hours barely moving centimetres, gazing into nothingness with nobody to poke, prod or intrude into that sacred space. Moments like those made me want to kick my heels in the air for being far away from the maddening crowd!


Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
The dining area at The Goat Village

Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
Eating healthy and how! Surely, my body was more than impressed with me for those 7 days

That's locally grown and sourced palak/spinach with roti/flat bread made from ragi/finger millet for breakfast during one of my mornings at The Goat Village


Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
Shinrin yoku, anyone?

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms...”
― Henry David Thoreau


Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
Fair-weathered friends

I am no birder. And have been remotely interested in the avian populace of any region I've travelled to in the past - until I was in Hampi in January 2016. It was as if something switched on inside my head. That and the move away from mobile phone photography has made wanting to peer and stare at these iridescent winged beings one of my to-do activities.
Of course, I'll look up Google to identify them once I return back to civilisation. Which is how I can tell you that from left to the right, the birds you are seeing are  the White-eared Bulbul , Himalayan Griffon (a trio actually would fly over around 3 in the afternoon everyday), the Black-headed Jay and the Russet Sparrow.
I could also be wrong - so I'd appreciate if anyone could help me with the identification!


Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
And then some more friends

This was me making some new friends. Let me know if you are able to spot the one who's in the centre!


Nag Tibba, Jhandi, Bandarpoonch, Uttarakhand, India, Himalayas
Temple at Nag Tibba

The temple at Nag Tibba is also known as the point where you decide whether or not you want to continue onwards to Jhandi for another 2 kilometres. Arduous as it is, the view from the top absolutely compensates.


Afterthought:: Spiti - which happened over two years ago - had created a similar effect on me. The only difference is that Spiti was not a solo trip!


***
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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

iArgue | In Defence of Solo Travel and Doing Nothing

Earlier last month in November during the train journey from Mumbai to Delhi, I was mildly surprised when no one looked my way with intent; not in the way I have gotten accustomed to being looked at.
It was a first.

And no, this is not only because I am a woman but also because I am a woman unescorted – AKA an Indian solo female traveller in India!



My brief experience of travelling solo around India over the past 4 years has showed me that you can reduce the chances of being looked at with intent – whether out of curiosity or malice – by arming yourself with a book and pen or even a camera. That and the presence of mind to not portray yourself as a damsel in distress, helps.

But when you spend over 36 hours on your own without being made to feel like you’ve committed a grave transgression, you are likely to slip into a less on-the-defence mode.

So by the time I had reached Dehradun after another train journey from Delhi, I had done exactly that. Which is why making small talk with a co-passenger – a local – on the shared taxi ride from Dehradun to Pantwari did not seem to trigger any alarm bells for me; not initially at least.
“Where are you from?”
“Mumbai”
“You’ve come here all the way from Mumbai? Just to visit a mountain village?”
“Yes”
“And so who else is with you?”
“It’s just me.”
“What? You’re here on your own? Why would you do something like that?”



For obvious reasons nothing I could have said would absolve me from what I had done. I wasn’t hearing this for the first time. And for equally obvious reasons I was not going to stop doing what I have been doing either. But these questions were coming from a place of concern – a feeling I am now all too well acquainted with now. It makes people a lot more endearing to me for some reason. 

Two hours into the journey and a couple of minutes before he was about to get off, he added:
“Just being by yourself can get lonely. It is always nice to have the company of people with you.”

I have learned that it is better to smile and let it pass than to rise in defence of ‘the cause of the solo (female) traveller’.
It isn’t even a battle so what’s there to fight about  – I mean, no one is restricting me from doing what I do. And for what democracy is worth, I tell myself that everyone is entitled to their opinion.

And so when I later got asked by a guest at The Goat Village why my friends won’t travel with me (which I interpreted as meaning to ask – “Do you have friends?”), I had to give him the brief back story of why I travel solo and how for me it isn’t mutually exclusive from travelling with people – friends, acquaintances and strangers included.



This reminded me of my staycation in Goa earlier in the year when my paternal uncle who had come to receive from the station had asked: “You’ve come alone? I thought you would come with your friends?”
Sure, it is Goa and that’s what is expected. Perhaps. But when I relayed this to my friends, one of them said, “You could have told your uncle that your friends know how to give you your space.”

I find it strange how we’ve conditioned ourselves into believing in binaries – i.e., you are either friendless and therefore a solo traveller OR you are sociable and therefore cannot travel solo!


This brings me to another aspect of solo travel that seems to leave most people flummoxed – “What do you do when you travel solo?”
To which my answer is usually “nothing”.
Perhaps their being flummoxed has more to do with my answer than anything else!

But given how solo travel is still associated as being outlandish, it is understandable why the question of how one passes their time would pique anybody’s interest.

Of course, there is no one fixed type of solo traveller. Like everybody else, we have our own individual preferences and mine mostly borders around soaking in my environment – which I haven’t found any other way of explaining.

So what does ‘doing nothing’ and ‘soaking in my environment’ usually translate to?
Reading
I have carried paperbacks in the past to keep me company. Much at the cost of anything else that could go in my bag, including clothes! But I’ve recently made the shift to my e-reader – which means that technically my getaways are not a complete digital detox in the real sense of the word!

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


Writing
This I am still old school about. So pen and paper it is. Plus writing it out helps me join the dots that have been swarming in my head aimlessly – it’s my kind of meditation. I realise that I do end up getting a lot more writing done when I am on the go.



Taking my camera for a walk or a trek
I am not a photographer but I enjoy taking walks and peering at everything around me from behind the lens in as un-self-conscious a manner as I feel with the camera in tow. This lends itself to spotting frames as well as life-forms, including avian and floral that I, otherwise, have a tendency to overlook.




Watching clouds passing me by
The skies – during the day as much as at night – leave me enraptured. This for me is what truly being in the moment is representative of; something I struggle to bring into regular practice once I’ve returned back to the world I am familiar with. This ‘being still’ includes soaking up amidst nature. And also people-watching.



Chatting up with locals
Not everything I do belongs to the realm of solitude alone. Interacting with locals be it about and over tea or their dogs and goats or about life in the cities versus life in the villages, there’s always so much you realise that you don’t know.
For instance, from my time at The Goat Village I picked nuggets on locally grown grains and crops, understood a little bit about what a day in their life feels like and heard opinions about how much Dehradun has changed from the quaint town it used to be to the noisy wannabe-metropolis it has now become.




And it case you’re wondering why I categorize all of the above as ‘doing nothing’, it is because none of this requires me to cross things off a to-do list!



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In other news, I have been nominated for the #OrangeFlower Awards by Women's Web for Digital Superstars under multiple categories.

Digital Inspiration -- https://www.wishpond.com/lp/1914107/entries/135309659
Travel Inspiration -- https://www.wishpond.com/lp/1914107/entries/135309308
Photo blogging -- https://www.wishpond.com/lp/1914107/entries/135309044
Micro-blogging -- https://www.wishpond.com/lp/1914107/entries/135308999
Social Impact -- https://www.wishpond.com/lp/1914107/entries/135308939

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