Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Why I started travelling...

I come from a conventional Indian family where travel meant only quick family vacations or family weddings. No one I knew was the traveller type, and no one had ever travelled alone; not for fun anyway. I didn’t know I was the traveller kind either. Like life, it just happened to me.

You know how people in their teens are anxious to grow up, to find out who they are and what they want to become? Well, I wasn’t one of them. I was a na├»ve fool who intended to go the ‘planned route’. The so-called plan at the time was simple: have a career, find a nice guy, get married and have kids. That’s all. But as I said before; life happened.

I was also curious though; about discovering new things, doing stupid things, always keen on trying things others said they wouldn’t or couldn’t do. One such time, when a college friend shared her travel story, she talked about how she had travelled by herself without any prior planning and how liberating it felt. How she’d turned strangers into friends, and how it had been one of her life’s most incredible experiences. Now who wouldn’t want that? I was fascinated as expected, but I certainly didn’t think of following in her footsteps. I mean, what would my family say? How could I even manage to travel alone? I had never even slept alone in my own home. I was a sheltered child and a protected adult. The thought of breaking free was exciting and yet unfathomable. It was a nice thought…but just that, a thought, an idea that would never see fruition.

And yet, the unthinkable happened. One really hot Sunday morning, I woke up and just felt the need to run off somewhere…escape. Amid my confused state over my then current advertising job and what seemed like a painful heartbreak, I just wanted to run off to a place that had bad cell phone reception and preferably no human in sight. I was at a friend’s place wearing a pair of jeans and a T-shirt with a sling bag containing my belongings. I didn’t think even for a second. I just left in a rush towards the Gateway of India to catch a ferry and go to Mandwa and from there to Kihim beach.

It wasn’t as exciting as it seemed in my head. The bus was creaky and rickety; the road was certainly far from smooth; and the people inside were mostly locals living there staring at me with a question-mark-like expression. I too had a question mark in my mind, but I hid it cleverly faking confidence and appearing to know what I was doing. It was much harder than I thought.

I reached the beach only to be disappointed by the three tourist buses standing there and a tiny stall selling chai and pakoras. That was what I was escaping to? Disappointed as I was, I was also hungry since I left without eating. As I drank my chai and ate a pakora, I decided that this trip would not be in vain. I folded my jeans and started walking down the beach. Soon, the crowd thinned and it was just me and the sea.

I kept walking only to stop and admire the vastness of the ocean and the sudden moments of silence only cut by the waves crashing into the shore. I sat on the rocks and just stared into the sea looking at the horizon and the sunny sky above. There were houses on the other side, but there was no one around for miles. I was alone. I was silent. And nothing more was needed.

That was the day my travelling journey began, and I haven’t stopped escaping since…

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ways to save money for the upcoming long weekend

I recently received a forward via WhatsApp stating that October has five Mondays, five Saturdays and five Sundays. My first thought—much like most others who realise that October 2014 has several long weekends—was to plan some fun, short getaways. However, I’m sure not everyone planned things in advance and chances are they will end up paying exorbitant amounts of money because of it. So, in a bid to help fellow travellers save money they would otherwise spend on last-minute bookings, here are some websites that can help with potential discounts and provide some good deals.

MakeMyTrip: for flight tickets and complete holiday deals
For the past few years, I’ve been using MakeMyTrip to book all my flight tickets. It’s easy to navigate, the ticket prices are usually cheaper than other websites (seriously, I would check before booking), and they have good deals every now and then. While I know there are many others who swear by other websites like ClearTrip and Yatra, but I have always found MakeMytrip more convenient to use. The customer service is also fairly reliable. 

redBus: for bus bookings
When you make last-minute plans, most often getting train tickets becomes difficult as the waiting list is too long, and flight tickets are often too expensive. For those who’d rather not spend on flight tickets, buses become an easy mode of transport for nearby destinations that are ideal for weekend getaways, such as Goa from Mumbai, Manali from Delhi or Coorg from Bangalore. redBus, founded in 2006, offers bus services in 15 states across India with 700 bus operators and 10,000 buses listed on it. They also have a tie-up with Uber—a premium car hire service—to offer free rides to bus stops.

CupoNation: for promotion deals and discounts
One of the best ways to save money on travel and other utility items is using promotional deals, voucher codes and discount coupons. CupoNation is especially useful because it prevents you from looking at various websites for different deals and provides them all on one platform. From MakeMyTrip and Goibibo to redBus and Travelyaari, CupoNation has a wide variety of saving options to choose from.

So don’t wait anymore and plan your trip now!

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

TRAVEL TIDBITS: Friends’ Central Perk will pop up in New York this September

 One of my all-time favourite TV shows, Friends, is turning 20 this year (it premiered in 1994). My love for this show has gone from purchasing memorabilia like the huge coffee mug from Central Perk to T-shirts to visiting the set at the Warner Bros studio in Los Angeles. And now, the iconic Central Perk set is about to make its debut in New York. In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of its premiere, Warner Bros Television Group, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Eight O’Clock Coffee are coming together to recreate the Central Perk experience for its fans.

Aside from the excitement of being able to take selfies on the bright orange couch that is a trademark of the coffee house, you may get lucky enough to be served coffee by James Michael Tyler, who played the character of Gunther, Central Perk’s barista. Free coffee, photo ops, musical performances, signature props from the show, contests, giveaways and even a limited-edition ‘Central Perk Roast’—this is a dream for Friends fans!

The pop-up shop will be located at 199 Lafayette St and will remain open from September 17 till October 18. The timings are:

Weekdays: from 8 am to 8 pm
Weekends: from 10 am to 8 pm