Saturday, May 16, 2015

Why solo travelling is empowering

Travelling alone as has its ups and downs, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. It is a journey of finding yourself by getting lost…  

Me at Chicago's Science Museum


It seems bizarre how being alone at an unfamiliar place, without knowing its local residents or their language, can be empowering. But it is this unfamiliarity that brings with it the promise to open the window to your soul. We live as though we have to, not because we want to. We live to fulfil our duty of being the ideal daughter or son, sister or brother, a parent or a partner. But we travel to escape it all; to lose ourselves, and yet, miraculously find ourselves.

When you are in an unknown place, you are forced to push your limits and step out of your comfort zone in order to feel at ease. It is only when you surrender yourself that you realise that you can do more than you thought you were capable of. You have no one to rely on but yourself. You have to figure out how to navigate your way around, who to trust and how to make friends—all on your own. Travelling solo is one the most rewarding experiences of life; it teaches you more life lessons than you could ever learn from reading books or attending workshops. Here’s why you need to travel solo at least once in your lifetime and how it will change your life.

Conquer your fears
It is the fear of the unknown that often prevents us from gathering new experiences. Those who have never travelled solo often have the fear of being alone, the fear of being unsafe or the fear of getting lost. But once you take the plunge, you realise that all these fears are unwarranted. When I first stayed in a hostel dorm, I was quite nervous. I had never lived in a room with complete strangers, and I take time to warm up to people; so I felt really alone. The next morning, I dreaded going for breakfast and eating by myself. But when I did, strangers came by and began chatting with me. Soon, I had made new friends with whom I was going to spend the day. The moment I let go of my fears and embraced the unfamiliar, I not only opened up to new experiences, but also discovered my inner strength and resilience.

The thing about traveling alone is that you are never really alone. As a solo traveller, you will always meet other travellers. And locals too will laud your bravery to travel alone and welcome you into their homes. Suddenly, you will have made new friends from different parts of the world. Something you probably would never have done if you had just stayed at home or waited to take that trip with your family or friends. 

Learn new skills
Travelling solo can pose numerous problems every now and then. My first real solo trip was a planned one, but life forced me to toss my plans out of the window. The hotel I booked lost my reservation and I landed up in the wrong train, due to which I had to take refuge in a church in the wee hours of the morning. It was a disaster. But it was a life-changing experience. I discovered the kindness of strangers. I stayed calm under pressure and found my way around a new place. I lived in a homestay with a wonderful family who welcomed me as if I were their own child.

When you are thrown in the deep end, you can either sink or swim back on the shore. You learn how to deal with difficult situations by focusing on solutions instead of dwelling on the problems. When your set plans don’t work out, you learn to become more flexible. Travelling solo urges you to leave your preconceived notions behind and open your mind to new people and cultures. Once you do, unexpected situations will transform into wonderful stories that will last you a lifetime.

Become independent
When you travel solo, you have no one to depend upon but yourself. You begin trusting your instincts and following your intuition. You start making your own decisions that are not vetted by others. Travelling by yourself means you have to be your own guardian. When I travel solo, I try to stay as safe as I can. I don’t walk into dark alleys in the dead of the night. I always carry a pepper spray for protection because I am responsible for myself.

From booking your flight tickets to choosing a hostel to stay at, you gain confidence with every step you take. Each time you communicate with someone who doesn’t understand your language using hand gestures or figure out how to purchase a train ticket through a vending machine, you earn a sense of accomplishment. Even when you make a mistake, you learn to take responsibility for it. When you begin to rely on yourself, you become stronger, optimistic and better prepared to face any challenges life throws at you.

Find yourself
Most people live the life that is expected of them. They often follow the path they are told they should. We all, at some point or the other, get emotionally entangled and sacrifice a part of ourselves for others around us. We let guilt override our choices and succumb to existing rather than living. In the process, we forget who we really are or what we desire to be. But when you are on the road all alone, surrounded only by nature and its bounty, you are completely free. That liberation from life’s shackles clears your mind and soul. It allows you to be who you are; who you really want to be. It lets you peek into your heart and discover that you are so much more than the world says you can be. You are capable of more than you ever envisioned. You can do anything you want because the only person that was stopping you was you.

Monday, April 20, 2015

SPONSORED POST: Tips to save money on travel using coupons

We are all aware of online shopping and its advantages. And with the use of coupons, offers and promo codes, one can easily find ways to save money on online transactions. But these offers are not limited to just shopping for clothes and accessories anymore. With the number of people booking trips and purchasing travel essentials online, these offers can help you save on travel too.

From air tickets to hotel reservations, you can book anything and everything online. Websites like MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip, Yatra and RedBus are popular favourites for travellers looking for a convenient and quick way to secure online bookings. Plus, most often the prices are relatively cheaper on websites like these than doing a conventional booking via a travel agent/agency. This is one of the many reasons, not many people know that you can avail of discount coupons and promo codes for these websites too. Seeing how expensive it is to travel in today’s flailing economy, you could certainly use these tips to ensure go on your next trip without the stress of an empty wallet. 
  1. First of all, you must be aware of how to hunt the right coupons that can complement your need. If you want to look for bus tickets, then opt to book through RedBus as they have the most number of buses with over 1500+ bus operators. Look for these coupons on popular coupon sites like CouponRani, which has all their latest coupons listed on their site.
  2. Don’t be quick to select an offer. Browse around and look for all the offers or promotional codes available before zeroing in on one. Sometimes there are provisions to apply more than one code on CouponRani, which will help you save more.
  3. Use wallet transactions as well for additional savings. Make your payment through your Paytm, MobiQwik or PayUmoney wallets. You can even get cash back offers up to 50% or more through such transactions.
  4. To get the best offer on flight tickets, look for MakeMyTrip flight coupons or Yatra flight coupons for the cheapest offer. Compare these popular sites prior to booking to ensure you have selected the best deal.
  5. If you have a set itinerary, book your accommodation via these sites as well. They offer complete packages that might work better for you. You can also opt to book a hotel individually.
So don’t wait anymore and plan your trip now!
















Friday, March 20, 2015

Travel rules no one tells you

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If you haven’t heard of Robert Reid, do it now! A super awesome travel writer who has been published in so many prominent publications, I have lost count. From Lonely Planet to National Geographic Traveler to The New York Times... as I said he is super awesome. I LOVE his witty writing and his blog is full of inspiring anecdotes from his myriad travels. While reading one of his recent posts on 44 Little Travel Rules No One Tells You, I thought of writing a few of my own. They aren't as great as Robert's, but I hope you enjoy them anyway!

Have any tips you would like to add? Email them to me on ruchika@travellerstories.com and I will post them on my blog and on my Facebook page with your name and your website link.

  • It’s okay to watch TV in your hotel room.
  • It’s not silly to want to do touristy things. I giggled like a little girl out of sheer excitement when I sat in an ancient tram in Kolkata. Okay, that was silly. But it’s OKAY to be silly.
Yes. I clicked random people on the tram in Kolkata!
  • Be safe, but don’t be over cautious. Often the most memorable experiences are those that happen unexpectedly and often involve strangers.
  • It is good to get lost. Some of the best stories are about the times you got lost and all the things that went wrong. If you don’t like getting lost, sit at home.
  • Don’t judge people or places if they don’t uphold your values and beliefs. There is no right or wrong when you’re travelling. Travel is all about finding yourself in unfamiliar territory. Smile and enjoy it. That IS what travel is all about.
  • Accept kindness from strangers as often as you can. Yes, your mom told you not to speak to strangers. And there are plenty of evil people in this world, and shit happens all the time. But there are some insanely nice people out there too who you would regret not knowing just because you were too fearful.
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  • You don’t HAVE to follow the must-do checklist of a destination. You CAN visit Amsterdam and NOT smoke up or drink. There are other things to see and do. This is what I did.
  • It’s okay to visit a destination without knowing anything about it. I know how valuable it can be to know the place you’re planning to visit, to read about it or prepare a list of things you shouldn’t miss on your visit. But every once in a while, it can be fun not to plan anything at all. That is, if you like surprises. Although, if you don’t, why are you travelling at all?