Lessons in travel – After being (an almost) nomad for a year!

I hate to say it but this is going to sound familiar. I quit my job a year ago to travel. (There I said it.) Partly to satisfy my wanderlust and partly to gain travel experiences so I can write about it. I wanted to develop a mutually agreeable relationship with my travelling and writing. Looking back, I mostly have achieved what I set out to do. I have been travelling considerably well in the past year and have been published as often as I’d like to be. However, what I did not think about this whole plan is whether it is a sustainable model for my livelihood. Now I know it as clear as coconut water that it most certainly is not. I am still mostly burning through my finances hoping to figure out a viable plan for life sooner (hopefully not later) than I go broke. I pacify myself by saying that we were not born with a plan! And I am not exactly a nomad. I do live in a house, albeit spend much less time in it than I ever used to. Fortified by the travels in the past year, I feel I have suddenly become eligible to dish out some travel gyan. Go on, read and let me know if you agree or disagree with any of these.

You don’t need A LOT of money to travel

Who am I kidding? You do need money to travel. The stress here is on ‘A LOT.’ No, you do not need a lot of it. The secrets to save money are of course to couchsurf, stay in hostels, use public transportation and eat street food. Additionally, I also sift through my network to see if I can find anyone related to the place that I am visiting. Perhaps a friend or a friend’s friend could be of help. They have been of help for me. I have stayed with them and they have provided me with insider tips on where to go and what to do.

A bunch of teenagers in Inle Lake, Myanmar
A bunch of teenagers enjoying a boat ride in Inle Lake, Myanmar

The best experiences are had when you have fluid plans

I am increasingly ditching the guidebook wielding, well-planned route to travel. Partly because I am lazy but also because I discovered that such unplanned trips have the potential to surprise you. Recently I went on the Sandakphu trek only because I had the time in hand and decided to play it by the ear. Trekking in the wheezing rain amid a burst of bright rhododendron flowers, straddling between Nepal and India, that trek turned out to be among the memorable experiences I had this year.

En route Sandakphu trek
En route Sandakphu trek

Working while travelling is easier than you think (WiFi is also easy to come by)

I have turned in articles, written blog posts and met deadlines without a glitch while travelling. I have found WiFi at the oddest of places. For instance, in Loikaw, East Myanmar, the internet was so fast I could even catch up on my latest episodes of Better Call Saul and Broad City.

A Sri Lankan tea plucker
A Sri Lankan tea plucker

You’re never going to have enough money. Like ever.

I didn’t have to tell you this but hey we all need a push, don’t we? It is a fine thought to want to have enough money in your account before taking a break to travel. Our salaries are never going to make us millionaires.  Ever. The ideal way to do it is to decide upon a realistic bank balance. To achieve that, you might have to give up on a few movie night outs / dinners / shopping and so on and so forth. You get the drift.

Monsoons in Coorg
Monsoons in Coorg

You make friends even if you are an introvert

Here is a confession. I am an introvert. You might know me as a jolly good fella but I bet I needed some ice breaker before I became your friend. During my travels, I have found conversations happening with amazing fluidity with strangers. When you travel everyone is a stranger and everyone is willing to strike a conversation with you. People are nice and more importantly, they don’t bite.

A shy child in Kalap, Uttrakhand
A shy child in Kalap, Uttrakhand
Two introvert Chitals in Kanha, MP
Two introvert Chitals in Kanha, MP. How do I know they are introverts? I guessed 😀

Sometimes side trips can be great

Recently, after a two-week long trip to Arunachal, I along with my friend decided a little detour on our way back to visit the gibbon sanctuary in Jorhat, Assam. Watching those gentle creatures swing from branch to branch gracefully in the wild is the most adorable thing I have ever seen. Also, it helped that they had silver eyebrows.

Hoolock gibbon in Jorhat, Assam
Hoolock gibbon in Jorhat, Assam

Even the unlikely place has interesting parts

Recently, I was in Bihar tracing the Buddha trail and visiting the buddhist monuments peppered across what is the most underdeveloped state in India. If you manage to get beyond the notorious traffic, the blaring horns and the killer instinct of the drivers on its road, Bihar has some interesting archaeological sites to offer.

Choti Dargah, Maner Sharif, Bihar
Choti Dargah, Maner Sharif, Bihar

Every experience, good or bad, teaches you something

In Bagan, Myanmar, children are enterprising. They are poor and they need to make a quick buck to survive. “Where you come from,” a little boy asked me at a pagoda. He showed me his currency collection, from different parts of the world, and asked me if I had the Indian currency. He had a ten rupee note but he wanted one of a higher denomination. I obliged and gave him a hundred that I had. He whisked away happily. A little later, at a different pagoda, another little boy came up to me with the same request. I realized I was conned. But what other options do these children have? They are so crushingly poor that they have to employ devious ways to make money. Talk about starting young.

A child at Hunnas Giriya, Sri Lanka
A child at Hunnas Giriya, Sri Lanka

Every sunrise is worth waking up to

As dawn breaks, the day stirs to life. Forget the fact that the soft golden light of the day break gives you incredible pictures, it is also a unique part of the day to people watch. There is a certain mellow energy that thrums up to life as the day starts and it is worth experiencing.

A sadhu in Varanasi at sunrise
A sadhu in Varanasi at sunrise

Trust me, you will hate coming home

Of late, I have started to dread the thought of coming home. The stillness of my house doesn’t excite me anymore. The familiar smells and visions of my house is supposed to comfort me but it is increasingly not. I don’t know if it is a sign that I am going to pack my bags and hit the road permanently, but trust me constant travelling will make you not want to come home. Because, you know, home is only a feeling. As long as you feel home wherever you are!

Going home, Myanmar
Going home, Myanmar

Have you been travelling for a long time now? Have you experienced any of this? Leave a comment and let me know.

Mohinga and more – Myanmar’s streetfood

On the first day of my month-long trip across Myanmar, I walked across the insanely crowded road in front of my airbnb accommodation to a tiny restaurant that had all of three tables. The slender, fine-boned woman that owned / managed the restaurant did not speak any English. Nor did the rest of her family. Their laminated one-page menu had the names of the dishes in Burmese, transliterated into English. Trying to figure out what was what I quickly realized it was a lost cause altogether.

If I were to eat anything at all, I would have to go with the ‘chef’s choice.’ And I did. What arrived was Shan khauk swè – a simple hand-tossed noodle salad served with a side of pickled vegetables and a bowl of clear soup. The rice noodles were spiced with pickled sour mustard leaves (some of which I brought home from a local Burmese market) and mixed with peanuts, garlic, chilli and garnished with shredded chicken. I wash it down with a tall glass of avacado milk shake.

A noodle salad at Mt. Popa, Myanmar
A noodle salad at Mt. Popa, Myanmar

In Yangon’s streets, women squat in tiny stools in blue and red with their wares spread out in front of them – various types of noodles cooked and piled under a mosquito net to ward off the flies along with a range of spices and condiments in plastic containers. Not phenomenally different from Indian, Burmese cuisine offers simple yet delicious flavors, infused with local ingredients.

A woman selling food on the streets of Yangon
A woman selling food on the streets of Yangon

Mohinga is Myanmar’s favorite dish. Eating Mohinga for the first time can be intimidating at first, even uninspiring. The entire broth is muddy in color and the crackers smashed into it form the garnish that this dish could do without. The broth itself is very fishy. But Mohinga grows on you, like the theories about street food go elsewhere it is inexpensive and affordable. And Myanmar slurps it by bowls after bowls every morning paying little regard to the prevailing warm weather (Yangon’s humidity levels can sometimes put Chennai to shame). The sellers run out of Mohinga in a couple of hours into the morning hours of their business.

Mo Lembya, deep fried balls of fermented rice
Mo Lembya, deep fried balls made with fermented rice batter

Soon enough, I ate the famous Burmese green tea salad – Lahpet. Pickled green tea leaves are tossed with crunchy nuts, tomato, garlic and seasoned with dried shrimp in this dish. I fell hook, line and sinker for it. Before I left Myanmar, I bought a bottle and packed it with my luggage. Sure it leaked and ruined my tee-shirt but the bottle survived the flight, I am happy to announce.

Lahpet - the green tea salad
Lahpet – the green tea salad

The Burmese set meal is a delight to order, much more than it is to eat. The extent of English usage doesn’t extend beyond ‘okay’ even in cities like Yangon. So you are left with your devices to order food and hope that what landed on your table is what you ordered in the first place. On a sunny noon, I step into the popular Feel Myanmar restaurant to order my first Burmese set meal. As soon as I sat, a plate of Burmese salad – half-cooked whole vegetables including two types of egg plant, wing beans and spinach is plunked on my table. And then this!

The Burmese set meal is a delight to order
The Burmese set meal is a delight to order

Indian influence in Myanmar cuisine is difficult to ignore. Walk along the streets of Yangon and you can pick at least a few of these similarities – a hybrid puttu-idli snack, a samosa like snack, the usage of coconut and jaggery in sweets, and a kuzhipaniyaram (made with fermented rice batter) like snack called Mo Lembya. The Myanmar Muslim restaurants serve up delicious briyanis and the dosa sold by the street side vendors in Yangon is a delightfully crispy version, albeit a bit too oily, that has a filling of cooked vegetables, peas and egg.

The Green Tomato salad
The Green Tomato salad

If I had to define the flavor of Myanmar food, Shan khauk swè  would be it. Though this dish stands proof to the Thai influences in Myanmar cuisine. The kindly woman on the roadside would take a handful of rice noodle and mix it with crushed chilles and various spices. She would use tamarind sauce a souring agent to spike up the flavor. On request, pan fried chickpea tofu squares and hard boiled eggs, cut into bite-sized pieces, are tossed into the salad.

Eating out - streets of Yangon
Eating out – streets of Yangon

What was your favorite dish when you travelled in Myanmar? Leave a comment and let me know.

Thanjavur aka, Tanjore Brihadeeswara Temple, on a sunny evening

The Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur stands as the quintessential example of Chola temple architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the temple features the tallest temple tower in the world. It is also regarded as one of the great living chola temples along with the temples of Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram.

They say you should visit the Brihadeeswarar temple twice if you want to get good pictures – once in the morning and in the evening! And I went in the evening. And Thanjavur is blessed with sunny evenings most days of the year.

Up close...
Up close…

Up close with a dash of blue sky, the Gopuram is spectacular with its detailed sculpting…

Framed against the blue background...
Framed against the blue background…

Sometimes from some angles the gopurams look like they are juxtaposed…

One against the other
One against the other

The main gopuram stands tall and according to legends, its shadow never falls on the ground…

Standing tall...
Standing tall…

It is of course the ‘bird-flying-in-the-frame’ shot but these pigeons that reside in these gopurams are a staple sight in the temple premises…

Pigeons flutter around the gopuram
Pigeons flutter around the gopuram
A UNESCO world heritage site
A UNESCO world heritage site

Some of these Nandis on the wall have been chipped away but the remaining little Nandis promise to keep a watch…

The Nandis on the wall...
The Nandis on the wall…

Have you been to Thanjavur? Leave a comment and let me know.

Eating out in Ubud, Bali

With a wrinkle-creased face that expands and contracts whenever her bespectacled face lights up with laughter, she reminds me so much of my grandmother. Her eyes are light and almost diaphanous. She has a natural charm to cast at the visitor who saunters by gingerly to peer into the menu that is left outside on a pedestal of her modest restaurant. Naturally, it takes me exactly two minutes to fall for her disposition and in the days to come, I would frequent her Oka’s Warung almost every day. Most days for a meal and if for some reason I could not make it to a meal at her restaurant, I ensured I had one of her tiny array of desserts – especially her thin rice pancakes rolled with a filling of roasted coconut in palm jaggery. They never fail to prove that there is no better way to end a meal.

Balinese fare
Balinese fare

Oka appears to be a self-made woman much like many women in such establishments – eateries, massage centers, garment shops and shops selling trinkets and gifts – in the perpetually languid Ubud. She tells me that she quit her job at a restaurant 25 years ago to start off on her own and has been running the restaurant ever since.  Her English is rustic and my partner and I know only a smattering of Balinese and Bahasa – Indonesia. Mostly each conversation is an exercise at understanding what each other is trying to convey and not letting up until either one of us is convinced that the clear meaning is passed on.

An evening in Ubud
An evening in Ubud

Oka’s introverted husband handles the kitchen unaccompanied and he never once peeps out of his domicile even out of curiosity to see the faces of the foreigners who are chatting away with his wife despite the pressing language barrier. The restaurant has a seating capacity of 10 and I assumed Mr.Oka can manage it all by himself even if it’s a busy day.

A gorgeous sunset in Seminyak
A gorgeous sunset in Seminyak

Of all the 25 years she has been in business, Oka never thought of expansion plans for her restaurant. May be she wanted to keep it small and maintain exclusivity? When I ask her, she says she did not want anything big.

A Rama sculpture in Ubud
A Rama sculpture in Ubud
The sacred monkey forest in Ubud, Bali.
The sacred monkey forest in Ubud, Bali.

I wanted to ask her one more question, did she ever think about retiring? But I sort of knew the answer. The cobble stoned streets of Ubud never see unmanageable footfall nor does Oka have huge ambitious plans in life. With all its allure, Oka’s present life feels very much like retirement to me. I could trade it right now for my dusty, soulless urban existence. But my grandmother, on the other hand, would not have approved.

A yakshini inside the Ubud palace
                                                A yakshini inside the Ubud palace

Have you been to Ubud? Leave a comment and let me know.

The lost childhood of the beautiful children of Myanmar

Cherubic with round faces and streaks of thanaka across their cheeks, the children of Myanmar can be shy and curious like children across the world are. However, unlike children anywhere else Myanmar’s children start really early. To work. In a country whose natural wealth has been plundered by the military rule for about 50 years, its citizens have had it hard. The economy is in tatters and the crushing poverty among its populace forces parents to send their children to work to supplement the family income.

From waitressing at restaurants to hawking knick knacks across tourist attractions, children in Myanmar can be found in various places working hard to make money so their families don’t starve. They are subjected to hard labor though I did not find any instance of their managers / minders being rude to them. Notwithstanding the kindness of their masters, it is heartbreaking to note that these children are dropping out of school with no future in sight or a guaranteed income other than the measly wage they are paid as a result of their hard labor.

Media across the world has been paying attention to the child labor issue in Myanmar but with very limited success. Read this Huffington Post story on child labor in the booming construction industry of the country. According to this NPR report that quotes U.N., a third of the country’s children have jobs. Another report titled, ‘Child labor is declining worldwide, but it’s thriving in Myanmar’ in the Foreign Policy magazine is self-explanatory.

During my trip across Myanmar, I found numerous instances of child labor. I found children working in restaurants wiping tables / serving dishes, hawking souvenirs around temples, plucking peanuts in fields and tilling the land.  It’s a depressing state of affairs and there is probably very little one can do about the issue in a country that is still partially ruled by military. But these children are still pictures of innocence. They are beautiful, heart breakingly so. Cliches be damned.

The extremely little

These are the babies. Those chubby faces and perky mischievousness know very little that they will be put in school and pulled out of it very soon so as to assist in the family’s income. Nevertheless, for now, they are cute as buttons.

The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar

The school goers

Many children seem to only finish primary schools. They are pulled out of their schools soon enough they can manage a day job, as it were. But they are cheerful when they go to and come back from schools as I witnessed.

The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar

The shy and curious

Step into a village that is not frequented by tourists and you will be surrounded by these children. They haven’t seen a camera in their lives. Nor have they seen a soul that is not their villager visiting them. Each one of them is photogenic and they seem to know it as they confidently stare into the camera.

The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar

The unfortunate teens

You can find them selling postcards in and around pagodas frequented by tourists. To them, postcards are still relevant because their world is full of them as stocks, waiting to be sold to make money. You can also find them tracing designs on lacquerware trays and other utensils. One entrepreneurial fellow even sold me a bunch of hand-drawn postcards he made with his crayons.

The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar

The hard laborers

They till land to make patches for vegetable plantations or glean peanut plants after the year’s harvest. They are the least fortunate among the lot for their work involves hard, physical labor. And no child should be forced to do that.

The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar
The children of Myanmar

I am ending this year on a poignant note with this post. I have had a good year and I have very little to complain about (if at all, I have to).  I hope each one of you have had a wonderful year as well. I wish you all a great 2015 ahead. Stay safe. Stay well. Leave a comment wishing me a good year and telling me what your travel (and general) plans for 2015 are. I would love to hear from you.

Remembering the Kochi – Muziris Biennale 2012

The second Kochi – Muziris Biennale, the contemporary art festival, has been kick started recently in Kochi, Kerala, India. The festival runs from December 12, 2014 to March 29, 2015. Spread across 8 venues in Fort Kochi, this year’s festival will feature 94 artists from 30 different countries. Themed Whorled Explorations, the biennale will “bring together sensory and conceptual propositions that map our world referencing history, geography, cosmology, time, space, dreams and myths.” according to its website.

I attended the first biennale held in 2012 at the same venues and came back with some interesting images for a post. But I did not have a blog back then and posting these in Facebook seemed like a disservice to these complex renditions. Here are a few of these images since I think blogs elicit a bit more discerning audience.

‘Ways of Seeing’ by Vivek Vilasini

Vivek Vilasini’s works (and their titles, more so) seem pretty self-explanatory without a synopsis. Here, the artist explores the duality of perception through these images.

Ways of seeking - Vivek Vilasini
Ways of seeking – Vivek Vilasini

‘The Last Supper – Gaza’ by Vivek Vilasini

Yet another work that depicts the famous Last Supper painting but in an extremely unlikely setting.

The last supper gaza by Vivek Vilasini
The last supper gaza by Vivek Vilasini

‘Veni, vidi, vici – I came, I saw, I conquered’ by L.N. Tallur

Synopsis: Conquest is a basic human characteristic. At a macro level, history of mankind is full of conquering of the land, its being and its possessors. At a micro level, it is an attempt of conquer death, hunger and ageing. Hatha Yoga is the Yoga (union) of Ham (vital life force) and Tham (mental force). Hatha Yoga teaches how to conquer hunger, thirst, and sleep; how to overcome the effects of heat and cold; how to gain perfect health and cure disease without using drugs; how to arrest the untimely decay of the body resulting from the waste of vital energy; how to preserve youth even at an age of one hundred…

Vedi Vidi Vinci - L N Tallur
Vedi Vidi Vinci – L N Tallur
Vedi Vidi Vinci - L N Tallur
Vedi Vidi Vinci – L N Tallur
Vedi Vidi Vinci - L N Tallur
Vedi Vidi Vinci – L N Tallur

‘Untitled’ by Sun Xun

The Malayalam phrase reads ‘sathyathinu tolvi matram’ – loosely translated as ‘truth only loses.’

Untitled by Sun Xun
Untitled by Sun Xun

‘Untitled’ by Subodh Gupta

Synopsis: The boat suggests notions of migration and survival, experienced most acutely by the deprived masses of the society, which feature prominently in several past works of the artist. When the familiar world and home ceases to be what we know it to be, then the natural instinct of man compels him to convert that piece of boat into his home.

Untitled by Subodh Gupta
Untitled by Subodh Gupta

‘Untitled’ by M.I.A

Yes, she is a rockstar artist. True to her personality, this installation consisted of ‘ten brightly colored, 8 foot long print collages, framed with custom-built mirror mosaics. Built up of layers of saturated, digital colors and reflective, light-catching surfaces, the works feature 3D images of parrots, jungle foliage and gemstones, layered with photographs of crowds, children and cars.’ Totally multi-colored, totally M.I.A.

Untitled by M.I.A
Untitled by M.I.A
Untitled by M.I.A
Untitled by M.I.A

‘Tug of War’ by Jalaja

Duality in human identity. In Jalaja’s words: “Singly, person gains vitality; his emotions and aspirations become central to us all. When we look at him in a wider context, he is just part of a queue, a mob.”

Tug of war by Jalaja
Tug of war by Jalaja

‘The Sovereign Forest by Amar Kanwar’

Synopsis: The Sovereign Forest attempts to reopen discussion and initiate a creative response to our understanding of crime, politics, human rights and ecology. The installation seeks help from film, books and multiple media of various dimensions.

The sovereign forest by Amar Kanwar
The sovereign forest by Amar Kanwarf

 

‘The Ship of Tarshish’ by Prasad Raghavan

Synopsis: The Ship of Tarshish, while a Biblical reference, illustrates the essential deceptiveness and darkness of man’s heart. It is evil and self-seeking and in its wake are conflict and slavery. They (the British) came bearing their spiritual greatness and left bearing the wealth of the conquered.

The ship of Tarshish by Prasad Raghavan
The ship of Tarshish by Prasad Raghavan

‘Fado music in reverse’ by Robert Montgomery

“The strange new music of the crying songs of the people we left behind mixing as your boat touches stone here as my new bones touch your bones.” This poem, composed by Robert himself, is about “exile in light on the sea-facing facade of Aspinwall House.”

Fado music in reverse by Robert Montgomery
Fado music in reverse by Robert Montgomery

‘Erase’ by Srinivas Prasad

Synopsis: At the end of the viewing period the cocoon is set ablaze at night in a ritual that destroys the structure along with the thoughts, memories and confessions uttered within. All remnants of the construction are destroyed leaving nothing behind except sand.

Erase by Srinivas Prasad
Erase by Srinivas Prasad

‘Cloud for Kochi’ by Alfredo Jaar

Synopsis: The texts are written in reverse making them unreadable but poetic signs. By looking at their reflection in the water, they become readable. A fragment from one of the most beautiful poems ever written in any language: Kalidasa’s Cloud Messenger, choosing the segments related to water and clouds, and ideally locate these texts on the wall in the shape of a cloud. On one side, the text is in Sanskrit. On the other side in English.

Cloud for Kochi by Alfredo Jaar
Cloud for Kochi by Alfredo Jaar

‘Celebration in the Laboratory’ by Atul Dodiya

Synopsis: The photo installation Celebration in the Laboratory celebrates some of the contributors who have made Indian modern and contemporary art significant.

Celebration in the laboratory by Atul Dodiya
Celebration in the laboratory by Atul Dodiya
Celebration in the laboratory by Atul Dodiya
Celebration in the laboratory by Atul Dodiya

’72 Privileges’ by Joseph Semah

Synopsis: The story of the copper plates tells us about the 72 privileges that were granted to the Jewish and Christian communities by the last king of the Chera dynasty, Cheraman Perumal.

72 Privileges by Joseph Semah
72 Privileges by Joseph Semah

Miscellaneous Wall Arts

A wall art
A wall art
Another wall art
Another wall art

Are you going to the Biennale being held this year in Kochi? Leave a comment.

5 Alternatives to Hotel Stay

Sure we all love the impeccable service, amenities, facilities and other conveniences offered by hotels but what of the homogeneity that tags along with such experiences? Though you have come to rely on the precision with which your service is offered in a hotel, often such stays do not certainly translate into travel experiences (except, of course, if it is only the stay you are considering but isn’t travel much more than just that). What if, along with your stay, you could get to know a family / a person, forge friendships, swap recipes, get an insider’s view of the city/village you are visiting? You could, you could.

Here are 5 alternatives to hotel stay to enhance your travel experiences.

1)    Homestays

That is pretty much a no brainer, right? Homestays are increasingly becoming a mainstream alternative to hotels. Ranging from self-catering houses with minimum supplies in the kitchen to sharing a (guest) bed with a family, Homestays are evolving constantly. If you do not know where to start about homestays in India (mostly offbeat), check sources like India Untravelled, Travel Another India and The Blue Matsya. While the first two are excellent sources on homestays in remote locations, The Blue Matsya is a charming guest house just a few kilometers short of Mangalore.

Homestay in Ladakh
Homestay in Ladakh

2)    Room Rentals

Though I can’t justify how room rentals are different from Homestays, perhaps the greatest difference is the availability of such rentals in major cities across the world. Check out sites like Airbnb and Roomorama if you haven’t already and read this excellent post about Airbnb and how it is cost-effective. If you are on a slightly higher budget, check out vacation rentals on websites like Welcome Beyond.

3)    Couchsurfing

For years now, my partner and I are couchsurfing hosts. Though it’s been a while since we hosted anyone, our previous experiences have always been memorable. And the couches we have surfed have resulted in good friendships. Create a couchsurfing profile if you haven’t. It works especially well if you are on a budget.

Couchsurfing Pic Courtesy: zenhabits.tumblr.com
Couchsurfing Pic Courtesy: zenhabits.tumblr.com

4)    WWOOF

The internet is replete with resources offering volunteer travel. The organization WWOOF though is slightly different from the rest. It connects volunteers with organic farmers. For a small yearly fee, you could become a member and surf for hosts in the country you wish to visit. It provides you with opportunities to stay in an organic farm for a short or slightly longer duration in exchange of labor (apple picking, olive harvest etc).

5)    Farmstays (often free)

You will be surprised to note the number of small organizations (farms, mainly) that offer free, brief stays in their farms and so on. I recently went to Kalap in Garhwal Himalayas for a month after stumbling upon a friend Anand Sankar’s responsible tourism initiative on Facebook. Check pages like No Man’s Land, Navadarshanam and Timbaktu Collective.

 

Farm Stay Pic Courtesy: Ishahomeschool.org
Farm Stay Pic Courtesy: Ishahomeschool.org

PS: I avoided mention of hostels since I am personally not a fan of hostels. I like my solitude when I travel. Sleeping in a bunker bed also doesn’t rank highly on my wish list.

Have you veered off the beaten track during your travels? Leave a comment.