Reasons to Travel #02 – Life Sampling

best. cocktail. buffet. ever.

NOMS. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like buffets. Boxes of mixed chocolates. Appetizer platters. Miniature bottles of alcohol. Packs of tiny, packaged cheeses.

I like variety. I like sampling, and trying new things (sometimes off plates not my own, much to the chagrin of my company). And yeah, sometimes you just want the old favourite, the comfort of the familiar. . . but you’d never have found that favourite to begin with if you hadn’t, at some point, initially tried it. And tastes change – I’m guessing you weren’t a fan of that rich, smokey scotch you now adore so much back when you started drinking. On the flip side, that sugary crap you downed so enthusiastically back in uni might well turn your stomach nowadays.

Maybe you’re someone with a limited palette. Maybe, even at age 35, you’re still more than content with microwaved hot dogs and instant mac-and-cheese for supper 3 nights a week. And that’s cool. . . as long as it’s making you happy. And, just to be clear, if your diet isn’t supplying you with the nutrients you need to maintain energy throughout the day, or is causing you to become so obese that just getting up the stairs to your apartment is a dreaded struggle for you each and every day. . .that’s not making you happy.

It is, as always, about making choices that positively serve you. And it’s difficult to decide what is good for you if you never step out of your comfort zone to sample the other options that are out there. Continue reading

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Taking it Back With You

I am an idiot. I should have known better. This was the third time I’d returned to Canada since I began traveling 5 years ago, and I was fully aware of the many reverse culture shock-y things that can occur when one comes back to one’s country of birth after time spent abroad. I knew that travel had created a healthier life-style for me not because travel was some glorious, magical cure-all, but because of the habits that a life in transit forced or inspired me to adopt; among them, an appreciation of the everyday.

Which is why I feel the prat for not maintaining the habits I was keeping while traveling to record for this blog upon arrival back ‘home’.

While on the road there were 5 things I was never without: my phone, my camera, paper, pen and my passport. Alright, I can probably do without my passport in my home country but the rest were what allowed me to record my thoughts, take notes, capture memories and, through social media, stay connected during the course of it all. This is an ongoing blog. I’m not done. But I stopped these habits. Why? Continue reading

Highlights from a Vagabond’s Motorcycle Wanders of India

It goes without saying that India is a massive country. In 3 months, I got to explore only one strip of it, traveling West to East, sticking largely to the North. I hope to return some day and travel the country more extensively but, for now, here are the highlights from the areas I was fortunate enough to have visited.

In the hills around Uttarkashi. Photo by Peter Philips

Continue reading

A Vagabond’s Budget in India

India is one of the more inexpensive countries on the backpacker circuit. Depending on your habits, tastes and where you travel, you can live pretty effing cheaply in this country for as long as your visa will allow.

[010/366]Money!

Make your Rupees stretch. (Photo credit: rvgpl)

I set my own budget at a projected $1,250 CAD dollars per month (all costs in this section will be listed in Canadian dollars, as this is the currency in which I do my finances), and this wasn’t a difficult goal to stick to. It was in fact generous (as any budget you’re setting for yourself should be to allow for wiggle room and emergencies).

Over the course of 3 months, my total spending in India came to a grand total of $4,350.16. But this includes the approximately $1600.00 purchase of Hrithik, my Royal Enfield motorcycle, from which I regained around $1200.00 when I sold him in Darjeeling.
Given this, my actual loss of finance was more like $3,150.16, or about $1,050.00 per month.

So how’d this break down? Continue reading

A Vagabond’s Guide to Driving in India, part 2 – The Practical Details

India’s a challenge to travel by motorbike, but it’s sure as shit a rewarding one. I particularly loved the high mountain roads in around Rishikesh and Uttarkashi, and the road to Darjeeling. I’d loved to have continued on to tour Sikkim, and heard amazing things about the riding in that area (and on into Nepal) but sickness unfortunately cut my travels short.

Along the road to Uttarkashi.

For an account of the general oddities and challenges you can expect to hit along the way, check out the (largely humorous) Part 1 to this series. But for the more practical nitty gritty, continue reading on.

Getting started

First off, you’re going to need a bike. Continue reading

A Vagabond’s Guide to Travel in India

No doubt, India is a challenging country to navigate. With around 350 different languages and dialects, a swarm of different religions (and sects of religions, and contrasting opinions on how to practice said religions) and a seemingly different culture every time you switch neighborhood, let alone state, it’s hard to come to any solid conclusions of how to do. . .well, anything really.

More than anything else, India is a country of contrasts. If you go looking for the wide-eyed street kids in rags and robed babas with painted faces that occupy so many of our media-fueled impressions of India, you’re sure to find them. You’ll find the insistent street vendors and the cows occupying city streets and the painted rickshaws driving like madmen. But if you look a bit harder you’ll also find a country pulling itself into the modern day, and you’ll find an educated youth, hungry for knowledge of the world outside their own and eager to converse with you about it.

Just one of the many faces waiting to greet you in India. Continue reading

Guest post: The Indian Head Tilt

My (I like to think) long-awaited ‘A Vagabond’s Guide to Travel in India’ series is all written and just awaiting upload. And, as a primer, today’s post is a guest post on the most vital aspect of any communication in India – The Indian head tilt, also known as the Indian head wobble.

I would have struggled to sum up what the gesture indicates, but Arthur, who originally wrote the piece for The Listserve lottery, has done a fantastic job. I inquired with him as to whether he minded my passing on his brilliant summation to a few more people, and he happily agreed.

Here then, without further ado, is Arthur:

You just landed in India. You’re a bit stressed: it’s absolutely normal. But let me just tell you a simple thing, and everything will go just fine. In a matter of days, the Indian in you will be fully awakened.

The head tilt. Continue reading

A Short Word on How I (hope to) Review

I put a lot of thought into why I wanted to write this blog and what I hoped to accomplish with it. What could I offer that couldn’t already be found elsewhere? What did I feel was lacking from other, similar blogs?

In terms of travel advice, what I had to offer was my own unique experience. And what I felt was most lacking from other blogs was context. Narrative travel blogs typically lack raw details of how they did what they were writing about – how they set things up, how much activities cost – while review type blogs lacked details of the sort of experience one might expect from the activities or places they were reviewing.

Keeping that in mind, I hoped to write my own blog with a broader perspective. Continue reading

The Journey ‘Home’

In the end, I ended up selling Hrithik to a local tour company in Darjeeling. I liked that. It meant that he’d go on to see the Nepalese mountain roads, even if I would not (at least not this time around. Mark my words, I will ride those fuckers eventually).

After 2 and a half months together, I bid farewell to my beloved Hrithik.

The end of the trip went by in a blur; driving to Tiger Hill to watch the sun rise over the peaks of the Himalayas (which was awesome), selling the bikes, arranging flights, heading back into Patna and parting ways with Pete. . .while I left for Canada he continued on to Thailand. Continue reading

A Perfect Day in Darjeeling

I’ve mentioned before that a stunning photo does not necessarily indicate an awesome experience. That statement works both ways.

No photo can accurately sum up the day I had on April 21st of the year 2012. It was perfect, for too many tiny reasons that just do not translate well to pixels (though I suppose these words are also technically pixels. Or are they? My god I am not not good with computers). It doesn’t even make a good story, really (which doesn’t really say much for the quality of the post to follow). Nothing particularly epic occurred. It was just a lovely day.

It started off with the best pancakes I’d ever had, courtesy of Sonam’s kitchen. Continue reading