That lovely feeling

I have a feeling it kicks in at the airport, draws me in – maybe it’s something in the air or just being there, with my bags, going somewhere. Where everyone is there to just get on their plane or is getting off it.

The hedonistic feel of leaving it all behind, if only for a few days or weeks. Not that your real life sucks, but getting away from seeing mail that is just more bills, dishes to be washed, food to be cooked and getting up each morning to go to work is a godsend once in a while.

It is very likely that when you travel somewhere, you fall so in love with the place that you start wondering how it would be to live there. It’s like your first love, when you met for the first time. No presumptions, prejudices or expectations, just happy to be there, in the moment.

There are many factors that get us thinking on these lines.  And the reason this works is that we push behind all other logical reasoning around why living there as compared to visiting may not be such a grand idea after all.

1. The weather is divine.

Chances are that the weather is nice, since you probably chose to be there during such a time. At this time, you are not thinking about the harshest weather conditions there, the chilly winds or the sun singeing your skin.

Or, you’re expecting it. There better be a good amount of snow the weekend you plan to go skiing there.

2. It is beautiful.

It’s so beautiful, of course it is. You saw so many breathtaking pictures of the place that it practically sucked you there by sheer physical force. Probably don’t get this view from the window of your suburban home, do you?

3. Being carefree

Days on end when all you have to think about is where to eat your next meal or what else you want in that omelet at breakfast or how to fill the rest of the day. The wind blowing in your hair as you take on one coastline after another, one beach chair after another.

It is far away from the humdrum of a rented or mortgaged life. The bed is always made and the meals are always served.

4. Just me/us two

No distractions of social appointments or commitments and all the time to spare with each other and then some. Or with the friends you chose to be there with.

This is your time to read a book on the beach or sleep or take long walks, take on more museums than gelato or watch the sun go down for any amount of time. To humor yourself in any way you plan to.

5. No time-table

The clock’s not ticking to get you out of bed, the morning commute does not exist. No rush, no routine. Unless you have a full day of fun activities planned of course.

6. Novelty

There are those who don’t like things much different from what they are used to. But for most of the human race, novelty does actually rock their boat. It may be an infinitesimal happiness but it will attach itself to a crevice of your subconscious mind and come back to you at random moments to make you smile.

Sometimes, it’s the food you try. The squid ink pasta that you never tried back home or the dish that you can’t even pronounce the name of but absolutely love or the tacos off the street that you are so scared to see the outcome of but will give in to.

At other times, it’s the new experiences. Snorkeling in clear blue waters, hand gliding over a city, diving with sharks, rubbing a koala bear or boarding over desert dunes. All the times that add up to “remember that time when we..?”

On our travels we also meet new people and discover more about the place, sometimes even forge friendships with them.

Maybe we are just clinging on for a little bit more, and really, why not?

The Vanity of Venice

Venice – a city that beguiles and draws you into its long arms until you never want to leave.

One feels like they are in a delusion, stuck in a time warp, in a place where there are no streets, no cars. Only sidewalks along canals, like a theater set where even the street lamps and window frames are pretty.

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As you walk along its winding canals, every turn holds a different view. With buildings more than centuries old and sights a plenty that take your breath away you don’t want to miss a single thing wandering through the annals of this grand façade.

The areas around the Rialto bridge and San Marco hold enough beauty on their own, but one must wander away and into the other sestieres to get the full gist of Venice. Stepping off at a random stop near Castello or Cannaregio will bring you to deserted squares and quiet corners near canals. It’s like claiming your very own piece of Venice and feeling her resounding beat.

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St. Mark’s Square has the cathedral and Dogee’s palace and views of the Grand Canal, but it is also teeming with tourists at all times of the day. Many of these are day trippers, stopping over for a click with the pigeons and a look through the cathedral before they move on. They see a glimpse of this magnificent city but not everything hiding under its many layers.

St Mark's Square

One’s experience of Venice is definitely incomplete when viewed from land alone. Gondolas and the Vaporetto (Venice’s water bus system) No. 1 takes you through the Grand Canal. The views on the vaporetto don’t come unencumbered compared to those from a gondola but it is a worthy option if you are not willing to shell out the big bucks or think it’s too cliched.

Most restaurants around this area cater blatantly to tourists with large sized menus printed in six common languages and almost the same offerings everywhere. I say blatantly because elsewhere in Venice restaurants also cater mostly to tourists, since Venice itself exists mainly for tourists. The cost of living in Venice is so high – with the taxes and costs of maintenance of the buildings constantly eroded by the salt sea air that most people have moved out into the mainland around Venice.

Travel guides usually advise you that looking for addresses in Venice is a pain. So if one is staying at a B&B or a smaller hotel, they should print a map beforehand with written instructions from the vaporetto stop they will be walking from.

Although I took with me many lists of recommended restaurants, we only ever attempted to look up one for lunch and chanced upon another for dinner. We were in the same sestiere as the aforementioned restaurant and attempted the feat of locating this place. We asked for directions at least 5 times and they sounded something like ‘take a right after the second bridge, then keep walking and take the third left near the big red building’. By the time you got to the third left or right you were confused again as the lane had wounded in a different direction. When we did finally make it, we were greeted with the freshest pasta at Alfredo’s Fresh Pasta to go.

When you have had your fill of wandering through Venice, take a break and head to the islands of Murano and Burano – tiny outliers of Venice. They are even more touristic as you will find their single town square and sidewalks filled with overpriced souvenir shops and restaurants but offer a slightly different landscape from Venice. Burano is the prettier of the two with row upon row of vividly colored houses. It is said that the fishermen who originally occupied this island painted their houses in bright colors to find their way back home easily. Another theory is that the government at the time dictated the color you had to paint your house.

The weather took a turn for the worse while we were in Venice, dropping to temperatures 15 degrees cooler than it usually is in the summer and became windy and rainy. We deflected this by layering up and downing cup upon cup of espresso. The rain turned the landscape even more magical as everything glistened in the aftermath and people deftly passed each other trying to avoid their umbrellas from colliding.

In conversation with a girl who was Venetian (because of course the citizens of Venice deem themselves too special to be called Italian!) stayed in Venice for three years while she studied arts and language there. Making a move to the mainland, she mentioned that she felt that life in Venice was unreal – there were no cars, people walked everywhere and one was surrounded by tourists all year round. She was getting used to her commute from Mestre but felt that she had stepped into the real world.

This preference of people born or living in Venice to being addressed as Venetians rather than Italians stems from history. Venice was a maritime power of Europe, the only such center of its kind that owned ships and an equivalent of the modern day navy. Consequently, they also controlled trade routes. It was occupied by the most affluent of merchants and a lot of wealth flowed through here, some of which can be seen till today in the opulence of the palaces along the Grand Canal.

Although this was my second time visiting Venice I was drawn in more rather than getting that bored swat of having been there, done that and seen everything worth seeing. On my first visit, I was one of those flighty day trippers happy to see the pigeons at St. Mark’s square, take a gondola ride, see a glassblowing workshop and sum it up as my vision of Venice. I was also the teenager who begged my dad to please take the gondolier back home and give him a job!

This time, wandering idly through the sidewalks was a magical experience.

As we bid adieu, like an aristocratic lady she tosses her head and surveys her splendor and leaves you wanting for more as you depart its shores wanting to linger just a little bit longer.

Road Trips!


This is how all of our family trips started — we would be all packed and ready to go. Our tickets would be booked on a train or flight.

Two days before we were due to depart, we would see my dad open a massive map on the dining table and start poring over it. That’s when we knew — it was going to be a road trip!!

Excitement would then start rolling over the household. My brother and I would be besides ourselves. My mom on the other hand would resign herself to this trip but I imagine our energetic excitement probably kept her going.

I would start putting together my ‘walkman’ (yes, this is 15 years ago!) and CDs or music cassettes together for the trip. My younger brother obviously needed a kit of his own but wouldn’t know what would go in it.

Food bags were put together for the journey — as usually, these road trips could span a whole day or two.

My dad’s logic to convert these trips into road trips was that we would not be at the mercy of the train or flight schedule and our itinerary would not be limited by its trajectory. If we saw something interesting on the way, we could stop and take a look. And he was always proven right about this. The route was scenic, we usually hit an unplanned spot that we got to explore and we made fun food stops along the way.

So, in the following posts I will talk about other places that we visited and how the road trip made it all the more fun!

The other fun road trip I did was right after we finished college, when my then boyfriend (now husband!) and his friend decided to start a business and took me along for the ride. We drove from Melbourne in the south-east of Australia all the way to Northern Queensland — a distance of about 1700 km or 851 miles in 3 months making lots of fun, unexpected stops along the way.

What is your favorite mode of travel and why?

What kind of traveler are you?

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There are all types of travelers —

a) those that like to stay in a hotel – people that like to spend most of their vacation time in their hotel room or in and around a hotel. They like to experience the most from their vacation in the hotel.

b) all inclusive resort travelers – people who like an all paid vacation where the resort offers many facilities to keep one entertained for a few days, maybe a nice pool, beach and water activities, events for hotel guests.

c) long term travelers – folks who take off for more than a few weeks to do some detailed traveling

d) caravan travelers – people who prefer to cook their eggs in their own way each morning and don’t like the stuffiness of hotels. Also usually in the category of long term travelers unless they are trying it for the experience or own their own caravan and drive it down to the shore over the weekend

e) RV travelers – people who like their space (so a caravan just won’t do!) with their few creature comforts and are not afraid of maneuvering large vehicles

f) solo travelers – who like to experience life with or without anyone by their side, not afraid to be in a new place by themselves, don’t feel lonely when they are alone, will usually share a drink or two with strangeres and make friends along the way.

g) thorough travelers – travelers who plan everything to the T and have an itinerary in mind for each day of the vacation. Going traveling with them will probably not feel like an aimlessly relaxing holiday.

h) relaxed travelers – people who go for a holiday to de-stress. This may involve laying on the beach endlessly for days, wandering around without a plan and not caring about what they ‘accomplished’ on the trip

i) revelers – people who like a good party. A vacation needs to involve at least a few good parties, a lot of drinking and checking out all the cool spots in town.

j) luxury travelers – nothing but the best hotels will do, price no matter. Be it an eco-lodge, a resort, a hotel or any other kind of establishment, it has to boast five stars or more. Any further inland travel will also be done comfortably and luxuriously with no expense spared.

k) adventure seekers – people who like to go over the edge, even if just a little bit. Their entire vacation may not be centered around thrill seeking activities,but  they will find an opportunity to indulge in some daring exercise.

l) backpackers – this variety needs no description. It’s the traveler that is happy to go traveling with 6 sets of clothes and is out to explore and experience travel from each pore of their body. They can overlap with some other kinds of travelers described above but deserve to be in a category of their own.

m) weekenders – folks who rarely travel for more than a weekend. It could be for any number of reasons, but that is the most amount of travel they can handle at a time.

n) campers – setting up camp and living it out the natural way is what appeals to some. It may be coupled with other activities like rafting or trekking, campfires at night, grilling freshly caught fish over a fire or watching the stars at night.

o) honeymooners – yes i know, most people go on a honeymoon, but I reserve this category for people that will go for a grand honeymoon, but that will probably be the only major trip they will make in their lifetime.

p) family vacationers – people who travel with their family, kids, pets and all in tow. Sometimes, this could involve relatives, near and far — parents, in-laws, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles.

q) travelers with pets – for some traveling with their beloved pet is not a pain, they will not go anywhere without them. This may involve buying a box on the plane, or even a seat.

r) travelers with kids – folks who don’t feel like they should leave their kids behind and then it’s a vacation. They enjoy having the kids around and holidaying with them.

I haven’t called out LGBT travelers because from my perspective they are not a different ‘category’ of travelers. There are accommodations that cater to this group specifically but that doesn’t mean that the way they travel differs from anyone else.

So, what kind of traveler are you? Do you like mixing it up or take it one way?

Some people are intensive sight-seers, taking their travel very seriously..some like their vacations long..some go the short highlights way, some go to enjoy the food and night life.

Whatever your style, the whole point of a vacation is to enjoy it, so however you do it make sure you come back having made the most of it in your own way 🙂

M

Why people don’t travel

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There is so much talk about how we love to travel, and how traveling is money well spent etc. But, for every 1 person that travels there are probably 4 that don’t..I wonder why? Is it just not something they are into?

And, I’m not even talking about long term travel here, for months at a time, I haven’t even done that myself yet, I’m just talking about getting up and going — seeing places. All I’m saying is, people, there are options out there — to suit every type of person, and take it from anyone who has the bug — it is worth it, much more than the L’oreal or SKII splurge your or your better half will make sometime in their life.

Observing people I know, some of the reasons why I think people don’t travel are..

1) Money: This is a big one. No matter how cheaply you do it, it still costs money to travel. And let’s face it, there’s only so cheap some of us will go. Not everyone has millions of points floating around to use for flights and hotels, and not all of us are willing to backpack it around in hostels. So, for the normal folks, it costs money to book that flight and the average $100/night hotels. Then of course there is the internal travel, food, maybe some shopping, sightseeing to take care of. But, again there are options there for every budget. There are bus or train trips one can do closer to home, heck even a hiking and camping trip!

2) Kids (or pets): There are only so many places you can go depending on how old your kids are. How many people would be willing to lug their child up a trek to Machu Picchu? At that point, sitting around on a beach for a week may sound more enticing. Or even a B&B that one can drive to with a stroller, diaper bag and all the goodies packed away safely in the trunk. Again, there are places you can still go to.

3) Time: This one I hear about a lot but don’t get and largely don’t agree with. One finds time for the things they love to do, whether it is playing video games for hours, or an entire weekend spent getting to a hangover and then nursing it, or 2 hours spent knitting on the train everyday (nothing wrong with it, but I’m just not one of those people).

4) Visas: This may not be obvious to many people who don’t need visas to travel in most countries. I must say that this has not been a deterrent for  us thankfully but can imagine the pain residents of some countries have to go through to plan travel. There was one occasion recently when we were traveling to Brazil when we had to go into NYC to drop off our passports and documents to obtain a tourist visa (we could collect by post but had to drop off the application in person — not cool). For many, this could be a botheration and just not worth the effort. I know a couple from India who wanted to go to Barbados for their honeymoon, but would have to go out of the country to obtain a visa! Umm yes, Barbados was not where they went for their honeymoon eventually.

5) Comfort Zone: Some people like their day to day lives, their routine, their coffee mug, pillow and the comfort of their couch. Getting out there, getting lost, figuring things out, a different language and food they may not like is not something they want to get into. Fair enough, but there’s got to be someplace that’s not too weird for you where you could go?

6) Career: Certain folks are so focussed on their careers that taking a break is inconceivable for them. In America, most workplaces only offer about 2 weeks of paid leave. In my very humble opinion that is just not enough to switch off, relax and detox from the work life. Taking 6 months off every year is obviously going to make it hard for you to remain at the top of senior management, but one should definitely be able to take more than 2 weeks off in a year to travel.

If you don’t travel, what are your reasons not to?

1/Ithaca, N.Y., USA

The Musing Travelog

ithaca farmers marketA mellow little town with a ton of character.

The major part of town is Cornell University, a hilly area with some nice pubs to hang out at. I don’t know how students walk up those steep sidewalks after a night out!

The beauty of Ithaca though was in the ruddy canal that runs into the lake. There was a tiny little breakfast shack along the canal that looked worth trying. On a nice day, its fun to take a kayak into the lake or if you are not brave enough like me, take one of the boat tours!

They take you around a fair way into the lake and you can see some lucky folks lounging about in hammocks, having barbeques or generally congregating and having a good time in the gardens of their summer lake houses. Many of them have boats moored to posts or housed in sheds.

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