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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Random Thoughts From A First Time Solo Indian Female Traveller

So how was it like traveling solo for the first time? Did I like it? Will I do it again? These are the many questions I have been asked ever since I returned from my first solo trip. So let me try my best to answer them.


So before I start, let me tell you the factors that made me to decide to go solo this time. Even though I did some roaming around in the USA by myself, I have never been on a solo trip. I never had to do it till now. Being from a traveling family, I always had company whenever I wanted to go anywhere. I was born as one of a twin. So that meant I was always stuck with someone (just kidding, Ramya) for the rest of my life. Since I live in India, there never has been a shortage of friends. I have always been amused by the fact that some of my friends need company to go to the bathroom even when they are in office. Even at office, if I decide to have a quiet meal in the pantry, I am surrounded by at least 5 people who just can’t bear the thought of me eating alone.

So you got the gist, right? I was never encouraged and never had an opportunity till now to travel solo. 
Then what changed this time? Ever since I started reading multiple travel blogs over the past year, I have always wanted to travel solo. I wanted to see what was it like to be traveling solo. Was it as liberating as they all claimed it to be? It was weird coming to this decision since I am in my early thirties and I was traveling alone for the first time in my life. 

Another factor was the time I had. I wanted to take a break between my two jobs and no-one I knew had the convenience to take such a huge break. So then it was decided and I booked my tickets to Europe.

So how did my family take it? Surprisingly well. At least in front of me. I am pretty sure that my mom would have had some high BP issues when I announced it to them after booking the tickets. They did have a hint but they had no clue that I was going to do something this extreme. In the process I ditched my sister and brother in law. I was supposed to go to Tanzania with them to meet our friends (including the wildlife) but when I decided to go solo, they went ahead without me.

Random Thoughts From A First Time Solo Indian Female Traveller
Colmar, France

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My Favourite Hotel From EuroTrip 2016: The Dominican, Brussels, Belgium

When my mom saw the size of my hotel room and my bed in Amsterdam, she was upset with me. It was difficult for her to understand why I chose to stay in such a place. I couldn't justify it myself since I was really pissed off for choosing such a terrible place. Well that is the reality of traveling and sometimes you are stuck with a bad deal. The thing about being part of an affluent family is that I never got to stay in crappy places when I was younger and we were traveling as a family. It was only when I started traveling with my hard earned money, I realised that I could travel more if I stuck to a budget. But even now there are days when I choose luxury over budget. For my European trip, I decided to do a combination of hostels, budget hotels and luxury hotels. This was random and I chose ones after carefully combing through many hotel booking sites.

So after the worst hotel experience in Amsterdam this time around, I landed in Brussels hoping that I would not be disappointed. I headed over to the Dominican and I was swept off my feet from the minute I landed there. 

Dominican is a 4 star boutique hotel right in the middle of Brussels city centre. It is at ideal walking distance from many well known spots like the Grand Place, Central Station, Manneken Piss, Les Galleries etc. Since it is part of the Carlton collection, everything is top notch. As mentioned before, I always consider Safety, Accessibility and Cleanliness as the top most priority while choosing a hotel.

Lobby, Dominican, Brussels
Lobby, Dominican, Brussels

Monday, July 11, 2016

Pitstop Number One: My Story Hotel Ouro, Lisbon, Portugal

What are some of the things you are concerned with when you are a solo female traveller? Especially when you are traveling alone for the first time in Europe? I believe that Safety is the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind. Secondly accessibility and convenience. Budget is also a key factor when it comes to deciding a place to stay in a new city. For me, cleanliness is also vital. Anything that comes in addition to the above is an added bonus.

With these in mind, I descended on TripAdvisor to find an ideal place to stay in Lisbon. Lisbon was after all my first stop on my European tour. Since I was reaching Lisbon after a long day of flying from Bangalore, I was not too keen on shared dorms in hostels. That is when ‘My Story Hotel Ouro’ caught my eye. It fit my budget and I immediately booked a room here for 3 nights.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Reflections of a Brown Traveller

If you thought this was some kind of rant against being racially abused during my recent travels, it is definitely not that. It is something else and I have been wondering about it a lot this time.
I didn’t understand it the first time. I had just come down for dinner on my first night at my hotel in Lisbon and suddenly I somehow felt like I was the center of attention. I was definitely not looking my best then and it was a different kind of staring. At that time, I just brushed it off as me being tired and didn’t think much about it. But then it kept happening at many places around the city for the next two days.
But it was not until I reached Algarvae, it finally struck me. So I was staying in this nice hotel and on my first day there, I went for lunch and suddenly all eyes were on me again. That is when I realized why. I was the only brown traveler there and people were just stunned to see a solo female Indian traveler. Over the course of the next two days, I did become friendly with few couples there and they were kind of surprised that I was traveling alone and they had all kinds of questions for me.
Reflections of a Brown Traveller Vienna
Schronnbunn Palace, Vienna

Monday, June 27, 2016

What Went Wrong During My EuroTrip

I know it has been a while since I wrote something. It was a conscious decision I made during my trip. It was kind of a crazy trip and I just did not have the strength to come back and write something every day. The only social media I was active on was Instagram. I did write couple of articles but that was it. Even after coming back last weekend, I was fairly busy with back to back classes, project submissions and exams. For people who don’t know I am doing an Executive General Management program at IIM- Bangalore. 
But don’t you worry. I have many stories and thousands of photos to keep you entertained for the rest of the year. But as I was wondering what should I write about today, I thought why not write about what went wrong during my 5-week Euro trip. It was my first solo trip (I will definitely write on that later.) and there were days when everything seemed to be going wrong. But would I trade those days for anything else? No way. After all what is life without some drama and this drama was what brought out all kinds of emotions at the end of the day. Some were annoying while some were humorous. Would these incidents prevent me from traveling again? That would be a first. I don’t think any of my long term trips till date have been without some kind of drama.

What Went Wrong During My EuroTrip - Madrid, Spain
Madrid, Spain

Monday, May 23, 2016

When I spent A Night In A Spanish Police Station

Hola from country number 23. For people who were wondering why I didn't post anything yesterday, there is a reason for everything. We , travel bloggers only talk about the glamorous part of traveling. But we, as hard core travelers know that there will be bad days too. Yesterday was one such bad day .
Portugal just did not want me to leave. I had planned every hotel, train and bus booking . Only thing I did not plan was how to get out of Algarvae. After all there were ample buses. But what I forgot was that it was a Sunday. Apparently there was only one bus and that left too early.
Finally after much hullabaloo and a very expensive private transfer , I finally reached Huelva, Spain just in time for my train to Madrid.
Now comes the fun part. I reached Madrid and decided to take the cab to my hostel. The cab driver did not know the place. So he dropped me at one side of a Plazza and told me that it was on the other side.
My phone was not working. So I spent the next 45 minutes- 1 hour trying to get directions to the hostel. Finally I got there, only to realise that someone had stolen my wallet. Don't ask me how. I was tired , lost and hungry. I was not careful and someone managed to do it.
Luckily we always take extra precautions. I had extra cash stored away and I managed to pay for my hostel dorm room ( I had paid only a part while booking).
It was already 11 Pm by then . The first thing I did after I stopped panicking was to go to the police station to report it. There they made me call Visa to cancel all my cards which took me a really long time. By the time I finished filing my report, it was 2:30Am . Thankfully Madrid does not sleep. I informed my family over Whatsapp post all this and went to sleep. By the time I woke up, my very powerful brother in law had already transferred cash.
So does that mean I pack up and go back home. No definitely not. I have decided to take it with a pinch of salt. Forget about the whole thing and go back to enjoying my trip. In midst of all this, I realised that it is after all a great world with too many good people. The kind receptionist at my hotel who helped me in the time of my crisis. The tourist relationship officer and the police officers at the police station who were patient with me and helped me when I broke down in front of them.  The UAE money exchange. My family who knew exactly what to do ( there are really too many accountants in my family).
It makes for a good story. After all how many of you can say that you spent half a night in a police station? That reminds me I have to eat something. Here is to more such travel stories and also hoping that I don't get robbed again. 

Seeing the World Through Soumya's eyes

It is not that I get too much fun referring to myself in the third person (or maybe I do). But that is what my close friend told me when I posted a picture from my European trip. That is a huge responsibility and I am terrified that I won't live up to her expectations.
So many questions haunt me. What if I can't?  I know that she currently can't travel the world like me for various reasons. What if I don't do enough?  Will I make it better for her or will she curse me for my ability to travel the World? There is so much to see and so less time to see.
But then I forget all that when I see the view before me. Take a look at it yourself. That is when I realise that I have to disconnect myself from everything (which is difficult since I am so used to being online all the time.) and see this amazing world through my eyes. Because someone depends on these eyes to see the world for the time being.

All pictures are from Algarvae, Portugal: