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11 WAYS A TRAVELLER IS DIFFERENT FROM A TOURIST

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There are two kinds of people in the travel world. One kind opts for order, the other walks straight into chaos. One is practical, the other lives in a day-dream. One is leads the road, the other lets the road lead him. 

1) A tourist takes the faster route, a traveller doesn’t mind the distance.

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 A tourist wants to reach his destination as easily and as soon as possible. That is because he seeks the destination. The road to the place seems long and tiring to him.

A traveller’s solace lies on the path, even if it leads to nowhere. He understands that not all journeys are made for reaching a destination and sometimes, the road leaves a more lasting impression than the destination. The traveller enjoys the experience of travelling itself, which is why he prefers the longer route.

2) A tourist plans everything out, a traveller is spontaneous.

 No.2

A tourist has everything well planned before he sets out on the journey. How he is going to travel, the places he is going to visit, the hotels he will stay in. A tourists’ meticulous planning is what binds him from actually exploring the place. He can never take a turn on the road just because he wants to. Never stop for more time than he has schedule for one place. Never see more than what his itinerary tells him to.

A traveller knows that each place has a surprise in store for him and the best way to ruin that would be to plan the trip to the minute. A traveller is a child of spontaneity. His road is filled with uncertainties. He can follow an entirely different road just out of curiosity to find something beautiful or sometimes nothing standing at the end of it.. He can spend hours on a beach staring at the horizon. He is not in a rush to follow a schedule. And, in these wild, unplanned moments he gets the best of the place.

 3) A tourist takes a break from his normal life to travel. A traveller takes a break from travelling to lead a normal life.

No. 3

 A tourist waits for that annual leave to book his tickets. Travelling is a break for him from his normal routine.

A traveller is always travelling. All the times he isn’t actually travelling, he is sitting and dreaming about travel. Deciding on the next place he wants to go to. Adding and subtracting to his bucket list. Talking and writing about all the adventures he has had and will have. He sometimes gets pulled back to the routine of his normal life. But, it can’t hold him. He soon returns to where he belongs, on the road.

 4) A tourist is often afraid of getting lost. A traveller looks forward to it.

 no. 4

A tourist is scared of the unknown. “What if I get lost?”, “What if I get robbed?”, “What is the place is not safe?” “How will I find my way back?”

 A traveller knows that he needs to first get lost to find his way. He is as concerned as the tourist about his well-being. But, he learns to trust, the people, the place and the road. And, everytime he gets lost, he finds a helping hand in a local or a fellow traveller that guides him back to the road. Or he manages to find the road himself. This way he either makes a new friend or finds a new way to reach his destination. That’s why he cherishes the feeling of being lost.

5) A tourist picks the hotel with the best view. A traveller picks one with the best people.

no.5

 A tourist picks the hotel with the best services. Pool. check. Spa. Check. Suite. Check. He asks for the room with the best view of the city so that he can sit by the window and watch the city from afar.

A traveller wants to be a part of the city which is why he will never stay in a hotel, detached from the city. He would rather stay for bread and breakfast at the local’s home or crash at a hostel in the busiest neighbourhood so that he can meet fellow travellers to share some stories or know the city from the locals themselves. He doesn’t care much for luxury. He cares for company.  

6) A tourist is always looking for company to travel. A traveller finds company on the way.

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 Tourists travel in packs. Friends, family. work colleagues. Before beginning a journey he asks around for company. When he can’t find any, most of the times he cancels the trip altogether. He doesn’t get the idea of travelling solo. He finds it boring or even dangerous.

A traveller sees going solo as an opportunity. Company is always welcomed on a journey, but very often it prevents him from stepping out of his comfort zone to get acquainted with a stranger. A traveller makes new friends in every city he visits.

7) A tourist dines at Michelin starred restaurants. A traveller takes to the streets.  

 no.7

A tourist finds great restaurants with the best reviews. Situated on the top of the tallest building, in open air with great music. Dishes being prepared by award-winning chefs.

A traveller knows that nobody can prepare a local dish, like the local. He often finds the best delicacies on a street-side joint. Sure, that open- air restaurant will have great food. But, that is not what the locals eat everyday. Often on his journey, a traveller is invited for a home-cooked lunch by welcoming hosts. He falls short of stars to give.

8) A tourist finds the best season to visit the place. A traveller knows that each season brings its own charm.

no.8

 A tourist calculates, “it will be too cold in January, too hot in May.” He keeps postponing his trip till the perfect time.

A traveller knows that each season unravels a different kind of beauty. The hills look equally majestic when they are snowy white in the winter and when they are lush green in the summers. The heat, snow, rain will only enhance his experience of the place. He cherishes all the season while travelling.

9) A tourist covers all the must-see places. A traveller goes beyond the popular.

no.9

A tourist finds the most popular sites, the “must-sees” as he calls it and thinks his journey to be complete.

A traveller knows that that is just half the road. The other half lies hidden, on the streets that open to a small, unnoticed chapel in Rome. A barren road that leads to one of the most serene landscapes with the most beautiful view in New Zealand. It is this that causes a rush in the traveller. Sure, the Eiffel Tower is magnificent, but he can see beauty where it goes unnoticed.

 

10) A tourist explores the brain of a place. A traveller directly goes for the heart.

 NO.10

A tourist tries to understand the place through its monuments, architecture, museum, parks, art galleries, famous buildings, restaurants, beaches, hills. He reads about the place, about the famous spots. He tries to understand it intellectually.

 A traveller meets the people and tries to understand their way of life. He goes beyond the concrete walls to understand the culture of the place. He sits with a local to hear his stories, learns the language, enjoys the festivals, watches a street performance, because that is what breathes life into the parks, bridges and monuments of the place. That is where the emotions are, in the heart of the place.

no.11

 All travellers were once tourists who realised something was missing and set out to find it.

All tourists have in them the potential of the traveller. And one day, they will abandon their routines and pick up a backpack to walk the road less travelled.

Love is Permanent

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After fighting my instincts for months, I have come to realize this: Love is permanent. It doesn’t just go away. You can do a million things; rebel, avenge, let go, conquer, but love will stay.  That’s because love isn’t a feeling or a thing. It’s a state. If you are once in love, you will be there for the rest of your days. You can push it away at the back of your mind, hide it in everyday chores, try to push it away in the unvisited corners of your heart; but you will never get rid of it. It will always stay there.

So maybe it’s time to stop fighting it and start negotiating with it. Because love is permanent and it is here to change you, permanently.

Fight for it

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Nothing worth having comes without a fight. That’s the truth we all know. Maybe you’ve never heard it in so many words but deep down you know. When things come easy to us, it frightens us. We know it can taken away as easily as it has been given to us. Maybe we don’t accept this to ourselves, but whenever something good happens without an effort, we are slightly scared.

And, we somehow hide that fear. Behind, destiny, fate and luck. I am not saying don’t accept things that come easy, all I am saying is, there will be catch down the road. Because everything you want, everything you truly deserve and everything that belongs to you, will take struggle. You will have to give it your everything. You will have to stand there on stormy days and push yourself to move forward. And that’s the truth.

You will only be able to do it if you truly love this thing you want. If you don’t, you will pack up your bag one fine and leave. just give up. But, if you love it dearly, if you can’t imagine your life any other way, even it means a little important to you, you will fight; on good days and bad. You won’t give up even if everything is working against you, when the odds don’t favour you and when the entire world tell you to give it up. Don’t. Just don’t.

I can’t promise success all the time. But, whatever you find at the end of the struggle, even if it is failure. It will be worth it. You will be happy just to know you tried and you came all the way. That you didn’t abandon hope when it got tough and you will stand tall and be proud of how strong you’ve been. And immaterial of the fact that you won or lost that time, you begin another insane journey towards another impossible thing that you want.

Just go for it!

Birthdays Should Be Celebrated

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I have never been a person who celebrated birthdays. In fact, I am quite low-key when it comes to any kind of celebrations. I can’t do the glitter and gloss thing, no big fat parties. I like to keep it subtle and quiet. But, today, as I am a few hours away from my 22nd Birthday (according to the Islamic calendar) I am changing things a bit. I am finally beginning to understand that celebrating birthdays is quite important.

A birthday is the celebration of life (yes, very deep). But seriously, today I am celebrating me. The strong-headed, stubborn, bright, helpful, rebellious, understanding, adamant, curious, tough and sensitive person that I am. I am celebrating all those days when I laughed so hard that I felt I would pass out. I am celebrating those nights when I cried with pain and then woke up in the morning ready to face another day. I am celebrating the days, I wished never ended. I am celebrating the days I never thought I’d get through.

And, above all, I am celebrating that I made it through 22 years, with not much trouble and no regrets so far and that i will make it through another year with equal zest.

A lot will change for me this year, starting from moving out of my parents house to shifting to a new city to my new, personal story writing challenge. And today I am celebrating this new start and the triumph of living life to my best!

So, I will truly celebrate tonight with all the shenanigans and joy! (will still keep glitter out of it). I wish you’d do the same. Happy Birthday! 🙂

Learn when to let go

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It’s important to make space in your life. To clean up your closet once in a while and throw away that favourite dress,  simply because it doesn’t fit anymore.

Make space for something new. Know when the old has lost meaning. It’s even more important to tell ourselves the truth.

Yes. We loved it, but it just doesn’t work anymore. And that’s the truth. No matter how harsh.

Let go of what no longer makes you happy. Because that’s what matters the most. Happiness.

Hello 2015! I’ve been waiting for you since a year.

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The New Year is upon us. Finally. It’s a great time for people, like me, who make a truckload of mistakes to empty the truck into a garbage bin and begin again. After all, if a huge planet can begin it’s journey again, why can’t we? So, for those who fucked up 2014, don’t worry we are just a few breaths away. Everything is about to change. And for those who had an awesome 2014, don’t worry, it’s just another spin around the sun. Nothing will change.

Personally, I had a pretty tedious year so I am more than happy that it’s over. Just so my 2015 doesn’t go down the same way, I have a list of things that I will be reminding myself of during this year.

1) Bye-Bye 2014: Yes, the previous year sucked. So what? Every time you get upset because of your past, check your calender. It’s a new year. 2014 doesn’t exist anymore. And there is no reason you should drag it into your 2015.

2) Be confident: There are enough people out there who will tell you that you won’t make it, that you aren’t worth it, that you can’t do it and that you don’t deserve it. Your only job is to not believe them.

3) Read: Anything and everything. Ironically, I cannot express in words how much reading will heal you. In between those words, those lines, those pages, you will find something that will stay with you. That will speak to you and give you the courage to move forward.

4) Solve another person’s problems: No, it’s not being preachy. It’s being helpful. People usually don’t ask for help when they need it. Call up those you care about and ask them how they are. It makes a difference. Try to listen to their problems and to find solutions. Try to give advice to the best of your knowledge. There will be a moment when you would say something and go like, “Hey! that’s some good shit. Maybe I should follow it too.” More often than not, when you try to help others you end up helping yourself too.

5) Create something: It could be anything; a blog, a painting, a website, a Facebook page, anything. Use what you know and what you love to create something new. Something that adds to the world and more importantly adds to yourself.

6) Travel: Put this one on all the New Year lists you make till you die. Travel doesn’t mean heading to exotic countries (although that’ll do great too), it means just getting out of your city or even your house. Just go out and explore. Even if travel doesn’t lead to self-discovery, it will bring you to a gorgeous view once in a while and that’ll transform you just as much.

7) Learn something new (and useless):  Everything you learn doesn’t have to fill you resume, or push your career or even be useful. Learn something that makes you wonder. World mythologies, ancient Greek, astrology, whatever you wanted to learn but couldn’t.  You will come out knowing a little more about the world and most importantly, it will be without any pressure and a whole lot of fun.

8) Love and be loved: It might sound odd, but accepting love takes more courage than giving love. Do both. It might seem scary when someone loves you for things even you don’t love yourself for. Surround yourself with more people like them and return the favor. They will save you when you need it the most.

9) Be Happy: No matter what happens, try to end each day with a smile. Choose what makes you happy not what makes your rich (but if money makes you happy then go for it). If you have a bad day, end it with something that brings a smile on your face (a re-run of Friends does it for me). Laugh yourself to sleep. It doesn’t lead to puffy eyes.

Have a great year!

An Encounter In Yemen

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“Freedom is an illusion,” said the 19 year old Yasmin as I sat with her in the biggest, most magnificent mosque of Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

My trip to Yemen in the summer of 2010 will be remembered by me for a lot of reasons. The amazing landscape, the religious sanctity and the beautiful mosques .But, mostly because of this young woman I met and these four words that she told me that will probably haunt me forever.

I was sitting in the AL-Saleh Mosque in Sana’a, the largest mosque of Yemen built by the then Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2008. This magnificent and giant structure is an architectural beauty and lights up like a gem in the night. And, although I was in Yemen for a pilgrimage (which didn’t include visiting the mosque); I decided that this one can’t be missed.

As I was walking through the mosque, admiring the beautiful murals, I noticed two girls sitting at a side reciting from the Holy Quran. I went up and sat next to them listening. One of them looked up at me and smiled, she closed the Quran and we engaged in a casual chat about ourselves and our countries.

As a Muslim girl living in a secular democracy, I really wanted to refute what she had just said. I wanted to tell her that I was free. At least that was what I thought. But, I had a second think coming.

As our conversation moved forward, I realised that she was student learning medicine from the University of Sana’a, one of the first universities in Yemen. And her friend, the girl sitting with her was studying the same too. I found myself drawing parallels between her and me, just to form an argument against her claim.

We both were Muslims, we both had access to higher education, and we both were around the same age. But, she lived in an Authoritarian society governed by a male- dominated religion and I lived in a democracy that claimed to be secular. That was the key and perhaps, the only difference between us.

Yet, she was wearing a Burkha and so was I. Not only because I was in Yemen, back in India too, I was subtly told to wear it. Although, my parents didn’t out rightly force it on me, they had their way of showing their unhappiness. The restriction was not just on Muslim women or myself, most girls in India are told what to wear and what not to wear.

I asked her if she would practise medicine in the future. “I would love too. But, only if my husband allows it.” That was the fate and worry of so many women in India too.  A recent survey done by The National Sample Survey Survey Office (NSSO) stated that the presence of working women has dropped overall, from one in three in 2004-05 to one in five in 2011-12. About 75% women, quit their jobs citing that they want to start a family. Men staying at home and looking after the child is more often seen as a taboo in our society and thus he women has to make the sacrifice.

The thing is women today, anywhere are not entirely free. And, this is not limited to only Muslim women or women in India or Yemen. It is Universal. The problems may be different, but the underlying issue still remains the same. The feminist movement in the late 19th century helped loosen the shackles of male-dominance a lot. It gave us rights, to vote, equal pay, influence in politics etc. It was a movement where we rightfully demanded to be treated as equals. The question is- why did we stop?

Now, I am not an extreme feminist, but I aspire freedom. And, freedom is not only getting to vote, or wearing the kind of clothes you want, or having a right to choose your life partner. Sure, it is all of those things. But, more importantly it is about having to practise your right to make a choice, without being judged for it. It is wearing the clothes you want, without people judging you character. It is being able to have an ambition without asking for anybody’s consent. It is about being able to choose who we want to be and not being told who we should be. Sure, you can point at female idols like Chanda Kochar, Vandana Shiva, Kalpana Chawla, even Pratibha Patil and claim that women are free to be what they want. But for every Chanda Kochar there 7000 girls killed every day, simply because they are girls. Freedom can’t be generalised to a select few. That is convenience, not reality.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women(CEDAW) is a treaty adopted by the UN general assembly giving women’s more rights and thus decreasing gender inequality. In total, 161 countries signed the treaty citing some “reservations”. Basically, yes they are giving you rights, but not in every aspect. Freedom with limitations. They want to provide us with a few rights and reservations, and hoodwink us into believing that we are free. Are we?  Does reservation of seats and compartments in public transport make you free? You are still being stared at and groped. Does 33% reservation in the government make you free? You are still arrested for fighting for the right. We don’t need reservations, we need equal opportunities, and we need equal respect.

We can’t fight for freedom until we don’t acknowledge that we aren’t free yet, that, what has been given to us is only the “illusion of freedom” For, India the eye opener were the protests in Delhi last year after the brutal rape of Nirbhaya. That was a milestone moment. Why? Because we once again raised a question.  The question of our freedom, the question of our rights. We shunned the definition of freedom that was given to us. A freedom with limits. And more importantly, we realized that the fight wasn’t over yet, and if we had any hope of winning we had to be together on it.

Yasmin and I were similar in more than one way. Maybe, my chains were better than hers, but we both are still trapped. So are most women in the world. Our fight for freedom is still left to be completed. We may have come halfway, by securing external rights; but we still had to walk the other half to find the real freedom which comes with respect for our choices, for our wishes.

Before I was leaving the mosque, Yasmin held both my hands in hers and recited the first chapter from The Holy Quran. Quite puzzled I asked her why she did that. “It is said that doing so, forms a lasting bond between two people,” she explained.  Three years later, I think she was right. I still can’t forget her or the words she said. Maybe, true freedom is an illusion. At least for now.

Mirage

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Walking under a strong sun,

Her sight gazed at the vast expanse.

Was she alone? Or was there any help?

Only the mighty sand dunes stared back.

 

It has been quite a while now,

She should get used to it.

But the solitude still ate at her,

She did cry out for help once in a while.

 

What would be left if she abandoned hope?

The sole thing that has walked by her side for so long.

What would save her during times of despair?

If she gave up her companion so.

 

Her throat is dry and her eyes turn redder by the day,

“How long is this journey?” she asks.

But the universe remains silent.

Must it have a plan?

 

Finally, her eyes encounter from far away,

The blue that stands out from the rusty sands.

The green that borders it,

Like a highlight to its beauty.

 

She runs towards it,

Laughter echoes after a long time,

Waking up the still wind,

Which wonders ‘what has she seen?’

 

She runs faster now.

Where did the energy come from?

She looks by her side,

Hope smiles back.

 

She reaches but somehow it seems farther,

Infinities don’t end.

She should have learnt from the previous times,

Naive, she expected a Mirage to quench her thirst. 

The Urge To Write

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I sometimes have an unexplained need to write. I don’t know what I want to write about, what I want to say, what I want to pass on. I just want to write. Just like right now. Write, because it is gratifying, fulfilling and most of all makes me happy. It doesn’t have to be meaningful, intense, funny, sarcastic, fun, mysterious, serious or driving a point. Sometimes, I just want to write because there is this urge, like a rush, to let words out. An urge so sudden and urgent that my fingers can’t stop typing till everything inside, all the words, all the thoughts, everything has just flown out. 

These are the days of vacuum. When I don’t know how to feel, when I have nothing intelligent or dramatic to add, but I still want to express. Something. Anything. And just like heightened days, when you feel love, pain, sorrow, happiness, these days of vacuum are just as important. It is like an emotional detox of sorts. It brings your meter back to zero, so that you can take a breath and embark on an emotional roller coaster once again. This vacuum helps you rationalize, distance yourself, and perceive things differently. Maybe even show you another side to your worries, problems, joys and fears. 

So, here it is. The much-needed Vacuum, the unnecessary yet needed words, the unorganized thoughts. A beautiful chaos.

Some days, I just want to write without achieving any goal, word limits, deadlines, relating it to the audience. Nothing. Just put sentences directly from my head on the laptop screen. And, instead of expressing what I feel with words, my words would help me discover what I feel.

Feeling right now- Vacuum (and a little content)

 

P.S- I hadn’t written anything since a long time which was eating into me. I couldn’t find anything to write about. Thus, I decided that I would simply write without any topic, theme or a point. The above post is a result of this small experiment. Whether or not you are a writer try this. It is liberating and a self-discovery at the same time.  

 

Yes, I Believe In Fairy Tales!

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Disclaimer- I write this with a broken heart.

Every time I get my heart broken or feel sorrow over things that are lost, I read a fairy tale or watch a nice Disney Movie. No, I am not living in Denial. No, it’s not overcompensation or wishful thinking. I genuinely believe in fairy tales. Not quite literally, but in the idea of impossibility. The idea of something more than normal. Something magical.

There are too many things and people that tell you that Fairy Tales don’t happen. Too many reasons that force you to believe that nothing magical will ever happen to you. And, most of the times you miss out on magic only because you don’t believe it exists.

I believe there is a 10% chance of everything happening in the universe. Aliens existing, Pumpkins turning into chariots, losing your shoe to find a Prince Charming. The point is not whether these things are actually possible or not. The point is giving the universe a chance, a space in which it can work. Giving a little possibility to the impossible.  I believe the universe works in tangent with you. How is it supposed to provide you with something that you refuse to acknowledge?

So, every time I am thrown back to reality. When someone or something breaks my idealistic view of the world. I try to go back to a fairy tale. What it does for me is that it makes me believe again. In goodness, in good things, in magic. It brings back a little hope.  Don’t shirk off fairy tales as a farce. There is a reason they are narrated to us as children. Not to sugar-coat the world, but to instill hope in the good. Something, unfortunately, we begin to lose as we grow up. The world can get pretty cruel sometimes; instead of succumbing to it believe in something better; it might just happen!