2016 AS A TRAVEL BLOGGER WAS A MAGICAL YEAR. More than 5 publications published me in the ‘Best Travel Blogger From India’ list. Times of India, I Diva, Indiatimes etc interviewed me amongst others. Though I had started Travel Blogging in 2014, I had not been able to write more blogs beyond 5. I was still a social media influencer. I have been traveling solo in India (150 destinations and counting) since 2008. 2016 was definitely the best year and my only successful year (yet) career wise. Of course, as a kid I have had better years but as a professional 2016 was nothing less than a miracle. It was my first active year as a professional travel blogger and I couldn’t have asked for more. As I hopped from one destination to another breathlessly, living my fantasy, I did not get time to analyze my growth. It is my most traveled year yet!
This blog is dedicated to my friends who saw my travel style change overnight and didn’t ask me anything about it. They have seen my journey since 2008. From dingy Rs.200 rooms, I was checking in 5 star hotels overnight. I was traveling non stop this year and did not get time to even understand the good things happening to me. Or convey them to my friends. I owe you an explanation.
My life had changed without me even realizing it. I traveled so breathlessly this year that I had lost track of my own personal and professional growth. I am overwhelmed because this is the first time I tasted success and I didn’t even work towards it. It came to me on a platter organically. Yup, miracles do happen.
I did not shift to Delhi from Mumbai for blogging as many think. I came here to start something else. But blogging somehow took wings before I knew. When big brands like Jordan Tourism Board (Trust me I had just 5 blogs till then but was very much of a social media influencer) and tourism boards of Punjab, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh started inviting me on Press Trips, I started taking blogging seriously. Skyscanner, Hard Rock cafe were other brands I enjoyed working with. Fellow Travel bloggers Manjulika, Parnashree and Dipanshu also motivated me to blog more when we were returning from Gunehar to Delhi. Rajiv Verma , a travel blogger himself and a techie, came to my rescue and improved my website, just the way I wanted it.
Iris Corbett will always be special. Fond memories.
6 of my articles were published in Railbandhu, India’s official railway magazine and Go air’s in flight magazine Go Getter. 4 of them were cover stories! Lonely Planet Magazine India also published an article by me along with my parents’ pictures. I had won a contest organized by them. Also, I made my photography debut in Marathi newspaper Pudhari.
TCBG (Travel Correspondent and Bloggers Group), a group for travel professionals helmed by renowned journalists Mrs. Alka Kaushik and Ms. Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, also helped me hone my skills with useful workshops and educated me about Delhi and beyond, thanks to the exclusive heritage walks they organize.
THE BAD PART: THE ROSE COMES WITH THORNS!
More than a year has passed, I still miss (MY) Mumbai each and every day. I am grateful to Delhi for whatever it has given me in such a short span of time but somehow I fail to fall in love with Delhi. My yearning for Mumbai was a perennial theme all through 2016.
I missed my original solo travel style. During the beginning of the year I did manage a solo trip to Kila Raipur. In February, I had a spat at home and went to Haridwar sans any luggage and without informing anyone. Unfortunately, these were my only solo trips this year along with solo journeys to Karnataka and Mumbai later in the year.
It was also the first time for me when I traveled with big groups. I had arguments in some of my group trips because my travel style was not aligned with the dynamics of a group travel. Gradually, I found my way out and learned to adjust to group travels. I also started to choose my company well because some people I traveled with were just plain unpleasant. Over time, I started to appreciate group travels. It was a massive change for a solo traveler like me to try group travel.
Also, I found myself entangled in vicious traps. Certain section of insecure bloggers who were not too happy to see me getting invited everywhere attacked me, some openly, some surreptitiously. (It’s not my fault, buddies). I found myself amidst much negativity and there came a time when I wanted to quit blogging. I had even planned a closure line – ‘The view from my #SoulWindow is closed’. I had never faced such issues in life ever because this was the first time I had tasted success.I didn’t know how to react or respond. My face had turned pale and smile had vanished from my face. But then there are nice bloggers too. They showed me reason and guided me as to why I should not be bothered and do blogging even more aggressively. No wonder, from 5 blogs, my year end blog count was 80 blogs. Being a person who never cared for perks or promotion (I was fired from my job for traveling too much!), it was difficult for me to respond to the negativity. Gradually, I learned how to take things in my stride and focus on my work. 1 year of professional Blogging taught me what 7 years of Corporate could not!
Jordan was like a Dream Come True!
Another minus point for me was that I also ended up doing some work which I did not believe in or enjoy. It was an experimental year for me. Having tried a lot of things, I am now in a better position to take right decisions and choose only good projects in 2017.
I also gained a lot of weight (20 kgs) in last one year. So from 75 kgs I crossed 95 kgs in one year. Blame the delicious Delhi food, eh! This explains why adventure enthusiast like me didn’t trek or indulge in much of adventure sports this year.
The problem with being an atheist is that you don’t even know whom to thank when good things happen to you. But I am grateful (To whomsoever it may concern). The success has humbled me and motivated me to work harder without compromising on my quality or values. I thank each and every one who made this journey possible. I convey special thanks to my parents for always allowing me to be whatever I want to be. Trust me it is rare to have parents like that! Oscar Speech over!
January: All through January, I would open my laptop, write 2 lines, shut it down and sleep all day like a log. This is what happens when you face Delhi winters after spending 7 years in Navi Mumbai. I did manage to attend a heritage walk to Nizamuddin Dargah and Chandni Chowk.
February: Solo Trip to Kila Raipur briefly made me thankful for shifting to Delhi. It was a fun trip. I ran from home; hid in Haridwar for 2 days. No extra clothes, no camera, no luggage.
March: My first professional trip Gunehar in Himachal will always be special to me. Next was attending one of its kind Hola Mohalla festival in Punjab. A heritage walk in Mehrauli Archeological Park was also useful.
April: A road trip to Phagwara & McLeodganj along with a pet dog highlighted April, A heritage walk to Hauz Khas was my last Delhi exploration in 2016.
May: Jordan (7 days) was magical- see my blogs under the Jordan tab and you will know why. Few days in Corbett with lovely company were fun.
June: It was my parents’ wedding anniversary and I took them on a relaxing holiday to Sursingdhar, Rishikesh and Haridwar. I made my father try flying fox and water scooter. A first for him!
July: I returned to Kanpur after a long time. I grew up in this city and spent good time boating in Bithoor, reliving the old days with Neha, Abhishek and Preeti Dwivedi. Rest of the time was spent in Lucknow.
August: It was my second time in Bhutan. After spending 10 days in Bhutan, I love it even more. It also gave me a perspective as I kept comparing my previous personal trip to the professional trip. A quick trip to offbeat Landour and Mussoorie with parents also turned out well.
September: Mumbai! I waited for this moment for 10 months. I left Mumbai in November end, 2015 and moved to Delhi. This trip was like oxygen! Enough said! It was my first time in Ladakh (16 days). I was invited to cover the Naropa Festival which happens once in 12 years. Next was solo personal trip to Agumbe, Ikkeri, Kaledi, Shimoga, Jog falls in Karnataka. September was definitely my busiest month. Also the most rewarding!
October: M.P tourism invited me for Press trips to Satpura, Bhopal, Pachmarhi. I extended my tyrip to explore Sanchi, Sehore and Bhimbhetka. (7 days) A road trip to Lucknow on Diwali marked the end of October. (I wanted to cover Ayodhya and Faizabad but was too tired, wanted to just chill at home). I cancelled my solo trip to Kolkata because I was too tired of living out of suitcases and backpacks. I cancelled another solo trip to Surat due to professional commitments. It was the first time I went to a railway station with baggage and changed my mind and cancelled the ticket. That happens when you travel too much and neglect other commitments.
November: The year ended with a grand finale. U.P. tourism invited me for an exclusive (open to only 400 people) hot air balloon ride near Taj Mahal. And when I thought this will be my first year (since 2008) without some Goa air, Goa tourism invited me for a press trip. I almost kissed the Goan sand.
December: I had chosen to take a break from travel. A road trip to Lucknow was my only indulgence. By the way, I wrote a whooping 20 blogs in December. My highest for one month in 2016! I hope to keep the momentum high in 2017.
The view from my #SoulWindow is miraculous!
How was your year? Tell me about the places you traveled to and your most rewarding travel experiences of 2016 in the comments section below.
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