TRAVEL GONE WRONG: WHY 4 MONTHS OF NON STOP TRAVEL MADE ME HATE TRAVEL!

TO TRAVEL NON STOP FOR 4 MONTHS NON STOP! That was my travel fantasy when I was still working in Navi Mumbai in a 9 to 5 corporate job (Fine, make that 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. job). Sitting at my desk all day, I would dream of packing my bags to never return. My day dreaming would be assaulted with more official excel sheets (some of which I used surreptitiously for making my travel plans for next few months). Circa 2016! As I mentioned in an earlier blog, 2016 was a magical year for me travel wise.

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Me at Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang

Thanks to my new freelance lifestyle, I had the freedom to realize my dream of traveling non-stop. I had accepted a bit too many professional invites for Press Trips and planned many of my personal travels as well. So from August 2016 to November 2016, it was non-stop travel for me for 4 months. Between this period, I showed up at my brother’s house (I was staying with him till then) only for few hours. I would be back home only to wash and change clothes, rest or deliver already delayed projects before starting my next travel. I remember before my Amazing Trip To Ladakh, I took a post midnight cab to home, picked fresh clothes, unpacked and packed my luggage again and leave before 5 a.m. to catch flight to Leh. Within those few hours, I crazily packed my bag, answered mails and even submitted assignments. As I was unpacking and packing I realized much of my room resembled a war zone. I wasted a lot of time to find my things. Because I had had no time to organize my life!

COMPLETE GUIDE TO PARO TAKTSANG AKA TIGER’S NEST MONASTERY IN BHUTAN

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Offbeat Bhutan : Cycling in Unseen Thimphu

Since November end to present day (February 2017), I have been declining Media Trips because I want to concentrate on my writing, earning and other pursuits in life.  I will start traveling again hopefully towards the end of February 2017. Till then, I just want to be at peace. I used my sabbatical from travel well to write more articles for print travel magazines and newspapers, to burn lot of food every day in my kitchen (I am a hopeless cook), play with my friend’s dog, catch up on movies and dining with my friends, organize my desk. I caught up with food festivals, film festivals, book fair and restaurant hopping in New Delhi too. I had spent quality time at 2 of my friend’s quiet homes and offices to write pending blogs. The month of December was most productive as I wrote around 20 blogs in December alone, most of it on Jordan and Bhutan etc. I also managed my finances and raised pending bills and earned more. I further augmented more wealth for me by landing up for assignments for me. On one of the days, I wrote 4 articles in a day! And oh, I caught up on a lot of sleep too. It was a creatively satisfying phase and I hope to repeat it again.

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Click to read about the mystery behind Penis paintings on walls of Bhutan near Chimi Lhakhang

I have realized that I can’t be location independent. I realized that my fantasy was just a fantasy! When I actually tried to live my fantasy of traveling non-stop, I ended up cancelling my own trips. After being on road and in air for so long, I had realized that I do like a base to come back to. (Coz बाबा को base पसंद है). I also realized that no matter how much I love travel, it is not the only thing I want to do. I was itching to read lots of books, even newspapers (I am known for reading 2 months old newspaper even when not traveling), catch up on Bollywood and world cinema (I saw 15 Iranian films in between), meet old friends, spend time with parents and nephews and nieces. On most of my travels in this period I carried books to read. Not even once did I get time to read those thanks to my packed schedules during travel. I talk to my parents in Lucknow daily on phone since 2008, when I left home. I had to request them to hang up because I was too tired (mentally) to even talk)

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I went to a remote village Sehore in Madhya Pradesh to see how Delhi girl Sanjana Kaushik is changing lives in rural India.

Even places like Ladakh, where I had planned 16 days trip started to make me restless. Even though it was my first time in Ladakh, I was constantly craving to get back home. This, when I don’t even like Delhi or Ghaziabad, my adopted home since 1 year! I realized I started to enjoy travel less and on every travel, after a few days, there were moments when I just wanted it to end right there. Perhaps if I was a newbie traveler, I would have still enjoyed it but after having traveled to more than 150 destinations in India since 2008, most of it solo travel in shoestring budgets, I was near saturation. I didn’t want to kill travel for me and since December 2016 I took a strict sabbatical from Travel. Not very long ago (Till just a few month ago), I used to crave for such a trip. From being Fired for travelling too much in 2015 to Tired of travelling too much in 2016, I had seen a paradigm shift in my travel aspirations within a year, a bit too fast. Henceforth, my focus this year onwards is to choose my official trips carefully.

  • I don’t want to travel for more than 10 days in a month.
  • I also want to travel more and more with parents, friends.
  • That said, I realized how much I crave to go back to my original Solo Travel Style. I did manage some amazing Solo Travel experiences last year. I hope to plan some epic solo travels for myself this year.
  • I want to choose my Press Trips more carefully. I should be charged up about the destination before committing.
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Taj Balloon Festival near Taj Mahal Agra was the highlight of my trips.

This break from travel was also important because I finally shifted to my own rented apartment in January 2017. When I shifted from Navi Mumbai to Ghaziabad to stay with my brother in November 2015, I knew I would move out within a year. But I was unable to even find time to go apartment hunting because I was hardly seen at home. Much of January was spent in organizing my life and cutting the clutter. From August 2017 to January 2017 (staying at 2 of my friend’s homes) I was literally living out of suitcases and backpacks wearing the same set of clothes over and again. It was fun and challenging but also cumbersome.

Before Ladakh in September, a Media Trip to Bhutan for 10 days happened to me in August. After enjoying Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Haa Valley at leisure, I spent quality time with parents at Mussoorie and Landour.   September was marked with 16 days in Ladakh. After Ladakh, I made a solo trip to Mumbai, Bangalore and Agumbe, Ikkeri, Kaledi, Shimoga, Jog falls in Karnataka. It was a mix of flights, rickety buses and sleeper class trains. My train to Mumbai from Delhi was not even sleeper class. It was an overnight Chair Car journey in Gareeb Rath.  September was indeed my busiest month.

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Did you know about the Corn Village Bhutoli in Mussoorie? Mosaic Hotels helped me find!

By the time it was October, I had started cancelling my own travels. Never before had I stood at a railway platform with my backpack and cancelled my own tickets. As I sat in metro to Nizamuddin railway station, I was boggled by the amount of work pending. The horrific visions of messy desk and room nagged me further. Upon reaching, I just cancelled the sleeper class train ticket to Surat on my cellphone and returned back to home. I promised myself to travel to Surat next winter to sample the seasonal dishes Ponk and Oundhiyo. Never before in my life had I done something like this. I even cancelled my much awaited trip to Kolkata on Durga Pooja in October. I had wanted to do it since eons. When I was so close to realizing that dream, I cancelled the ticket myself because 1) I was tired and 2) I had so much of freelance work pending). Before this, I explored Madhya Pradesh (Satpura, Bhopal, Pachmarhi, Sanchi, Sehore and Bhimbhetka.) for 7 days. I also stayed at parents’ home in Lucknow for sometime during Diwali. I had plans to visit nearby Ayodhya, Faizabad and Varanasi but I was too tired and just wanted to chill at home and eat some comfort food made by mom. November was all about hot air balloon ride near Taj Mahal and a quick trip to Boat Festival in Goa. I almost said no to these 2 invites. But it was so tempting I had to go. This was the time when I started to slow down. In reality, my 4 month long non-stop travel thus had brief moments of rest at home, thanks to the cancellations.

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Alongwith Naropa Festival, I also attended the Ladakh Festival in Leh.

I don’t know if I will travel like this again (Though I still have some crazy travel plans) but for now I want to take it slow. Kudos to those travelers who spend months on road! Before this trip, the most I had travelled at a stretch was one month in Nepal in 2015 (Everest Base camp Trek and Kathmandu). I remember I was itching for a base even then.

It taught me that we should all understand what personality types we are and make travel plans which suit our personalities. I would love your views on this. Does the same thing happen to you as well or do you love living out of suitcases and backpacks? Do let me know in the comment section below.

This song from the Bollywood film Lootera sums up my current state of mind well.

ना उड़ने की इस दफा ठानी परिंदो ने भी वफा जानी. शिकायते मिटाने चली; सुबह बेदाग है!”

(“Having decided not to fly, even the birds learned to stay this time! I answered all the complaints; the morning is spotless now!”)

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I took some time off from Madhya Pradesh Travel Mart and went to see Sanchi Stupa. Mesmerised, I spent all day here.

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Spotting Gaur aka Bison and other wildlife at Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

Offbeat Activities to do in Mussoorie with Mosaic Hotel

I HAVE AVOIDED GOING TO MUSSOORIE ever since I started traveling in 2010. I dreaded going there after hearing all the horror stories from fellow travelers. So, I was skeptical when I was invited to visit Mussoorie. I anyhow said yes after much contemplation. I always make sure to experience a destination myself rather than blindly believing in the hearsay. I planned the travel with parents. Unlike the new age ‘travel snobs’, they are fond of clichéd touristy places. However, I found many offbeat things to do in Mussoorie.

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My parents doing the ‘half’ nature walk!

As we left the stuffy plains of Dehradoon and entered the serpentine roads of Mussourie, many school teenagers raced past our car, as if Mussoorie is shutting down next day onwards. Girls, prim and proper; boys, rash and bursting with over confidence!  I am again skeptical if I made the right choice.

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Views you see in every direction!

That said, the mist laden mountains in the distance promised me a utopian world. The car stopped just at the start of the barrier of the famous Mall Road. The Eco wall at the Mosaic Hotel where I was staying, welcomed us. I was told it was soon turning into a selfie point with the passer byes, thanks to its striking green walls, punctuated with bright unusual flowers.

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Pics above : Mosaic’s attic suite; Charcoal, al fresco restaurant amidst mist

I was delighted to enter in my Attic suite. I always wanted to stay in an attic though never got the opportunity. The attic suite at Mosaic had 2 bedroom. The ground floor had a master bedroom with a huge washroom with a bathtub. The stairs from the lounge area of the ground floor led to an attached room on the attic. I was pleasantly surprised to see that attic came with a separate washroom too, which is not the norm.

Walk 1: VILLAGE WALK

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He owns this 100 year old traditional house!

We headed for Bhatoli village near the famous Kempty Falls. Bhutoli turned out to be a corn paradise! Tons of corn were scattered around carelessly, some arranged on wires painstakingly, giving a unique character to the village. One of my co traveler Poonam’s guess was that Bhutoli was named after Bhutta (corn). It was the best experience for me as we were taken to a 100 year old house built in traditional style.

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The kitchen inside the wooden house. Our hosts fed us fresh boiled corns.
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Exterior of the 100 year old traditional house

Earlier all houses were built in similar fashion but only this building survives now. A wooden structure, I climbed up the narrow stairs only to enter a gate so low, I had to bend to get inside. I was told this style was invented so that any miscreants (in those times British Officers) would not be able to run away in a jiffy in case a fracas happens. The sliding windows were so small that you could barely pass a hand through it. There was a rooftop window, much like their car versions these days, which worked as a natural ventilator/exhaust/chimney/light source. The rooms had a stair to the lower floors, used as a storage space. The couple lovingly cooked boiled corn for us in their charming kitchen as my eyes scanned the spartan interiors of their lovely house. You could count their belonging on fingers. Just the kind of lifestyle I like!

Corn galore at Bhatoli Village.

Walk 2 – CAMEL’S BACK LOOP POINT

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Camel’s Back point: Can you spot the sitting camel and its hump?

Post lunch, I booked full body massage and steam bath for my parents at the hotel, while I moved on to one of the 10 walks conducted by the property in Mussoorie. The Camel’s back loop walk started right from the hotel. A right turn just at the start of the barrier, took us to the Mussoorie few care to visit. The road here was devoid of tourists. Only locals strolled by tending to their chores. Few foreign tourists enjoyed the soul nourishing views of the valley from the many ‘Hawa Ghar’ (Wind House) which lined the roads. (See Picture)

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These Hawa Ghar are great for sitting and appreciating valley or ruminating over a sunset!

We passed a mosque, an ancient British building where British officers once indulged in skating. The skating rink is still there. We were delighted like kids when our cheerful guide Deepak pointed towards a rock which looked like a sitting camel, hump intact. We were lucky to spot it before mist swallowed the quirky attraction. After few minutes, we reached a graveyard, the stones of which were engulfed by foliage. British were buried here in pre independence era. After languorously admiring a setting sun behind colossal mountains, we called it a day! The walk ends at mall Road

Walk 3 – NATURE WALK 

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Tents en route!

On the second day, a short drive took us to ‘haathi paon’, thus named because of a rock which looks like Elephant’s legs. I am fond of nature walk, which is just easier version of trekking. The 2 hour trail took us to the forest area. I stopped dead in my tracks as I passed the pine trees wrapped in mysterious looking mist. Lying below it were Rhododendron trees, which must color the town red with their flowers every March. It was a smooth walk till the Wishing Well. It is said that when you turn the back towards the well and throw a coin, it must fall in water without hitting the inner walls of well. My parents and co travelers did try (Not me!), none of them succeeded though. Parents returned from here in car and we moved as steeper climbs lied ahead. We passed some tent in the forest and old style huts en route.

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Have you played cricket in a location as scenic as this?

My favourite was the residence of George Everest. It is a stark white building, in the middle of nowhere, now inhabited by ‘langurs’ (Monkey species) and lovers who love to write on historical buildings. I am sure the small sit out area facing the valley was also the favorite spot of the legendary surveyor and geographer. The location of the house is eerie and it is touted as a haunted house.

House of George Everest (Pic 1 – Sit out area, which opens to valley!)

There is no major building in sight. All one sees is mist, mountains and an observatory up in the hill. I peeped inside to see small charming rooms, each boasting of its personal fireplace. Old world! We had a bowl of Maggi and tea in the makeshift stall and moved on to explore more vistas. We also plucked some chestnut, the tree laden with fruits, to boil it at home and eat later.

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Chestnut

Walk 4 : NAG TIBBA AND LANDOUR

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Charming House of actor Victor Banerjee

The last walk started at Char Dukaan in Landour and ended at Lal Tibba from where one can see many snow peaks. The route passed many charming bunglows, cafes, houses of famous personalities like hotelier Sanjay Narang, writer Ruskin Bond and actor Victor Banerjee. The streets here are quieter and bereft of any tourists in sight. Though I am sure the place does see tourists in peak season.

Folks at Landour Bakehouse have whacky sense of humour (Pls click to read)

Mussoorie grew on me slowly and I wondered why I took so many years to come here. I believe if you go offbeat in Mussoorie, you will discover many of its gems lurking in corners you are not suspecting them to be. I went in August end and there were hardly any tourists in sight. Even the mall road was not as horrifyingly crowded. I wondered why August is called off season, since I experienced the mist, sunshine and rain all in one day.

EAT YOUR ENEMY:

Chef Dheeraj Singh at work. Sisnu leaves on the right (mise en scene for Nettle soup!)

My father touched a thorny leaf at the Lal Tibba. Suddenly, he had this strong urge to scratch at all the affected parts. A local helped him alleviate the suffering by applying a local leaf. It was ‘sisnu’ aka nettle/ Bichchu Ghaas (Scorpio Grass). Turned out that was exactly our lunch as we reached Mosaic Mussoorie. The Executive Sous Chef Dheeraj Singh gave us a live demo of how to make Nettle Soup. The leaves were burnt on stove to kill its thorn and thus the scratching sensations it produces. The ever smiling chef rustled up a flavoursome soup in no time. I have always wanted to eat it in Sikkim and Nepal where it is more popular. This was my first time and loved it. The ever smiling Chef hosts a TV show on Care World TV. Check his videos on You Tube. (Search his name)

Stay (Upscale):

Stay at the well appointed Mosaic Mussoorie. The rooms are luxurious, cozy and have cheerful interiors. Family can stay in the attic suite or attic rooms. One can choose depending upon the budget. The location of the hotel is perfect. It is just at the start of the barrier of Mall Road, which means you can park your car in a parking lot behind hotel and move it anytime easily. Check their contact details and tariff here.

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The scandalous Fried Ice Cream

Eat:

Mosaic Mussoorie has two restaurants. Random and Charcoal. The cuisine at random is varied. I particularly loved the scandalous fried ice cream (My first time), Veg Wonton Soup, Veg lasagna topped with micro greens, Nettle soup. The breakfast is sumptuous though you can avoid the lackluster stuffed parathas. I liked the breakfast buffet where you can make your own salad, combine breads with different variety of cheeses, pick up healthy vegetable shooters, fruits, flavoured water and juices. Charcoal is an open air restaurant where you can see your food being barbequed live. Dining here during a misty weather is unforgettable. When in Landour, eat at the Landour Bake house. Grab the valley facing seats (Their sense of humor is too good, see picture)

Shopping:

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My parents shopping for local outfits at Bhuttico. I support local weaves over big brands!

 Shop for high quality shawls at Bhuttico, a goverment enterprise. My mother merrily picked up some ‘sadri’ (waistcoat for me), Shirts (for dad) and Shawls. There are many Kashmiri shops which sell products from Kashmir. You can also pick ponchos.

For local handmade jams, jellies and cheese, head to A Prakash & Co in Landour (Phone – 632544)

Kempty falls:

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Oops!

Go if you really want to. I was curious thanks to its fame, so made a half an hour car journey from the Mall Road. I was part impressed, part disappointed. May be because I have seen enough waterfalls in Maharashtra and they fail to excite me now. So decide for yourself.

How to reach:

New Delhi to Dehradoon

Train number: 12017, Dehradoon Shatabdi (Comfortable air conditioned sitting car. Includes meals)

Dehradoon to Mussoorie cab/bus: Approx 1 hour (32 kms)

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A Local women at Wishing Well

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Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

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My parents drinking one of the sweetest water ever at Wishing Well

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.