travel

Travel Tips – Part I

To me, travel is planning and spontaneity in parts – the dosage metered so that I can handle it. This time around, I stretched my comfort zone by starting with just one planned week and then using a day each week to plot the next one (places to stay, see, side-trips, all of it). Part of the planning process was also a lot of homework about packing and budget; in this, my bible was Rick Steves’ “Europe Through The Back Door”. So I can’t help but recount a few things I learnt along the way :) Of course, this is a self-serving post!

Pack Light!
I read like a maniac on the essentials required and the best way to pack for two months on the road. The night before my departure, I was almost in tears struggling to zip up a 22-pound-55L backpack and buckling under its weight. Two months later, everything I had fit neatly into the same backpack and I was walking with a (umm, relatively) straight back. So what changed?! For the most part, I had followed instructions; but I added more books and food than advised. Ten days into the trip, I ruthlessly downsized the books and a few clothes and sent them all home.
So pack light! An easy to carry backpack (or carry-on roller for those whose backs refuse a pack) is the best friend you’ll have if it is the right size!

Shelter:
I stayed in a mixture of different accommodations – one apartment, one big-chain hotel, four hostels and five B&Bs – each with its own character. An apartment was the best way to begin the trip, being by myself. The big chain hotel had a gym attached with classes that I loved. The hostels were vibrant and they reminded me that people have so much to offer only if I am willing to reach out and ask. The B&Bs were little laps of luxury – I met VERY friendly hosts who were great guides and offered excellent food!
Youth hostels are part of the “it’s a culture thing”, so don’t shun them. They are amazing to meet new people, swap stories or just eavesdrop and play “guess the accent” with yourself. And oh, the sheer energy!

Food:
I was on a budget on all vectors, food included. The best part about a food budget is that I ate more fruits and drank more soup in two months than I ever had in the four months before that! Both are amazing on the island, and the bread is just melt-in-your-mouth fresh. It was such a joy to discover that the portion sizes can actually be finished in one sitting without feeling like a bloated balloon! With the hostels and apartment, it was easy to whisk up a quick (and healthy) stir-fry and call it done. But, it was equally important to try the local cuisine and so I ventured out looking for something every now and then. Sadly, the Scottish veggie haggis was a let-down and the English afternoon cream tea did not do much for me either. The local markets made up for this is whooping style – everything I’ve eaten at a market was amazing, some even healthy. From wheat-grass juice to salads to Ethiopian street food to dosas to baked apricot sweets and homemade chocolate, I’ve been left wanting more each time.
Always visit a market – you never know what you’ll uncover, but you can be so sure that it is all VERY local and VERY in-budget!

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