Table of contents for Editorial 2011
Hello Again Dear Ghumakkars!
We have had a nice mix of stories from senior Ghumakkars as well as some new authors this month. Let me start by welcoming the new authors. Here they are:
If you haven’t read their stories, visit their author pages now and don’t forget to leave a comment.
Becoming a traveller isn’t easy. Just like any other hobby or profession, expertise comes with experience and one has to polish the skills over years. Some travellers have a natural talent whereas some work hard towards developing it. Some learn by making mistakes. But those of us who have made these mistakes know that most of the times these mistakes are very expensive. I mean literally. For example, choosing a hotel at an impractical location may result in you spending a lot of money in cab fares. Or shopping without research may result in you paying much more than the item is worth. And when we make such mistakes, we wish that we had known better.
All experienced travellers have their own set of tips to make the most of a trip. And at Ghumakkar, we have no dearth of experience when it comes to travelling. Here are some lessons that I have learnt during my career as a traveller.
Do some research
Find out as much about a place as you can. Go beyond the standard ‘places to visit’ pages and Wikipedia. Read travelogues by people who have recently been to the place. If needed, ask them questions. Gather as many details as possible. Knowledge about common attire, customs, and mannerisms can be very useful especially if you are travelling to a foreign land. Research ensures that you won’t miss out on specialities of a place and be at a lower risk to be conned into paying more than necessary.
Travel without Prejudice
This is the best way to truly experience a place. Form your opinions once you’ve been to a place but avoid doing so before you reach there. Who can understand this better than Indians? Our country has long been seen as the land of snake-charmers and spiritual Guru. As a result, foreign tourists often come to India expecting to experience some aspect of spirituality at every corner. And yes, they do find it. But India has so much more to offer than this. So be open-minded and approach a place with the curiosity of a child.
Don’t give up on a place too soon
If the first impression of a place is disappointing, don’t stop exploring immediately. You never know, the next day might be better and you may discover some hidden treasures that you had never expected to find. There are a lot of places that appear over-crowded. But on exploring further you will discover a dynamic underlying spirit or an unbelievable place to shop or some extraordinary form of art. I experienced this when I visited Rewa, a small city in the Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh. This small City at the first glance looked like any other small city. But on exploring further I discovered that this was the only place where the dying art of supari (betel-nut) sculpting is still performed. And once I knew this, it only took a couple of hours to discover the only two shops that still sold these sculptures. They stood next to each other and weren’t any different in appearance than any other shops. I wouldn’t have noticed them if I hadn’t known about the remarkable supari sculptures. I bought a couple of small pieces from there and these still grace our drawing room. I was so glad that I didn’t give up hope for Rewa too soon.
Don’t carry too much of a luggage with you. And if you are going for a long trip and need big bags, ensure that they’ll be safe in the hotel while you travel. Find out about check-in and check-out times of the hotel and also confirm that the hotel provides a cloakroom service so that you can leave your stuff there while you roam around even on the days you are checking-in and checking-out when the room is not available for you. A friend of mine ended up dragging her strolley bag with her for four days recently on a solo trip to Scotland where hilly terrain and cobbled streets made it very tough for her to enjoy the place.
Travel on foot
Some say that there’s no better way to explore a place than walking. Of course, it isn’t always possible. One has to keep in mind a lot of factors such as safety, distance, terrain. But wherever possible, try this. This is how you meet local people, taste street food, breath the air, and get a feel of the place.
Try local stuff
Anyone who’s been to San Francisco will tell you how special the Farmer’s market at the Ferry building is. I had my first (and last) oyster here. And tourists who travel to Delhi will most probably vouch for its street food. Nothing defines Jaipur as the Lakh Jewellery available at Bapu market and Chikan clothes say Lucknow like nothing else does. These local products often define the character of a place and are a huge part of the history. Only after experiencing such local products can you claim with pride that you have experienced a place.
Take pictures but don’t forget to experience the place
Taking pictures is a very important part of travel. You want to share the place you’ve seen with your family and friends. But at times, I have seen that people can go overboard with it. Recently while travelling with some friends from college, I noticed that they were so busy getting themselves clicked at every inch of the place that when at the end of the trip I asked them the name of the street that we had explored, none of them had any idea at all. What is the point of visiting a place if you don’t know anything about it at the end of the trip?
Dressing impractically on a trip is like wearing stilettos on a sandy beach. When we are visiting a place for the first time, it is better to err on the side of being conservative. Once we get a feel of the place while you are there, you can dress as you wish to. Nothing says “I’m a tourist” like unusual clothes and, of course, a big camera around your neck. While most of us would like to retain the camera, wearing practical and comfortable clothes will prevent us from discomforting stares. So why not be comfortable yet presentable instead of the style icon on a trip?
Keep a basic medicine pack with you
Many travellers are adventure seekers as well. When we see a rock, we want to climb it. And getting hurt is a natural part of the process. Even without that when we are trying every new type of street food we come across, we might end up feeling sick. And a doctor may not always be handy. So keep some basic medicines with you. But also consult a doctor at the first possible occasion if the symptoms persist. Travel safe.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have your own tips or if you want to say something about this article, please feel free to leave a comment here.
Till the next time,
Editor – Ghumakkar.com