While you travel, travel responsibly

Tourism is at the soul of human discovery. We grow when we travel. We learn about places, cultures, habitats among a long list of positive outcomes that travel delivers to our psyche- consciously or subconsciously. I am blogging for #ResponsibleTourism activity by Outlook Traveller in association with BlogAdda and glad to share a few steps we can consider while traveling.

Most travelers travel to 2 kinds of locales- beaches or mountains. There are those who go to travel the hustle and bustle of the world’s metropolis but leisure travel is primarily focused on attractions which are replete with blue beaches or sprawling mountainous landscapes.

In both these travel scenarios, travelers experience the beauty of nature in all its splendor. Nature, however, is fragile and vulnerable to destruction. All of us who travel have seen the places we travel to, suffer the impacts of climate change, deforestation and industrialization with least care paid to nature, which takes care of us, in the first place.

As travelers who travel to be in the lap of nature, so to say, it is our responsibility to ensure from we don’t spoil the very lap. We can do our bit, as travelers. We must ensure that wherever we travel, we travel responsibly.

What does responsible tourism mean?

Responsible tourism means that we do every possible to experience the natural surroundings without spoiling their natural essence. Their natural essence is their natural state and it must not be disturbed or we will end up losing the beauty that we long for, that we travel to appreciate.

If we are traveling to beaches or water bodies, for example, there are many things we can do, to preserve the ecology. For example, we can ensure that we carry our waste material like bottles, food items, plastic waste with us, when we leave the beach and not leave any waste of any kind. Beaches, rivers, lakes are water bodies and they are vulnerable to contamination by filth. For example, anybody who has traveled to the beaches in Mumbai will share a sorry account of the dirt and filth on the shore and in the water. We can request fellow travelers to do the same when they travel to such locations. Let us try to keep the beauty of the water and that of the sand as nature intends it to be-pure and pristine.

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Also, it is important to respect the culture of your destination. For example, India is a culturally sensitive country. Public nudity is not respected anywhere. It may be acceptable in some parts of the world but will invite unwanted attention in India. Therefore, one must be careful or not hurting the cultural sentiments of the hosts.

Many of us love the call of the mountains. Mountains are ecologically sensitive zones. While traveling to peaks, we must not throw plastic waste or other type of waste anywhere. It does not just disturb other tourists but creates dissonance in the minds of the hosts about the usefulness of the travel activity in their home towns. Also, mountains are peaceful zones unlike the boisterousness of the beaches. One must remember that in the mountains, noise travels much faster and therefore, we can do our bit by not playing loud music which disturbs fellow travelers of hosts alike.

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Another area of concern is levels of noise and air pollution at tourist destinations. We must avoid private vehicles as much as possible and public transport to travel to tourist locations. If all tourists travel by private vehicles like cars, it creates high levels of air and noise pollution which defeats the whole purpose of traveling.

Responsible tourism is also about our behavior as tourists. We should be grateful to our hosts and ask them questions, in case of any doubts. More importantly, we must preserve the natural habitat as it is.

Tourism is the key economic activity for many destinations and the survival of their population depends on its existence and persistence. If we as tourists are not responsible, then we may end up spoiling the destinations we travel to, forever. Our future generations may not be able to enjoy the beauty of nature because we were not responsible.

When we travel, let us pledge to travel responsibly. The nature needs us, as much as we need it.

 

Why Old is Gold in Manali

I visited Manali a while back and had thought about writing this piece but could not get around it, until today. Do I recommend Manali-the old one, like the old monk? Young monks do not look that wise. The last line was a joke, request the monks reading this not to get offended. Wait, do I know any monks? Oh, let it be.

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The city of Manali has two parts- Old Manali and new Manali.

There is nothing much to be said about new Manali because it is touristy, crowded and boring. There is the ubiquitous mall road where honeymooners, families and gang on boys wander around, doing nothing but stare at each other. It is like any other tourist place that attracts the normal tourists who go there to tell people that they have been there. A lot of people travel for this reason only- to tell people that they have traveled. Like this couple…

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If you travel to be with yourself and immerse in a different environment away from the maddening crowds, do not go to new Manali.

Go to Old Manali. Old Manali feels cosmopolitan and rustic at the same time; a small colony, if you are okay with calling it a colony. Alternatively, call it what you like. The streets of old Manali are buzzing with tourists from different parts of the world and it just does not feel like you are in India. It is a cool atmosphere with cafés serving cuisine from different parts of the world.

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I particularly liked Café 1947 and gave them a lavish review on TripAdvisor. The old Manali Street starts from the end of the bridge and it goes up the slope. The entire street is dotted with cafes and shops selling clothes or jewelry for women. You cannot have a market, which does not sell jewelry for women.

Most of the cafes are open until midnight and some of them play live music. It sounds great whilst you sit by the side of the Beas River. Listen to the music or sit close to the river and enjoy the sound of the flowing water. If you are me, that is one of the most beautiful sounds in the world.

Other things to do in Manali

Rent a bike: Rent a bike and drive to Solang Valley just to enjoy the ride-the valley does not offer anything besides a cable car ride, which is trite. I did not do it because I find cable cars boring. However, the bike ride within the mountains in exciting enough to get the adrenaline rushing within you.

Rohtang Pass: Do it, for everyone does but do it only once. The place is crowded and dirty because we are a mess as tourists. There is some snow during the summer seasons but there is enough to play with. Enjoy the landscape and move back.

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Eat a lot: Ah, I know the touristy thing but then not all touristy things are necessarily bad. While you are at a place, it makes sense to try their food. While in Rome, eat what the Romans eat.

If you choose to go to Manali, go there to chill and be, stay at old Manali and may be take a bike and travel around. Traveling will never be about the destination. It is about the journey and it will always be about the journey.

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Unforgettable Travel stories

Most of my unforgettable travel stories are stories of solo travel. Before I take you the destinations I have covered in India, in the last few years, I want to make a point about traveling solo.
Why do people travel solo?

As a solo traveler myself, my take is because they want to travel and they cannot wait for people to get their plans together to make a trip. Not all solo travelers are weird, although, some are. They are people like you who feel the urge to get away from the usual routine of life and all they do is pack their bags and zip off.

Now, I will take you through some brief periods of beautiful travel stories, which are etched in some corner of my mind. They are indelible like all our travel stories are. They are indelible, like all the moments of our lives which made us feel special about our mundane existence.

Srinagar

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I went to Srinagar on a whim. I was on a leave from work for a few days. Even the leave was taken on a whim. Why? It was because I was bored of regular monotonous schedule. So, I was on an off and I looked up places I could go to using the ‘TO’ search button on a travel site. I told you all solo travelers are not peculiar.
I looked up tickets to Srinagar and found them reasonable. Bingo, I was off within 3 days of booking the journey.

Srinagar turned out to be one of most beautiful places I have been to. The beauty of the Dal Lake is pristine and divine. I am so sorry to see the floods which have ravaged the beautiful city of Srinagar. When I went there, it was lovely. I shopped on my ride on the Chikara (name of a boat which has a hut like canopy).

I went to Gulmarg by myself. I took a trolley to a height I cannot remember and felt on top of the world. It was beautiful. There was slow everywhere I could see and I went mad, all by myself. I am sure people at Gulmarg thought I was deranged. It was so much fun that I can feel the snowpe and the beauty of the landsca in my memories, as I write this.

Pondicherry

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I thought I will take you straight to the south now. I love beaches.

If I have to choose between mountains and beaches to live forever, I would choose a sandy, loud beach and live there like a loafer. I am a nomad living in the city.

I went to Pondi (as it is lovingly called) in 2013. Pondicherry is a union territory, just like Delhi, as much as Arvind Kejriwal would have believes otherwise. The road ride between Chennai and Pondicherry is lovely, with views of the coastline, which starts somewhere and ends somewhere you don’t understand.

Pondicherry has a few beaches. I am not sure how many. I wonder if anybody cares to count. I was living next to the Pondi beach in a guest house. It is not a sandy beach. I would just sit next to the rocky shore and watch the waves hit the rocks and die. It was buzzing when I went there, so people were cycling, walking, chilling.

You can take a scooter and just go about town. One can’t mention Pondicherry without Auroville. It is small village with spiritual undertones. You can visit the ashram located there and choose to meditate. There are many people from different nationalities who have made Auroville their home. It’s quite an exotic set up. It’s lovely, quiet and peaceful.

I have my own ideas about God and spirituality and so I didn’t delve much into the ashram set up. Moreover, I would have experienced the meditation if I had time. I didn’t.

Someday, hopefully, when I can make more time, I will go and live in Auroville for a few days. If I grow very rich, which I intend to, I will have a home there.

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So, yeah, I guess this is it for this piece. In one post, I hope I made you taste the charm of India from the north to the south, from mountains to the beaches. Do make the time to ravel solo, once in a while, even when you have the choice of a company.

Sometimes, when you lose yourself on roads never walked before, you may find parts of you, you never knew existed.

Thanks for reading.

Why Gurgaon loves Galleria

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Gurgaon loves Galleria.

In the barren land of this famous metropolis which multinational companies have formed their base, it’s all concretized coldness wherever you look. Galleria is a pretty much a part of the concrete. It’s just stylish concrete. Galleria is the slick, stylish open market of Gurgaon in DLF Phase IV, which is the favorite hangout joint for many people living in Gurgaon, including the writer of the piece.

What is it about galleria which attracts people? Nobody quite knows. The other markets have a similar architecture but perhaps it’s the location of Galleria which makes it uniquely unique. The glittery outlets, the swanky customers, and the buzz of the market makes you feel enthralled. Galleria is perhaps the sexiest market place in Gurgaon and it always feels better to be in Galleria than to be in an air-conditioned mall.

For summer evenings and winter days, Galleria offers an ideal open arena to walk, to nibble on food at the many food outlets, or to just sit next to the fountain. For want of any rivers/dams/beaches or any other water bodies, the galleria fountain creates a charm of its own. It is quite ridiculous, but so it is. The market is situated amidst sprawling housing complexes which have come to represent the life in the metro. It’s a feeling of a shared community sitting next to the fountain and just looking around, idling away time.

As far as the food is concerned, you can have coffee at DePaul’s and momos at the same outlet. There is Coco berry for frozen yogurt, Subway, Rolls joints and what have you. There is shopping for the shopping freaks. There are travel firms, booze and assorted services.

Pick up anything you like to eat and go over to the fountain and sit and drink in the conversations. If you have somebody to have a conversation with, make a conversation. Or like I do, in my lonely (or alone) existence, observe people and make notes. Sometimes, make a comedy set out of it. Sometimes, write a blog post.

Find me wandering in Galleria.