A few weeks back, I chanced upon a very interesting looking website called Videsi Traveller. It seemed new, but had a bunch of catchy posts so I started browsing with interest. Imagine my very pleasant surprise when I saw that one of the co-owners was a very good friend of mine from some years ago!! We studied together for a while till I changed my college and we bonded over the fact that both of us couldn’t dance to save our lives 😀
So when she asked me to contribute to the site, I couldn’t be more excited. The website wants list type articles, and so this is what I came up with…
In early 2013, I moved to ‘Milan’ for 11 months to study Design. Now I’ve put some emphasis on the name of the city because out of those 11 months, I was there only for about 8. The remaining 3 were spent all over the rest of the continent. Now, you know Indian parents… The nervous types So once I started living independently, I decided to jump at my chance to push my limits (because ‘Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go’, right? Don’t thank me for that one, it’s a quote by TS Eliot).
In ascending order, here are the 8 most terrifying things I attempted (and got through with flying colours, evidently). A recurring trend you will find, is that each experience got better with time. The first time is always the worst, and each time I (subconsciously) ticked one item off, I was just a little braver to be able to move on to the next one.
(8) Eating Exotic Food
The most tame item on this list, trying out interesting food is usually on everybody’s agenda when traveling to a different country. Although there are people who would rather stick to dal-chawal at an Indian restaurant, you may be surprised to find yourself liking horse meat just as much as you were disgusted by the idea of eating it!
(7) Traveling Solo
I always had this great big desire to travel by myself, but circumstances (*cough*my parents didn’t give me permission*cough*) never let me. In Europe, I traveled to about 40+ cities in 15 countries, and let me tell you this… Few things are as freeing as solo travel. If you’re on the fence and reading this, I just have one word for you- Go!
(6) Private Room in AirBnB
I’m sure a lot of you have heard of, and even used, this website. At the time I booked this room, I had already used AirBnB twice, but never alone, and always the entire apartment. If I wasn’t so exhausted that first night, I’m sure I would have stayed up all night looking at the door!
Carpooling is a common concept in Europe. There are some websites (BlablaCar is my favourite) where people post rides and the number of free seats in their car. If you find one you want to take, you set up a place and time with them and get to cover long (or short, it’s up to you) distances for a fraction of the cost. When I first heard of this from a girl I met at a hostel (and subsequently joined her), I was terrified and prayed almost the whole journey. A few rides later, it became my most preferred mode of transport- cheap, comfortable and quick.
Couchsurfing.org is basically a web community of people who stay at other peoples’ homes (literally their couches in most cases). It’s a website with a huge database, with various options. You can choose to surf or host or both, there’s no obligation either way. When I first told people, I’d be attempting this, I got a so many horrified reactions that I actually canceled my first couch in favour of a safer option- a German girl who lived with a roommate and had lots of positive references. Of course, after that first ‘testing the waters’ experience, I stayed with many kinds of people (and didn’t stay with some, because I met them and saw they were creepy and just fled with my bags). CSing was the first experience that actually shoved me out of my extended comfort zone, and believe me, it is awesome.
It was late, it was getting dark and I was scared out of my mind. I had never hitchhiked before, and the idea was appallingly terrifying to me. I had missed the last bus and I was literally in the middle of nowhere, no cars, no houses… Nothing. Almost in tears, I stood by the side of the road (with a very sulky face, mind you), having given in to the fact that I would have to resort to hitching a ride to my hostel 100kms away. Now, there are some rules for hitchhiking, none of which I knew at that point. You should look smiley and happy and a joy to have in a car. I was the exact opposite. I thought someone would feel sorry for me and give me a lift. Of course, it doesn’t work that way. If I knew, maybe I’d have gotten a ride earlier. After that first experience, I was hooked and knew I needed to do it again! Barring one scary story, all my hitchhiking experiences were delightful. Everyone I rode with was extremely friendly and helped me as much as they could. Some went much further out of their way to make my life that much better. Hitchhiking is QUITE unheard of among Indians. And it is something I probably would never have done the first time if I hadn’t been forced to. But, do it… It makes you come alive like few other things can!
(2) Accepting Invitations from Strangers
When I read about these ‘getting invited to stay’ and ‘getting invited for meals’ experiences in travel blogs, I never imagined it would happen to me. How does it happen? Am I supposed to drop hints when I’m talking to random people? Am I supposed to straight up ask? Will they? Would I ever offer to let some strange tourist stay at my place just like that? Well… It didn’t just happen once with me, it happened TWICE! One time was Bucharest, when a lady overheard me asking for directions to the city centre in the train and insisted I stay with her.
The other time was with 3 Croatian boys (a couple, and one of the guys’ little brother), who I just happened to share a table with at a restaurant in Split. Next thing I know, we’re chit chatting and I’m laughing my head off at their politically incorrect, but perfectly true, comments, and moved my bags to their place the next night.
One of the times, I stayed up all night, frantically texting my mom and friends all night so I wouldn’t fall asleep by mistake, but I definitely came out of this experience a much better person. My advice? Go with your gut, and just take the chance!
(1) Extreme Sports
If you’re surprised to see this at the top of the list (how can adventure sports be scarier than taking lifts from strangers in highways in countries where you don’t speak the language, after all?), believe me, I’m surprised too. In fact, I actually discovered this after paying for the experience, and standing on top of the cliff I was supposed to jump off of! It took a lot of cajoling and encouragement from my fellow cliff-jumpers, but I did it, and the adrenaline rush was MORE than worth it! Again (maybe I’m getting repetitive here), seize the moment and take that leap of faith (literally!).
- A Foodie’s Guide to Eastern Europe, Part 1
- To Solo or Not To Solo
- Couchsurfing vs AirBnB vs Hostels
- Should You Try Carpooling?
- An Introduction to Couchsurfing
- My First Hitchhike (I have a bunch of posts about HHing, but this is about my first time)
- I don’t have a post about No 2, whoops!
- Cliff-Diving in Split, Croatia
And finally, I’m going to end with this… I submitted my blog for a competition called the Big Blog Exchange, and I would be really, really grateful if you could spare a few moments and vote for me by clicking here or the image below (or in the sidebar on the right) and clicking the verification link they email you. I need to stay in the top 25 of the Asian blogs till voting closes on 3rd September to make it the final judging round, and you can help me get there!