Tag Archives: #travel

Home Away From Home

I have talked about this topic in a few of my previous blogs. But every time I am in London, I am reminded of my global nomadic tribe despite living in Columbus. I cannot deny the almost visceral feeling that I am home while in London. Every fibre of my being relaxes knowing it has arrived – what is it about London that makes me feel at home.

Well, partly, it has nothing to do with London. It is the fact that I have moved around so much that I feel at home only when I don’t belong anywhere. And where else in the world would that be possible except in London.

When you land in London – you are welcomed in a dozen languages at the airport itself. You only have to step outside to hear all the multitude of languages that are being spoken around you. If you were blindfolded and dropped in London, you wouldn’t be able to identify you were in London just by listing to the languages around you. Different accents, Different looks, Different nationalities – THAT IS HOME for me.

I have walked on the streets of London for long enough to make them my home. The pure nostalgia of walking down the old paths and hanging out at the old haunts – makes me feel like I could go back to my old flat in Cleveland street and be back in my good old London days.

Another aspect of London is the proximity to Europe. This time in less than seven days I had visited Paris (for a day) and Spain (for the weekend). The pure joy of listening to french in the day and come back home to the Italian-English accent of the Uber driver in London feels home to me. Because honestly, that’s how I grew up in London, trips every weekend. Within 3 hours you can immerse yourself in the Spanish culture, eating dinner for three hours and have a nice long siesta and then be back in London for work.

And it is always nice to know that I haven’t lost touch with the ‘Things Londoners Do’ – get irritated at people who stand at the left side of the escalators. I had just gotten off the airport, and I was back in the element – mentally willing the tourists in front of me to shift to the right side so that I could zip down the escalators. The way a true Londoner sidesteps around the tourists, politely smiling at their awes. I used to work at British Telecom, conveniently located in st. Pauls – joke around the office was that we were probably in a large number of photos around the world than in our family albums.

London welcomes diversity with open arms and love. That is what this world needs right now – not divisiveness of Brexit or not – but pure love which you cannot take out of London. I am grateful for the fact that you can take a Londoner out of London but not London out of them.

First Time Ever

My favorite city in Europe is Paris.
You might say that it’s a cliche or there are better cities than Paris in Europe, and you are probably right. The way I classify favorite is to ask the questions – Did I have fun? Did it satisfy my curiosity to explore? And the primary reason Paris checks those boxes is that it was my first time in a European city. Everything was new – in some ways, Paris set the baseline for the rest of the cities I traveled to. My next trip was to Amsterdam and whether I wanted to or not I was comparing the people, food, high street to the ones in Paris. Remaining cities all blurred together, there is a castle, cathedral, high street or downtown, and gardens but Paris stands out. Do not get me wrong, there are memories of all the cities I went to, but Paris is unique – whether I like that or not.

Moving to a new Place.
My move to Phoenix was a milestone in growing up.
I have moved places almost every 5-7 years since I was born – that’s a lot of places, but Phoenix was the first place where I moved to on my own. I had figure out – finding a home, internet, grocery shopping, my taxes, driving, cooking food, social life – man! That was hard, but it stands out. And then I moved to London – it was also another significant move, but in my head I was ready, and I had a baseline – everything in London was a delta to what I did in Phoenix or classified as being new to London. The newness of moving wasn’t there because I had done it before.

My first series of books – Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven.
Secret Seven was the first series I read. I had other stand-alone books, but this was my first ever series. And I loved it, and I remember desperately searching for the next book in the series. I read lots of series afterward like famous five, secret series, nancy drew, and some of them from the same author but the charm and discovery in the first series is truly unique. I was thrilled to know that they had passwords for their meetings – in some ways it was my first exploration of the city of secret series like Paris.

At work, I have a penchant for telling what I call ‘My Nephew Jokes’ like
Why was the computer late to work? – because it had a hard drive.
Some people laugh at them, and some don’t. Some people are laughing inside which I have come to understand is another way of saying – I don’t find that funny. And some people laugh because they like my enjoyment of the jokes.

It is possible that a few of you might not agree with my “First” theory, but you have your model of what remains with you – what evokes the spirit of discovery and excitement in you – and brings up the childlike wonder and curiosity in you. And I aim to keep that alive and never let it get jaded.

Live every day like a new day.

Not all who wander are lost

I remember somebody telling me about their best friend who has known them since childhood. Most people will probably say, ‘Awwww, that’s so nice.’ Not you, you are thinking – ‘That is so scary, why would I want that?’

You have lived in a place for five-plus years, and the locals ask you – “Is this place home?” And your answer is ‘No’ or if you are polite – you laugh and beat around the bush.

When people talk about exploring new places – going somewhere new – your heart gives a little tug.

If you resonated with the statements above, then you know what I mean by ‘Plight of an expat.’ These are people who have lived away from their so-called “Home” for so long that it is no longer home. And not having a home is their home now.

The world is made up of two kinds of people: those who travel and those who don’t. And for the most case, I do not think this is a choice – I believe some people are just wired that way. (There are exceptions always but still) These people never live in one place for long. They get bored of places, people, routines. They like change. And in most of these cases, these people moved around a lot growing up, and that’s the only life they know. Sounds familiar! And it is hard to explain to somebody who hasn’t experienced this about the feeling of not belonging anywhere.

This blog is dedicated to people who know what I am talking about and to raise awareness about global nomads. Yes, they exist. These people have a culture and social norms of their own.
They speak a language which is not rooted in one place but applies to everybody because nobody is from one place.
They are not asking the other person to conform to their ways but expand their’s to include others.
They understand that what is right for them might not be appropriate for others and they are ok with that.
They are willing to experience your ways and customs because they want to connect with you.
They want to know more about you because they are curious, they want to expand, they like change and diversity.

For a global nomad, they know nothing else – this is their life as they know it. I could go on and on and on. World today needs more of the above. Even if we cannot travel – we can expand our boundaries, bring awareness to the world outside of us. Be more welcoming to others in our life. We are all humans, and we all experience the same emotions of joy, happiness, anger. The barriers created by words, boundaries on earth are artificial and built by us and can be broken by us. But for that to happen, we have to recognize that we have created this and the person on the other side is us – we are all alike and not different.

And if you find it hard to follow then travel – go live somewhere else, experience somebody’s world and see yourself reflected in them.

Happy New Year. #Sydnye

Happy New Year All.
This year we were in Sydney for the New Years and decided to do what we never did even once in the seven-year we lived in London. Watch the fireworks in person. A well-organized event in Sydney. There are different vantage points. The one we chose was the McMahons point – it opens from 8 am – 1 pm but capacity is limited to 15000. We reached there at 4:00 – the place was packed. We managed to squeeze in our three chairs somehow and just sat there ignoring the irritated looks of the people next to us. We could see the Opera house on the left, Harbour Bridge in front of us and then a sea of people with humongous colorful umbrellas and tents.

Around 4:00 pm it was still hot in Sydney, so everybody was applying sunscreen on a regular basis, but as the evening cooled down, tents come down, people wore sweatshirts to protect themselves from the chilly winds. And by that time we had practically become family to our initially unfriendly neighbors. The huge crowd of thirteen teenagers and one mom who was parked in front of us were asking us to move closer as their tent come down. I was tapping my feet to their music. We even sang happy birthday to somebody in the group at midnight. Somethings happen only in cities – where strangers share intimate, private moments and then go back to being strangers.

I was quite impressed by the portable toilets. There were about 20 toilets at the lower level and maybe another five male toilets at the upper level. That meant roughly one bathroom for 600 people. The queues were thirty minutes to one hour long. But they were all clean and operational even at 11:30 pm. Now that is an impossible feat if you ask me – hats off to the planners.

As we started getting closer to midnight, I could feel the excitement building up in the air. People got their glow necklaces, bracelets, and headbands. Now that it was dark we noticed the projections on the wall on the two sides of the bridge. And as a teaser, they release fireworks for five minutes at 8:30 and at 10:30 pm. People would gather and stand up as it neared those times.

Fireworks were shot from the boats behind the bridge, and they lighted up the bridge. It looked as if the bridge itself was a silent spectator enhancing the beauty of the fireworks. The way wind was blowing all the smoke shifted towards opera house which looked like three priests looking out from their cowls in the darkness. The display for five minutes was so dazzling that I found myself looking forward to the twelve-minute show at midnight.

And soon enough after a surprisingly quick 8 hours, the final countdown started from 75 seconds. And there was silence as the fireworks exploded like there was no tomorrow (which was true for 2017). There were different types of fireworks with varied colors. Some were concentric circles of different colors. Kids immediately labeled it as a rainbow. Then there was golden rocket which sprouted a dozen others as it fizzled out. And they made full use of the bridge. They shot upwards from the top of the bridge; there even was a golden waterfall at the end from the bottom of the bridge. The trains still going across the bridge just made the experience even more surreal. Crowds Oohed and Aahed with the rhythm of the fireworks. Little kids perched on their dad’s shoulder watched with their mouths open, finger pointed, but no voice came from them. As the frenzy grew so did the fireworks, it was like without a break.

When it was all done we made our way back home taking the miracle of the fireworks – Thank you #Sydnye (Syd New Year’s Eve). We could not have found a better way to usher in the New Year.

Everybody Is An Outsider

In our recent trip to London I could not help but wonder on how different my mind and body react to being in London. The tall buildings – crowds of people around you – the buzz of the tubes, buses which you do not notice anymore. I automatically start to walk fast, whiz through the tubes with oyster card. It’s like my body relaxes and my mind feels safe.

I feel safe and at home amongst the tall buildings and the crowds. It is amongst crowds that I truly am myself because no one is watching but I feel connected. It is ironic but you have to know the rhythm of the city before you can connect to it. Cities have a rhythm of their own – it’s like a drum beat, once you know the beat you are good until then it feels very unfriendly and foreign. The connection in the city is not very obvious – slap on the back type connection. This type of connection goes beyond the ‘How are you? and the weather talk.” These are built in by the common experiences of living in a city – the waiting for the tubes, the annoying way the tourists stand on the right had side of escalators, London weather, the times when you catch another stranger’s eye in the tube and share a silent smile over something funny.

Before I left for London somebody asked me, “So, when you come back will you have a British accent?” I laughed and said,”No, nobody British lives in London.” The following is a picture I took one day in tube – this is what I mean.

Everybody is from outside so you don’t feel out of place. Now of course this is true for people who have led a urban nomadic life – by that I mean never stayed in one place forever. In my narrow view of the world there are two kinds of people one who travel [Like Live in different cities not just tourist] and one who don’t. And neither is good or bad – it is what lifestyle suits you. But they both are a world apart in every way you can think of.

In someways it is the difference between lonely and alone. When you are in a city you are alone but lonely. And that is a huge difference. Being alone is a state of being and Being lonely is a state of mind. And I am just talking about my experience here – I am sure for others it doesn’t matter where they live. We all came alone into the world and we will go alone out of the world too. Whatever happens in the middle is only a journey which we all travel inner-ly, it does not matter whether we have companions or not.

We are like an outsider for our inner self who is traveling alone in this journey called Life.

London – A walk down the memory lane

We lived in London for seven years before moving to Columbus. I am fortunate enough to have explored London in different phases. You experience a different London when you are a student – a different one when you are working – a different one when you are on paid holiday. London is the locus if you are into traveling so a lot of people visited us – in fact my dad used to joke that our place was like a B&B and with that comes a truckload of memories. Also the time in London was my phase of self-exploration and I spent a lot of time with lots of people – which again has a lot of memories attached to it. When we lived in London it wasn’t evident but when you come back to London I realized how every place/cafe at least in central London is like a memory stone.

Next year we would have spent five years in Columbus. And one would think that London would feel strange after having lived in Columbus for so long. But thankfully that wasn’t the case. It felt like as if we had never left – like we belonged..

Primarily its because of the connection with the people. I met up with my friend – Ranjani and we started off where we left. It was just like old days – we curled up on the sofa with a throw, had tea and chatted. It’s funny how somethings never change or rather they just follow the same path – we joke about her tea making process, spoke about common friends before moving onto what’s happening in our lives. It’s a straight cut to the chase – no formalities or talking about the weather if you get my drift. Such interactions are precious.

Another reason is the city itself – everybody is from outside so if you have led a nomadic life then you know what I mean.

One morning we went to one of our regular haunts Costa café on Tottenham Court Road and plonked down with our electronic devices. The old couches had been replaced with the swanky chairs but the drink/ambience was the same. And then one of our friends Nick walked in and it seriously felt like old days. There is something so comfortable about hanging out with old friends – almost like muscle memory feels very familiar and comforting. And it happens on its own.

We spent a lovely day with another couple talking about food, being vegan, cycling, podcasting, dance classes. The range of topics we talk about is so different because London opens up your horizons – just living in a city which is so diverse in every which way makes you more accepting and broad minded. As you walk down streets or in the tube and you hear people talking in their native language it feels like home. I don’t feel like an outsider any more – I feel like I belong.

Walk down the SouthBank with one of Adam’s good friend – Viktor made me feel like we had never left London. The same familiar sights – book market/ Wahaca food truck/ ping pong and the hoards of people crossing from Waterloo station to South Bank. It felt so familiar – things have changed and they haven’t

We even made it out to my old Flat in St. Johnswood and as we crossed over to Regent’s park the single decker red 274 Bus was a familiar sight. We have so many memories associated with this bus. It was our single connection to the school while we were students at London Business School. And most of the time it was a race between us and the bus to see who could get there faster. And it was funny how every time you waited for the bus it never showed up and the minute you decided you had enough and you want to walk to school it will show up.

The first few days have been a whirlwind however they filled up my reservoir of memories in my emotional tank which I did not realize needed filling.

Ashville, NC – charming with extras

We recently visited Ashville, NC. And this is our second trip. First time we were passing by and spent a day here exploring the downtown and cool eating places. To be honest it was a)Dobra Tea House b)Chai Pani that brought us here. We loved it so much that we decided we will make another trip and we did.

I believe that it was more than these two places that made us come back to Ashville. There was this T-shirt that I saw in one of the shops which read “If you are too weird for Ashville, then you are just too weird.” And I agree with this. Ashville residents are not hippie but almost hippie. Lot of people with braided hair and a very nonchalant air about them which comes with meditation or sometimes using other mood enhancing stuff. There is a certain newness in the air as you stroll down the streets. And the fact that the mountains around Ashville are vortex centers might have something to do with it. It’s like Sedona except this is actual city as opposed to tourist stop on your way to Grand Canyon.

Like all such places, Ashville is very open and diverse. In one of the cafes, SunnyPoint cafe restroom signs said “All Gender”. Most places had a sign saying that we welcome all, everybody with pictures of people from different races. And for a place to embrace this unanimously says something about the openness of the culture. If you lived only in Ashville all your life your world would be a lot different.

Ashville has a lot of sass to it – I cannot remember some of the comments but two that stand out are
-Indian restaurant had a sign outside: “Tikka look inside.”
-Sign on a t-shirt: “I don’t carrot at all.”
-The best of all – a different take on religions

The owner of the store who had some of the cool T-shirts recognized our Shiba right away – he was a dog breeder for rottweilers in his past life. People there are very friendly. We ran into this gentleman in dog park who had moved from Texas to Ashville fifteen years ago with his wife. He is a author and piano player and they have a B&B. We got into a very good discussion about writing, MFA etc.They also have this cute little bookshop called Battery Park Exchange which has lots of cute window seats for budding authors. While we enjoyed a cup of tea and carrot cake we saw many groups come and meet in there.

Variety of restaurants in a place is also a good sign of diversity – they had a Mediterranean place called BabaNahm, Thai place, Indian, french, Chinese, Vegan and regular comfort food. We couldn’t try all the places but they were all in the top of the list in TripAdvisor. And if this is not enough they also have a double decker bus from London that serves amazing coffee/desserts.

And last but not the least it is a very dog friendly place. Almost 99% of our conversations with strangers was because of Aki. And they have these cool trails for both humans and pets.

I enjoyed my trip to Ashville and it is a gem in North Carolina. I may be biased in my opinion but as they say “Each to his own.”

Island with no Stallions

This is a different blog than usual – it’s about our trip to Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw). I am done with my quota of touristy things like visiting every point of interest, going to all the top restaurants. Thanks to my stint in London, UK, my friend Ranjani and my husband I have had my fill of it. As prof. Rao says in his Creativity and Personal Mastery says “You Cannot Leave Desire, Desire Has To Leave You.” And the desire has left me.Those were good times but my focus at that time was checking my list rather than enjoy the city for what its worth. I am drawn to the human stories or little nuggets that most don’t know about but it wasn’t my primary focus.

Anyways, so weekend trip to Mackinac Island – first of all there are no cars on the islands just bikes and horse buggies. The words – Taxi, Shuttle, Uber will bring you something like below:

The horse drivers were all very interesting – they come up for 4-6 months and then take off to their winter homes.One of our drivers had been doing this for 10 years. There is no certification needed to drive a horse buggy – they give you some training and then you are on your own. You have to learn how to do a three-way turn/U-turn on the tiny winding mountains roads filled with bikes/people and kids – need I say more. We got talking to one of the drivers and I asked him if they breed horses in the island and he said, “No, there are not stallions on the island. There might be some males but the ones who cannot reproduce.” Reason being that horses are matriarchal society so if you put a male/female together in a cart female is trying to outrun the male but the male has bigger hoof-steps than female so makes for a very bumpy ride. [An interesting article that talks about the matriarchal society in horses]

Life on an island must be very interesting as the island is your home. Our lovely puppy got all the fan fare he wanted – the day we showed up a young kid with hair as long has he was tall showed keen interest in Aki. We got talking and it turns out his name is Dex, he lives in the island all year long, he is in 3rd grade and goes to the Mackinaw public school. He hitched a ride on his bike alongside our shuttle. Next day morning we ran into him and a bunch of his friends in the woods – apparently they were building a fort. And then in the afternoon he comes along with this bunch of friends and offers to give Aki a walk for 2$. When Adam said he will think about it, he said he would even do it for free. He and his friends were having a lot of fun – you could see that they belonged and they were not just visiting.

This post will not be complete without mentioning Aki. He is a social crutch for me – conversations with strangers don’t have to awkward, no more small talk as people like to come up and say all sorts of things. I am listing some of the common things.
Person1:”What kind of a dog is he?” Anu: “Shiba Inu” Person 1:”Shiba Unu” [for some reason its hard to say shiba inu the first time you hear it]
Person2:”Can I pet your dog?” Anu: “Yes, you can.” [This is my favorite]
Person3:”Do you know your dog looks like a fox?” Anu:”Yes, I do” [Sometime I feel like responding with a sarcastic – really I never noticed.]

And here is the photo of the famous dog Aki who left his indelible mark at the island

Belize Trip – final

Trip to Belize was the best break I could have ever asked for. It was a complete switch off from our daily routine which forced us to just chill out. Life on an island is so quiet and calm – all you hear is the sound of the birds and water. Now I know why Island time is different.

I thought I would finish off this mini travel series on Belize trip with some wonderful memories.
Serenity Point: This was the furthest point on our little island called Serenity Point. Adam and I spent many hours here journal-ling/sitting down with our legs in water and watching sunsets. We did yoga here once and the best pose was the back bend as I could see the sea being up and the little huts hanging from the sea.
This was also a key snorkeling starting point – we saw many starfishes/schools of fishes and conch shells.

Hammocks: Reading a Jack Reacher Thriller with a mango-colada in hand while swaying gently in a hammock with the sea breeze. This is my dream come true. We had a lot of fun in these hammocks – naps, watching a hermit crab climb up my jar or just chilling out. I am tempted to get a hammock and put in our bedroom now.

Locals: I love interacting with people – there are some very special moment when you bond with people. We were walking to the beach from our bungalow and we saw the staff cutting fish on the side. I asked them if it was dinner. One of them responded – yes. And he picked up the fishes to show them off. Adam decided he will take a photo. And all of a sudden everybody became very silent and serious – it does happen when you have a camera in front of you. I said – ” you should smile.” And it broke the ice somehow and everybody laughed [I wish I had the laughing photo too ].

Food: I don’t know what I was expecting but the food was just so healthy, home-made and delicious. The desserts were not the best but I am not a big dessert person either or you could always have a mango colada. We had a fish hash for breakfast once which was just out of the world and lobsters/fishes we had for dinner were amazing. Coming from India it’s important for me to have spiced food and the island menu hit the right note.

Stars: Lying in an hammock and watching the stars pop up on sky before the moon rising with the sea breeze and water lapping was another awesome experience. I had only read about such experiences before. I even saw a shooting star. These are moment where you forget who you are and are just lost in the experience – one with nature. One of those moments when everything is so perfect and all thoughts drop you leaving just the one.

Sign-off: I am grateful for the lovely trip to Belize and I know I will have a part of Belize with me always. Thank you for following my Belize Series and Thank you universe.

Link to Day 4

Belize Trip – Day 3

My Dad is a big fan of reading all the self-help materials he can get his hands on. And as a child he encouraged me to do the same. I used to take the clippings from the newspapers/magazines and file them away. I lost the folder but I still remember a few things or quotes that stuck with me. The quote was “Always do something in your life that scares you.” At that point it was just an quote that called out to me and like all such quotes it remained dormant until the student was ready.

Since I took Creativity and Personal Mastery in London Business School, I have been on a spiritual journey and worked through issues in my life. I have been doing yoga and meditation since then and these things help you along your journey with obstacles and some breakthroughs.

Initially any book that I read or any movie that I watched in the spiritual genre my reaction was “Wow, that’s so cool.” And then it was about talking about how it applied to my life and how it applied to others and sharing the experience. And then at some point without even internalizing it all I had internalized most of it. And now I am not drawn to movies or books in the same way as I GET them now.

Similarly, trials and tribulations in my life and the life of others do not interest me in the same fashion as they did before. I am beginning to realize that this is life, this is human predicament. If it’s not this issue and then it’s another issue. I am sure all this sounds jaded, right? And I would agree with you that I am jaded.

And this is where the quote about doing something scary in your life makes sense to me and called out to me. About two months ago I knew I had to join swimming classes – there’s no major reasoning behind it just had to do it. Now, as a kid growing up in India you are not encouraged to spend time on activities other than studying which is what I did diligently. However, my brother who for some reason was going to swimming classes decided he was not going to the classes and locked himself up in the toilet when the time came for him to go. My parents being the middle-class parents in India decided not to waste the money and got me going instead.

I was overjoyed and honestly don’t recall much of the classes except that there were days when I was scared to let go off the railing until my dad threatened to stop taking me to the classes. And I swam even if it meant with my head above the water. And after that I never got into swimming pool for another ten years maybe.

So, I had taken just three swimming lessons before coming to Belize. And I admit openly that I am scared of the water, well more so of the water getting into my nose. I made progress in the last three classes I had and I am slowly beginning to realize that it’s all about practice and telling your subconscious that it’s ok.

Right, so this is where I was when we landed in Belize. And as you know already we are on an island and if I didn’t get into water there was no point. So I was mentally prepared to get into water and have been doing so diligently every day. I can even admit to actually relaxing and enjoying a few moments of them. I learnt how to float on my back at least until water splashes over my face and I end up drinking salt water. My body probably contains more salt water than the Caribbean sea at this point.

Yesterday we decided to try snorkel – and until we actually tried it I was scared – you are literally breathing inside water. We tried it in shallow water first, I held Adam’s hand and snorkeled around with him. Then we actually snorkeled our way to a neighboring island. It is really cool to see under the water – see and touch starfish, see the coral, sponge or seaweed swaying while the sunlight plays with them. Even though I made it, I was still scared that something might happen. But, I am keeping at it and someday it won’t be a big deal. As somebody said – most battles are fought within our mind and I totally agree.

While we were walking to dinner there were some Bocce balls lying around and Adam asked if I wanted to play. And my instant response was – “No, I am tired of doing things that I do not know how to do.”

Link to Day 2