All My Bags Are (Nearly) Packed...

India Travel Blog

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This is an evolving list. I’ll be adding and deleting items as I think things over more critically over the next three weeks. The one thing I’ve learnt from my past travels and my mom (she’s a travel veteran herself- 30+ countries on last count!) is ‘Pack Light’! The golden rule of long haul travel. I just keep repeating to myself that, “Honey, they have socks, shampoo and deodorant in other parts of the world too! No, you will not need your fluffy slippers in the hostel dorm and by the third week you won’t care if your shoes don’t match your t-shirt.” Think I’ve missed something? Leave a comment!

Bag It!

-Backpack with side zips/equipment compartments

-Sleeping bag

-Raincoat/backpack cover

-Strap on Head lamp

-Clothes- 1 pair of jeans, 4 t-shirts, 1 cargo pants, 1 pair track pants/pajamas, 4 sets of essentials, something semi formal, 1 stole/shawl, 4 pairs of socks, light rain-proof jacket,

-Shoes- slippers/strappy floaters, comfy walking shoes and one semi formal pair of flat shoes Equipment

-Point & Shoot Camera + (Extra Battery)

-HD Video Camera + (Extra Battery)

-SD Memory cards

-Laptop & Mouse + (Extra battery)

-Transfer/connecting cables

-Ultralight travel Tripod

-1 Terra byte hard disk

-Audio recorder

-8gb pen drive

-Voltage converter/adapter

-Ipod touch

-Cell Phone



-Water proof bag for cameras Small Luxuries & Supplies

-Hat, sunglasses and watch

-Soap/Shampoo/Hand sanitizer

-Sunscreen, all purpose moisturizer

-Insect repellent

-Tooth brush/paste

-First aid kit

-Sewing kit/safety pins

-Clothes washing soap/detergent

-Hair brush, rubber bands

-Empty zip lock bags (leak-proofing, rain-proofing essential)

-Medicines (upset stomach, fever, pain relievers, multivitamins)

-Nail cutter/file Documents

-Passport & colour copies of all visas

-Passport size photographs: 12

-All paper visas (Not stamped on passport, but issues as a letter)

-Travel/Health Insurance Cash AKA Moolah

-Cash in US Dollars

-Credit Card

-ATM Card

I’m trying to keep my backpack at 15-16 kilos tops. With an additional day-pack that I can ‘carry-on’ during flights and lug around during the days.

Man, I’m really going to miss my Hair Dryer. And my Dog.

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Even though it’s probably just my mom reading the blog right now, I’m writing to maintain a chronology of events. I hope someday another lost soul will google ‘Round The World on a ridiculously budget’ and stumble upon my blog and get the help they need. But, mostly I’m writing because I need to vent!

First a Visa update: I now have visas from UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Schengen via Netherlands stamped on my passport. Jealous yet? It’s gets better. Tomorrow I apply for my Philippines visa and Vietnam, China and Laos come next. Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong are last on the list, and that’s because all these countries have an ‘On Arrival’ visa. So if I run out of time- the situation is under control!

I’ve been using an agent from MakeMyTrip and he’s a rockstar! Apart from being incredibly networked and loaded with information, he’s also very dependable. We’re on a 100% success rate currently and thanks to him I have one less thing to worry about.

In other news- I’ve frozen on a departure date! Come 12th June, I’ll be packed and loaded and on my way. Though it’s getting tiresome to swing between ‘Yaaay’ and ‘Oh Crap‘! I torment my self about all the things I should have done/organized/thought of earlier, when I’m not congratulating myself for having come this far of course. I usually do this at 3 am, because these days… I just cannot sleep!

I’m also spending hours everyday mailing requests and confirmations to people I hope to meet. I truly appreciate their patience; some have been expecting me since November last year! But all of them have been warm and forthcoming in our communication. Putting up with the poorly translated emails I’ve been flooding their inbox with. And then there were those who declined. Wanting to know who they’d be sharing the spotlight with and if the other Heroes were of the same ’stature’ as them. Not very heroic I must say! One even questioned if I was angling for help with visas and sponsorship, and if they would have to pay me anything. I can’t be mad at them though, because I’ve spent the better part of my adult life in the safe cocoon of cynicism. I know how this works- you assume the worst; and protect yourself from disappointment. It’s a sad but safe way to function.

Moving on… There are still people on my list who I haven’t been able to contact. Folks I read about and tried my hardest to track with the sparse information available online. I hope to have better luck with a helping hand from the locals. I like to think of it as a really cool treasure hunt. And finding them will be the reward! Though I must resist the urge to ‘bear hug’ them when we meet, they’re not expecting me… remember?

Ok, come back soon mom, I need the site traffic!

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I love Visas. I love the details in each stamp, I love the holograms and I love those sweet words ‘Multiple entry Visitors Permit’.

What I don’t love is the tediousness- the endless paperwork and paranoia that accompanies these precious pieces of paper.

I started applying for the visas in the first week of April. The first day saw me waiting impatiently for my token number to be called at the VFS office in New Delhi. I saw the entire spectrum of outbound travelers in one room. The jittery student, carefully organizing his university letters, the aged couple struggling to fill out a complicated form, the wealthy newly weds paying up a stack of cash for a ‘settlement visa’. And then there were those whose dubious intent of visit was writ large on their faces. Shuffling from counter to counter, ironically, seeking advice from the antagonistic staff who are trained to ‘seek and destroy’ exactly their ilk of ‘flight risk’ cases.

Piles of paper accompanied each form. Private information about people’s finances and personal lives gladly made available for scrutiny. Everyone was eager to disclose any information the VFS executives sought. My bank statements- sure! I also own 2 houses, a business and three cars.

If only we were all this honest when the Taxman came calling!

And then there was yours truly. The two hour wait was made bearable by ’Unlikely Destinations- The lonely planet story’ by Tony and Maureen Wheeler. The grand adventure of the founders of Lonely Planet distracted me from the sinking feeling of impending doom that looms large at such venues.

Finally, the call. “Number 54, Please proceed to counter 9“. My purpose was simple: traveler with good intentions! Still I felt squeamish as my papers were whetted by the bored young lady across the counter. Her practiced cold stare never betraying her thoughts on my application. And in under two minutes I was shooed away to the biometrics booth.

I have to admit, I was over-eager to comply as well. Fear of rejection turned me into a butt-kissing buffoon and now the VFS staff knows more about me than my best friend. But it worked! I now have UK and Ireland in the bag.

As I write this, my Australia and New Zealand visas are getting processed. I should be able to post an update in two days time.

Wish me luck!

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It took me a long time to find the gumption to think aloud about this project. When I started working on it, I felt embarrassed to have such a grand dream. I worried that people would consider me flippant and foolish and mock me if I failed.

That’s a daunting triple threat even for the best of us. And frankly all that ugliness is hard to avoid. The naysayer’s are a dime a dozen but do they get to decide what you do with your life? To be honest, they almost did. Till I heard these trip-altering words over a couple of beers at Toto’s in Bombay.

“Dare to defy the system! It won’t be easy but it’ll be one heck of a ride… So quit whining and get organized.”

The hardest part was to acknowledge that I had become a fence sitting dreamer! Unhappy about the situation I was in, but too scared to change anything! And between towing the line and constantly whining about it, I managed to keep myself distracted from the fact that I was living half-ass’d… at best.

When did I become this person? How did the unfamiliar or untested become the enemy? Didn’t I always believe that I wasn’t cut out for the 9 to 5 jig and that the universe had grand(er) plans for me? And yet, the 9 to 5 is exactly what I’d done, and the universe had gradually morphed from an ally into the antagonist!

That was what I like to call ‘The Great Depression of 2009′.

This project has now been almost a year in the making. And I’ve grown rather fond of my new friends- Miss Unfamiliar and Mr. Untested. They’re good people and usually hang around with Miss Understood. (I know thats corny, but this is MY blog… suck it up!)

In the past year, I learnt that the anatomy of living your dreams starts with some hard choices and sleepless nights. The sweaty palms and knots in your stomach creep in when you begin assessing the gargantuan task at hand. Then comes that light headed feeling when you start believing ‘I might actually pull this off’! By this time you’ll probably be talking to yourself and ‘what the heck have I gotten myself into’ will come up often in conversation. The cold feet and restlessness are actually a good sign. This is the home stretch I imagine. When you wake up everyday with the realization that your dream is now a reality and you’d better brace for impact.

Stick around to watch my dream project unfold. You can also stick around to mock me if I fail. Either way, it will be one heck of a ride.

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