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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Solo Traveling - Truth Or Dare

“HASTA LA VICTORIA SIEMPRE” - Che Guevara [Front Page Explore!]

I have been getting quite a few questions about Solo Travel and Safety measures around it, So rather than responding individually which I have done in the past and found it very difficult to do, I thought I'll share a quick post on it with everyone.

This is not the first time I have received this type of question and not the first time me writing about and emphasizing on different aspect of it every time. A lot of time focus is on female solo travelers, but this time, I have got many messages and emails from male travel enthusiasts, interesting.

For me more than traveling, its the idea of the travel that's intriguing. Imagining yourself in a strange surrounding, contemplating what and how'd you feel and absorb the the atmosphere and interactions with the strangers. Experiencing any place, with all your heart and mind, without certain fears and inhibitions is what is truly a travel experience, not just visiting a place and worrying about numerous things, and safety as one of them. That means one shouldn't travel unless s/he is comfortable doing it but isn't that the contradiction to what travel is all about? - leaving your comfort zone and venturing into the unknown.

I have been traveling and living internationally since 2006, and domestic travel should've been about 10 years back. and I can assure you its not fun all the time. What we see in facebook pictures and tweets is all the nice memoirs, I don't think anyone wants to hear your bad experiences and go sad, de-motivate themselves from what they're currently dreaming for. fair indeed, but Lets be real, You don't see the mountains of garbage bags on the streets of new york in the movies, nor you smell the horrible smell of burned oil thats in the air every evening, its the city of your dreams after all. right? But thats how every place is, with few pluses and minuses. and we should be ready for it all.

The second and most important thing is trust. Honestly I do have trust issues, but I don't think twice before trusting strangers, I feel I am pretty good in judging strangers, totally opposite with those around me, or may be I know who they are and I sort of ignore it and not let my reasoning prevail but anyhow here is the truth about travel, You are your most humble-self and trusting when you travel, if you're not, you should be. Be open and nice and strangers are most likely to be nice to you, other than those owning business, no one is gaining anything out of you honestly, at least in short term, why leave a bad impression?

While being a good judge of character helps, I wouldn't ask you to go unprepared anywhere, and there I go back to my first point.

Its always a good idea to map your travel and study it. commute, surroundings, food, i.e. your basic needs. If I am taking a taxi from point A to B, I always load the map on my phone and GPS it once every few minutes just checking if I am going right towards my destination. Internet and a Smart phone is not very expensive these days, or save some from your lodge/hostel/hotel budget, take local transport instead of taxi and you can very well afford it.

I am not someone who'd encourage facebooking or excessive tweeting, though I am both a culprit and victim of both, but checking-in to places is actually a good thing IMO, and that's where these apps like foursquare which is now Swarm I guess, come very handy, You know where all you've been and what time and most importantly you're friends and family know your whereabouts, easy to track incase of emergency. I in fact check-in my local check-ins not for the reviews, just to keep a good tab on me, on how much i am spending. I can be pretty spendthrift so give me a good idea on when I got my grocery last time. point is, put technology to your own personal use, so that it helps you experience a place better.

I was talking about overcoming fear earlier. One of them could be traveling or rather avoid traveling in wee hours, or not wandering around quiet areas in the dark and alone specially. I feel you can always take calculated risks and then be more confident next time you travel. for example, I may have been petrified when I was in Kargil, 4 years back, looking for the scheduled Taxi that was to leave to Padum Zanskar, in the dark and dusty and a ruin like bus-stand. At least in my mind I was, No electricity for days, no mobile reception, an STD phone that works or doesn't at its own wish, and very congested looking place, add it that no information about if or where is there is any bus or taxi to where you want to go. I am crazy, I thought a few times but it was actually not scary, not even heading to Zanskar in a stuffed taxi at 2AM after that moment was passed. My point, gift yourself an adventure once in a blue moon. Get to basics when you're scared, What are you scared about, People? Animals?

Well a Place won't eat you, unless you're on top of a volcano or under the ocean. There are hardly any Animals left on the planet, who can actually eat you, Jokingly yes, so It goes back to planning what people you can trust and what not. How to be careful in the crowd, mob & markets, and how not to care at small places. trust me, small towns/ villages are beautiful w/ lovely people who' are as curious about you as you're about them, and most helpful at the sametime. taken, there are always exceptions, but let say, mostly.

And if you're in wilderness alone, plan your trip properly, Don't make 124hours just because you' think you can become a motivational speaker if you come out alive. Honestly Planning is the key, and going little overboard and a contingency reserve IMHO is good if its you're first time.

Now two points : the first - where are you getting you motivational details from?
Please do not just jump from the plane because everyone else is doing it. Please do not walk in to dark because someone else has conquered it. Do you really have to prove anything to anyone? - The Answer is a big fat NO. and I tell you why.

Its your life and you are allowed to take all the time in the world for what adventures you want to do, and how you do it is up to you. I never thought I'd do alaska when I saw "In to the wild" in 2012 just wished to, and made it there in 2013 but what i explored and how was totally me, no mimicking the movie. When I traveled to Ladakh solo, in 2010, I went alone, because everyone else bailed, and I had made up my mind by then. I left my job because If I wouldn't I have gone mad, It was a torture but not all work places are or are they? I lived there for more than a month, because I did not want to rush and I wanted to may be contemplate life and what better place to do that then in Himalayas? so everything fell in to place. that experience made me a stronger, a feeling that I can survive anything, delved deep with in me.

मुक्तो भवः यत्रसि - be free wherever you're.
and Not necessarily in the himalayas all the time. I think my experiences in last 3-4 years prove that, though I agree I get jumpy sometimes when I spend too much time on social media. What I am advocating is, - believe but not blindly.

Decide on your own, the same process that worked for someone else might not work for you, "Just as One size doesn't fit all". when you plan, you dream - and day dreaming is good and fun too. work is fun too when you know you will get a hefty pay-check that will felicitate, many things that you can't do otherwise. So don't put your backpack on your shoulder and leave home just yet, because it looks attractive and daring, plan it. choose your destination based on kind of experience you want and afford, and duration what brings freshness and doesn't become a tiring misadventure.

If I have not busted your bubble yet, and if You still feel that I am not discouraging you but only trying to make you refine your thoughts, You realize there is no Truth or Dare. Truth is Dare.

and second point : If you really need to travel solo. Do you? if yes, why? Ask yourself this question. - What sort of company do you want or like?  Do you have one? or not?

Traveling solo is not at all difficult, at least not in this age and century. ask any business travelers, with a 24X7 schedule. all you need to do is to get your pleasure/adventure/business scheduled all jot down well on paper. There are places which you can do solo, things you can do alone, e.g. if you're a professional or just photographer you may need your time alone, and however long you need at certain place, you should plan your travel alone.  if you want to make friends along the way, have certain conversations, go solo, but If you develop an understanding with someone, and you can respect each others space. you can very well go together. I feel people are more vulnerable when they are thrown out of their comfort zones and thats why friendships and relationships are built and broken usually while on the road. and I may have come to the world alone, and I will be going alone, but while I am here, I am not alone, So why pretend to be one?

PS This write-up is for first time travelers mostly, I am sure once you have a few experiences you' will be just fine, in company or solo. Have a good trip.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Of Salgado, Summer, Artistic Adventures & New York City

The Second Spring is here. The leaves have began their winter melon'ish rendezvous and streets are about to turn in to paintings, and along with them, I have ventured on another artistic voyage of my own, to paint every corner of my new place, in red. but that's a story for another day I suppose. For now I am only trying to share a certain experience with you all, and Oh, how difficult it is to articulate my thoughts and put them in to words!... after all this while.

IMG_0194अनुच्छतु प्रवाहं ॥..meaning-  "Go with the flow". .. just like water...I keep telling myself at every situation. For all these months, I felt I had nothing significant to say or share, so I shifted my focus towards other things and stopped writing. This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a talk with world renowned Photographer Sebastiao Selgado in lower Manhattan, an experience, many felt I was lucky to have, and I thought I might share few thoughts about the episode with everyone since it sort of brought affirmation to my own opinions, aspirations and ambitions.

You may be surprised to hear that I had rarely heard this name until last year. Two mentions in different times w/ two different people, and I looked up for his work, and to say the least, was instantly connected and got so caught in his reverie of years past.

I may have underestimated both NYC and Selgado when I walked fast the 9th street from the light-rail station. I was about 7 minutes late to the event and I was pretty sure, I would not get the entry, It was a ticketed event, must have been class-room size discussion and it will start sharp on time, I thought. but hey new york city, I am beginning to get you now... slowly. and this is something I am going to put in my personal notes as well, and dated at that.

While you may note I love to just keep talking or scribbling in this case, I may take the pleasure in knowing and now sharing, that the man loves to talk. there was never a precise answer to anything, but every response a tale, an experience and how poetic is that. He says and I shall not quote him but put my own personal interpretation to to what I heard that - such is, each image, a personal interpretation, and there are thousands of them, but reality is still much beyond - So how you may capture it all? or How you may define it all? is the question I am asking. I caught myself peering through every single image in both the genesis, and his earlier work in two different presentations, and What I constantly noticed in almost every image :


You cant understand significance of a human element in an image unless you witness the vastness - Not just Genesis which is more so called landscape work of his, and recent most, I felt many images are in the category of those immeasurable. the vantage points, carefully picked up gave me an impression if some of these images were shots from helicopter / glider or something. Not all the landscapes can have such a slope that you can see human movement from a certain point to its utmost greatness. It seems someone invisible is watching, perhaps the birds's view or more like how God' must be watching certain story unfold in stills. My personal take-away that, and to tell you Sebastiao doesn't believe in God or So I heard.

In one more attempt to explain the infinite landscapes, I'd say that the frame have been chosen & shot in such a way that it seems "it is just you and your subject and nothing else exists. This not only explains the limitlessness of the image but also that Its a complete frame and nothing is chopped / cropped off. i.e. your eyes wont be traveling outside the frame. most likely, I mean, mine didn't.

I remember an image of tall-tall tree and a man hanging somewhere, I think it was from amazon tribe is where I noticed the tiny human element. But I believe my favorites of his are those with hundreds of people and lots of motion and movement involved. They tell a story in such a way that one image is enough. And if I haven't mentioned symmetry / geometry / lines in the images yet, It is more than evident in each of 'em. I love the lines in even the simplest of the shots and that tells how meticulously those were taken. I remember Him mentioning sometime he spent 8 hours on top of the mountain to photograph a certain image and that photography is all about time, not only timing as I understand.

Dinka Cattle Camp, Southern Sudan, 2006(©Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas/nbpictures)

One question a gentleman asked later in Q/A session so correlates to what I was thinking earlier. he said there is something divine about each image and I feel it is certainly so, the intelligence of the god and of the photographer and where they collide, together.

Am I qualified to critique his work? No.
These all are just my observations, and What was going on in my mind at the moment when I was looking at the presentations. I have my reservations about high contrast and I had difficult time understanding those images. I love colors and honestly in two long slides of B&W images, somewhere I was filling colors myself, and those were no longer black and white. I am not sure what to interpret of that.

I noticed many people taking notes during his talk, and I too i guess made a short video I am yet to upload to youtube, I am sure they talk must be available somewhere online most likely on ICP website, that aside, what stuck me the most, how one goes about labeling oneself as photographer or artist etc and how it is actually unimportant. secondly how much importance we give to our own life which we' re more or less just a drop in the ocean. I myself am bogged down by failures every now and then, and do get trapped in the nomenclature and labeling and branding part of everything while I personally know very well that Its not something I want to reach out for. I feel, listening to him, made me feel pretty comfortable with myself and I think I should wholeheartedly support myself in the path I have sketched for myself and continue traveling.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Falling In Love With Seattle

Castle Point State Park, San Juan Islands Seattle Washington
castle point / san juan island

Technically, This isn't my first trip to Seattle, Washington. I had been there before in October last year on my way back to New York from Alaska. But I dint spend much time there then and It wasn't home. Now It is, and I already miss it.

I just got back from a couple of days long trip to the west, Washington & Oregon. This trip was due earlier, in March and I could make it only now, but nonetheless It was great time spent with family, friends the beauty that the wilderness there is. Actually, Just a week before, I was in West Virginia, VA, PA and Maryland as well. Needless to say, I have soaked in so much of glorious lush green forests beauty this summer has brought, I will cherish it through the fall season when the red, oranges & yellow show up and this time, I hope I'd get lucky.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mountain Trail Horseback Riding in West Virginia

Me on Socks.
me on my horse 

For good, for bad, I sometime feel I am at the wrong place at wrong time, all the times. Traits of a wandering mind perhaps, but the truth is so. I should be somewhere in a country side stable, riding my horses, may be few propeller around for flying to work and come back home, a few waterfalls in my backyard to get a personal spa bath anytime I like, a few cats, dogs, alpacas and goats to play with, and a nice cabin to sleep and wake up in with a snow peak views. Well, I am here in a small studio in the city of New York,  very close-by actually, and I love it too. Can I be a contradiction enough?

Its been five years since I first rode a horse, and moving away from Bangalore and of course the constant move ever since I had not been able to pursue the skill further. I did my basic-level horse-riding course there, and I have some really fond memories of that time.

* The article I wrote on my horse-riding experience in 2009 : Hoof prints on your heart *

Thursday, May 22, 2014

From Manhattan to Montauk : Exploring Long Island, New York

A nice dive from from above followed by a short nap on the bed of yellow maple buds... Awesomeness. #eastmoriches #newyork #longisland #usa

Long Island, The name and place fascinated me ever since I read "The Great Gatsby" sure it was imaginative, I know not. but when I moved to New York around this time last year, I had this one wish to explore the beaches of east end, which earlier I thought never existed, perhaps biking or trekking the stretch. I finally had a chance to discover a good large part of Long Island last week and it was nothing less than epic, and today after a long hiatus, I am writing about that experience and sharing glimpses of the place.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Say Hello To Japan, Or May Be Not : Sakura Matsuri Festival, New York


"Some Say, Life is hard. but thats just talk. In fact, its good to be alive. Its exciting." 

As I begin penning this article, I am back to watching "Dreams" by Akira Kurosawa, My Introduction to Japan, A movie that made me fall in love with this country, its landscapes and culture alike. Each frame so intriguing and perfect, the foxes walking through the misty forest, the peach orchard and the rainbow. I lived Japan through his dreams and wished to visit the country and see those scenes in real one fine day. My happy tunes - the song of the procession in the village of the watermills. perhaps that explains why had such huge expectations from this festival.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Bird that got stuck in a Tree

No More Snow. Yay. Shouldn't I be starting this post with a goodbye to Winter? New York has been crazy past few months, and while, we may giggle & welcome much awaited arrival of Spring and warmer days, the cold, the craziness doesn't really get over or does it. For example, Yesterday, I must have walked about a mile in 3D capable mad rain and then waited at the station for the bus, extra drenched. ( Oh, I lost my umbrella or dropped it somewhere while shopping and dint have time to buy another, Right.) Well, While I haven't seen a single spring flower bloom yet, I would  say, A change is good, any change for the matter even if its in the form of rain. At least its no more subzero and I can put all my excuses to rest and get on with some city life finally.

spring will come and so will happiness. hold on. life will get... warmer. - anita krizzan

Contemplating Change, I think I never loved "change" as much as I do now. part of the hatred

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