Alright kids, I am back. And this time, I bring to you from my lair, my abode and den (notice the subtle and classy attempts to sound lion-esque), travel resolutions that each one of you must adhere to on all your sojourns henceforth. A lot of thought and three hours have gone into doing the same so do respect the man and his work, and pay attention. Also, I know it was three hours because when I commenced on the pursuit of deep thought, they were showing the opening credits of Dabaang on Set Max, and after watching the movie, I went off to sleep.
Mmm, here they are.
1) Research before you set out
Simply put, a little more information will always help you plan your trip better, make better choices and then fit these choices in your itinerary. Paris is not just the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, or the Champs De Elysees. Goa has Calangute, Baga as its best beaches but it also has Doodhsagar – one of the best waterfalls in the country. From the outside, Ross Island (half an hour from Port Blair) looks like a large park surrounded by a feisty sea on all fronts. Tame deer flock in the premises, a small café serves refreshments, and people pose for that perfect photograph with the blue sea in the background. There is no sign of the atrocities that were once committed here, a hundred years ago. The cries of fettered men being whipped by British officers, the blood of thousands of indigenous Andamanese tribals to free their land from the colonialists, all lie buried deep under. But you have to read, to know that.
2) Pick a few words of the local language
All across the world, people like a foreigner making an effort to speak their language, or pick up their customs. They’ll laugh at the way you pronounce the words, but it is an affectionate laugh, and they’ll warm up to you immediately.
If you are in a bar in Spain and spot a pretty girl, you could tell her “Tengo un hoyo. No cabe duda de que es una razón suficiente para nosotros a bailar juntos?” (English translation: I have a dimple. Surely that must be reason enough for us to dance together?”)
Don’t worry about the part where she says no. You don’t have to know any language to understand that bit. But consider the fact that she agrees, even giggles at your witty line. You’ll thank me then, won’t you! Also, knowing the Spanish translation of “Haha bhaiya, aap to bura maan gaye! Mai to didi ke saath mazaak kar raha tha” would surely be of some assistance (limited, but still), when her three-hundred-pound drunk boyfriend is holding you three feet above the ground enthusiastic to rearrange your face.
3) Eat local
The Hakka noodles in Guangdong (China), the dosa in Chennai, the maacher jhol in Kolkata might be surprisingly different from those in your neighbourhood Delhi restaurant. And for crying out loud, do not eat Indian food when you travel abroad. Gujju families, repeat after me “We will not make a face when waiters in Bulgaria do not know what a dhokla is, and will eat whatever there is on the menu without once saying how good the food was back in apno Surat.
4) Make a new friend in the journey
One week is probably not enough time to do that, but then that is an assumption. One of the best ways to understand a new place is by seeing it with someone who lives there. And while that may not always happen, make an effort to talk to people – your cab driver, a family, a lone person sitting in a restaurant. Universally, people are usually more helpful and friendly when a non–local tries to communicate. At the end of your trip, it would be a nice feeling if someone wished that you hung around for a longer time. If you do make a friend, exchange an email id, even a phone number. One of the main advantages of the internet and facebook is that it has brought the world into our homes, and staying in touch is more feasible now than ever. Even with that nice man, who was holding you three feet off the ground.
5) Keep a small diary for the trip
Years later, if you reminisce about a particular trip, it would feel nice to recollect the memories and the people, see how you wrote of it, and observe how over the years your perspective, even your writing style has changed.