I sat down and tried to calculate how much money I spent visiting India last year, my way: the balance is ridiculously low. India is a cheap country, yes, but this would not have been possible without a few tricks.
Here is a lowdown on how I managed to spend 110$ for 6 weeks travelling from Kolkata to Delhi in North India, taking it slow, and doing a lot side trips. Hopefully the following suggestions may be useful for someone else!
You are in India, PAY like and Indian
This is a basic rule that applies to all of my trips: I do not want to pay more. If my skin is white, it does not mean I am rich, or stupid. If an Indian pays 10, why do I have to pay 100? A tourist in India has to bear enough of this double-tier pricing when visiting all Indian main sites (more on this next), but seriously, why should I pay 20 rupees when the guy next to me pays 5 for the same auto-rickshaw ride? It is a game, and a damn funny one. Learn the local lingo: pach rupee is five, das is ten. Surprise them. Talk to them in other languages than English as they keep on talking to a clueless you in Hindi. See how much fun it is. Send five, ten, twenty drivers away before you find a honest man, because they do exist, although very rare.
Avoid the inflated tourist attractions’ entry fees
India is the most unfair country in the world when it comes to double tier pricing. A Taj Mahal ticket which costs you a whooping 750 rupees, costs an Indian 20. Yes, 20 only. It is just a little over 300% more. Because they think we are rich, and we deserve to pay. Fine, let’s pay more. But do not pay for everything, be wise. The Sun Temple in Konark, Orissa, for example: just walk around it. It will not give you the perfect visual, but it would save the 200 rupees entry fee. And you will see it even better from the outer enclosure. And whenever they ask you to pay to be able to take pictures, please hide your camera and snatch away as much as you can. (more…)
Cost/day (for a family of five):
Strangest thing we’ve seen lately:
Before his wish to die, but well after 40 degree fever and horrifying nightmares, the kindly villagers performed ritual healing ceremonies on my husband Kobi. They picked two of this leaf, four of that one, this root, that berry and cooked them over a banana-leaf-sealed open-fired vat. Then, with ritual prayer chanting, candles, and incense burning, he was stuffed under a dozen thick blankets to breath the steam, drank a cup o it, and bathed in the waters. Their love and earnest determination to cure him were touching. Two days later, he was hospitalized.
“I think increasingly with globalization the job of the travel writer has to be to try and peel back the surface impression of globalization and to reveal the much more complex reality. It seems to me in a sense an almost paradigmatic illustration of what a travel writer can still do today. Today there is no empirical information about a country that a travel book can give that cannot be got more accurately elsewhere. But what a travel writer can do is interpret the complexity of the globalized world, look at the hybrid human being that exists in different parts of the world, give a first person account of how that person seems, interpreting reality in a literary form in the same way novelists try. That seems to me to be what travel writing can be about now, what travel books can offer which Google or Encyclopedia Britannica or the novel cannot: you are going there and presenting and going deeper than the journalists, you are spending time and learning. I think that the idea that the travel book has had its day is true neither in the sense of having nothing more to offer, nor in the sense of sales. It is still a form of literature which people turn to and certainly in its comic form is more popular than ever. It is a very popular form still, because it is a form which has the ability to reinvent itself for each period. During the colonial period it sometimes, though not always, was doing colonial work, now it is doing a different job for a different audience in a different period of time. It seems to be a universal form, like poetry, but unlike the novel, has existed at all periods of history in all or most cultures.”
–William Dalrymple, interviewed by Tim Youngs, Studies in Travel Writing (2005)
Picture credit: Flickr/ubuntunewsru
When I get to know that such horrors still happen despite all of the effort we make to keep this world a fairer place, I feel very sad inside.
However, there is really no one to blame. And I want to be as far as I can from using this space to rant against the Chinese. A useless attempt to fortify a jaded stereotype.
I only want to look at events like Tubbataha’s smuggling of protected species’ meat with the critical eye of someone who loves this world, and is sickened by human attempts to make it a bad place for their cash hunger. We, as travelers, may be very far away from committing such deeds, but I believe we should reflect that it is also because of the influence of our own actions that places, cultures and once-called paradises continuously change. They change for worst, most often forever.
I have been living in Southeast Asia long enough to notice some of these changes. One example is the shifting attitude towards the foreigner in different countries and cultures. And no, I want to avoid the “walking wallet” stereotypes. But I can easily refer to episodes of extreme violence in Kuala Lumpur, for example. This was not happening a few years ago, at least, not to travelers. There used to be some kind of respect, some sort of value to human life that I find progressively fading away. Such events fuel the fire that burns our prospected tropical paradises into tiny pieces of scorching charcoal. It hurts when it flies into our naïve eyes. I believe that it is time to acknowledge that if we have the power to do something to change, we may as well start. Losing the pangolin is just another step towards losing ourselves, progressively, into oblivion.
Milton was right: the paradise is really lost.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
Evidence of Google Translate is everywhere. I constantly find signs and packages in nonsensical English. Take, for example, this paper bag from a local cookie shop:
“New Guineans are well aware that the culture of their fathers is gone forever and can never be reconstituted. They may still respect old traditions, perform tribal rituals, and honor their ancestors, but in an essential sense, the old way is lost, if only because there has been a transfer of political and economic power, and the New Guineans can no longer act in the modern world and in their relations with outsiders as if their old culture were still intact. Many decisions previously made on the basis of New Guinean cultural premises are now made on the basis of Western premises, for there has been a transfer of power. What is ironic is that the old New Guinea culture is lost in the present, but is recovered in the tourist imaginary, in a tourist dream, and not in the real conditions of native existence. The New Guineans find themselves acting in two time frames: in a real present that the tourists do not see, and in the tourists’ fantasy of their past. …Most ironic of all is that the primitive life that the foreign visitors celebrate has been altered by a previous generation of these same foreigners. In effect, the tourists long for what they have previously destroyed, a phenomena that Rosaldo calls ‘imperialist nostalgia,’ or what might be called ‘tourist nostalgia.’”
–Edward M. Bruner, “Transformation of Self in Tourism,” Annals of Tourism Research (1991)
BootsnAll has been publishing RTW Wednesday articles for almost two years now, with a plethora of writers contributing to offer stories, tips, and advice about long-term travel.
We’re excited to announce that Vagablogging contributor Jenn Miller has joined us and will be the sole contributor to the RTW Wednesday column going forward. Her debut article, Lessons from Jakarta, was published this past week. Jenn has been on the road with her family for over five years now and can offer an interesting perspective on long-term travel. Be sure to check her column out each Wednesday, where she’ll offer practical planning and traveling advice, from choosing an itinerary to road schooling. Be on the lookout for inspirational, philosophical, and family-travel related articles as well.
We like to highlight cool indie trips we create on our trip planner. Check out these five fares we’ve found this month on Indie, BootsnAll’s Multi-Stop Trip Planner:
If you are looking for something a little different in your round the world trip, then go ahead and plan your own trip on Indie, our multi-stop trip planner. And don’t forget to sign up for BootsnAll’s RTW newsletter, delivering special deals, RTW trip planning advice, and resources via email every single month. We also have a Facebook fan page and Twitter page, so be sure to like and follow those to keep up to date on all your RTW travel needs.
(Picture credit: Flickr/derekb)
This past weekend I spent a few hours nosing around the travel section at a local bookstore. With nothing much better to do in another steamy Malaysian Sunday afternoon, I got easily attracted by the air-conditioned comfort of the Temple of Vanity (i.e. one of the abundant malls). I went to the bookstore and started thumbing through the latest travel writing on offer, including magazines and a few books.
After less than half hour, I disappointingly moved to the Fiction’s rack looking for improved browsing pleasure.
Why? I give you a few quick reasons:
1. Most travel writers are too self-centered
I do not understand why I should get excited about “traveling” to a place, when on the contrary I am forced to discover it through the biased perspective of writers who postpone their own cultures ahead of others’, and essentially tell stories about themselves, and not their travels.
2. Too much personal detail is irrelevant
Sometimes telling the story of how you clogged a toilet in Beijing when a line of 20 was waiting outside can be fun. Nevertheless, most of the times a good narrative should be about the country you visit, and not the status of its toilets, your messed- up stomach or whatever else related to your bottom.
3. It should not be about the writer, but the others
Ok, you are surprised about some of the local customs and you want to describe your feelings. Perfect. But what do you expect the locals to think when you arrive in your strange clothes, brandishing an expensive camera they possibly have only seen at the movies, and try to “go local”? I wish someone published what they wrote about it.
4. Good travel writing should read like anthropology
For sure, a writer may not be using a travel grant to spend one year nosing deep into the mountains of Pakistan doing research. Still, I believe it should be a writer’s duty to bring the places he writes about to life using thick descriptions of their peoples, environs and traditions. I don’t see this very often, unfortunately.
5. Stereotypes are only OK in small doses
Travel writers often abuse stereotypical views of countries, peoples and places. As much as it can be difficult to get that “different angle”, I would love to see more engaging, thought-provoking descriptions and prose that does not jump to conclusions too fast.
Do you have any other ideas to continue my list of observations? Please comment!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
Our family of seven is camping in Mexico beneath a full moon and enjoying a tranquil evening after crossing the border into this ‘dangerous’ country. Just the day before, we were warned that we were ‘risking our children’s lives’ by taking them to such a lawless place.’ Completely alone in a farmer’s field, we watched the sun peacefully set and then rise again the next morning on our first full day in Mexico.
You’d love to tell your boss you’re taking off – and actually do it.
But then you come back to reality. You’ve got a house you need to pay for. Car payments to make… Pay off those credit cards… Buy new furniture for your living room… And you need to save for retirement. Maybe that trip of a lifetime will never happen after all.
I would venture to guess that most people can take that trip of their dreams if they simply put their mind to it. It’s all a matter of priorities.
Now before you jump all over my back, I want to point out that little word “most” in the previous sentence. I do understand there are people out there who simply can’t take off for one reason or another, but for most, it’s doable. It comes down to priorities.
So how do you do it? How do you manage to save the money for a trip like this? Easy – you make it a priority. I’m not talking about giving the journey lip service – I’m saying you have to decide it really, honestly, truly is your priority. If it’s not, there will be a million other things to spend your money on.
Trim the Fat
I know, I know – you’ve heard this before: eliminate all expenses that aren’t necessary. Maybe you could stop buying that $5 coffee from Starbucks every morning, or carry your lunch rather than going out with the boys. You’ve read all that before.
But I think it comes down to something a bit different. I’m not necessarily saying to cut all that out, but to simply make conscious decisions. Remember – it’s all about priorities and making conscious decisions. Is that $5 coffee more important than your trip? Then, by all means, buy it. Lunch with the boys higher on the priority list than the journey? Then go for it. Just remember to make conscious decisions. Come back again and again to what is truly important in your life and make decisions based on that. (more…)