26.05.2012 - 26.05.2012
Travel blog.. umm.. okay.. right.. bloody writer’s block, well screw you.. here we go!
I don’t really do this for a living and it’s actually my first brush with “writing” in a long long time – emails at work notwithstanding. So what really is it that has prompted me to undertake such an arduous commitment? Not exactly sure, but I suspect it is a mixture of several things – excitement, weekend hangovers, weekday hangovers, Monday blues, tons of self created free time, uncertainty and the upcoming vacations.
Oh right, it’s that time of the year again. For each of the last 5 years, I have ensured that I take a break - 2 weeks minimum - from the daily grind and let go. During these past few years, I have been to a few amazing places, had some crazy experiences (of which not all can be shared for various reasons), have met a lot of beautiful people and some absolute nutcases. But every spring, this itch to travel resurfaces without fail and needs to be cured somehow.
This time around, though, the plan is much elaborate and scheme even grander. Those who know me even a little bit would attest to the fact that backpacking solo across Europe, forever has been my unfulfilled wet dream. It is something I have contemplated doing for a long time – literally ever since I received my first pay cheque. I was almost on the verge of doing it about a few years ago, only for my travel partner to bail out at the last minute due to some work related commitments or whatever. Since then life has been a bit of a whirlwind, and it really wasn’t possible to do it.
However, things in very recent past have evolved in a way that I now find myself with a “licence to chill”, as someone keeps telling me, rather incessantly, I must add. So chill I will. Last month or so has been a strange combination of tension, excitement, anticipation and endless wait. Several very uncomfortable visits to a certain consulate in extreme heat with their James-Bond-ish security procedures resulted in a Schengen visa for exactly the dates I had asked for. For citizens of most countries the visa issuance saga probably does not even warrant a mention, but for those of us with the green passports - well, it is always a moment of awesomeness to see a visa sticker permitting entry to the so called “first world”. Hoping not to jinx it, but with the first obstacle traversed, I know I am well and truly on my way to Europe this time around.
Now to the exciting part – the planning phase itself. First tangible investment was the backpack – did not skimp on this one as it will be my most important non-human companion for the trip. To use an old backpacking adage “have-pack-will-travel” – there is simply no backing off anymore. Such a trip requires hours and hours of research, unless you’re a person comfortable with just winging it along the way. I, however, need a bit of a structure to my plans and a sense of comfort that I know what I am doing. So, a lot of time has been spent nailing down a doable itinerary, looking for cheapest travel options, destination guides, budget accommodation costs, travel forums, etc. It was also very important (read necessary) for me to pre-book wherever possible purely due to budgetary reasons – sooner you book, cheaper it is. The whole thing has been a bit of a mix-bag complete with pleasant surprises, moments of joy, some sheer disappointments and occasional frustration. But then, that exactly is what life is all about.
As I write this, with just under 6 weeks to go, most of the checkboxes are now checked – visa, dates, itinerary, flights to and from Europe, all intra-Schengen flights, trains and most of the accommodation is sorted. What seemed like an impossibly daunting task, not too long ago, seems much plausible now. A considerable financial investment has already gone into this trip – Europe is expensive! It gets worse when one considers the horrid Euro-Rupee exchange rate. With so many possibilities and plethora of tantalizing options, it’s nothing less than a miracle that I am still within the meagre budget I had set myself at the very beginning. And I really intend to keep it that way.
I am not sure how frequently I will be updating this blog. The idea is to write about the whole experience along with photographs and videos wherever possible. So stay tuned for more….