What prompted you to go on your first trip?
I don’t even remember when I went on my first trip. Perhaps I have been traveling since I was a toddler. I hail from an army background and as an army kid I travelled around the country. Also, hostel life contributed immensely to my solo trips.
What is the most enlightening thing your travel have taught you?
Travel has changed the way I live my life – I have become more aware, calmer, empathetic, appreciative and far more adaptable than I was before. Materialism and rate-race has given way to minimalism and sustainable lifestyle.
What’s the most entertaining story you have about getting lost?
In November 2016 I had gone on a solo trip to Taiwan. It was a completely unplanned trip made in a jiffy but it wasn’t the best time to visit as it was a rainy season. However, that didn’t deter me from exploring its most beautiful national parks – Taroko National Park. While in the park I lost the sense of time and almost missed the last bus that leaves the park at 17:55pm. I tried to hitchhike but no car was stopping. Due to heavy rains, landslides were rampant in the park and huge boulders were falling from everywhere. I was deep in the park and my internet wasn’t working. So, I wasn’t sure if I was on the main road or somewhere far away. For almost two hours I kept walking and didn’t see a soul in my sight. I was little worried as it was already 18:30 and there was no chance I could catch the last bus. When I had given all hope I heard a bus coming from behind. I tried to stop it but it didn’t stop immediately as there was no parking space. Some 200 m away it stopped and I breathed a sigh of relief. In the bus, I met a guy who too had a similar story. He spoke very slowly and struggled a bit in English.
On our way back we alighted at different stations as I still wanted to explore the area before catching the train to Taipei. He said he’ll be going straight as he had some pre-plans. After 1 hr when I reached the ticket counter I saw him again. Surprisingly he got the seat adjacent to me in the boggy. But the biggest surprise came during our conversation when he revealed we are staying at the same hostel in the same locality. When I asked him about his nationality, he said Korea. I asked – North or South. He said North. I was super excited to meet someone from North Korea for the first time in my life and wanted to know more about his country and the life there.
We made plans to meet after dinner. When I reached the hostel I announced that I had someone from North Korea. Everyone was super excited to meet him and all of us were waiting for him with an abated breath. When he arrived, I proudly introduced him to the gang and asked him to tell his story. In a hush-hush voice he whispered in my ears – “Arch, I am sorry I didn’t get the question that time. I am not from North Korea.” I was so angry as I had made a fool of myself in front of everyone. For the next two days he kept trying to please me through flowers, chocolates and gifts.
What are your tips to save money?
- Instead of buying stuff, take them on rent. For example many a times I take lenses, Go Pro and other gadgets on rent for my assignments
- And, if I have to buy, I invest in good quality products over average products. They last longer and give better value for money in the long run. For example I would never compromise on my trekking gear as it would have to bear harsh conditions and would still last at least for 10 years.
- I don’t carry food or eat at fancy restaurants. I buy fruit/food/bread at grocery stores or convenience stores.
- Use public transport and travel pass if you are staying for long. Saves you a lot of bucks. And, many a times they are come loaded with lot of value adds like free entry to attractions, discounts at restaurants/stores.
- Plan your trip in advance and take tips from locals. Visit in off season to avoid peak season rush and high prices. Stay away from the city centre, preferably with a local family.
What are the most essential thing you keep in your backpack?
- Photography gear – camera, lenses, batteries and chargers, filters, tripod, GoPro, power banks etc.
- Personal care – Sunscreen, Vaseline, toothpaste-brush, wet wipes, band-aid, basic medicines, sanitary pad,
- Dry fruit or chocolate, refillable water bottle, wooden fork & spoon, bamboo/steel straw
- Wallet and mobile phone