the epic solo rajasthan road trip: because travel heals pain

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My mother passed away on 19 July this year from old age. She was 84. It is now almost three months since she’s been gone, yet the pain is still raw. She went too fast. I knew she was going to go to the other side one day. One day. Just that one day was some distant occurrence which I naively believed was not going to happen in my lifetime. We all believe our parents will live forever.

If you are a follower of my blog, you would have noticed the change in the title. I have added ‘Toshi’ as my middle name. Toshi was my mother’s maiden pet name. By adding it to my online spaces it keeps her alive for me.

We were chalk and cheese. Fought and hugged. She was the most loving human being I had ever come across. And through all of life’s trials and tribulations, she was my constant best friend.

More than anyone else, she also knew my need to travel. To wander. To explore. She understood travel was my one source of inspiration, as well as escape. A source of pragmatic knowledge and elusive wisdom.

It is no surprise then that as I struggled, and still struggle, to cope with my loss, my sister, as if in serendipity, suggested I turn to travel.

Rajasthan seemed the most natural choice. Its Covid-19 numbers are minuscule. As a state focussed on tourism for its economy, its infrastructure, even in current times, well-structured and reliable. Last, but not least, when it comes to history, heritage, pristine nature, hospitality topped with an endless list of attractions … oh well, India’s desert state generously peppered with tales of royalty and valour stands head and shoulders above the rest.

I leave for a 35-day solo road trip through Rajasthan’s vast expanse day-after-tomorrow morning, on Sunday, 17 October. The research and design of my itinerary helped me face life in the immediate weeks after Mummy left. I believe the upcoming five weeks will help me reconnect with life once again. To still remember and love her, but with less tears in my eyes and a smaller lump in my throat.

Rajasthan Road Trip Map

The google map above is the route I will be taking. From Rajasthan’s familiar iconic towns such as Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Udaipur to the remote, hidden gems of the Shekhawati and Jhalawar. From the call of the wild in Ranthambore and Sariska to the call of the spiritual in Pushkar and Ajmer. From the golden sands of Khuri in the Thar to the verdant Aravali hills of Alwar. From living inside the forts in Jaisalmer and Chittorgarh, to a palace in Bikaner and a simple homestay in Jodhpur. It is all there.

Once back home I will embark on my blog posts. Do join me as I share my journey right here. Till then, stay safe, stay healthy, and most importantly, treasure your loved ones. Life is fragile. Keep your loved ones super close to your heart. ❤

a guide to independent travel in israel

Have my Israel posts been able to inspire you to make your way to one of the most fascinating [and historically and potentially volatile] countries in our world? I hope yes. Yes enough to add it to your bucket list, have day-dreams about it, and make plans for a journey post COVID-19.

Though I’ve ended each post on Israel with related travel tips, I thought I’d collate the important ones into one post and add a few extra. Just to make it easier for you.

I assure you this will be a short post. Most of my Israel posts have been on an average 2,500 words long. If you indeed read through them, credit goes to the country—it is beautiful—and to you. Thank you super much for giving me company through the series, for liking the posts, and for commenting on them. It has encouraged me and kept me focussed on writing the entire set.

So, here goes my last and 13th post in my Israel series, a country that was long on my wish-list and one I finally got to explore on a solo, independent, 15-day travel in November 2019. Wishing you happy travels too, someday soon.

[Please note there are NO affiliate links in this post, or in any of my posts. Links are provided only to help you with your plans or for you to get extra info. Neither is any of the content in this post or any other post sponsored. The services in this post are what I used and I am simply sharing them with you.] Continue reading

a self-guided walk through biblical mount of olives

Caution: This post is for travellers. Not tourists.

Whew. Now that I have got that out of the way, let me write on. Comforted by the thought you and I are on the same page.

Some of us like to wander. To immerse ourselves at a particular site just because, inexplicably, it touches a chord within us. To gaze at the details. Behind and under the obvious. To look at all versions of history and legends with an open mind.

The reason I bring it up particularly for my post on the Mount of Olives is because one cannot not visit the Mount of Olives while in Jerusalem. For that would be blasphemy. But you’d like to do it at your own pace.

Why? Because you are in the Holy Land. And Jesus Christ spent his last night before his crucifixion as well as ascended to heaven from here. Christian communities from around the globe have built a string of lovely churches down a near perpendicular street between these two key sites. Because you do not have to be believers of the Old or New Testament to believe in a higher sacred self. Or Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. But also, because the view from the top and the walk to the bottom is what memories, which make you all starry-eyed once back home, are made of. 🙂 Continue reading

36 hours in tel aviv

Flashback. 11 April, 1909. There are 66 Jewish families standing in a circle on a desolate sand dune, just north of Jaffa, the ancient Arab port-city on the Mediterranean coast. Inside the circle are two boxes. One contains 60 grey seashells with plot numbers and the other has 60 white seashells with names of the families. A girl randomly picks up a grey seashell while a boy picks up a white seashell.

And hence, the first 60 plots of Tel Aviv meaning the ‘hill of spring’ are assigned and Israel’s future city is born. Within one year all the homes are built along with the main streets.

Flashforward. November 2019. The Tel Aviv I am standing in is futuristic and forward-looking. It is an IT hub, gay capital of the Middle East, vegan capital of the world, secular, hedonistic, and has an all-night party scene and 15 kilometres of sun, sand and sea.

There are around 3,000 high-tech companies and start-ups in the city, the highest outside Silicon Valley, to the extent Tel Aviv and its surrounding areas are called Silicon Wadi [Wadi is Arabic for valley]. The technology behind all chats, the world’s first anti-virus software, and USB stick were invented here.

I see lesbian couples indulging in heavy PDA and muscled men in leather briefs strut down the jogging paths on Rothschild Boulevard. Everyone seems to have a dog. According to statistics, Tel Aviv has a 17-to-1 people to dog ratio and 60 dog parks. And yes, it is also one of the top 10 cities for the most beautiful women … and men.

But Tel Aviv is not just all beauty and brains and their furry best friends, as I discovered. Continue reading

the three magnificent jewels of israel’s judaean desert

It was 2 am and I could not take my eyes off the exhilarating landscape in the travel documentary. I sat hunched over my computer with goose bumps on my arms, infatuated at the desert and oasis and sea which unfurled in front of me. I was leaving for Israel in a couple of weeks.

“This can’t be for real???” was all my cynical mind could muster at regular intervals. But numerous other media reiterated the same splendours with stubborn vendetta to my doubting self.

Not many places live up to their hype—except the Judaean Desert. As I discovered last year in November. Continue reading

global travel shot: uninterrupted prayers at the wailing wall

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Welcome to my blog post series on Israel, a tiny country where world politics and religions converge, and it takes a mere five hours to drive across its entire length. 🙂

So, is Israel on your bucket list? It was on mine. For a very long time. But I was filled with doubts on how to go about it. It turned out that the one country I was most unsure and nervous about travelling to solo and independently was in fact the easiest to explore on my own. Israel is an independent traveller’s dream come true.

Don’t believe me?

Come along with me as I blog about Israel over the next few months, the land of Yhwh’s “Chosen Ones,” in a series which traverses three Abrahamic religions and countless natural sites of mind-boggling beauty over a 15-day voyage—at the epicentre of which is the “Wall.” Continue reading