Culture inspired travel

Baroda and London, India and United Kingdom

Writing to me is a way of self-expression, an important medium that helps me balance my seven Chakras. I write to understand myself, my thoughts and my feelings better.

My passion is learning about other cultures and I prefer doing this first hand by travelling. By getting to know local people, having meaningful conversations and experiences with them, I am able to understand their heritage, cultures, habits, traditions, challenges and life journeys. Travelling enables me to explore the world, and it provides me with a platform to look inwards and engage in quiet introspection.

I write about my life journey, overcoming challenges, travel stories and experiences with an intention to inspire people to follow their heart and chase their dreams.

My husband and I are full time travellers. We’ve had some awesome adventures and have been enlightened by the different people we meet on our travels. We’ve set up a website where we share our travel stories and cultural experiences – we believe that a society is more empowered when various cultures interact positively and, through our travels, we are hoping to inspire people to be more tolerant of other cultures.

I look forward to getting to know you, I hope my stories strike a chord with you, and you find them inspiring.

I will end my bio with one of my favourite quotes by the inspirational Maya Angelou.

“If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”


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Making friends with Lockdown

Jul 06, 2020 3 years ago

With backpacks on our backs, dreams in our hearts and stars in our eyes, my husband (Jason) and I (Heena), set off on an adventure of a lifetime…travelling around the world. Sadly, only after 133 days, our adventure came to a sudden halt. Why? Well, you've probably heard of the most common and biggest enemy of 2020, it goes by several names – Covid-19 / Coronavirus / SARS-CoV-2. Of course, not just our lives, Coronavirus brought the whole world to a standstill. Cities that never sleep, all of a sudden found their roads deserted. Ever busy airports were ghost towns. Shops and restaurants were closed. Buses and trains ran empty. People were fearful and anxious…no longer just of catching the ghastly virus, but of each other! The super powers of the world were playing blame games (surprise) and capitalism was brought down to its knees! We, unfortunate nomads, got stuck in Medellin, Colombia – with our fates in the hands of the raging Coronavirus. Quarantine life Unbeknown to us, Coronavirus was travelling across the world a whole lot faster than us. Before the situation flared up, we were in Bogota, still making jokes about those odd people wearing masks and gloves. We ourselves had a mild scare when Jason complained about being out of breath. I say mild, as not long after he had complained, we realised we had flown in from sea-level to one of South America's highest cities. Well, no wonder he was out of breath! We decided to travel to Medellin, so that we could live our “lockdown sentence” in the “city of eternal spring”, in a milder climate – Bogota was a bit cold for our liking. The initial days were a pleasant blur. We moved into a self-catering flat, over indulged in fine wines and home-cooked meals. We caught up with our families and friends via video calls. However, those fun filled days soon disappeared when we learnt that a colleague back home had died of Coronavirus, and then, we found ourselves in a dark abyss. Our colleague's death hit home. Jason and I, stuck in a studio flat, 24/7, had no choice but to talk about our feelings of losing someone we admired and respected. It wasn't easy, it was painful, it hurt so bad. We both experienced sudden spurts of emotions and ended up in pools of tears. We realised though; we were lucky to have each other. We spent hours talking about our fears of losing family members or friends back home and not being able to bid adios to them. Those were complex talks and we learnt so much more about ourselves and each other. Let me add here - we've been together for 13 years, and I thought (so wrongly) that surely, we know all we need to know about each other? It goes to show we are always learning! Once we were able to rise above the dark abyss, we decided to focus on the positives, and developed routines (Jason really took to sweeping the floor!) to enable us to have a purpose. We reflected on our past journeys, reminisced about the incredible people we had met on our travels, and the life changing experiences we had gained in those 133 days. We wrote blogs about our experiences; those were beautiful times – we were reliving our memories. With lockdowns being extended every two weeks in Medellin, we were in a desperate need of a change of scenery. So, we moved to a bigger and a nicer flat to maintain our sanity. Respecting and accepting change We have accepted this life dictated by Coronavirus. It hasn't been easy – our freedom being taken away has really kicked us in our backsides. I have my highs and lows, and sometimes, several in a day! However, writing has been my unselfish comrade, that has helped me find some equilibrium in my life. It has aided me to stay positive and process my thoughts, in turn enabling me to respect and accept the “new normal” way of living. Writing about my feelings, fears and experiences, has provided me with a vital medium to create a robust bridge between anxiety and self-preservation. I received lots of positive messages from people around the world, who have read my stories and experiences. They have shared with me their own quarantine ups and downs. Knowing that other people were experiencing similar fears, really helped me to feel less of an emotional wreak! We discussed our routines and what was helping us to maintain our emotional well-being. Those beautiful intricacies of newly formed virtual friendships, have empowered me to continue to connect. I have created some meaningful bonds that have proven to be nothing less than a life-line. Hope I hope for a life free of Coronavirus. I hope that people maintain what seems to be a new found respect for Mother Earth. I hope people continue to be caring and kind towards one another. Lastly, I hope we do not take this life for granted. All we have is now, so let us live life to the fullest and write about it whenever we can!

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All over the world, the journey of a woman's life is predetermined by the patriarchal society we live in – it's not an opinion, but a fact. This restricted and claustrophobic journey is sadly amplified for those girls who are born in regular, unassuming and conventional families in developing countries like India. Although I was not born to conservative parents, their parents were very traditional. So, when I was born, a second daughter, my mother was subjected to a lot of emotional abuse from both of my grandparents. Not a great thing to learn when growing up, however, it does explain why I was never as close to my grandparents as my older sister and younger brother were. I don't know how this affected my subconscious?! Perhaps, me being fiercely independent from a very young age and a bit of a rebel would be a measured behavioural outcome of the knowledge that I had of how (un)loved and (un)wanted I was by my grandparents! Anyhow, getting to the crux of the story, I have always lived my life on my terms “unapologetically”, but never used this term till it was made trendy by millennials. I worked from the age of 16, got my Bachelor's degree, left my country to pursue my Masters (1000s miles away from my home) in pursuit of freedom and independence when a lot of my peers were getting married. I got a job, lived on my own, fell in love and married to a “gora / gringo” (it wasn't a done thing at the time in my home country). All of these things were challenges in their own right, but I was never phased by them. Also, I love a good challenge, a classic trait of a rebel! I must add here, my parents and siblings always supported me at the end and stood by my decisions and even, celebrated them with me. As a child, I always dreamt of travelling the world, and I got to do that a lot with my loving partner-in-crime, my husband. However, as expected from a woman, once you're married with a job and a house, the prospect of producing an offspring was lingering over my head. Now, this expectation, isn't just limited to females from certain conventional families, it's an expectation from females, full stop. Apparently, a desire to procreate should come naturally to women…only I didn't feel that way. It took me weeks to gather courage to tell my husband that I didn't feel the need to leave a legacy behind – a child. I wasn't worried about telling him that I didn't want to use my female reproduction super powers (we share an open and transparent relationship), but what worried me was, what if he felt differently – could I bear to lose my best friend? We went to our favourite Italian restaurant and after a few glasses of wine (of course) I told him that I didn't want to be a parent, but, instead, I wanted to see the world with him! He listened to me patiently and, he replied, to my surprise, that he shared the same feelings, but didn't know how to say it. Well, needless to say I was greatly relieved! However, soon after I felt relieved, the thought of telling our parents about our decision took over and that, seemed like a huge mountain to climb. Remember, I said expectations! It's not “normal” for people to decide not to procreate – human instinct and all that. It was easy for me to tell my mother, as I tell her pretty much everything, but to tell my in-laws of our decision was very daunting. My mother took the news beautifully, as always, she supported my decision and said “as long as you both are happy, that's all it matters”. Eventually, we told our in-laws and although, it was far from easy, and it took them some time to come around our decision, they accepted it. The declaration of our decision to not procreate and overburden the planet which is already brimming with children, didn't limit to our family and friends, it's something we have to do on a regular basis by answering questions, “so, do you have children / when are you planning to have a little one / when are you going to start a family?”, to extended relatives, friends' families, neighbours, my hairdresser, my local café owner, strangers…the list is endless. I have been tempted at times to say “we've tried but to no avail” – you see, you get sympathy to that response, but not when you say you've chosen not to have a child – you get judged for it and are even called “selfish”. So, here are the questions I contemplate – why is it “normal” to want to have kids and not acceptable to choose not to? Also, why do we have to conform to the society and live our lives dictated by it? My husband and I chose, NOT to conform – we couldn't be happier and are living fulfilled lives. Years ago, I came across a very powerful saying that I always go back to when I am feeling lost and unsure - “If Not Now, When? If Not Me, Who?” I keep reminding myself not to worry about what others think and I continue to make life choices that I feel are right for me and I do that unapologetically.

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