What’s going on Shaun!

It’s been 2 years since I moved to the UAE. I thought I’d list down all the eventful stuff I’ve done and been through,  since these experiences often get forgotten. Some really cool, others really challenging. These are bittersweet memories. Some I want to remember but some I’d rather forget.

  • Jan 2015 to Sep 2016: Stayed in 7 different apartments and rooms ranging from 5 days to 3 months, across 3 cities – Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.   This was a crazy period. Period.
  • Jan 2015: First encounter with Bedbugs and heavy snorers. Fortunately our love affair didn’t last too long.
  • Jan 2015 to Dec 2016: Travelled to 7 new countries – Lebanon,  Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Oman
  • Jan 2015 to Dec 2016: Left Bombay for Dubai – 6 times – leaving home got tougher each time 😦
  • August 2015: Experienced my first ever surprise Birthday Party in Abu Dhabi
  • September 2015: Asked Nadia to marry me on a Jumeirah Beach
  • Nov 2015: Celebrated Halloween on the streets of Beirut
  • December 2015: Hit an all time high of 80kgs.
  • April 2016: Won a contest for the first time in my life – with Nadia – Canon Photo Contest
  • May 2016: Randomly backpacked across Europe
  • May 2016: Fell asleep in a park bench in Munich
  • June 2016: Stayed in a party hostel in Budapest – attended a Sparty – Beer Festival
  • June 2o16: Took a cruise from Vienna to Bratislava – first international ferry ride across borders 🙂
  • June 2016: Cycled through Salzburg in the cold rain
  • August 2016: Rode in an Abra to a fancy Thai restaurant to bring in my birthday -Fancy friends. Received several hilarious Parody birthday videos.
  • September 2016: Camped overnight for the first time in a dessert in Dubai
  • Oct 2016: Best man for the first time. So the boys have finally started getting married.
  • Nov 2016: Worked for 40 hours at a stretch without sleep or showers. Spearmint saved the day.
  • Nov 2016: Drove a car for the first time
  • Dec 31 2016: Attended Coldplay live in Concert in Abu Dhabi on New Years Eve

On Gratitude

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Clearly, the glory days for gratitude are here. It’s having its moment in the sun.

Every popular psych or self-improvement piece seems to mention it. Apparently it’s the quick fix to happiness.

Gratitude however, much as the miracle cure it is made out to be hasn’t really worked for me.

In fact, often gratitude makes me feel worse. It puts way too much pressure on you to be happy and be thankful. Sure, it makes you look at the positives and how good your life is. There is always something to be grateful for, right? Sure. But you still don’t feel grateful. In fact, you begin to feel worse about not feeling good in spite of everything that’s going your way.

Gratitude makes you feel like an ass.

Sometimes, it can also make you go into a spiralling state of momentary depression and questioning.

I love eating out. So some days when I remember, when I’m mindful and count my blessings that I have a juicy burger staring me in the face, it also occurs to me that under privileged kids the world over would kill for that. That awareness, that someone doesn’t have a meal, bites a chunk out of your happiness quotient (which is the point of gratitude). The world is cruel and unfair. But you also know that you don’t care enough to do anything about it and once that fleeting thought bids goodbye, you will go back to the same old cycle. The kids will still starve and you will still have your bacon.

And that makes you feel like an insensitive jerk.

Of course chances are, I’m looking at it all wrong. Perhaps the gratitude habit could do with a little bit of tweaking. Let’s see what Google digs up. All help is appreciated.

Image credit: Sodahead.com

London for Less! Guest Post by Riddhi Mahimkar!

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I’m really excited to introduce Riddhi Mahimkar as a guest blogger for BeyondBoredom. Trust me, it wasn’t easy getting her to write about her travels. She’s as lazy about documenting her journeys as she is passionate about travel. Unlike most of my other female classmates who are finding bliss in the arms of their new husbands, Riddhi quit her job to travel the world, or at least as far as she could afford.  Now broke and unemployed she does odd jobs for a living (life of a vagabonder!). You should definitely look her up when in Mumbai for a pretty offbeat tour of the city. She also has quite the knack at finding the best deals and the cheapest ways to get around and agreed to share with us some of London’s inexpensive attractions !

You can follow Riddhi @ It’s a Wanderlust Life

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London is brilliant. But it is expensive. Very very expensive. Also, considering I was an Indian tourist in Britain, every GBP I spent was more than INR100 deducted from my account. But I did a lot of scavenging over the internet and did come up with my own list of tourist hacks to see London on a budget.

Before you read on, just FYI…

Duration of stay: 15 days in August 2014

Accommodation: FREE! It is great to have friends living all over the world! 🙂

Total expense on Food, Local Travel and Sight-seeing: ₤350

Sightseeing on a Budget

Sandemans Free Tour

The best way to get yourself introduced to the city is through the Sandemans Free Tour. I did not take the one in London as I was staying in the city for quite a few days and did a lot of self exploration on my own. Also, I did the Bicycle Tour which was one of the to-do things with the London Pass (more about it on #2). But I swear by the Sandemans Free Tours with my experience of them in rest of Europe. It is the best and the most fun way to know the city. The guides are extremely knowledgeable, friendly and they do know their city inside out. All you have to do is be present at the said time and place as per the website and they will take care of you from there. And you may even meet new tourists like yourself on the tour. In case you traveling solo, isn’t this the best way to find some company for seeing the city? Read up more about them here.

The London Pass

To anyone who wants to see the most of London in a few days, I recommend the London Pass. It is the most money and time saving pass you will be buying in London. They have an option of 1,2, 3, 6 and 10 day passes. I bought a 3 day Pass for ₤72 and boy, oh boy! It was worth every single penny. In 3 days, I visited tourist places worth 170GBP! The pass acts as your ticket and also gives you fast track access to more than 60 tourist attractions in the city. Well, it is impossible to visit them all in the given number of days and some aren’t worth it either. But with a little pre-planning, you can cover places such as The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace and more! It also includes a Thames River Cruise (don’t miss it!) and the London Bicycle Tour. Plan your days and make the most of this Pass. One of the options is also buying the Pass with the Oyster Card so that even your travel in taken care of for those many days. So we are talking unlimited travel in tubes, buses and overground trains + sightseeing! Sounds like a great deal, aye?

Free History Lessons!!

Other than the paid tourist attractions, there are quite a few ones which are free to go to. I would recommend the Natural History Museum (It has a marvelous architecture. Gives you a feel of being in Hogwarts.), Victoria & Albert Museum (It is truly the world’s greatest museum of art and design), the British Museum and the Imperial War Museum.

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

The Trafalgar Square

The Trafalgar Square which was once the King’s Mews, is now one of the must visit tourist spots. Take a walk down the road and see the Palace Guards at the Buckingham Palace. I wouldn’t recommend waiting for hours in the crowd just to see the changing of the guards ceremony.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

The Palace Guards

The Palace Guards

And who doesn’t love to just laze around!

In case museums do not fascinate you much, you could always take a walk down the South Bank of River Thames, sit on one of the benches and marvel at the Tower Bridge while sipping on some hot chocolate on a cold rainy day or some beer on a sunny day if you’re lucky. Pack your picnic basket and spend a lazy afternoon at Hyde Park. Take a delightful walk around West End and Covent Garden, shop at Primark, see the famous Kings Cross station, take a picture at Platform 9 3/4 and meet Mr.Holmes at 221 Baker Street.

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London Eye vs St. Paul’s

One thing that everyone visits when is London is the London Eye. Well, you know what? I don’t recommend it. It is way too crowded, expensive and lasts just 30 minutes. Instead, if you want to see London from a height, I recommend buying a ₤15 ticket to St. Paul’s Cathedral. You get to see the Cathedral’s awe-inspiring interior and a visit to the world famous dome from where you can get a magnificent view of London city. Cheaper, better and less crowded than the London Eye.

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Travel on a Budget

London transportation is expensive. A single once way tube ticket can cost as much as ₤2.5 on a tube. The most economical way to travel is to buy the Oyster Card and top it up with a 7 Days, Monthly or longer period travel cards. I bought the 7 days travel card and used it to the fullest. With this top up, I could travel unlimited for 7 consecutive days on the Tube, Overground and the Buses. It was great for me as I lived in the suburbs so I used the Tube everyday and then the buses within the city.

Eat on a Budget

The cheapest meal you can have is the packaged Sandwiches priced around ₤4-₤5 which you will find at Tesco or M&S Food Store. They aren’t very great but they help. I enjoyed an occasional meal of fish and chips on some days and sometimes I made sandwiches from home and carried them. Do have a Pub meal for the experience but don’t go overboard with it! You are on a budget, remember!? 🙂

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Waiheke Island

Lazing around at the Jumeirah Beach here in Dubai reminded me of Waiheke Island, near Auckland, probably one of the best beaches I have ever been to, so here are some of the pictures of the lesser known Waiheke Island.

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Waiheke is just a 35 minute ferry ride (under 50$) from downtown Auckland and is best explored on a cycle, which can be rented for 25$ for the entire day, although you’d need to be in decent shape to cycle around the many slopes. But if you can, its a beautiful place to cycle around with the many beaches and the deserted roads. You won’t come across too many people, as most of the locals work in Auckland. The ones you do come across are really friendly, helpful and mainly European. Waiheke is popular for its Wine and Sail tours which you can sign up for when you’re buying the ferry ticket.

Its one of those beaches where you can sit down on the sand after a nice ride and stare across the vast expanse of the ocean, sipping on some chilled beer, feeling completely isolated and just be there, listening to the sound of the waves.

My photographs aren’t the best and can’t do justice to this gorgeous island and like all things amazing, can only be experienced.

You can visit http://www.waiheke.co.nz/scenic.php for a more pictures and detailed information about the place.

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Merida – The Roman City in Spain

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Ancient Roman architecture

Merida is the small but beautiful capital city of Extremadura, Spain. It’s a city that takes you straight to glorious heart of ancient Spain. Friendly folk, engaged in their lively banter in cafes on the narrow streets, Roman ruins scattered across the city, the rich aroma of roasted meat in the air are captivating to say the least. The Roman bridge across the river, the aqueducts, cafes nestled in ancient Roman ruins add a historic and timeless charm.

The ruins of a Roman amphitheatre

The ruins of a Roman amphitheatre

Gearing up for a performance at the Aqueducts

Gearing up for a performance at the Aqueducts

I visited Merida in Aug 2011 and stayed with a Spanish family for all of 7 days. Such a culturally rich experience. Had a wonderful host family and even managed to pick up a bit of Spanish. Ignacio the younger son could speak English, which was such a help, considering practically no one in the town speaks English. Made our lives so much easier.

Most of the locals here work in Madrid and come back home during the Summer holidays. It’s a sparsely populated town and its practically a ghost town on Sunday especially in the afternoons. People adore their siesta and wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Ignacio, the younger son of my host family.

Ignacio, the younger son of my host family.

 

Friendly locals offering me some mouthwatering pork

Friendly locals offering me some mouthwatering pork

Narrow lanes

Beautiful narrow lanes

Pretty houses

Pretty houses

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A deserted town on Sundays

 

Practically a ghost town on Sundays.

Quaint roadside cafes – quintessential Europe

Roman Trojan entrance

Roman Trojan entrance

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Cafes  comfortably nestled in the ruins

Cafes comfortably nestled in the ruins

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Mérida is very small, and the best way to experience it is to walk through the town. Although, the summers can get quite intense, every street has a nice little watering hole to help you along your way.

Merida was my first trip outside India. And even though all my trips are amazing and unforgettable, this city along with my host family will always be amongst the most meaningful journeys.

My First Visit to a Mosque

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On Friday, I visited the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. My first time at a Mosque and I was blown away by it’s majestic beauty. It is the eight largest mosque in the world and its design unites the cultural diversity of Islamic world, the historical and modern values of architecture and art.

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It features 24 carat gold dilded chandeliers and and the world’s largest hand knotted carpet, 82 domes, over 1,000 columns and has a massive capacity of 40,000 worshipers. Its namesake Sheikh Zayed is buried here.

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It was amazing to see ancient Persian, Mughal and Moorish architecture blend with modern contemporary lighting and design. Reminded me of the Taj Mahal. A must visit if you’re in the UAE.

The Acid Test

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That’s incredible, pretty amazing, but I’m not sure I’d want to visit, I thought to myself putting down the paper and pondering over the article I’d just read.

The headlines read ‘Acid attack victims join hands, open cafe near Taj Mahal in Agra’

I’d be too overwhelmed by the horrific nature of such violence. It would be frightening to see someone living through such an ordeal with her nose melted away and her eyes burned shut. By her having to smell her flesh burn and feel so helpless and all she can do is wait it out. And then live through that.

Here in the Asian subcontinent, acid attacks are not very uncommon. From my limited understanding, a lot of these attacks are by spurned lovers looking to avenge their rejection. The sole aim of this kind of brutal crime is to disfigure the woman and turn her into some kind of monster that all of mankind would ostracize. For her to feel the shame and rejection they felt when they were turned down. We must shoot those retarded bastards!

Barely any of the criminals are convicted while the woman has pretty much lost everything but her life. Imagine not being able to muster enough courage to look at ones face let alone walk around without a veil. Loss of vision. Acid thrown on genitals. And that’s only the physical, the psychological damage is tremendous. I shudder even as I think about it.

I look at the photo of the victims again. I force myself to not look away. The women in those pictures could have been my sister, my mother, my girlfriend. ­­

I can see them trying hard to smile. Brave women, trying to get by. Despite everything, trying to move on and get on with their life. Trying to come to terms with the ugly truth and deal with the pain.

I take another sip of my coffee, the least I could do was muster the courage to visit their cafe and deal with the harsh realities of this world, and congratulate them on being so courageous.

stop-acid-attacksImage 1 credit: wikimedia.org

Image 2 credit: http://blog.ipleaders.in

Stay

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I looked back and caught that tear,

lingering in her eye, latching onto her fear,

Her heart was tangled and not far from being torn,

The moment had arrived, selfishly hers to call her own,

The winds of change were raging a storm,

­And she couldn’t get the music to dance with her song.

 

I held her hand, but didn’t know what to say,

I didn’t want to go, and she wanted me to stay,

She turned my hand, over to my palm,

And her fingers traced the lines across it,

Locking it into her memory, as if this was the end of it.

 

She then cradled my hand in hers for a little while,

But soon withdrew her hand to dab her eye,

Looked over her shoulder, to make sure no one was watching,

but caught a few glances of all the people passing,

So she took me aside so it would be just us,

To have a moment that would be just ours.

 

Afraid of abandoning everything she held onto,

Her choices were difficult, and the options too few,

She was losing the rites of passage into this kingdom,

And unwittingly, I was imprisoning her with my freedom.

 

Carefully rehearsed, all that she had to say,

Choked, the lines couldn’t fight their way,

Her stubborn love wouldn’t say goodbye,

The words never came and I heard her cry,

And soon I wouldn’t be around to make her stop,

When her lips on my cheek felt like the kisses of a raindrop.

 

She was drunk with love and starving for comfort,

And only she could tell how much it hurt,

I couldn’t find the words to make it better,

Someday I would and maybe write her a letter,

When you move away, the world doesn’t feel so small,

And the time spent apart slows to a crawl,

It’s easy to love and hard to be let down,

But the time had come to leave this town,

The journey had just begun, and the road was long,

And now she couldn’t find the lyrics to go with her song.

 

Prequel to Cause I will write a song for you

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Image 1 credit: http://www.coasttocoastcentral.com

Image 2 credit: http://www.cherrylola.com

Vagabond Wisdom – The menace of the media

‘But is it safe?’ I asked my uncle. He had just been to Mexico, on holiday. He was a science professor in North America, and was now in India.

‘Yeah?’ He looked at me slightly confused.

‘Is it safe like you know to walk down the street alone?’ I probed a little more. The minute Mexico is brought up I imagine drug cartels shooting their way through rundown streets.

‘Of course, its just like any other city, just like walking down a street in India. Maybe safer’.

I looked away embarrassed at falling prey to stereotypes the media had fed me. Americans and Europeans think India is unsafe.They also expect to find people traveling on elephants and cows on every street. India isn’t like that and neither was Mexico filled with only drug lords.

While India maybe a tad bit unsafe (especially for women) it isn’t quite like how the media portrays it, we are not subject to violent crime every now and then. At least, I’ve never been mugged in Mumbai but was on the verge of getting thrashed in Auckland by a group of locals (in New Zealand which is apparently the most peaceful country in the world).

Lesson learned. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers. The world is a lot safer than we think it is. Or rather after the recent attacks in Paris and Sydney, maybe no place in the world is truly safe.

So take everything you read with a pinch of salt. The media will always sensationalize a story even when there is no story. Don’t be scared of traveling to ‘developing’ countries. They are a lot safe than you think.

 

Image Credit: Lifehacker.com

Image Credit: Lifehacker.com

Thank you! (Dream Reader)

Please forgive me if this letter sounds like I’m selling myself, no, wait my skills, or rather my profile to you. Job portals have done this to me. Forgive me if I sound like I am seeking approval and ignore my incoherent rambling. The countless applications that I have filled in anticipation of an interview call has made me sound like this.

But I know that you will not judge me. Not by this letter at least. Or my writing skills. You will read this with a big smile across your face. Even though I should have written this a decade ago. Or much before that. You will smile and humbly brush it aside, as if all your sacrifices were not worthy of even a little praise. And you will thank me for this. Even though this is my thank you letter. You will thank me nonetheless and tell me how brilliant I am. How I should perhaps have become a writer. How no one is quite as great as me.

But don’t. Cause these words can’t match up. They can’t do you justice. And they will fall short. But that’s all right. Because I know you understand. That I’m unable to convey my gratitude, quite the way you do. You always understand.

So thank you. For encouraging me and always helping me see the bright side. For being as brave as you are. For being a fighter. Always fighting for me.

Thank you for everything. And above all, for understanding that you don’t need this letter, a letter like this, to know how much I appreciate all that you do.

Love you Ma.