Planning

Category

Solo travel

I’ve gotten many reactions when I tell people that I roam the globe alone. But there is resistance all around. I’ve been called all the adjectives that lie between brave and foolish and there is of course, the constant nagging from the family that safety is of utmost importance. Not forgetting cost, because single travellers pay much more, for room, food and transport. Going solo isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I had a taste of it while spending some study time in Germany many years ago and found that being alone gave me a freedom that I couldn’t explore outside the quotidian confines of daily life....

When the weather forces its hand

Breakfast in Egilsstaðir Guesthouse is a curious affair. Waking up too early has no merits here (at least on the day we were there) because the cook who was supposed to prepare the first meal of the day was still asleep by the time we got to the breakfast room. Instead, the owner of the property, an elderly farmer by the name of Jónas Gunnlaugsson, regaled us with tales of driving through thick snow in Mjóafjörður, his theories of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane and his efforts to learn about money and currency after Iceland economic crisis while we waited for breakfast. The worsening weather threw a spanner into our...

Around the ring road

Barely five months after last year’s adventures in the north, I find myself packing my bags again and heading towards Copenhagen and then onto Iceland to conquer the deep-seated fear of driving on the other side of the road. Apart from wanting to savour the elemental beauty of Iceland, of course, this time armed with a smattering of Icelandic vocabulary and grammar and an unsatiated hunger for seafood (and Icelandic Fish and Chips). With the memories of Svalbard and the arctic still in technicolor, it’s hard not to be gripped with the sheer excitement of returning to snow and ice and well, extreme living – except that I’m looking at...

Down Under in Winter

A 6-month layover and I’m ready to roll again – to a destination that I visited nearly a decade ago. For one moment, it appeared that there were no air tickets available under $1900 – whether to Europe or Canada, or anywhere down Down Under. A listless search on the internet one Saturday morning last week had me quivering in excitement when Scandinavian Airlines offered a ridiculous price for a 2-week sojourn in the far north, while Qantas offered – only with a 3-week advance booking – something similar price-wise for a traipse through New Zealand with a stopover in Sydney. It was surprisingly, a very difficult decision to make:...

Exhausting defiance

My travel planning process typically runs across 2 veins: juggling foreign, captivating landscapes from which the instinctive need to explore arises (the heady rush is really quite intoxicating) and the harsh reality of cost-cutting after realising that the reckless planning is potentially busting the humble budget. It’s a common sensibility that probably fits me squarely into the peg called “budget travel” but the penchant for seeking out strange itineraries such as this upcoming one that crosses that oh-so-fine line into “luxury travel”. I’m also quite certain that the travel companion (TC) – who had initially agreed rather enthusiastically to another jaunt in Europe after my sales pitch – is regretting...

Iceland, Island, Islande, Ísland!

Done in a matter of an hour or so to complete my northern exposure: Flights from Germany to Iceland and back, with the accommodation. One of the wildest dreams just became a (virtual) reality: Iceland’s brutal beauty of looming volcanoes, thundering (or frozen) waterfalls over snow-capped peaks – unlike their cute Alpine cousins among Swiss chalets – that seem to immediately recall Ragnarök. Beyond these parameters, there’s nothing yet, but there are few more niggly bits – transportation within the country and day trip operators – to be taken care of. Going in winter however (most people visit in the summer months when the sun doesn’t set), means sticking to the...

Going north and taking stock

Amidst visions of grandeur of volunteering in remote places like the Arctic Fox Station in Iceland and getting carried away with potential archaeological excavations in Scandinavia or Israel, I think I should consider myself incredibly fortunate that I can even make such trips up north a reality. For a while, dominating my thoughts were the wilderness of British Columbia, or the French part of Canada – certainly a handy way of practicing my elementary French – until the flight times and prices caused this detour to Europe once again. Taking stock, much has changed since my first foray into pre-Euro Europe in 2001; my subsequent jaunts there are at best a...

Oh deer, I feel the earth move

If the Japanese visit Nara to begin a sort of mystical connection between their ancestors and the ancientness of their homeland, I must admit that me, the gaijin, visited for the main purpose of visiting the free-roaming deer in Nara Park. Lacking the intense interest in Buddhism – quite the exotic and foreign entity in Western eyes – temples and gardens are to me, aesthetically constructed entities for specific purposes. And that is pretty much the extent of my knowledge, other that the fact that Zen-Buddhism and its minimalist styles have been incredibly fashionable and aped throughout the past few decades. I derived some amusement seeing visitors gently butted by...

The conventional route

A panicked, banged-up itinerary bordering on the unconventional finally materialised a day or 2 ago, when I finally got the courage to go to Takayama from Tokyo (the forbidden element being the immense train journeys I’d have to undertake in those couple of days). I’ve always been called ambitious when it comes to travel planning and I’m taking some advice gleaned from all forums and friends that staying a few more days in a place could be a good thing. It now looks like this and resembles quite embarrassingly, some tourist itinerary: Tokyo – Takayama/Shirakawa-Go – Kyoto, with tons of day trips in between (in red) on the Shinkansen....

Impulse

For years now, I’ve talked about Japan as my personal fetish, the last, unexplored frontier that I don’t quite dare broach for reasons that were never quite so articulated. I knew that I’d be lost in translation, despite the successful trips that millions of non-Japanese have pulled off without knowing the language and the highly regulated etiquette that earn most gaijin -foreigners – the term “barbarians”. Tokyo itself sounds intimidating and the names of cities just sound the same to me, but I swore that I would plan for myself an ambitious, north-south tour of epic proportions that stretched from the national parks of Hokkaido to the memorial sites of...