It was the highlight of my to-do-list. Interact with lot of strangers. And listen them non-judgmentally.
If we sat next to each other, or if our paths crossed, I always initiated the conversation.
And if you were a pretty girl, then it took me a minute more to say “Hi”.
But I ALWAYS initiated the conversation.
Grab a seat. I will take you on a ride with people I met in 30 days of solo backpacking.
First day. French girl. She was smoking…..hot. Was travelling India
with her two guy friends. I struck the conversation. But it got stuck.
She wasn’t proficient in English.
2. A Netherlands guy who had lofty plans to see all the 7 wonders of the world.
3. Two college girls who boarded the train from Uttar Pradesh. One of them was wiping tears for leaving her parents.
Next station the same girl got the exquisite food from her grandparents which she proudly called “Grandparents Love”.
4. Delhi guy in Guwahati. I met him on the Cruise. I convinced him that jobs are modern life slavery.
5. Another Delhi guy. Looked 30 but was 44. I met him in Tezpur. He was moving to Tawang.
We made ambitious trekking plans in Tawang. Nothing materialised.
6. Jambey from Dirang. I met him in a restaurant in Bomdila. We clicked.
showed me around in his car. He invited me to his home to meet his
family. I wanted to go with him. But I was done with stupid hotel and
7. A social worker. I met him in the cab to Tawang. He was helpful. He asked me to teach Maths in Tawang. But he never called.
8. Six engineers from North India. I went with them to Bum La Pass and Shangaster Lake. They were not fun to speak.
Nine Bikers from Nagaland. They were affable and showed me their bikes.
They invited me to visit their bike club in Nagaland. We try to stay in
10. Mr Tirth Singh. An army subedar in Tawang.
He used to live 3 kms away from my house in village. He took me to his
room in the restricted army area.
I had the best dal of my life and best food of my entire trip. He calls sometimes.
Gautam Sarma. A 31 year old guy stuck in his job for 8 YEARS. He was
sweet enough to drop me to the hotel. He made me try exotic food. We try
to stay in contact.
12. Another Delhi guy. We shared a
dormitory in Shillong. He was there to meet his girlfriend. And played
lot of ‘Kiss kiss’ song in the dormitory.
13. A cool
Doctor. He gave me ride to Shillong. His first words were “Get in. Tell
me where you are from and where have you been?” He told me of cool
places to travel in north-east India.
14. A 26 year old Bolero-pickup driver who gave me a ride to Cheerapunji. I loved his vehicle. They used to party in it.
8 guys from IIT Guwahati. I went with them to the Double Decker Living
Root Bridge Trek in Cheerapunji. They made me feel like an old man by
calling me “Bhaiya Bhaiya”.
16. 5 pretty girls in a cab to
Shillong. They were part time social workers. One of them dropped me to
a hotel so I could refresh myself. They were affable.
17. A recently engaged guy who drinks a lot and calls his room “Ganja”. I met him on a train. He liked my traveling plans.
A drummer of a band in Gantok. Waist length hair and a tattoo who lives
in a secret live-in-relationship with his girlfriend (I like this). He
says he might marry early because his girlfriend is too pretty for him.
I went to a bar with him where his band plays. And yes I have a Nepalese song in my phone.
6 guys in late twenties. I met them on a trek. They mocked me that I am
a kid. They all spoke local language. I wanted to hit my head on the
wall. But there was no wall.
20. A helper in the hotel. Apparently we both had nothing to do. He prayed that next time he will see me with my girlfriend.
21. A hot girl and 2 guys from France. It was their first day in India. They were surprised and scared.
I showed them around and spent the entire day with them. I gave them taste of India.
girl wore mini shorts. She got lot of stares. One guy even threatened
me to introduce him to her. She was lucky to have me on her first day
It was also my birthday. I bought beers.
A 19 year old college drop out. He was earning while traveling India.
He has 3 INCOME SOURCES. I envy him. I want to be 19 and drop out of
23. A 28 year recently married girl. I was bored
in train. I stood up from my seat and sat next to her. She is the
daughter of a famous psychiatrist in my city. So I ate her head for 4
hours. It was fun.
Guys from Bangladesh, a super-camera-woman
from Hyderabad, a couple from Israel, girls from Bangalore in Gantok,
cab drivers…..I didn’t spare anyone.
Sometimes I miss the exciting days.
But don’t worry. Even if we never see each other again….we saw each other once
November 2015, I was travelling back from NY to DC on Amtrak. It was few
days before thanksgiving, and a lot of people were travelling, so it
was packed. A lot of people were boarding the train, and I walked down
to one of the last cars because I saw people lining up in the aisle
waiting for other people to put their bags in. I got into the car, and
was looking for good place to sit, didn't see anything. So, I sat on the
first seat that was open.
Right opposite me
was this guy. White hair. Glasses. Maybe in his 60s, working on his
computer. I'm thinking he looks a lot like a politician, but I couldn't
recall his name.
I'm sitting right across him. I mean we are like this, except the we have cellphones and computers instead of crayons
where the mom is. He is where the girl in the white shirt is. A woman
is where the girl in the blue shirt is. Him and I were playing the kid
of footsie you play with strangers where you accidentally brush their
feet, but no one mentions it, because it's awkward.
was kind of goofy. He had his bags on the seat. The conductor came
around and told him to put his bags up. He's apologized but then he's
like "Yes, you are the boss!". I got a bit annoyed at him for giving the
conductor some attitude. Then there were bomb sniffing dogs on the
train. A cop came around with his dog in front. The guy saw the dog and
went "hey buddy!" and started petting the dog. The cop said in a stern
voice "Please don't!" The guy realized his mistake and must have
apologized to the cop 20 times. The cop came back after his round and
said "Look! I understand. You are a dog person, right? It's almost
instinctual". I am thinking that this is a really nice cop
hours into the ride, and a little out of Baltimore. He talks on his
phone "Andy. This is Al". I'm going Al Al Al. Holy shit! I'm sitting
right next to Al Franken. I googled his name up and checked his
photo. It was the same guy. Next thing I did was update Facebook. I know
he's a big progressive guy, and wanted to say something
semi-intelligent to him, except that I have no idea what he has been
doing. I could have googled it up, but as luck would have it, my phone
went out of battery as soon as I posted on Facebook
I sat there silently. The girl sitting next to me was talking to me
about not being able to charge her phone too. She had an accent. He
asked her "Where are you from?" "Ukraine" "Sorry about the Russians"
"Yeah!" "Those bastards!" "They are bastards". She probably didn't know
she was taking to a US senator. I am thinking "Hey if I say I'm Indian,
he will apologize to me about Pakistan or something" but I kept quiet.
I'm a smart aleck only when I'm behind a keyboard. In front of people, I
Then a guy who recognized him
came and set across the aisle and talked to him about politics. The guy
was in school to be a lawyer, and apparently he is in the same school
that Al Franken teaches in. I didn't know Al taught at Georgetown
sometime later he calls his friend again, and starts telling him about
this piece his writing about Ted Cruz. I'm like Al Franken is writing
something funny about Ted Cruz right now in front of me. How cool is
20 minutes later, he looks up from his
computer at me. I'm scared now. "Did we cross Philadelphia?" "We cross
Philadelphia a while ago" "Where are we?" "We passed Baltimore"
"Baltimore!" The lawyer student guy said "We are 10 minutes away from
DC". Al Franken is like "Where does the time go?" I guess making fun of
Ted Cruz is really engrossing
home, I was thinking about it. And the most surprising thing is how
he's like a regular guy. If you don't know he's Al Franken, you wouldn't
know he's a US senator. I mean he was in Amtrak like the rest of us. No
body guard. No entourage. Just working on his Mac and talking on the
cellphone like the rest of us. And he's a nice guy too. He apologized to
the conductor for keeping his bags on the seat. He apologized to the
cop for messing with the dog. He apologized to the woman next to me for
Russia. He played stranger footsie with me. He could have asked me to
move, but he didn't.
is by far the easiest and most convenient way to travel the world, if
you have a job, don’t quit it. If you don’t have a job, get one. Make a
rough estimate of your upcoming trip, and save money for it, start from
your neighboring countries.
from north america, don’t always think Europe is the only place to
travel, south and central america is also beautiful and will be much
cheaper for you. If you’re from India, don’t always think the USA is
the only place to travel, south east Asia is much beautiful and cheapest
in the world.
2. Choose backpacking and travel long term
say you saved money for a trip for a country near by, choose low cost
traveling options to make your trips longer. Don’t travel to all the
touristy cities, instead visit something that is untouched.
of choosing a night stay at a budget hotel in Amsterdam, choose a
week’s stay at a hostel in Tbilisi. Your destinations will have biggest
impacts on the length of your trips as well as your pocket.
Use options like couchsurfing and wwoof wherever possible.
Ask if there are any small jobs available at your hostel/hotel which you can do to get free room and board.
3. Creative work
you’re good at any sort of creative work such as writing, blogging,
film making, Photography etc., use it to your advantage to earn money.
Start a website, write about your journeys.
Start a YouTube channel.
Become a travel photographer.
for other people over the internet. Signup on some freelancing websites
and add your skills on it. You might get some jobs that are suitable
for you and you can earn money on the road.
(I was once paid 80$ to copy and proof read some pages, so don’t think you have no skills for freelancing).
5. Stay with friends.
your friends to your city, let them stay at your home and show them
around, after that arrange a trip to their city and enjoy. This way you
can meet your friends, hangout with them and enjoy your time without
worrying about money. This is very easy your friends are just a message
6. Become a guide/instructor.
Become a tour guide
Become a trek leader
Become a diving instructor
Become a ski instructor
7. Work on cruises/planes
Become a flight attendant, you might be able to visit some counties.
Work on cruises, this can give you great chance to see the whole world.
Here are some money saving tips on the road.
1. Try couchsurfing.
If you are not getting hosts on couchsurfing or you aren't comfortable
using it you should live in hostels. Use Hostels(dot)com Airbnb is a cheaper option. I usually do 30 percent night traveling in my any trip to save money on hotels.
Try to find hostels with kitchen so that you can make your own food
sometimes, buy stuff from supermarkets and have breakfast everyday
before heading out, to save some bucks at the start of your day. Ask
locals for cheap eats, don't pay too much in any restaurant.
Use public transport. All the cities have city passes and
transportation passes for 1/2/3 days or more, buy those and use it like a
local. ( a one way public transport in Prague costs around a euro but I
bought a 1 day pass in 5 euros, I used it at least 10 times that day , a
one way metro ride costs 1.80 euros in Paris while a 1 day pass is
around 11 euros ).
5. Taxis are a big
NOOOOOO. You can literally save hundreds of Euros and public
transportation is the real way to explore any city.
Explore by your self ask hostel staff or use TripAdvisor and see what
interests you in a particular city then go there by your self. Believe
me it's better then buying expensive sightseeing trips.
7. Don't spend much on alcohol, who needs that while traveling??
8. Transacting money directly from the debit card is a better way than to convert money to local currency.
9. Use apps like Whatsapp, Viber, IMO, Dingtone, Primo, Whatscall to call anywhere abroad for free.