Q. How have you started a conversation with a stranger of the opposite gender while traveling?


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.
1. 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.

He 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 cab reservation.

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.

9. 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 contact.

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.

11. 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.

15. 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.

18. 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.

19. 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.

The 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 in India.

It was also my birthday. I bought beers.

22. 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 college.

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

Q. How do people travel around the world if they're not rich? Can people get a part time job with a travel visa so they can work while traveling?


1.Set a goal, save up and travel

This 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.

If you’re 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

Let’s 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.

Instead 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

If 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.

4. Freelancing

Work 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.

Invite 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 away.

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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

6. 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.

Q. What is it like to travel sitting next to a celebrity?


End of 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

I'm 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.

He 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

2 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

So, 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 stay quiet.

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

Then 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 that?

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

After reaching 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.