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Sherin

Stranger #23 The happy man

‘My father used to tell me this – the more the number of creases at the corner of your eyes(crow feet) the happier you are! Because when you smile your skin is thrown into folds near your eyes! I’m almost always happy and smiling. I have a loving family. Maybe that’s why :)’

Meet this ever smiling and cheerful man from Batman, Turkey. He works as a manager in a public school and is one truly happy soul we have met!

Sherin

turkish cuisine

Being vegetarians while traveling

Six months of backpacking across 26 countries and we have successfully survived being vegetarians. The truth is, it is not difficult (note: not not easy!) being a vegetarian and you can manage in most of the countries without starving! The biggest problem we see is communicating that you are a vegetarian and it gets especially tough when a new meal needs to be prepared for you separately (which is always not possible)
Some tips that work everywhere when you are a veggie:
1. Have this card printed out and put it in your pocket. Works anywhere, not sure when it will come handy.

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Keep a print-out of this card in our pocket!

2. Again, google translate(offline version – download the package of the required language when you are connected to the internet)  comes to the rescue.

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Google translate to the rescue!

3. Ask the locals who understand English to translate and write it down for you.

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A Farsi friend wrote this for us 🙂

4. Do your research online noting down some of the local dishes that are vegetarian.
5. Stock up on veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds and snacks!

Fruit market in Mardin, Turkey
Fruit market in Mardin, Turkey

We deliberately chose to use the word “not difficult” instead of “easy” because obviously, let’s face it, there are some challenges being a vegetarian!

1. Be prepared to eat the same food in every restaurant. You will miss out on sheer variety and some must-try local dishes. For instance, we had to settle with Falafel for most of our time in Tehran.
2. Communication. In one instance, the guy had clearly understood that we wanted something vegetarian, devoid of any meat. So he gets a lamb curry and removes all the lamb pieces in front of us. Voila, there you go, here’s your vegetarian lamb curry!
3. Very dependent on super markets. Sometimes, restaurant are prohibitively expensive, street food will not have any veggie options and cannot be customized.
4. It’s not always tasty or healthy. You might want to resort to cooking. Check into a hotel/guest house with a kitchen.  If you are couchsurfing, you can always cook meal for your host. And, believe us, it’s fun!

cooking mardin
Cooking in Turkey!

5. The moment we say we are vegetarians, people start putting you under the category of an activists who have voluntarily stopped eating meat because of various good-for-the-world reasons like carbon emissions, inhumane treatment towards animals, global warming etc., but we are not vegetarians because of these reasons. To each his own – We just grew up being vegetarians and cannot shift to being something else now.

 

Surprisingly, we had an amazing time in almost every place! Our taste buds were constantly kept happy and we still recollect those lip-smacking dishes and try them at home! Here’s a teaser for you. 😉

turkish cuisine
Turkish cuisine.

Separate posts on vegetarian food in different countries coming soon. 🙂

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Homecoming after a six month trip

In early 2014 we left home with a 12 kg backpack each and with dreams of traveling across the world for six months. We wanted to get a culture shock and experience a nomadic way of life. Like everyone else we thought we were bold to leave the comforts of a stable job and a cozy home to live out of a backpack. Leaving home and loved ones behind, we thought, would be the toughest.

leaving home
Saying goodbye was surprisingly not that tough!

The six months went by so quickly. But let me tell you, they were the best six months of our life so far! 🙂 Life on the road, the excitement of changing places once every third or fourth day, meeting new people, making friends, going to those places which we had only seen in travel magazines was something words cannot express! We did not know where our next meal would come from. We had no solid plans for the next day. Living in the moment and savoring life was what we were doing. 🙂

enjoying life
The carefree life! 🙂

Let us now fast forward to the present. It has been close to one month since we returned home. I clearly remember our flight back to Bangalore from Kolkata. We felt it to be one of the longest flights in the trip. Our minds felt numb and full of mixed feelings. Slowly it dawned upon us that we were going back home for good! All the wonderful times we had in the last few months flashed across my mind and for the first time, I got scared of going back home. I dreaded the feeling of a routine life, 9 to 5 job, and the traffic that was awaiting us.

Little did we realize that coming back home would be a bigger culture shock than going to those far-away lands!

The warm welcome we had at the airport by our parents temporarily pushed aside all our unpleasant feelings. There’s nothing like a hug from your mom to welcome you home, right? We felt good to be with our loved ones again.

family welcome
Meeting the loved ones after six months!

But it did not last long. We soon started feeling strange, as if we could not relate to most of the things that were going on around us. We felt so out-of-place, as though we did not belong there.

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Culture shock – at our own place?!

We also realized that many people were really not interested in what we experienced around the world but were happy to have us back safe. Nothing much had changed in these six months. Of course people had got engaged or married, had babies, bought a new home or car but their life remained pretty much the same.

The everyday chatter and complaints seemed less important and more of a noise to us. The fact that both of us felt the same things kind of assured us that this was normal!

It is only then we realized that it was us who had changed a lot! People around us had not experienced what we had. We had to accept the truth that life on the road had made its mark on us.

Someone has rightly said, “It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.”  

Eventually we found a new house and moved into it, enjoyed home cooked food, got back to our old jobs and are in the process of accepting the routine. I think within a short time we’ll get back into the groove. But we are and will definitely continue to miss being nomads! The uncertainty and excitement, the strange sights, meeting travellers and exploring will be missed thoroughly.

Our minds are filled with new ideas and lessons that travel has taught us. We are sure our lives are not going to be the same again.

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Travel has changed us for good!

Oh, wait! There’s a long weekend coming up! My feet have started to itch again! 😉

 

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10 Inspiring Travel Quotes Through My Lens

This blog post comes as a sequel to my earlier one  – 15 Inspiring Travel Quotes Through My Lens The summer of 2013 made me fall in love with the mountains of Ladakh from which I derived immense inspiration to travel and embark upon my dream so far – Backpacking around the world for six months! This is yet another humble attempt from my end to share some of my favourite travel quotes using photographs from our travels which inspired our backpacking trip! Feel free to download them and use them as you like! 🙂 103-IMG_2229

En route to Pangong Tso from Leh. The roads of Ladakh never fail to challenge you!

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A word of truth!

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               One of the most impressive trough valleys in the Swiss Alps – Lauterbrunnen.

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In the blue waters of Arabian Sea – Scuba diving at Netrani island near Murudeshwara.

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Fumbling with the buttons of my camera at Lalbagh Gardens, Bengaluru.

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En route to Pangong Tso, Ladakh

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More (pronounced ‘mo-ray’) plains in Ladakh

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Outskirts of Leh

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En route to Leh from Manali

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The impossible blues of Pangong Tso, Ladakh

Hope these quotes inspire you to take that trip you have meaning to take since long! Just go! 😉

talented kid

Stranger #16 The talented boy who knew all the flags of the world

We spent almost an hour searching for this restaurant. Just when we were about to give up, a kind stranger enquired with us and pointed into a small alley next to the main road. We finally found the famous ‘Jarchi Bashi’ restaurant in Isfahan, Iran.

It is a nicely renovated old hamam with great interiors. Just as we entered the restaurant we were greeted by him. He had a twinkle in his eyes and a sweet smile spread on his face. We returned his greeting of ‘Salaam’ and he led us inside. We were taken aback by the sheer beauty of the place. He quickly briefed us about the history and significance of the hotel in flawless English.

After learning that we are from India, he disappeared into a room and brought an Indian flag and placed it on our table! When we asked him if he actually knew which was Indian flag or if he checked it somewhere, he confidently told us that he knew all the flags of the world! 🙂

He also helped us order vegetarian food and made us so comfortable!

Meet this lively and smart 14 year old kid from Isfahan, Iran who works as an English translator in the famous restaurant.

talented kid

melaka

Photo of the week #19 Malacca

melaka

 

Malacca is the historical state of Malaysia, rich with heritage buildings, ancient landmarks and colonial structures. It was here that colonial forces first made contact with Malaysia, which eventually shaped the country into its current economic and political system.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shown in the picture above is the Dutch Square with the Christ church and Stadhuys. Also seen is a beautiful Tang Beng Swee Clock tower.

Fatin

Stranger #14 The gentleman who loves music and tea

‘I love Kurdish music. There is nothing like it! I never miss Kurdish concerts and sometimes I organize them myself!’

Saying this he opened his laptop and went on showing us his collection and played some nice music.

‘What are your other interests?’

‘I’m interested in Kurdish culture. As you can see all I talk about is related to our Kurdish culture 🙂

‘Yeah, I have always wanted to have my own tea garden and I built this one on my own! It fills me with happiness to see people flocking into it and having fun over tea!’

‘Do you like to travel? Please visit us in India.’

‘Thanks. But mostly I won’t. I’m happy here and I don’t think I’ll ever go anywhere else!’

Meet Fatin, our dear friend and host in Van, Turkey. He is the proud owner of a beautiful tea garden in town.

Fatin

father

Stranger #13 The proud father

‘How old are you?’

‘Thirty. What about you?’

‘Twenty nine. How many kids do you have?’

‘None.’

‘Haha. I win this time. I have two daughters. Look – ‘

with that he showed us the tattoos on his arm and forearm. On his arm was tattooed the pretty face of his 4 year old elder daughter and on his forearm was his younger daughter’s name!

Meet this young man from Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia who helped us find a room in the busy city and also entertained us by sharing some tidbits from his life. 🙂