A New York state of mind !

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This isn’t my first time in New York but still whenever someone asks me what they should see and do in New York, I’m almost always stumped for an answer.

I mean besides the obvious touristy places /things, how can I sum up my answer? New York isn’t just any other big city. It’s an experience.

New York emits a mixed response from people. The crowds that throng this city is unbelievable. Some just love the crazy vibe the city has, and others hate it.

There are a million things that you can do in New York City that if I start talking, I wouldn’t know when to stop. After all, it is known as the city that never sleeps.

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But let me begin by saying that you better be prepared for walking a lot! A lot, a lot, a lot!! I mean you definitely can hail a yellow cab, just like in the movies and all, but who wants to see NY from a cab window, come on !

New York traffic can really leave you exhausted; not to mention the cab fare which can add up and get expensive in the long run.

Subway is your best bet and the 7 Day Metro Pass card will give you the best bang for your buck. And sometimes, Uber and Lyft are better options since most of the time, they are cheaper than regular cabs.

Speaking of traveling by Subway, be prepared to spend a little time figuring out which train goes where. Although I have traveled by Subway several times, it does get a little confusing for me. Figuring out the direction I need to take rattles me but then I figured out that doing a recee first on the google maps helps in taking the best possible route. Also downloading the NY Subway app on your phone can be really helpful.

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While there are the definite,’Things to do in NY’ such as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building , Rockefeller center- the Top of the Rocks a 3-tiered observation deck at Rockefeller Plaza, that offers a great view of Manhattan, Chinatown, SOHO, the numerous Museums , the list is endless, but most of these attractions are chargeable . But surprisingly there are also so many things that you can do for free.

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Some Museums have free entry on certain days/ times. Or you can catch The Staten Island Ferry which is a Free commuter ferry that travels back and forth from the Whitehall Terminal at the tip of Manhattan to the St. George Terminal on Staten Island. You can catch a stunning view of the city as well as the Statue of Liberty while on the Ferry. This is such a great alternative especially if you do not wish to buy tickets and go to Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty or have already done that in your previous trips.

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Apart from this, popular places like Central Park, Bryant Park, Battery Park, Grand Terminal station ( an Icon) the 9/11 Memorial and Museum , Wall Street and its cobbled streets,  taking a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge , or DUMBO (The neighborhood of Dumbo is a beautiful place to visit. It has cobbled streets, vintage brick buildings, sits under the Brooklyn bridge and sports some sweet street art. Just walking around this area is a real treat). The HighLine which passes through Chelsea market and the nearby honeycomb structure  ‘The Vessel’ are all free activities.

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Stretching out underneath the Highline you’ll find a plethora of art galleries. These galleries are funky and weird as hell. They’re free to enter and some are big. This may be one of the most underrated things to do in New York City.

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Other than the tourist spots there are numerous other places of interest such as the ‘house from FRIENDS‘ in West village, or the the fact that Macy’s the trendsetter store covers an entire block with 11 levels of fashion for you and your home.

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NY has some of the hippest restaurants and rooftop bars that exude the vibe of this vibrant city.

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Of course there are many more sights that I haven’t included in this post, as I feel there will always be something I may leave behind.

You can somewhat relate to the quote from the movie Forrest Gump – “Life is a box full of chocolates, you never know which one you get”

Such is New York- Always a little mysterious, a little sweet and a whole lot saucy!!

 

Madhavi

 

 

PC:Lonelyplanet;NYTimes,Personal

A photo walk through the TWA flight center

 

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The last time the Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal at Kennedy International Airport saw a weary traveler was in 2001.

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The flight centre has since been closed until May 2019 , when it reopened and transformed into the lobby of the new TWA hotel , the only on site airport hotel.
Offering an homage to a past era of aviation, today the terminal’s twin corridors lead you to the TWA hotel with 512 rooms.

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What was once an ‘Arrivals hall’ , is now the reception area of the hotel . The check in desks of the terminal serve as the reception desk .

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Lining the walls are the many pictures of the cities TWA  once flew to.

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Hotel guests will feel like they’re stepping back in history — with the old flight board on display, model cars in what will be a restaurant, rotary pay phones and red plush furniture. There are more than 500 guest rooms, dozens of meeting rooms and even an infinity pool on the roof.

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Walking into the Flight Center, you are greeted first by a vintage Lincoln in the porch. As you enter you see a ticking departures board and a hostess dressed in a purple polyester TWA uniform. Moving on the graceful staircase, the Sunken Lounge, huge window panes, and a view of a restored TWA plane on the long-abandoned runway..

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A cocktail lounge in a repurposed Lockheed Constellation L-1649A from the 1950s stands outside the new hotel. Four large sofas and eight vintage airplane seats reupholstered with a retro pink and orange plaid seat the guests .

 

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The display of TWA uniforms and luggage through the decades is just one taste of history in the brand new hotel.

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There are multiple places to eat throughout the TWA Hotel, such as the Paris Cafe, located on the mezzanine level of the historic building. The 200-seat restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves food inspired by in-flight menus from TWA.

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For quick meals, what was once the ‘Departures Hall ‘ now has a mini food-court style offerings and coffee carts.

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Located through the terminal are the multiple memorabilia reminding you of the aviation era gone by.

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Whether you’re an avid plane spotter or just love rooftop bars , the Pool Bar at the TWA Hotel is worth visiting . Looking out over JFK’s Runway 4, you can watch JetBlue and Delta planes take off while sipping a cocktail at the bar or while swimming in the infinity edge pool.

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The TWA hotel at JFK Terminal 5 takes you down memory lane with a marketable “story” and some absolutely wonderful ‘Instagrammable’ photos.

 

Madhavi

 

 

PC: Personal;TWA Hotel;

 

 

 

Living the ‘Luxe Life’

Luxury Travel is all about personalization. Whether you are looking at intimate experiences or personalized services, gourmet meals, or beautiful surroundings- it could be anything that promises a maximum of pleasure and a minimum of stress.

Today luxury travellers need new ways to be pampered. Personalized travel itineraries, individually curated experiences, top class amenities, they want it all.

A chauffeured Limousine pick up from your home , first class air travel, a welcome champagne at your hotel , a Michelin-starred restaurant in the lobby, a king-size bed and marble-lined bathroom or a butler to pack and unpack your luggage –the whole enchilada.

According to a research report by Reuters the Luxury travel market today is expanding faster than it did five years ago. The growth rate over the next five years is expected to register an 8.5% CAGR in terms of revenue; the global market size will reach US$ 8460 million by 2024, from US$ 5200 million in 2019.

Growing inclination of people towards unique and exotic holiday experiences, rise in middle and upper middle class spending and the increasing impact of social media on travel industry are the key factors that drive the market growth. Emerging new destinations coupled with rising service standards in the travel industry, is anticipated to further drive the demand for luxury travel, globally. Although the key developed countries such as the U.S. hold a higher share of the luxury travel market, there has been a rise in demand for international luxury travel in developing countries such as China and India. The drift is due to the increase in the per capita income of middle class travellers in the developing countries.

So if you are looking for something to inspire you to get up and book the next flight out, below are some of the few tip of the iceberg ideas for you to indulge in the ‘Luxe Life’

Luxury camping, also known as glamping, is redefining what it means to be one with nature, and roughing it has nothing to do with it. Glamping, is an experience-based kind of travel that allows guests to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors, but without the hassle of traditional camping. With five-star amenities and unbeatable outdoor access, glamping is where luxury meets simplicity.

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Aman-i-Khás- A safari outpost on the threshold of Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan, India , Aman-i-Khas opens minds, and hearts, to the outlook of living well in the midst of incredible nature. Daily Jeep safaris promise glimpses of tigers amongst other myriad wildlife encounters.  Back at the camp, spa therapies, sleeping and dining take place under soaring, candlelit canopies inspired by the Mughal hunting parties of the days gone by. Each tent is assigned an experienced batman-your own private butler, who accompanies guests into the jungle, along the River Chambal and to temples and cultural sites. All this inspires an exquisite storytelling session at nightfall when the fire pit glows under a magical starlit sky.

Experiential travellers are looking for an ‘off the beaten track’ destination, away from the crowds;

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Allowing guests to explore unchartered territory, The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain is launching a series of boat trips designed to discover the hidden enclaves and sandy inlets of the Kingdom of Bahrain, along with gourmet picnics and a personal butler. One of the most delightful experiences is on Jarada island – or the ‘hidden island’ – an enchanted, deserted strip of pristine, white sand, only accessible for two hours per day before the tide gently washes over and covers it completely.

Water has always been a magnet for travellers seeking beaches and water sports but now travellers are seeing H2O in a whole new light. Wellness through water is one of next year’s big trends.

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Hurawalhi Island Resort in the Maldives are launching Ocean Healing Retreats which incorporate wave meditation, sound healing on Dream Island (a beautiful and deserted patch of white sand a couple of minutes boat ride from the resort) and underwater yoga at their submerged restaurant, 5.8 meters under the sea.

If you fancy having some cash to splash on spectacularly luxurious hotel accommodation, The Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva is just the place for you. Famous for being the largest suite in Europe at 1680 square metres, the suite is located on the entire top floor of the hotel and has a panoramic terrace with breathtaking views over Lake Geneva. The terrace comes complete with a telescope for stargazing on clear nights. The opulent suite has floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of Mont Blanc, as well as features like a panic button and bulletproof glass – surely one of the reasons why it attracts heads of state as guests. It’s also the most expensive in the world at about US$80,000 (€68,290) a night.

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Amongst the many stunning island beaches in the Maldives, Cocoa Island is one of the most expensive islands to visit. Its mesmerizing beauty and pristine sand beaches, staying over the turquoise water to experience the beauty of nature costs around $750 (INR 48,670) for a night. Iconic sunsets, sugar white beaches, world-class spa facilities, unparalleled snorkeling and diving, Michelin-starred restaurants and stunning overwater villas – It’s not difficult to see why the seductive islands of the Maldives rank among the world’s best and most romantic destinations for couples and newlyweds.

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The Instagram effect continues unabated – travellers are looking to find the most captivating backdrops and luxurious vacations. Photos are no longer just for memories – they are to ensure bragging rights across half a dozen social media portals. And when it comes to luxury, it’s easy to think ‘big’. Bigger rooms, bigger budgets, bigger experiences, private jet planes, spas, special menus, private island rentals, and private yachts –the list is endless.

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Luxury travel market epitomizes most unique and desirable destinations, luxurious accommodations, convenient transport facilities, and authentic travel experience giving an exotic experience to its travellers.

-Madhavi

OS: Luxury travel magazine; travel wire Asia;Conde Nest; PC: Aman-I- khas ;Tripoto; Trip Savvy;Luxury travel expert; Lonely Planet.

Amazon.in goes beyond being just a marketplace.

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I am such an online shopping kinda person. Be it apparel, FMCG, books, personal items or electronics, I just love seeing and usually end up buying  some of them on Amazon.in

Imagine my surprise when yesterday I noticed that Amazon India  has also included flight bookings.

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Available only in India at the moment on domestic sectors, customers can now also do flight bookings and avail rewards and cashbacks in addition to shopping, money transfers, utility bill payments, mobile recharges – all of this in one single app.

How cool is that?

Does this mean that having started selling flights, this behemoth seems getting ready to devour all the large OTAs (Online Travel Agents ) globally?

Sample this: As per Forbes, 2019, Amazon.com transacted goods and services worth USD 916 Billion, as against only 160.5 Billion transacted by Delta, United, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Southwest, Expedia and Cleartrip – put together ! This makes Amazon 5.7 times larger than the 5 top airlines and 2 largest OTAs combined.

 By partnering with Cleartrip in creating best in class travel experiences, Amazon.in is enabling the existing customers to do more with their app and their Prime members can now avail more value from their membership.

Despite the abundance of meta search engines, like Kayak, and Google Flights, and OTAs, finding the lowest-priced airfare is still a tedious process. Amazon hopes to change all that by offering the lowest possible price. Amazon potentially has a large impact in travel, both from a booking and advertising perspective.

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Airlines such as Vistara UK, GoAir, SpiceJet, and Indigo were among the carriers offering flights through the service.

Amazon.com is the world’s largest eCommerce marketplace till now focusing on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming and artificial intelligence. And is one of the Big Four technology companies along with Google, Apple and Facebook.

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Amazon Prime Air, is a cargo airline brand name for Amazon’s freight delivery service based in Ohio. And we have also heard that Amazon is building an airport outside of Cincinnati to have greater control over their shipping by air and remove the need to use third parties like FedEx, UPS, and USPS.

Now that Amazon is expanding its footprint in travel, do you think we will soon see a commercial “Amazon Air” flying the skies anytime soon?

Stay tuned to more information on this exciting news!

-Madhavi

 

 

 

PC: Newsroom Miami Intnl Aiport; Amazon.com;Amazon.in

Technology Trends that facilitate Smart Travel Experiences

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Technology is much like the Joneses- always up to something new. Frankly you just can’t keep up with it however much you try.

But the usage of technology is not new to Aviation. Back in the late 20’s a variety of technological navigation aids such as rotating lights or radio navigation aids would help pilots achieve a smooth and safe landing. Then towards the 40’s Instrument landing systems (ILS) used the best features of both approach lighting and radio beacons with higher frequency transmissions. Over the past few years many airports/pilots are using global positioning system (GPS) in addition to ILS. The GPS has become a primary method for navigation between airports and is exceedingly precise.

It is critical for the aviation, travel and hospitality industry to keep up-to-date with the emerging technology trends so as to nail the (CSQ) customer satisfaction quotient. Nonetheless, with such major breakthroughs in technology, it is playing a very vital role with its capability to increase the effectiveness of business operations and improve the customer experience.

 

Internet of Things (IoT)

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The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. (IoT) involves internet-based inter-connectivity between everyday devices, allowing them to both send and receive data.

To explain simply; Smart homes that are equipped with thermostats,  appliances, heating, lighting and other electronic devices can be controlled remotely via computers, Smart phones or other mobile devices, is a example of IoT.

Similarly IoT technology is being used in hotel rooms to provide customers with a device that connects to everything from the lights, to the heaters and air conditioning, allowing all to be controlled from one place. At airports, this may mean using sensors and sending information to passengers Smartphone’s, alerting them when their baggage is nearby and allowing them to locate it faster.

 Recognition Technology

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The technology includes finger print recognition, facial recognition, retina scanning and various other biometric identifiers. Such technology is already being used in some hotels to allow access to rooms via finger prints, or to allow for semi-contactless check-outs.

As the number of travellers grows, airports have started to turn to biometric technology. This speeds up various airport processes by allowing passengers to complete check-in and go through security or passport control without having to deal with a human agent.

 Robots

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One of the most exciting technological developments in recent years has been the increased prevalence of robots in hotels, right from text-based chatbots and robotic assistants, to security robots, being used on the front desk as customer information points. The main benefits are their ability to function 24/7, without needing breaks or motivation, providing greater consistency than humans would be capable of.

With a constant need to improve airport security, robots are being deployed in some locations to assist human security staff, for the purpose of detecting concealed weapons and other hidden items that are not permitted on flights.

Chatbots are used to guide customers through the online booking process, asking intelligent questions along the way for seamless travel bookings 24/7.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

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Perhaps the most obvious use is with chatbots possessing the ability to deliver rapid response times to problems or queries.

In fact, one of its most popular and effective uses is for gathering and interpreting huge amounts of data quickly and accurately, in order to draw conclusions about pricing strategies, revenue management, customer feedback from surveys, reviews and online polls, and even intelligently manage inventories, in order to build a clearer picture of current opinion, in real-time.

Blockchain

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Although blockchain technology can sound confusing at first, it is actually pretty simple. Ultimately, it is a list of public records, where transactions between parties are listed or stored.

Despite automation, payments and settlements in the travel industry continue to be challenging and time-consuming. A complex distribution system, frequent cancellations and refunds, add to the operational challenges. Blockchain can bring in the seamless integration, agility and speed required between multiple players.

One of the most crucial aspects of blockchain technology is that data is decentralized and is more secure, traceable and transparent along with being resistant to modification and unwanted tampering. The decentralised nature of the blockchain means that information can never go ‘offline’ or be lost through accidental deletion or a malicious cyber attack, ensuring transactions are always traceable.

The travel industry relies upon different companies passing information between one another. For example, travel agents pass on customer details on to flight companies and hotels by way of overseas payment or loyalty programs. Blockchain makes accessing and storing important information securely and more reliably.

Airports use blockchain technology for tracking the movements of luggage, especially when dealing with international travel especially when the passenger uses multiple carriers and journeys to arrive at a destination. Using a decentralised database makes sharing tracking data between companies a lot easier.

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For companies operating in the travel industry, it is essential to keep up with the latest technology trends. Understanding and adopting the trends allows the businesses within the travel industry to provide a better experience for the customers as well as aid in optimizing revenue management and overall business performance.

 

-Madhavi

 

PC-Future Customer; Airport Show; Hotel Technology; Digital Trends.

 

Off the beaten track

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PC:Pexel

Do you remember what your doctor ordered you to do, to keep your body happy and healthy? Err, do apples ring a bell?

Great! So if I ask you what it is that you should do to keep your soul happy? What would you say?

Well in my opinion it has to be travelling.

Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if every couple of months, we would be able  to take short weekend getaways, far away from the hustle and bustle of the daily life.

A chance to stay in a fancy hotel, eat delicious food prepared by top chefs, lie on the beach drinking cocktails and going shopping sounds like the ideal way to de-stress away the daily grind.

Of course there is no doubt that indulging in luxe travel is absolutely fabulous, but sometimes let’s make that adventure junkie in us take over and have us explore new places as they are meant to be seen.

So how about getting off the beaten path and away from sponsored tourism?

If you really want to ‘see’ the place and ‘feel’ the experience rather than just taking a vacation, then here are some ways you can go about it.

Try backpacking

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PC:Unsplash

Rather than staying at five-star hotels or dining in Michelin star restaurants, go away from the glitz and glamour of tourist hot spots. Try Backpacking. It allows you to see a destination in a completely different way. It’s a much more humble way to get around and appreciate a destination for what it really is beyond the conventional tourism.

Of course you’ll mainly be traveling on foot and or by public transport which will enable you to really immerse yourself in the place you’re in, allowing you to see it as the locals would and not simply as a tourist. You’ll be discovering places that you simply wouldn’t come across if you were on package tour. Not only is it an inexpensive way to travel, but it can give you really meaningful experiences. You will leave a place feeling as though you know it, rather than just skimming the surface like you would as a tourist.

Stay somewhere different

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PC:Kerela Tourism

Instead of staying in a hotel, why not look into different accommodation options when you travel? For instance if you are in Kerela, try staying in a houseboat. The experience you will have will be like no other. Or you could choose an AIRBNB rather than an upscale hotel. It’s a lot cheaper and can completely change the feel of your trip. There are plenty of websites which offer home stays and vacation rentals with the entire house if needed.

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I have personally had some amazing stays at Washington DC and Montreal at comfortable and well maintained AIRBNB’s .  Although these were a little further out from the main tourist destinations, it allowed me to stay in a location that I may have never found, had I stayed at a hotel. Or if you are solo traveller you could look into travel hostels, these are cheap and cheerful and can be a great way to meet other travelers.

Once you’ve decided on your destination, do your research and consider different options for where you could stay. Going with something a bit more unique such as Houseboats, or Swiss Tents could add another dimension to your trip and make it extra memorable.

Speak to the locals

Speaking to the locals is one of the best ways to find places that are off the beaten path. There are certain streets that bring out the vibe of a place. And speaking to locals would certainly help in exploring it.

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On my recent trip to Singapore, walking through the streets in Kampong Glam, I was pleasantly surprised to find Haji Lane. It’s fabled to be one of the narrowest streets in Singapore. The street had some quirky and vintage boutiques, funky graffiti on its walls and quaint cafes.

Neal’s Yard in London was another such gems I found on my travels.

Google and travel guides will, of course, tell you all about popular places and the things that you want to see, but there will be so many additional things that you’ll be able to discover by chatting to the people that live there.

Travel off season

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Most destinations will have a peak season and an off season, mainly dictated by the weather. Ideally try going during either on an off peak or shoulder season. Not only will it be less expensive but it will be less busy. Sure, there won’t be as many shops, eateries, clubs and other hot spots open but as a traveler, this won’t be the kind of thing you’re looking for anyway.

On the downside, there might be not so ideal weather conditions during the off season depending on where you go, so do your research and go prepared. For example, many hotels in Goa have excellent packages during the monsoon season between June-September.

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PC:LonelyPlanet

 

Travel, should not be a break from everyday life. Travel should be the time when you feel the most normal, centered, and at home.

There is no high more intense than being someplace new, and feeling like just a little piece of a vast, vast world.

 

Happy Exploring!!

madhavi

Is being Insta-worthy really worth it?

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The golden sunset was like nothing I’d seen before. An expanse of the sky mixed in with a cocktail of colours -baby pink, magenta, bright orange, yellow, violet and grey. It was a fluid painting in motion.

The dreamy location was the Tanah Lot. A Balinese temple perched high on the rock, facing the wide open ocean.

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The setting was perfect with the crashing waves below, and the dramatic colors of the dusk sky in the background, glowing softly with the spectacular light of the slowly setting sun.

There I was, completely mesmerized by the brilliant sight, waiting patiently for the sun to loving merge with the ocean when suddenly; a hand was thrust in front of me.

Holding the latest iPhone, the hand took picture after picture of the sunset, hoping to capture the wonder on a 14-centimetre screen.

I was annoyed and distracted. My moment was broken.

Why did this happen? I asked myself. I wanted to witness this daily and magical ritual.

I wanted to “feel” the moment.

I wanted to stare at the magic of the sun drop its curtains for the day.

I was not thinking of capturing images on my phone to relive it later. No siree!!

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I admit that Instagram is just great. And the fact that it is something quick, something that you can just do on the go, is probably its biggest appeal.

While travel companies, agents, hotels, cruise ships, tourist locations, airports and airlines have started to reshape their businesses with visual posts in mind, becoming Insta-famous is a double-edged sword.

But as the Instagram effect continues into 2019, destinations are thinking of ways to fight back–and fight off the teeming hoards of selfie-stick-wielding visitors, specifically to those places which are unable to handle the massive footfalls.

Instagram has gone from something fun we do when we travel i.e. clicking pictures of ‘been there, done that’ to becoming the main reason to travel.

It’s not just about ruining others’ good time, living space and nature; it appears that the quest for the perfect ‘Instagram selfie’ and travel shot is also destroying people’s lives.

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A recent study into death by selfies found that 259 people died in a six-year period while attempting to capture the perfect selfie.

Photogenic destinations like Cinque Terre, Barcelona, and Santorini are starting to limit how and when tourists visit in hopes of preserving the landmarks for the future.

Where does this leave us? Travel photos have been around for decades and they’re not going to stop. The responsibility for keeping people safe might have to fall to government and local bodies.

Can pictures or rather instagramming them, do justice to the visual drama, the vibrancy happening in front of us. Sadly the ‘likes’ and the ‘comments’ are ruining the pleasures of “living in the moment”

For as long as humans have experienced wanderlust, travel has always been made sweeter by the tales we get to recount and narrate for family and friends, long after the holiday has been over. But in today’s image-obsessed world, unfortunately we have traded the “art of story telling” into a Insta Story that vanishes after 24 hours.

 

❤ Madhavi