Photo by Akanksha Kar
By Akanksha Kar
If there is one thing that I am absolutely confident about in myself, that is the art of packing for a long international trip, even just 10 minutes prior to leaving for the airport. That is predominantly because I have been traveling since I was two-years-old. I have visited over 50 cities and numerous countries and almost every continent, even having lived in five cities over my 20 years of age, that I have lost count. For the before years of my life, I traveled with my parents however I will never forget the first flight that I took all by myself at the age of 12. Ever since then, airplanes have become my second home. Even today, the longest period of time that I have gone without sitting in a plane is about three months. From countless family holidays with the parents to holidays alone and for the first time ever, a holiday with the significant other, I can honestly say that I have fulfilled my personal travel goals. Every time I traveled it was uniquely different, not only because of the places I visited but more importantly, the people I traveled with.
Traveling with my parents was always a more luxurious experience. It starts with the entire family entering the exclusive airline lounges, sipping the best wines, having a chef prepare meals to your specific liking and my personal favorite perk, was getting to travel in Business Class where there would be a whole new set of servers at your every beck and call, serving a five-course meal. In fact, the A380 Airbus of Singapore Airlines taught me the various fine tastes of cheese and wine pairings. Once you landed in the city or country, Dad always had a personal chauffeur organized to fetch us at the airport so there would be no waiting around in lines for taxis. Off we went to some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts known, such as The JW Marriott, The Hilton, The Leela Palace, The Taj, The Ritz Carlton and of course The Four Seasons, among many more.
It has only been my privilege to travel so grandly because, if there is one person more traveled than I am, that is my father; having built an empire of priority memberships for pretty much every hotel and airline you can imagine. The only setback about traveling with parents is that our age differences meant that my interests were completely different from mum and dad. I would much rather have walked the streets of Paris with a notebook in hand and some money in a purse. I feel that walking the streets of a city really let you experience the local culture firsthand and you can explore every nook and cranny of the city. Dad’s idea of roaming around meant going to all the tourist spots where there are crowds and traveling around in a car. It was fun but I still feel that I missed out of some authentic Parisian culture. It is important to visit tourist sites, but it is also very important to have an open mindset about a new place. Do not simply just stick to the tourist spots because that is what has been advertised for the longest time. If you open your eyes just a little more, you can discover some of the best parts of a new place that has simply just not been emphasized. That is the sheer beauty of experiencing the culture from the local’s perspective.
When I started taking flights alone, Dad would arrange for my travel but he never gave me his frequent flyer cards for any airline. Which essentially meant that I would not get lounge access or business class seats. I was still alright with it because as long as I am inside an aircraft, I am the happiest person on the planet. There is a certain sense of tranquility when you travel alone. You are traveling on your own terms, you make the rules, you pick the places you visit, you can choose to stay at hotels or with friends and have a blast of a holiday. However, the luxury of having everything arranged for you no longer exists. Everything is your responsibility, so in case of any emergency, save the passport first and yourself, second. You will be thankful later. After arrival, chances are, the trip is much more low budget and a chauffeur is not waiting on your arrival with a Mercedes at bay. The most convenient way to travel around new places has to be with Uber. Taxi drivers can sniff out tourists and will purposely take advantage of your misplaced sense of mind. There have been several incidents where I have landed in a country and UBER is not the primary mode of transport so a taxi was the next best alternative. However, a lot of drivers would extend the ride much longer than necessary just to increase cab fare. A quick solution for this, open up your google maps and firmly tell the driver the route you want to take. You can save a lot of money.
As far as living quarters go, student budgets can be tricky. Not every hotel will offer cheap deals unless booked a few months in advance. Airbnb is a great resource for youngsters to stay in another person’s house and the cost is much more manageable. Otherwise, just stay with a relative! The best parts about traveling alone mean that you can take a backpack and just wander the streets without a care. Just soak in all the culture and the aromas and the language and the attitude of the city and really just take your time with it. There is no one there to rush you, the trip is all yours. This is the only kind of responsibility that I would love to handle over and over again in my life.
For 20 years, I always watched my older cousins going away on romantic getaways with their significant others. I was always secretly jealous and until recently in this spring break, I was counting down to when my time would come. For someone who has had rough patches in previous relationships, I now approach my relationships with dire caution and I personally believe that these kind of trips are worth waiting for, till you find someone you really love and you are sure it is long term. No one wants heartbreak after a wonderful holiday. Holidays with your S.O. really bring each other closer, like no tomorrow. You are living in each others space, sharing the same bathroom, getting to know each other’s routines, eating and drinking with each other and spending a lot of sweet intimate time together. It is one of the most exhilarating and rewarding experiences and it is those moments that make you really appreciate each other and create enough happiness for a lifetime.
Traveling with a lover in ways are similar yet different to traveling alone. It is imperative to keep track of each other’s expenditures because these holidays can get slightly pricey and it is important to share the expenses between the two. Privacy is a huge factor in these holidays so booking a hotel is in both of your best interests. Plus, relaxing in bathrobes and ordering breakfast in bed is a bonus! For my first couple holiday, I wanted it to be interactive so we went to Universal Studios in Orlando. It was bright, sunny and oh-so-warm and it really put the cherry on top of the cake. There is a reason old Hollywood films always show the guy taking the girl to an amusement park and that is because there is so much to do together and it is all so much fun. Carnival food, parades, games that allow your lover to show off and win a teddy bear, and it is even more fun when both of you enjoy the same characters that make the theme park alive. You spend the entire day roaming around with each other, being playful and happy and finally end the evening with a nice hot bath and a great conversation. New foods, great conversations and new experiences together away from both of your friends is a fantastic way to bond with each other and by far, my absolute favorite holiday experience, in 20 years.
Traveling to me is never about how much money I can spend. If I have the money to spend, for sure I would not hesitate because it is all very worth it. However, I am equally happy vacationing with the bare minimum that I have in my pocket. For me, it is generally the people that make or break the trip. Traveling with my significant other had many new experiences and emotions attached to it than when I traveled with my parents or by myself. Everyone is different that way, but after experiencing all sides, I would always pick traveling with a lover before anything else. It makes everything so much more special and really puts life into a brand new perspective.