My Book Club in Ljubljana | Blogmas 7

The other day, I was telling Rahul about the book club that I had joined in Ljubljana and it struck me immediately that how one of a kind experience it was, you will know why as you read along. While talking to him, I opened my drafts in WordPress and noted it down as a post I had to do.

As I always do with personal stories, I am going to explain a lot of details, whether you get bored or not. I’ll try to keep it interesting.

So, I had moved to Ljubljana for work and before that I was living in Berlin with few of my closest friends (including Rahul). Living in a new city with your closest friends who are preparing for certain goals (in this case, internships, jobs etc etc) means that you will not feel you are in a new city, but rather get all the more comfortable in your comfort zone, a place that will very quickly start feeling like home. This also means that we hardly ever tried to make any new friends, or go out with new people.

And then came my move to Ljubljana. I never considered even for a fleeting moment that my lifestyle is going to change drastically. I will not have people I know and can fall back on with me. It just didn’t strike me as a move. It was exactly like this – I sat in a bus from Berlin to Ljubljana. I land in Ljubljana and realize I don’t know anyone here. This is exactly what happened. I got so overwhelmed with being alone at that time point that I was super emotional even while house hunting. I could cry at the drop of a hat. This one time I was house hunting and I took a bus and I started crying. A lady walked up to me in the bus and consoled me. I still remember that cold, wintry bus ride perfectly well.

Then, as luck would have it, Rahul also moved to Ljubljana due to work. I again got into my comfort zone. Both of us sort of stopped making efforts to make more friends. This is extra bad because I met some really lovely people at work back then. I was working in a startup and most of the people were my age and a really fun bunch. We had some good night outs together but it was pretty limited.

Eventually, Rahul had to move to another city then and I was on my own again. I was at my worst at that time if I consider a range of couple of years here and there (yes, this is a cue that I have seen worse form of depression). I was in a super pathetic state and like I mentioned, some of my co-workers were amazing. A boss of mine, who is one of the kindest women I have met, was constantly worried for me. At this point, I was feeling super homesick and I was absolutely not making the most of enjoying your solitude in an all new country/city/continent. Something that would seem like a dream to most was turning out to be a nightmare. I was certain of one thing though, I need to come out stronger out of this and, therefore, I am not going to rush back to India until I am supposed to.

This is when I saw a notification of a book club being started on Facebook and I just decided to join it. To give another chance to meet more people. I managed to attend only one of the meets as I was supposed to travel back to India after that but I am so glad I gave it a go. There are so many reasons for that.

First of all, it was an intimate group so it felt very cosy and, you know, not like a formal event.

Secondly, the members I met were all from such different spheres of life. Usually the people you hang out with are either known to you due to college, job or something similar, so you kind of relate to their lives. But this was a super diverse group. Funnily, one of the Portuguese girls worked in Zomato Portugal!!! What are the chances! To find a Portuguese in a book club who works in an Indian startup!

Lastly, the best thing of this meet was the place it was held. One of the members were hosting it in their home and it was bang in the middle of the old city centre! Can you imagine? A house, almost like a castle, in a European mediaeval sort of setting. I wish I had pictures. Their house had typical castle stairs, kitchen – everything. I actually got a little scared while walking up the stairs, the lighting was also pretty dim, modern but dim, to create an effect. Once inside, it was all modern appliances and everything, but still the lighting was dim to create that vintage chic mood. It was so different. I doubt I am ever going to attend a book meet, or any meet really, like this. 🙂

So, now you know, the book club meet was so different, not because of it being a book club meet, but so much more. I honestly wish I can visit that house once again, with Rahul this time.

5 things to remember when planning a workcation in Himachal

We recently went on a 15 day workcation to Manali and Kasol and I just have one thing to say – I am so regretful of coming back in 15 days. I miss the crisp air, the deodars, the beautiful green views, the snow clad peaks and the pristine rivers all around. It was just wonderful. Too difficult to put in words. Living in a cottage in the middle of hills is a dream come true for me. I could also mention that I woke up early to enjoy the beyond ethereal mornings but I continue being the same shit who wakes up late even there.

We were for a week in Kasol and another week in Manali, and its just nothing but a fortunate coincidence that both the stays turned out amazing in their own ways. I am going to mention a bit about them before I begin with the points to remember for a Himachal workcation. Especially because both the stays were nothing like anything I have stayed at before. 🙂

Kasol: We stayed at a place called Kasol Heights. It’s difficult to categorise it as a resort or campsite. Well, it’s not luxurious like a resort but it’s like this – multiple camp style rooms spread over a valley, with a pond, river, waterfall and, of course, man made activities (indoor games, pool etc) all within the campsite area. It’s amazing to get up and step out of your room to have a river flowing right outside the room. We had to cross a tiny bridge to go to the dining area. 🙂 Below is a picture of the bridge and the pond. It’s a very offbeat experience. Few downsides to the place – located on the outskirts of Kasol and it’s a downhill trek from the main road so every time you have to go to the Kasol city, you have to do this. Secondly, it’s not a luxurious place if that’s what you are looking for. Thirdly, the in-house meals are very home style, in case you are expecting anything else.

Manali: it’s an interesting story how we booked this property. So, we had no plans of going to Manali and the initial plan was of 2 weeks in Kasol itself. We had not booked any stay until we left for Manali. Now there’s a portal for finding workcation friendly stays called, well, Workcation, but they don’t give you the location until you have booked. We had shortlisted a few properties from their portal on our way and we were trying to locate them on Google Maps after entering Manali. On our way to do that, we came across Himachal Tourism’s ‘Log Huts’. It was my suggestion to check out this property, reason being I hold Himachal tourism to very high standards due to a dinner I had been to in Shimla as a kid. 🙂 The guy on the reception was more than excited to show us the stay. Log Huts offers cottages complete with bedrooms, dining, kitchen & living room and they have such an old world charm to it. Every cottage has their own garden area where we used to play cricket. I should also mention that the location of this property, popularly known as Log Huts area, is one of the best in Manali. Manali is basically divided into 3 main areas – New Manali (has mall road and full of tourists), Old Manali (more hipster vibe and cafes but cramped), Log Huts area (my favorite as this has a very old world and clean vibe, right out of Ruskin Bond books). If I had to nit-pick a con of this place, then it can be you getting bored of restaurant food for a long duration stay (not a con for me though).

Now coming to the 5 things you should remember when planning a workcation to Himachal:

1. WiFi: A lot needs to be addressed here. First of all, many properties mention that they have WiFi but they may mean a dongle. A dongle is less likely to work smoothly as compared to a well functioning WiFi. Having Wifi may also mean it’s patchy. I observed this myself in some hotels. Point being, if you are planning a workcation in Himalayas, be fully assured of the WiFi situation at your stay. Best bet is testimonials from someone known, but I would consider proper discussion with the property contact bare minimum. Same is applicable for power cuts.

2. Where to go? This is a tricky one. When we went to Manali, it was not brimming with travellers. Currently Manali is literally flooding with vacationers. It’s neither safe given the Covid situation, nor it would be fun. Now let’s talk about the more offbeat Himachal options like Jibhi, Shoja, Chitkul etc. I have not been there but I would imagine that the wifi situation would be poorer as they are more remote. I would still consider them a good option if you can be sure of network and that the number of people visiting that place is not too many. I would apply this same rule to places in Uttarakhand. My suggestion, though, would be to give serious consideration to some offbeat homestays which have properly worked on making themselves workcation friendly as they will have better amenities for a comfortable working environment and not a lot of people. Not to mention differentiated experience. Linking one such here I saw on instagram – Mokshamcampsite

3. How to go? We did a road trip and if you are planning to go to a place in Himachal or Uttarakhand from Delhi or around, this is a pretty plausible option. (Provided you are comfortable with driving and not a newbie). Otherwise, I would consider taxi as an option, I would personally avoid flights or trains as much as I can. I have taken multiple flights during the pandemic as my parents and parent-in-laws are in different parts of India, but that is sort of unavoidable. A trip on the other hand is.

4. How to pack? This depends on what you are expecting out of your day. If you are mostly working through the day, you can pack your lounge wear, basically what you wear at home but with at least one warm jacket and socks thrown in for the night. If you are planning long treks, please do a proper Google search on what to pack for a trek. I have never been on a long trek (I really want to but I am also scared due to my vertigo and fear of height issue). In general, I am a pretty light packer. I usually like to find substitutes from local markets of what I could have brought, which could also ultimately become a souvenir. Obviously, I only mean this for things which are not adding to my carbon footprint. On this trip, I did end up carrying my electric kettle for a change. 🙂 this is something unlikely for me being a light packer!

5. Being in line with the situation: if you are traveling in a limited capacity vehicle, going to be in a secluded place, avoid the crowds , you are essentially doing the same things you would do at home, so I would request you to be mindful of the ongoing situation. All the precautions that you take while stepping out for groceries need to be taken here. Even more so, since there will be many clusters with a lot of people. Apart from that, you Want to be mindful of dealing with the property staff, for your as well as their safety. If you are mindful, you may end up benefiting the tourism industry in these trying times, and if not mindful, then it could actually get worse for them.

So these are the stories I wanted to share of my travel and I am so happy that I managed a detailed post after a long time. Especially glad for having done this on a weekday, which is why I am not proof reading it. 🙂 I am waiting for your comments and feel free email me for any other questions as well!

44 | Of Cities that feel like Holiday

Bangalore has always felt like a holiday.

As I step into the airport with a one way ticket to Delhi, this fact hits hard in a bittersweet way.

I guess it’s a lot to do with the kind of life that you have in a city more than the city itself. I was on my own here, so I was making all the decisions for myself, be it good or bad and being alone leaves you with less responsibilities and much more time to chill. Which means I had a lot of time to explore around, thus, making it all the more like a holiday.

However, it has a lot to do with the city itself. I first wrote about Bangalore here. When I was visiting Blore for the first time as mentioned in this post, I was staying at a particular spot in Indiranagar and very casually I just happened to think – if I ever move to Blore, I want to stay in this very area! When I moved to Blore for my job in 2017, I ended up renting a place right there! The universe conspired to make it happen? So, I was in one of the best areas which made me feel really good about this city. There are a lot of shitty areas in Blore, in fact, a lot more shitty areas than the good ones because this is a very unplanned city which never really bothered to ready itself for the influx of people it gets. I have barely been to any of these, so these pretty areas that I was in added to the holiday feel. My travel to work was taken care by office for a long time and rest of the time I had to go to my base location in this area itself, so that means I didn’t really have to kill myself over the infamous Blore traffic. All in all, the gorgeous weather, beautiful cafes & bars and bookstores in my area just lead to making this city feel a lot like a Holiday.

Bangalore, you will always be special. I have only gratitude for all the gorgeous places and experiences and gratitude to the almighty for the opportunity to explore within and around in a wonderful setting. 🙂

I hope this move back to Delhi for all the good reasons is as (or more) successful and full of happiness! ❤

Bhujodi | Simple is what it takes to Happy

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Have you ever been to a place, looked at the innocence of the people there, and thought to yourself that how effortless it is for them to stay content & happy? I am sure many of you who trek a lot or have closely stayed with locals in mountains can relate to this – they have a hard but simple life, they want too less & always have a contagious smile on their faces. Something similar I experienced in Bhujodi, even though by all means this place is becoming a tourist haunt as we speak.

Bhujodi is a really tiny village, some 10 kms from Bhuj in the Kutch region of Gujarat. If you are from a big city, you can totally count it as another neighbourhood in the Bhuj city itself. So, why exactly it is famous? Well, it is not as well-known as it should be but what its known for is its handicrafts. This tiny village has a small number of homes, which you can count on your hand actually and almost all of them work on creating traditional crafts. They have that weaving equipment installed inside their houses (don’t know what it’s called) & they create clothes and other handicrafts throughout the year, while most of their sale happens in the tourist season of Kutch region (Nov-Feb). The locals have other income sources in the form of dairy etc.

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If you compare the handicrafts here to other parts of Kutch which cater to tourists on a larger scale, you will notice that the prices of things are similar, however you get much better quality products in Bhujodi & in so much variety! Most importantly, what else can replace the joy of buying something handmade & supporting small businesses? In fact, I was a bit surprised to see almost all the local houses keeping equipment for making clothes. Precisely why I am writing this post.

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I didn’t click a lot of pictures because I was too busy looking around at everything available with wide open eyes. Shawls, suits, purses, bags, kurtas for both men & women, saris, leather products, home decor & furnishings, every thing was there. In today’s time, it’s not difficult to find these Kutch handicrafts elsewhere also, however once you are there, you will understand the abundance of choices & the amazingly good quality!

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Other than the products themselves, I was very mesmerized by how well these people maintain their houses. Not only were they clean & well-kept, they even had beautiful traditional decorations, probably to make their house (which also houses their business) stand out more since almost every house sells similar things! The locals are so nice, no matter how much you bargain, they will indulge you with their charming smiles & continue the bargaining game. Many of them will even force you to have tea before you leave. 🙂

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On that note, I want to say that Bhujodi has been an unexpected but a very fulfilling experience for me. I am always interested in seeing handicrafts getting made, it kind of consoles me that these things are not dying. However, I was not expecting this when we set out for Bhujodi. I just thought it will be like a handicrafts exhibition. Once there, I felt like I am in a village, but instead of people chilling in a village, it’s just outsiders shopping in the village. 😀 If you love handicrafts as much as I do, you should definitely not miss Bhujodi.

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The