27 July, 2015

Shit Just got Real

I had so wished that I should have a family member in states with me. My brother got admitted to a prestigious school and is two weeks apart from landing in states. Thats when you exclaim.
Shit Just got Real!

Last week, I had tremendous feedback for my instagram posts from a known iron chef and few other friends, whom i was not aware, were really interested in my affairs. And so, I exclaim.
                                                                                                                                Shit Just got Real!

A good friend and I were discussing about happenings of our lives and discovered we were on verge of loosing our independence/freedom lifestyle pretty soon.  We had been planning and wanting this change but suddenly making room for a new person (spouse in his case and parent in my case) made us exclaim in unison. 
Shit Just got Real!

14 July, 2015

How to take endless Vacations

Recently, my colleague commented on my endless vacation trips:
"People take off from work and go for vacations,
You take off from vacations and come to work".

Normally, I manage 3 trips a year. This year,  I am blessed to have time and energy to experience some of the most exciting times of my life.

But, since i have been asked by so many, as to how i manage to take vacations, here is my deal.

My simple rule is "priority". You know your needs and responsibilities.

If you are like an average full time employee with benefits covered, you would get 2-3 weeks paid time off a year.  Which trust me is hell lot of time on free paycheck.

Most of my friends who are foreign exports, struggle between taking vacation and going home. For these folks, i would suggest, either make your home trips alternating year or shorten the stay. I have traveled home for 1 week, 2 weeks and managed to save 1week for local trips. I have a friend who visits home every year for three weeks, works overtime for one week and gets two week paid time off. -So its about your priority.

Other, thing i see with my friends is getting stuck at long weekends for vacations. This is a huge deal in terms of budget, travel time and freedom for leisure time amidst the crowd. If you would like to take advantage of these weekends, find places where you can connect with family or friends (that would help you save/share budget for food/board)

So, assuming you are not traveling home, which gives you 3weeks.
 Let's set 1week  for social events, or planned/unplanned events etc...
Now,  you are left with 2weeks, which is 14 days.
I have 12 months on my calendar, so even if i spare one day each month for a vacation, i would still be left with 2 extra days. There, i said it!
You can vacation every single month. Pick a monday or friday and you got a long weekend every month for a year!!! 

Another thing, use your sick leaves. Most work places would not warrant for a doctor's note if you take one or two days at a stretch.  You need to recondition your mind and body even if it is not sick.

Vacations need not be just to destinations, you could very well vacation at home. Gift yourself "Me time", "family time",  a body massage or spa day in local resort. Camp in your backyard, party at pool, there are endless options to pamper yourselves.

Now, comes budget.
If exploring places is your priority like mine, you should start pitching $ for your explorations.
We save or devote part of our income on mortgage/rent, car insurance, health insurance, gym every month. So, i have made a travel donation every paycheck or every three paychecks for my upcoming trips. This keeps me motivated and on track of my finances.

Use your credit card benefits(American express covers rental car insurance), enroll in flight mileage programs, wholesale retails memberships (Sam's, Bj's, Costco)- to your advantage.
I strongly recommend using these travel apps : Google flights, Kayak, Airfarewatchdog, Hoteltonight, Wunderlist, Instagram.

Life is short but enough if lived right and cherished.
That's how i do it!
So, when do you start?

01 July, 2015

Trips down memory lane

This has been a phenomenal summer for me!
If you look at the map, you will see, why I call it phenomenal. Traveling in 8 states in 3 months
covering all four directions from TN and catching up with friends and family is something, i will cherish rest of my year.

Early march, my boss walked up to me with empty calendar template and asked me to fill
3weeks of time off that had been recurred which i had to finish before July 1st. (for people who think i just laze around at work , see this is a proof i am a hard worker :))- peace for once and all !!!
Yes, like most of you reading this, i was over joyed to hear one month of no work.
But, what could i do of those?
First thoughtless thought was to visit home in India which my father very politely denied.
So, i scrolled through my notes of "someday i will visit these places" and looked at it.
I looked again and few places struck out. Bang! Easy enough?
Naah, so how much $ would i need for this. Everyone loves to travel, i mean who would not like to go to places, and eat fancy cuisines?
Often, when we have vacation, we do not have budget;
and when we have budget, we do not have enough time off.
It took me little time to see where i could compromise: on experience or savings.
Answer was very simple and clear- savings.
When else would i get such paid time off and not have things to do?
Money, aint it haath ka mel anyways?
We are going to wash the mel one day or other, so why not now?

So, i checked off new place (Savannah,GA) from my list for one week.
Being single has its own advantages, you pack and go next day, no questions , no fuss.
By end of that trip, i knew where i wanted to go next (Dayton,OH & Chicago,IL).
And planning had to be done on the same day i returned, because the zeal is still
there. Otherwise you would loose it.
Since, i had checked a new place for first week. I wanted to check people.
People whom i had kept waiting and wanting, people whom i was waiting
and wanting to see for  years. Next two trips (San Diego,CA & Maine) came out as pleasant surprises as it combined people and places for me.

From my trips i gathered, how my craziness helped lighten up environment or help people break ice.
I also figured, capturing some moments in pictures and reviewing them was such a joy. Yes, it might irk some if you go overboard. Be careful there.

When i used to spend my spring and summer holidays at family members,
I used to think, its not a vacation.
But, for those few hours or day,
if you do not have to think about how you will reach so and so place,
where you will eat, what you will cook, weather you have milk in fridge or gas in car,
that my friend is what vacation feels like.
I feel deeply humbled when i get greeted by friends and family with love and care.
Its the comfort that you feel through the warmth of their touch and simple gestures.
It takes effort and time on their end to make you feel comfortable.
We often ignore this fact because it comes easy to us.
In return show them your gratitude and appreciation by sharing something that they do not have.

One thing i have truly believed is to share the experience.
If you have one quality that others do not, share it.
It may be introducing an app on phone, a new website, burning a CD,  just listening to them , hugging them, offering words of encouragement, appreciating their efforts, taking a picture- do it and bring a smile.
If it makes them feel good about themselves or see themselves in different light, its all worth.
The content and smile you can bring is priceless by such little acts.
Bring a smile not to their faces but their hearts.

Its my effort to uplift moods and give expression to feelings of people through my writings and pictures.
This is one reason most of you would have seen me more expressive on social media in past few days than ever before.

I hope you have wonderful summer too!


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