There is hardly any to be done, actually.
We move into a super clean apartment, and we don’t have to sweep/ mop/ vacuum the place—the landlord does that after we leave. The few cups and plates we use are easy to clean. Most places have a dish-washer, too.
We make it a point to clean up everything just before we leave, and get everything back to looking like how it was when we moved in. We need not do this, actually, but we just do.
The hosts always appreciate this, and we invariably get great reviews on Airbnb.
How To Get Around
Yes, obvious answer – Google Maps.
But, there is a catch – a big one.
Google Maps works only in areas with good connectivity. In many rural areas, one of two things happens:
- Yes, there is coverage by a telecom company, but not the one whose SIM card you are carrying.
- There is no coverage at all, for instance, in a national park or a deep valley.
We have found ways to deal with these issues.
We do some research to find out which telecom company has the best coverage in the area where we will be travelling. For example, you can actually see a map of Australia showing the coverage of each company.
To be on the safe side, after we arrive in the country we buy SIM cards of two different telecom companies because we have found that, in some areas, one or the other doesn’t work.
Yes, this means that you need at least two phones, unless you have a dual-SIM phone.
‘Suspenders and belt’ policy – we carry a detailed map showing all the main and secondary roads, if not even the ‘C’ roads. Way back in 2014, we had bought a road atlas, published by British AA, for ten pounds. Its 157 pages of maps (on a 1cm=2.5km scale) have served us well, guiding us in remote areas where telecom coverage is nil.
Another method is to choose a route on Google Maps, click to get the “steps” of the entire route, and keep saving screenshots until all the steps of the entire route are saved on your phone.
If you lose coverage thereafter, just retrieve the saved screenshots and follow the steps.
What Are the People Like?
Like the people you will find anywhere in India – friendly, curious, helpful and polite.
We have struck up friendships in many countries while on holiday; some short-lived, others long-lasting. On our current tour of A-NZ, the second so far, we visited a couple whom we met while travelling in Tasmania four years ago.
Overall, people are great. We have never encountered any hostility, racism, or bad manners. In fact, people often go out of their way to be friendly and helpful.
What To See
Right at the end of our narrative, we hit the ‘bottom line’ – what do we get to see.
We see some known, but not famous places such as Merida in Spain, where there are many old Roman structures including an aqueduct, an amphitheatre, and a Roman mansion with tiled floors and a heating system.
These are places that local people know of, but not many visitors come, and there are practically no foreign tourists. Apart from the sights, there are authentic (and enjoyable) local food and drinks, beautiful art and folk culture, and some awesome handicrafts.
We take special joy in discovering what we call ‘hidden gems’—places that few people know of, and practically nobody visits. Once, we found very artistic statues in a corner of Wales which our host knew nothing about, though he was born and brought up there.
We have found some hidden gems through research, but more often by accident, as a consequence of leaving the main road and venturing into some country lane. Here again, two elements of our travel style came into play—having a car, and feeling safe.
Jan has a massive storehouse of photos taken over many years, from which she picks and chooses nice ones to put into the blogs that she writes (with help from me on the text). She posted #75, and is going strong!
Just as we had no idea how many places we would visit when we started our first car tour, Jan had never expected that her tentative foray into blog writing would grow so much.
Yes, travel does grow on you, especially if you do it in a car.
Is This for You?
Only you can decide this.
We understand that this is not for everyone, but we do read stories of people who do things that we do not (or cannot) do, right? That is why we decided to write about our travels.
We hope that our narrative has aroused your interest. If so, we shall be happy.
If you do have the four essential elements of travel—time, money, health and desire—plus the ability to drive, let us assure you that you could be in for a very pleasurable and fun holiday if you try our travel style.
(Jan and Amitabha Banerjee are retired bankers living in Kolkata. They travel the world in their golden years and write about their journeys in their personal travel blog.)