Smart travel for love birds
Risha had come home the other day. You may remember her as my crazy and cute best friend from another post of mine. It was a dreamy misty evening with a light drizzle outside and we sat in soft yellow light indoors, with steaming cups of ginger chai and vanilla tea cakes. The Husband (henceforth TH) kept joining us intermittently since he was working from home that day. I had just finished reading Bill Bryson’s Down Under, which as the travel / reading / travel writing crazy folks among you will know is a travelogue book about Australia.
Down Under, another endearing work from the best-selling travel writer Bill Bryson, chronicles his travels by railway and car throughout Australia, his conversations with people from all walks of life and his impressions of the life and culture in the different areas he visits. As normally happens with me after I read a brilliant travel book, I was full of exuberance over the book, over travel, over Australia and over life in general.
Me (with a sigh): He is brilliant. Australia is brilliant. The book is brilliant. Life…
Risha: Life is brilliant. Pao Bhaji is brilliant. Dark chocolate with wine is brilliant. Getting extra papdi from the bhaya after eating pani puri is brilliant.
Me: Shut up. I was going to quote Bill Bryson on life and travel.
Risha: Ah. Proceed.
Me: He once said, “I mused for a few moments on the question of which was worse, to lead a life so boring that you are easily enchanted, or a life so full of stimulus that you are easily bored.”
Risha (Wide-eyed): Wow. You’re able to quote the most divine things at times, despite being such a nutcase yourself.
Me (stumped): You know you drive me up the wall most times?
Risha (giggling): And yet you love me like crazy.
Me: Right now the only thing I want to love is traveling.
Risha: Well, yeah, traveling can be a phenomenally surreal experience. Though I know you have given much more thought to it than I have.
Me: It’s simply because traveling has added so many layers to me, so many dimensions to my thinking, so many aspects to my personality that I can not even imagine what kind of a person I would have been if I hadn’t been to all those places, experienced all those customs, befriended all those people and learned all those things. (sipping tea) Like, I would have never known that in some parts of Canada it’s polite to ask the home-owners if you should be leaving your shoes outside – and hence I wouldn’t have seen the beautiful thread running through our own Indian customs with a new set of eyes, thereby somewhere respecting my own traditions more.
Risha (nodding her head while lapping up the cake): Hmmm…
Me: I cannot even imagine that at one point I did not know the adversities people living in the mountains go through on a day-to-day basis. Something which for me was just going to a hill-station for summer holidays, is actually life for them. Being able to eat butter naans and paneer butter masala on the top of a cliff, warmed in my thermals, seemed so commonplace for me, till I saw how it is facilitated by people walking up and down the hills, and that too on foot sometimes because it’s the easiest way for them to get supplies.
Risha: Yeah, it either looks obvious to us, or too far off to even think about.
Me: I recently learnt something fascinating, which I didn’t know as common across so many cultures of the world! Many countries of the world, India included with all its varied languages, have three versions of you – polite, friendly and informal forms! Don’t you find it so fascinating that there are these commonalties we share with people we don’t even know, have never seen and may never meet? Doesn’t it makes you feel that somewhere somehow we are all connected, doesn’t it make you want to meet those people, get to know them and share your common and uncommon stories with each other?
Risha (smiles): It does…
Me (making a face): But to my husband, somehow it doesn’t! Can you believe our marital paradox!
Risha (giggling): Knowing him, somehow I can believe it…
Me (looking up at TH walking into the room): Speaking of the devil…
Risha (laughing looking at TH): Hey, dude! Tea break?
TH (sitting down next to me): Well, I heard you girls praising me and I thought it was an appropriate time for making a grand entry.
Me: Yeah, a la Shahrukh Khan.
Risha (laughing): You guys are hilarious.
TH: I wish my own wife said that atleast once. (Winking at Risha)
Me: You’re so hilarious that I can’t say it enough. So I don’t.
Risha: But really dude, how is it that you can’t see the mystery and enigma of traveling? How can you find it banal?!!
TH: It’s not that I am against traveling or something. I do see the beauty of it. But pretty much everything I need to be happy is right here, around me.
Me: Yeah, and in thinking that everything that makes you happy is here, you’re missing out on so much happiness that is out there to be seen, heard and felt.
Risha: You can’t possibly ignore the wonders of all those new things or expect getting them here at home, through TV for example?
TH: Yeah, I know that there is nothing like experiencing it out there for yourself.
Me: Then why are you so khadoos?
Risha (bursts into laughter): I’m wondering what’s around the corner – Holi or Diwali?
TH: The sign of an intelligent husband is that he knows when to pacify a wife just about to release fireworks, Risha. What has Jay taught you in these four years?
Me (sarcastically): He didn’t have time to teach her anything because he was busy taking her around the world.
Risha (egging us on with mock excitement): Oooh, the point tally is 5-1 now, dear audience. Please stay glued to your seats.
TH: If anyone is looking for Narad Muni’s descendents, please know that her name is Risha, dear audience.
Me (laughing): Good one!
Risha: What did Narad Muni do now?
TH (mimicking her): He used to create rifts between people, like you’re doing now.
Me: She’s not saying anything. I’m asking you to take me somewhere for our anniversary.
Risha: Yes, good idea! (Then softening down as she sees TH glaring at her) I mean, it’s an okay idea (gulp) just about.
TH: You know I’d love to, but traveling has become so complicated and expensive now!
Me: How is it complicated?
Risha: Yes, how is– (cut short)
TH: Well, for starters, the difficult and tedious process of having to search multiple airline and travel agent websites to find the best flights. Then to get to the place and look for a suitable hotel, because you have no idea if the hotel you have booked online is actually a dingy hospital room made to look like a fancy palace in pictures.
Me: For such insignificant anxieties, you want to give up on the far more rewarding pleasures of travel? For such worries that can be easily taken care of, you want to live a life without discovering pastures new and regretting not seeing more of the world when you get old?
Risha: Imagine all the amazing food you could be missing out on, all the lovely languages, the awesome scenic places…
TH: Okay, okay ladies! I get that but to tell you the truth, you’re being sentimental and romantic and I’m being logical and practical, if you know what I mean.
Me: Well, being married to you, I do know what you mean. So let me show you a logical and smart way of traveling to a dream destination. (I smiled at him) Pick any place.
Me: Yep, go ahead.
TH: Okay, Malaysia. Malaysia will give any traveler anything he or she desires, right from beautiful beaches to breathtaking mountains. The dazzling and bustling metropolis in Kuala Lumpur is there for those that want some color and sparkle.
Me: Right, basically custom-made for the budget traveler – who is looking for everything in a dream destination, without hurting the pocket much.
TH: You got that. My dream destination, in all aspects. The perfect package.
Me: And I get my right doses of shopping with the best combination of luxury and street shopping, whether in bags, or shoes, clothes and everything blingy and exciting. So, my dream destination as well.
TH (smiles): So you mean you will show me the most logical, analytical and SMART way to travel to Malaysia?
Me: Basically, I mean I’m going to show you this. (I extended my laptop which had a website loaded while TH was talking)
Risha: What’s that?
TH: What’s this Skyscanner? (He starts clicking around)
Me: Skyscanner is a single website that can collect, collate and compare prices of flights, hotels and car hires from across the world. It is the travel site of choice for independent travelers all over the world.
Risha: That sounds pretty cool. Travel smart with scanner... Is it too technical?
Me: I knew you’ll ask this. And you call me a nutcase. (giving her a bump on her forehead) So, no. It’s extremely simple. You just go here and book your tickets, accommodation and even local commute options.
Risha: That’s offered by so many other websites. What so special here?
TH: Wait, first let’s see how it works.
Me: Okay, so let me show you some hypothetical searches. Here’s the one for flights from Bangalore to Bangkok…
Me: There’s even a way to check the departures form various cities in India and select what price or location best suits you…
Me: Here’s the hotel search, hypothetically again to Bangkok, sorted by popularity…
Me: Hang on. I want to show another cool thing I found. This place called knowledge base where here is a lot of information related to many aspects of the travel…
Risha: So after this we pretty much just have to decide which places we want to see and visit. And then we’re all set.
TH (the ever logical one): Okay, it is cool, I admit. But.
Me: I knew there’ll be a but.
TH: Why are they doing it for free?
Me: Yep, I searched it and found this doodle that explains it all…
Risha: Awww, so cute!
Me (looking at TH): So? What say?
TH: Looks clean, honest and hassle free. I have my doubts about most other online portals – with all their hidden fees and charges.
Risha: Yea! And focus only on making sales, not really on helping us!
TH: Yeah… Skyscanner seems to be a fast and flexible travel website that finds the cheapest flights, hotels and car hire, without added fees or fuss.
Me: I’m glad you say this. Shall we then?
TH: My tea break has extended for too long, let me get back to you on this one. (he gets up and leaves with a stoic face)
Both Risha and I burst out laughing because we know TH is impressed and when TH is impressed, some action will be taken.
In the evening, as expected, TH was there gleefully showing me an itinerary with all details related to flight and hotels for Malaysia. Apparently he found it so easy that he searched it all in a jiffy while his international conference call proceeded in the background. Currently I’m in the process of applying for leaves and hopefully we’ll be booking our trip very soon.
Thanks Skyscanner for making it such a smooth sail. You’ve added spice to my travel plans, and to my marriage ;)
for organizing this fun contest.