Friday, November 30, 2012

The end of another year

The end of November and almost the end of another year, 2012. What have you done? It's almost time for another year's resolution but what's the use of more resolutions if you haven't done anything about the previous year's resolutions? I never make any New Year's resolutions. I do plan out my trips for the New Year before the old year ends. I have done it already for 2013! In 6 weeks I will embark on the first trip of the year, 2013. The year 2013 will consist of a few mini trips. If we can't take long trips, can we take short ones? Take mini trips. It is a costly proposition but not really, we wouldn't miss that much time away from work. I never count the costs that way. The trip abroad itself pays in kind that is not measured monetarily. It's hard to really put a price tag on it. I have taken mini trips to the Peloponnese, Greece, to England, to Paris, to Yunnan, China and now about to take one to Nepal, visiting Kathmandu and Pokhara. The time spent getting there is almost the same as being there. To most sane people, this is insane but who wants to be sane? Who wants to be sane if you can come back with fantastic pictures and experiences? I don't. Trips like this gets me out of bed each day, to go to work or to take care of housekeeping so that I can go to work. I cook once or twice a week, have enough meals for sack lunches and dinners. I clean, I write, I read and shop only for food and essentials. I'm ultra frugal and don't feel like I'm deprived. While I do buy a lot of books, I read and reread them many times. They are not novels that you read once and chuck. They are self-help books and travelogues that is read many times. I don't have cable TV and I watch mostly PBS. I do own a car (a 2012 Subaru Outback) that I use only for work. On my days off, I walk or take the bus. I own my own home which is paid off.

Previously before each trip, I'd send off an extra house payment to the bank while extra money is added onto the monthly house payment. I love being alone because it means being in sole control of my life, my money and my plans. I hate anyone who says to me 'why don't you do this instead? Only the one who signs my paycheck has the right to tell me what to do and how to do it!

We are going to be here, at this moment, just once. We only have this life. How are we living it? Are we living it? Are we going to remember the numerous ball games we've watched or the wonderful stuff we've purchased? What is our life going to be measured by? How are we going to be remembered? I don't think its important what comes after we're dead but what are we doing for ourselves while we're alive. Our legacy will be how we have lived.

Everyday I try to educate myself about the real picture of the economy, about world politics. I read about the places I've been to and also about the places I'm going to. A successful life is about curiosity. I've seen timid people at work. People are basically timid. We're not equipped for the world and therefore most of us never realise our potential, we end up living very mediocre lives. We follow movie stars, pop stars and ball players. We watch soap operas. We don't realise that we should be the 'star' in our own lives. We are the 'star' in our own show.

We need to carve out a show for our own lives and be a 'star' in it. Take pictures of our own lives, write about our own lives (albeit in a journal that no one may see) or in a blog (even one with a paltry number of followers or viewers)! From that basis, we can work our way up, to spice it up, jazz it up, enliven it.... who knows where we'll end up. But who cares, except ourselves. That's all that matters....that we are caring for ourselves!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The incredible friezes

 The single headed eagle looking east is the state symbol of the Comnenus family, the builder being Manuel I. While, being identified as the Byzantine empire, they were closer to the Georgian kingdom and they were under the patronage of Queen Tamar of Georgia. Until I started my trips to Turkey I never knew the complexities of the later Byzantine Empire and much less know about the Kingdom of Georgia or the Kingdom of Armenia. It is all so fascinating. I never knew I would visit Trabzon. I was thumbing through a flight magazine of Sun Express while flying from Izmir to Kayseri last September, there was an article on the Aya Sofya and the frescoes were so intriguing that I had to visit. Here I was, a few months later, viewing in person, the same frescoes.

While the friezes are spectacular, they are very typical of old Georgian and Armenian churches. For some reason these people are master stone carvers. These friezes tell the creation story though one can't tell from these pictures.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

how to afford foreign travel

1) Time of travel: it is cheapest to travel in January and February. The weather may not be the best, you can't enjoy the beautiful vistas of Tuscany or of Provence. If one is visiting museums and architecture, one doesn't need good weather, just warm and dry clothes. I've traveled to Toronto at Christmas, all bundled up; I've gone to the ballet and to the opera while there. I've been in London and Paris at Christmas and the weather was cold but dry. Weather in England is very unpredictable. I have been there over a very wet summer. I've checked the internet for fares and they are unbelievable cheap in January and February. These are good times to visit southern Europe; it is warmer there even in winter.
2) Public transportation: One must definitely make use of the incredible bus, trains and underground systems in Europe. It is the cornerstone of cheap European travel; the vast network of all the systems and with the establishment of the European Union, there's never an easier way to get around. Once you are in Europe, you cn put away your passport, the Italian trains roll right into France, the Spanish trains too. In Amsterdam, I saw French and German trains. They have the same currency, the Euro. It's incredible. Most Europeans speak English to a greater or lesser extent. If you've never been to Europe, go and get your passport now and make your first trip. Just pick any city, whether Paris, London, Madrid or Rome. It might be a little intimidating the first time but there are a plethora of guide books that can instruct you to the minutest detail.
3) Accomodations: Since I love the train system in Europe and use them a lot, I prefer to stay close to the train stations except in London and Paris where the underground system can connect me easily between that hotels and the train stations. In Paris, I like the 3rd and 4th arrondisement. It is a mixed neighborhood with lots of ethnic eateries especially Chinese and Jewish ones. It is busy and lively. Italy, especially Northern Italy is getting very expensive. It is always crowded in Italy. I usually forgo the attached bathroom and shower, it is much cheaper, shaves at least 20 euros off.
4) Food: free food, some rooms has breakfast included, usually the hostels. It is time to load up on carbs and coffee. Coffee is expensive at cafes. Fingerfood sold at cafes can be a cheaper alternative. In Europe, standing at the bar is cheaper than sitting down. So in Italy I stand at the bar to drink my morning cappuccino and eat my cornetto ( a sweet croissant) with a whole bunch of Italian men. It's fun. Sandwiches made at cafes are really tasty, the bread is so good and the ham is incredible. Of course I don't forgo the experience of sitting down to a good meal once in a while, so I could taste some of the local specialties.

Where there is a desire to travel, a way will be found to do it.