Journey of Ganesh with a Monkey

A Travel story of me and my 6 Years old son Shrida, traveling around India for 48 days long.

“Hey bhaiya!….Kya khaooge?? …..Paan khaoge? ……” This is what my 6 year old son shrida started saying after coming back from a 48 day long trip.
After UKG (Upper Kinder Garten), before going Class 1 (First grade), shrida had a 60 day vacation. So I thought it would be great to take him for an adventurous trip around India. Our main target was to see the Himalayan hill range from a distance. However, our plan was not fixed, we had no list of things to do. My main interest was to meet people, to learn new things, to see different cultures, and, well, my kid likes to ride trains, play with people, musical instruments, bicycles, etc……

How did this plan came out of me….?

Last year in May 2016, one of my cousins got married. The girl was from Gulbarga, on the north side of Karnataka. My wife Shraddha has travel sickness in the bus or plane, but she’s very comfortable in the train. As there was no direct train to Gulbarga, I decided to go slow and visit as many places as possible.
But, we ended up traveling for 40 days long, using sleeper-class train, meeting and staying with amazing people. That experience was amazing and unique for me, much more surprising than I’d expected (yet to pen it down). Thanks to such an amazing experience, I got addicted to meeting people, which I’ve started enjoying more than my old style of traveling. Which was sightseeing major places, taking pictures using DSLR, mirrorless camera and posting them on Flickr. So I thought it’s better to go for another trip and planned for this one.

Why did my wife Shraddha not join us this time?

Where is his mother? Why didn’t she come? How is traveling with you and without a mother? …. These kinds of questions were asked again and again by different people. As my wife, Shraddha was kind of tired during the last trip where she walked a lot (even though she does not like to), going from one place to another in 2 days, staying at strangers’ houses, this is not really her kind of taste. So, instead of joining our crazy trip, she preferred to stay at home and gave us her blessing to go on this journey.

How did I dare to take a 6 year old kid with me?

This was a challenging part for me. As you may know, I’ve hosted more than 100 people at home from different countries. I spent a lot of time with these people and learned many things like how to travel with less bags, how to handle situations and, more than that, I got motivated by my guests who came with 3-year-old kid from France, A couple from London who came with 2 kids around 5 years old were on world tour, a family from England who stayed with us with 2 kids around 5-6 years old and lady was around 5 months pregnant!….and many more.
Before this trip, even though my son was excited and ready for the trip, I never had that much confidence in his ability to adapt. So I decided to test him before this long trip. I took him for 10 km walk around the beach side which he completed with us in around 3 hours. I also took him for a 3 day trip without his mother to Kozhikode (Calicut, Kerala) where we stayed with a stranger, who become our friend, for 3 nights. My boy Shrida was comfortable and relaxed in both cases. So I was very clear that he can travel or stay without his mother, ready to adjust with available food and basic facilities.

What did I pack?

We started on 30th March 2017 and came back home on 17th May 2017. I packed 4 shirts, pants, 2 t-shirts, and shorts, around 5 shorts/pants and t-shirts for shrida, 1 set of winter clothes for both of us,  2 Quechua Arpenaz 25 deg C camping sleeping bag and Ultra compact microfibre bath towel by Decathlon. Other basic things like toothpaste, brush, Pills for fever, cold and for Stomach Pain, small book, pen, torch, laptop, mobile, chargers etc. I took 2 bags. One for me around 40-liter AdventureWorx laptop bag  and Arpenaz 10 liter Day Hiking Backpack for shrida. I used mobile internet, video and for taking pictures.

How did we travel over these 48 days?

As I’m in process of being a minimalist person, I wanted to keep my travel budget low as possible. So Rs 10,000 was my maximum spending limit for this trip. So, for long distance, we traveled using unreserved train coach (UR / General ) or Passenger Train (Pass).

The advantage was, such trains tickets are very cheap. Just cost us like Rs 80 to Rs 120 for 500 km trip. More than that, there’s no need of advance booking and we will be connected with lots of people in a train, which was a kind of added bonus for me. For short distances, we used local buses, auto rickshaws (tuk-tuk); most of the time we walked up to 3 to 5km in one shot.

where we stayed?

39 days out of 48 days of the trip, we stayed with amazing couchsurfing host all around India. 1 night in the train, 5 nights in my cousin brothers house in Ambernath which is near Mumbai and 1 night each in a hotel and in a guest house. Couchsurfing is a concept of cultural exchange and meeting people, tourist, travelers to exchange things or knowledge. In return, host allows us to stay in his house with his family or whatever accommodation or provide things possible from his side.
Hosting or staying purpose or intention might be different for each person. I’ve seen couchsurfing hosts who hosted us to know our culture, to know more about the things what I do, some hosted us because they are curious on how I travel with such a small kid, some hosted me because I’ve hosted many, some just like to meet us and listen to our travel stories…etc

For me, couchsurfing is kind of life-changing concept. I joined it in 2014, hosted and stayed with many people. I keep on learning new things from the guests I’ve hosted or from hosts with whom I’ve stayed. My lifestyle, thinking, hobbies, habits and all literally changed in past 2-3 years

What are the places we visited?

As I was traveling with 6 years old son, I preferred and tried my best to stay with a host who hosts inside his family, interest matching or with a traveler who really understands the concept very well. So, 3 months before, I started finding perfect hosts for us. Meeting people was the first thing and visiting places or sights was secondary for me.

After selecting hosts, we ended up traveling many places around India. We’ve started by going to Goa, then Hubli, Hospet, Toranagalu, Prodattur, Tirupati, Guntur, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Mayapur, Siliguri, Guwahati, Varanasi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Surat, Mumbai, Arambol. The places where we stayed with the couchsurfing hosts. we also visited some interesting sights like Colva, Hampi, Ahobhilam, Tirumala, Vipparla Palli, Konduru, Tiruvuru, Marlakunta, Lambadi Tanda, Dhenkanal, Nabadwip Dham, Mirik, and Sanchi…You can read my travel reviews  on TripAdvisor.

 

How much was my total spending?

As I said earlier, I had a maximum budget for this trip of Rs 10,000. But we ended up spending Rs 10,240, including everything. However, one of my couchsurfing guests from London contributed Rs 4,000 for this trip. Which is a very rare case on couchsurfing. So total traveling expenses came to Rs 6,240. More than that, most of my selfless couchsurfing hosts around India helped me to cut down the cost of traveling by hosting us, providing food for us, showing us or guiding us around and did many things as much as possible by them.

Bottom line…..

Our trip was very challenging but we completed it without any major problems because of incredible blessings from lots of people. I have seen amazing people in the train who provided a seat for me or for shrida. Sometimes they carried him on their lap so he could sleep for a while. All people who hosted us gave so much love and care to me and shrida.

I have learned many things from hosts and also seen some strange things like chakka (Hijra/eunuch) forcing, or even getting naked for money inside the train, a man trying to molest a young woman inside a fully packed train, smoking inside the train even though it’s not allowed, fights everyday in Kolkata streets, felt so much positive vibration around Tulsi Ghat, Varanasi, unbelievable care and love by locals in Arambol, Motherly love by some of the couchsurfing hosts and much more…

Credits: Special thanks to my friend Ranajoy Goho for motivating me to write this post. Thanks to my another good friend Cake Vivek for the title of this article. Thanks a lot for Howe Rokofsky for proofreading this article.

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