7 Essential Apps for Traveling

IMG_4526.jpgOver the last few years, I’ve tried quite a few apps related to different aspects of traveling. And deleted most of them. Currently I have nine apps in my travel folder, seven of which are extremely helpful:

  1. Hopper. This is one of the best apps I have ever used for finding the best airfare deals, and buying tickets straight from the app. Unlike most airfare apps, it starts with the date of travel and shows you the most expensive to the cheapest dates in that month, marked as red, green and yellow!
  2. Airbnb. If you are looking for inexpensive and unique places to stay, or a homestay with a local family, nothing can beat Airbnb. Also great for getting local advice from hosts through the built-in messenger, even before you book.
  3. TripAdvisor. Great to find local local attractions, restaurants and things to do in that city or in cities nearby. Or to read other travellers’ reviews about the suggestions you hear from the locals, and write your reviews to help other travellers.
  4. Google Maps. Indispensable whether you are walking, cycling, on a taxi or even on a public transportation. You know where you are, and where you are going, especially for people with poor navigational skills (like me).
  5. Speak & Translate. The fastest way to communicate to anyone in almost any language. Click, speak in your language, click. Then it repeats in the local language selected! I still have the Google Translate app when I want to practice speaking the local language, or showing the translation to the other person. But I miss the days of communicating just through body language, actions and expression🙂
  6. PowerPlug. Helps you pack the right plugs for your devices. I don’t carry the bulky universal adapter any more. It also tells you the voltage and frequency for the country you are traveling to, though I don’t know what to do with that.
  7. Currency. Check exchange rates before changing money, or instantly convert local prices to your home currency, and multiple currencies at the same time.

The most recent addition to my travel apps is Travelpod, the online travel journal which I started using to keep all the photos, videos, maps and stories in one place. Needless to say, you need to have a local pre-paid sim with Internet access to make full use of all these apps🙂  Hope you find this useful. Please share your most useful travel apps too.

10 Reasons You Should Travel Solo at Least Once a Year!

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The first time I wrote about ‘five reasons I travel solo‘ was in August 2012, after my trip to Chenzhou in China. Since then I’ve been blessed with many more solo trips and experienced the endless joys. Earlier this month, I was in Da Nang and Hoi An in Vietnam, for a week, all by myself. I got to experience for the first time…

  • Living on USD20 a day, including accommodation, meals and transport!
  • Riding a scooter, and that too on the right side of the road!
  • Learning to make ‘Vietnamese fish rolls’!
  • Homestay in the middle of rice fields (way different from the B&B above the rice terraces in China)!
  • Taking a tour with a traffic police officer!
  • Starting an online travel journal on TravelPod!

Most of these wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t traveling solo. So here’s my expanded list of benefits, and why you should travel solo at least once a year:

  1. Plan easily. Pick your own dates and destination. The places-to-see on your list are not the same as the places your family or friends want to see. And finding a time that suits everyone is not easy.
  2. Try new things – accommodations, means of travel, food – and get out of your comfort zone.
  3. Have conversations with fellow travelers and locals. You learn a lot more about the people and places when you are on your own.
  4. Be more flexible with your time, destinations and decisions you make. Wake up for sunrise or sleep all day.
  5. Overcome your fears. Whether it’s fear of new places, fear of being on your own or fear of darkness… the more you travel the less you fear.
  6. Gain confidence by handling problems and situations on your own. You take your own risks and learn.
  7. Indulge in whatever you want, without being judged.
  8. Stay within your own budget. No compromises or overspending.
  9. Become a better traveler by observing more. You engage more fully with the people and places when you are on your own.
  10. Get to know yourself better. When you are on your own, it’s easier to listen to your heart and focus your mind. The extended me time is an opportunity to dream, plan, think, and even reflect on your travel experiences.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy traveling with family, friends or groups… solo travel just a different kind of great experience!

PS. One of the most common questions I got asked by fellow travellers and locals: ‘Your wife doesn’t mind your solo travels?‘ And the answer is, one of the reasons we have been so happy with each other for over 30 years is that we accept, understand and appreciate the differences between us. And we allow each other to do our own things. [Thank you, Salma!]

You may view all the photos from the Vietnam trip and the daily journal on TravelPod here, or a selection of photos on Facebook through this link. And more of my travel videos here.

Three Years with Learning Time: ‘Thank-You’ by Mush Panjwani

Yesterday I completed three years with Learning Time, and these have been some of the most exciting and fulfilling years of my life! It’s been an opportunity to work with distributors and sales teams in many countries, participate in and organize international events, contribute to the development of some amazing new products, set up a distributorship company in Pakistan, learn many new things, touch the lives of many more, help parents become better and children excel… above all, do what I love doing! Here’s a collection of some of the photos from three years…

Thanks to the founders/partners of Learning Time: Shad, Zishan and Waseem

Thanks to everyone else who have/had been part of this exciting journey:

Bahrain: Ranjan, Abdul, Senthil…
Egypt: Samir, Raghda…
Ghana: Luke…
India: Parul, Sagareeka…
Indonesia: Ema, Toni, Efa, Wulan, Akmal, Sylvi…
Kuwait: Furqan…
Malaysia: Subra…
Mauritius: Armoogum, Keshan, Vidu…
Nigeria: Margaret…
Oman: Zafreen…
Pakistan: Salima, Jahangir, Sheeraz, Madiha, Sumaira, Sana…
Philippines: Rene, Nic, Ferd, FM, Bernie, Flor, Kaye, Mark, Rahm…
Qatar: Noel…
Singapore: Jay…
Sri Lanka: Amila…
UAE: Ketaki, Kanchan, Joseph, Naushtath, Ener, Edmond…

To the support team: Nagu, Emad, Zameer, Rini, Albin, Azmath…
And to Jamal and Zoher too!

Mush Talks #12: ‘Goal-Setting Made Easier’ by Mush Panjwani

I am extremely encouraged and humbled to see that Mush Talks have had over 36,000 views on YouTube since the first one in May 2016! This one was recorded at Hong Kong airport this morning, edited during the flight, and uploaded during transit at Dubai airport…

This talk was inspired by how Mashal (my 19-year daughter) fulfilled her dream of going to the US with her own money, through the 4-steps I’ve been using and teaching for many years: Dream, Goal, Plan and Action. She had been working part-time and on weekends, with her full-time studies, and saving for over two years. What made it possible was her focus on small goals – the number of hours she needed to work every week and the amount she had to save every  month – and doing it consistently. She left yesterday for three weeks of holiday and three months of studies at the Savannah campus of SCAD!

Here are some quotes about ‘small steps’ for further inspiration:

  1. Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together. ~Vincent Van Gogh
  2. Each step you take reveals a new horizon. You have taken the first step today. Now, I challenge you to take another. ~Dan Poynter
  3. It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward. ~Old Chinese Proverb
  4. Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. ~Robert Collier
  5. Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still. ~Chinese Proverb
  6. Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away. ~Indira Ghandi
  7. I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. ~Helen Keller
  8. It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop. ~Confucius
  9. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. ~Lao Tzu
  10. The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking you complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. ~Mark Twain

Mush Talks #11: ‘Three Benefits of Waking up Earlier’ by Mush Panjwani

I could script these talks, do a few rehearsals, record professionally with mics and lights, edit better, put music and effects and titles and captions… but then I wouldn’t be able to do one a week. I hope these zero-cost productions are still good enough to inspire some.

You may watch Mush Talks #1-10 here. And please feel free to leave comments below🙂

Mush Talks #10: Become Happier by Making Others Happy

Wow, I am so happy with myself – 10 videos in 12 weeks! Also quite surprised and extremely grateful at the number of views, particularly Mush Talks #2 (6800 views) and Mush Talks #9 (4100 views). Thank you for watching and sharing!

Five related quotes:

  1. The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer somebody else up.
  2. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. And the way to be happy is making others happy.
  3. The happiest people are the ones who make others happy.
  4. If you have the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that.
  5. Give what you want to receive. If you want happiness, make others happy.

You may watch Mush Talks #1-9 here.

10 Inspiring Quotes on Overcoming Fear + Bonus Video of My Skydive!

While packing for the move, I saw some of my childhood pictures that reminded me how scared I used to be, of so many things – darkness, loneliness, dogs, water/drowning, heights and more. And I realised how so many people go through their entire lives with one or more fears. That inspired this blog post. Sorry, no ‘Mush Talks‘ this Sunday.

I am not an expert on overcoming fears, but have successfully applied a simple strategy for anything I was scared of: Jump right in. That’s what made it possible not only to overcome many of the fears, but enjoy some of the most memorable adventures like scuba diving, skydiving, zip-lining, swimming with whale sharks etc. I hope these quotes and the skydive video inspire you to overcome at least one of your fears. If they don’t, then just jump right in!

  • There is no illusion greater than fear. Lao Tzu
  • The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. Nelson Mandela
  • He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life. Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out. Karl Augustus Menninger
  • Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. Unknown
  • I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today. William Allen White
  • Fear is only as deep as the mind allows. Japanese Proverb
  • Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Helen Keller
  • The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear. Gandhi
  • Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s the ability to act in the presence of fear. Bruce Lee

You may view some more of my travel videos here.