Firstly, a massive thank you to Jaspreet Narang of Via Bangkok for nominating me for the fun and interesting Liebster Award. A pay-it-forward kinda game for travel bloggers which helps discover new and upcoming blogs. i’m going to answer the 11 questions which Jaspreet has asked me, and then nominate 11 other blogs to keep this going on!
So as much as i hope you love reading my answers, you’ll also discover some cool blogs that i love…
My Answers to Jaspreet’s questions
1. What was the turning point that inspired you to convert your travel passion into a travel blog?
When i returned from an epic, life changing trip to South America in 2009, i had to much to share and tell and show that starting a blog was the most natural thing at that time. i’m still not done with those stories – that should speak of the massiveness of it. Or about my procrastination.
2. What does your blog name mean to you?
I get this a lot! 🙂 ‘gringo’ is the South American equivalent of the term ‘firang’ / ‘farang’ which means foreigner. Someone casually mentioned that i was an ‘exotic gringo’ since not a lot of Indians travel around the continent – the term was endearing and had a nice ring to it, so it kinda stuck on! It reminds me all the time that often, what we often think to be exotic is simply the unexplored and the unknown and at the same time, the way the people there embraced and accepted me in their ‘insider’ life!
3. What is your favorite travel quote?
If i have to choose only one, it’ll have to be this one…
4. In what ways do you use your travels to make a small difference on our planet?
I think travel has a significant ecological footprint, so in my own individual capacity – i try my best to leave nothing more than physical footprints. To that effect, i follow some basic rules…
avoid buying any single-use plastics (especially bottled water),
use public transport as much as possible
buy from local vendors wherever possible (instead of patronizing a large scale multinational, ensure the small and local vendors get your business instead).
5. What has travelling allowed you to overcome in life?
A photo posted by Kaushal Karkhanis (@exoticgringo) on
Oh this can be a blog post in itself. My prolonged South America trip was a function of my decision to ensure that when i look back at my 20s, i don’t remember the grim beginnings (i won’t get into details here) but the awesome latter part. And it worked! Undoubtedly the best decision of my life, travel has helped me overcome negativity, empowered me to take control of my own life despite challenges and appreciate the present moment instead of mulling over the past or pondering about the future too much!
6. Which is the most underrated city you’ve visited that you would recommend more people visit?
There’s no way i can give you a single answer here. So i’m going to take the liberty to pick one in each continent i’ve visited.
North America – Reno, USA.
Think of it as Vegas with soul – it also played well into my idea of the ‘typical American city’.
South America – Quito, Ecuador
(i thought of Medellin & Sao Paulo, but they do get fair limelight and i love them too!)
Europe – Tallinn, Estonia
I’m glad i visited the Estonian capital on a whim, just because it was a short ferry ride away from Helsinki!… what a delightful mix of historical beauty + tech modernity. I really want to go back and spend more time here.
Asia – Pattaya
Surprise! What most people would write off as a dirty city with a shady side to it was in my opinion – an underrated city which offers a great lifestyle and mix of things for the traveller as well as the expat. It’s also a great hub to move around Thailand’s gorgeous islands.
7. What was the most heartbreaking experience during your travels?
Leaving a place and saying goodbyes – That’s always the case. But very specifically, it was while getting my shoes polished in the city of Armenia, Colombia. While chatting with me, the shoe shine boy was pleasantly surprised to hear that i came from India.
With utter genuineness and passion in his voice, he made me only one heartfelt request: “please tell the people of India that my country is beautiful. Tell them they shouldn’t believe the nonsense they hear in stories and media. Will you please do that sir?” – it wasn’t heartbreaking so much as it was heartening, and it surely left a lasting impression on me.
It’s people like him that you meet on your travels that make you realize how important it is to correct the image of nations and places tarnished by history, myopic reporting and fearmongers. I spent 4 months across Colombia and i’ll never be done talking about all the good things there!
8. Which country would you call “home”? And why?
Besides my home country, you mean? Once again, i’m torn between Colombia and Brazil… but i’m going to go with Brazil. Having spent 4 months across 2 trips here, i’m in love with the variety, the attitude of happiness in spite of challenges, the incredible natural beauty and the ever welcoming people of Brazil. It definitely feels like a home away from home for me!
9. Which books, websites, apps, blogs do you use to plan your travels?
I began my backpacking life with the help of the humble and reliable Lonely Planet guidebook! Their work is very much relevant even today, but i’ve now ‘graduated?’ to researching and charting new paths with digital tools. My favorites include Kayak & Cleartrip for flights, Booking.com and HostelWorld for stay, Wikitravel, YouTube & tourism board websites for destination research, Rome2Rio for getting around and tons of apps like Gogobot, Foursquare, Google Maps (i save places i want to go to and they help me quickly orient myself in a new city once i get there). Way too many blogs and social media accounts to mention here, but those help and influence me a LOT!
10. How often are you on the road per year (on average)?
There’s no logic or number to this, but i think it’s way less than most people think. But i’m eternally restless and ideally like to move every 4-6 months at most!
Leading an experimental life as a digital nomad, I started traveling in 2007 while choosing to shuttle between Goa and Mumbai as 'home'. An epic life-changing trip to South America an year later gave birth to this blog, Exotic Gringo.