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Travel Tips: Start from home

“We would like to travel just like you, but we don’t even know where to start!”
“It must be awesome, but we can’t dedicate ONE YEAR like you did.”
“Gosh, Himalayas are too far away. Goa’s beaches are too far away. it’s such a large country, everything takes time to travel from where I live.”
“Where do I start and when do I start? I am so confused.”

Well, in this post, I am putting all the above questions, confusions and excuses to immediate rest. In this post, I suggest that you explore your own home like a traveller would. Get comfortable with your home and get to know it better. You’ll be surprised how much you didn’t know. If you have never travelled for weeks together before, then this will be your perfect first long-term getaway. Forget about going around the country. Forget about Himalayas and Goa’s beaches. Just be a tourist in your home zone.

What is home?

Rainbow as seen from Balkum locality of Thane city. Sometimes you don’t have to travel far. The best things happen near your home!

“But India IS my home country. What do you mean by home?”, you say. Let’s do some primary school geometry. Consider your current residence as the centre of a circle. Now draw a circle with a radius of 100 kilometres around you. This is your home zone. In this post, I challenge you to cover as many places of interest, both popular and obscure, within your home zone in a trip that takes 15 days.

For large states in India, such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka, this 100 km radius home zone is usually the district in which your hometown is. But for tiny states like Goa, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, the home zone is the entire state. Residents of Union territories like Pondicherry, Delhi, Chandigarh and Daman & Diu should consider travelling around one of the districts that borders their territory. E.g. Pondicherry residents can consider Cuddalore or Nagapatnam (Tamil Nadu) districts, Delhiites can consider Ghaziabad (UP), Meerut (UP), Gurgaon (Haryana) or Faridabad (Haryana) (Meerut has the most interesting sights among all), Chandigarh people can visit Ambala district (Haryana), Patiala district (Punjab) or Solan district (Himachal), while those in Daman can check out Valsad district (Gujarat’s district near Daman).

Why should I know my home?

Vaitarna is the longest river in Thane district. It forms the northern border of the district all the way upto the sea. To the north of the river is Palghar district.

Unfortunately, people think that they know everything about their home. In truth, your home town is where you reside and work. You never see it through the point of view of travel or tourism. Much against what you think, you may be the least qualified person to write an essay about the tourism wonders of your home town.

I have seen people who can rattle off the names of all the villages between Leh and Pangong Tso as if they were speaking out the names of the days of the week. But ask them which rivers flow through their home district and they draw a blank. I know people who can name all the beaches between Arambol to Patnem from north Goa to south Goa, but do not know that their own district has tucked away, secluded and serene beaches. To me, this is not something to be proud of. Knowing your home district is like knowing your family. It belongs to you. And imagine if someone visits your home town for a few days and looks up to you to tell them some of the best places to visit and you meekly answer, “I don’t know. I don’t travel much around here. I only go to the Himalayas and Goa.” Not very cool, is it?

Truth be told, every district in India has nuggets of history, wonders of nature and its own culture. You’d be missing out if you don’t know how unique your home district is.

Where are the interesting places in my district?

No we are getting started. Here are our best tips on finding the best places in your district.

Geography textbooks: When Hari was in school, he was introduced to geography subject in 3rd standard. The coverage of the subject was ‘Thane district’ of Maharashtra, the home district of Hari. The Maharashtra primary education deemed that 7 or 8-year children studying in 3rd standard had only enough capacity to understand the geography of one district, their home. We think that’s wonderful. Priya didn’t have such as hyper local start to the subject, but even her school started with only Tamil Nadu, her home state.
This is where your information gathering starts. Does your child’s textbook cover your home district in detail? How about your neighbour’s children? Best friend’s? Get your hands on as many introductory primary school geography textbooks as you can and see how much they cover about your home district. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

Trip Advisor: We have used this high quality website for countless districts all over India in every direction, even to seek out places to visit in Nagaland. The information in Trip Advisor is mostly crowd sourced, reviewed and rated. In fact you can use this website for any place worth visiting all over the world. The amazing thing is that it also returns some surprisingly obscure places in the results. We have been to places like Peralassery temple in Kerala where we saw only local visitors and very little tourists. All such results were shown on Trip Advisor, but not on Google. If you search something like ‘Mumbai places to visit’ on Trip Advisor and Google, you will see how easily Trip Advisor trumps Google.

TripAdvisor correctly lists Upvan lake as one of the top attractions in Thane city.

National / Lonely Planet travel books: NatGeo and Lonely Planet have written some of the best travel books for travelling in India. You should check out their large collection of books on the entire country or even individual states.

People who have lived longer in your hometown than you have: It’s possible that you may have moved to your current residence only recently. In this case, the easiest way to get a starting list of interesting places is by asking a person who has lived there longer than you have. Sometimes people can give you interesting and secret places not listed in any books or on any website.

Ask as you go: Sometimes serendipity is the best approach. Hop in your car, on your motorbike or better yet your bicycle. A bicycle is the best mode of transport while travelling within your district. The pace is slow and gives you time to notice surprises on the route and to pull over the kerb. Also since you are only travelling within a 100 km radius, you will end up travelling only 20 – 30 km before you find the next interesting place. Totally feasible distances if you are regular bicyclist.
Take a road that you know and stop for tea at any village along the way. Start talking to the locals and ask them if there is anything special about the village or its surroundings. More often that not, even the most obscure village in India has a unique story, history, temple, art, craft or a natural wonder such as a viewpoint, waterfall, a secluded beach or wildlife. You’d never know without asking. And you’ll never know to which unknown places it will lead you to. And all the while, you thought this was your home and that you knew everything about it!

Soon, you will have built a huge list of things to see in your home zone. You will have rivers, beaches, national parks, museums, ancient temples, mountain peaks, theatres and several such places of interest. It is time to plan your trip or regular and seasonal trips. But can you take it a notch higher?

How to make it more interesting?

Hari and Priya camping on the bank of Pimpalgaon Joge lake at Malshej Ghat on the border of Thane and Pune districts

Since you are going to be within 100 km of your home, you can do a few things that raise the uncertainty and the excitement of your trip. You can afford to be slightly more risky that you’d be on a trip very far away from home.

Camping: The rural reaches and the nature trails within your own district are often the best places to try pitching a tent and camping. If things don’t go according to plan, you can always pack up and drive back or catch the next bus / train home.

Bicycling: It is not easy to travel all of India by bicycle, but definitely you can do that within 100 km of your home. A 4 to 5 day ride around your home zone will let you see, enjoy and learn more about it than in the whizzing speed of a car or a motorbike or the limited coverage of public transport. You can double the excitement by riding during day and camping during night. If you feel like giving up midway, then Indian trucks are a good sport at providing lifts.

Photography and videography: Your home zone can be a good practice session to hone your photography and videography skills. Your new Nikon / Canon DSLR and latest GoPro go very well with a road trip, train footboard trip or a bicycle ride. Your trip will be over soon and you can then train your editing and post-processing skills.

Breaking in new attire: If you need to break in your new shoes, a pair of gloves or socks for a trip far away from your home, a trip around your home zone is the best to make it happen. You don’t want to be suffering blisters while trekking in the Himalayas. But you can risk blisters in a short trek near your home. After the home zone trip, your blisters can be treated and your new footwear will hopefully be ready for your distant trip.

Do India 360 members practiSe what they preach?

75 km Bicycle ride on the Mumbai – Pune highway from Thane city to Khopoli’s Zenith waterfall.

Absolutely. We at India 360 love roaming around our home district, i.e Thane, Maharashtra. The headquarters of the district is Thane city, where we live. Other major cities in the district are Kalyan, Ulhasnagar, Ambernath, Badlapur, Mumbra, Bhiwandi, Dombivli, Murbad, Shahapur, Titwala, Bhayandar and Mira Road. Not only is Thane district abundant, but also happens to be the neighbouring district of Mumbai, one of the original 4 metro cities in India. So, we usually combine our home zone as Mumbai city and Thane district. We regular go on road trips, rail trips and bicycle rides around the interesting places in our district. Here’s what Thane district has in store for tourism. This list is not exhaustive at all.

  • Rivers with dams and resorts (Vaitarna, Tansa, Bhatsa, Ulhas, Kalu, Kaatai)
  • National parks (Sanjay Gandhi national park, Tungareshwar national park, Tansa wildlife sanctuary)
  • Mountain Ghat roads in Sahyadri range (Malshej Ghat, Kasara Ghat)
  • Waterfalls (Malshej, Vihigaon, Yeoor hills, Kondeshwar)
  • Ancient and historic temples (Ambarnath, Vajreshwari, Mumbra Devi, Kopineshwar, Titwala Ganapati)
  • Major shrines for other religions (Peace Pagoda – Gorai, Vashi Gurudwara, Darul Falah Masjid – Bhiwandi, Parsi Agiary – Thane, Shaar Hashamaim synagogue – Thane, St John the Baptist church – Thane, Holy Cross church – Kalyan)
  • Hot water springs (Akaloli, Ganeshpuri)
  • Beaches (Gorai, Uttan)
  • Forts and treks (Yeoor hills, Mahuli, Naneghat, Siddhagad, Gorakhgad, Mumbra, Malang Gad, Tavli, Parshik)
  • Performing theatres (Gadkari Rangayatan – Thane, Prahlad Atre Ranga Mandir – Kalyan, Savitribai Phule Natyagruha – Dombivli)
  • Dams and lakes (Vaitarna, Tansa, Bhatsa, Barvi, Modak Sagar, Upavan, Talao Pali, Kala Talao)
  • Amusement parks (Essel World, Water Kingdom, Suraj Water Park, Shangri La, Tikuji-ni-Wadi, Wonders Park)
  • Railway heritage: Mumbai CSMT, Byculla, Kurla and Thane are the 4 oldest railway stations in India, and are part of the 1853 Bombay – Thane rail route, the first railway line in India. You can see the history of this route in the railway heritage museum at CSMT (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) Mumbai railway station
  • Galleries and museums: Kala Bhavan, Jahangir art gallery, Mani Bhavan, Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalaya, Bhau Daji Lad museum, International Money Museum at Reserve Bank of India
  • Festivals: Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, Shivratri, Holi, Navratri – Dassera, Janmashtami, Raksha Bandhan, Sankranti and Gudi Padwa are the most important festivals celebrated in Mumbai and Thane districts. Each region in India celebrates these festivals in its own style and Mumbai – Thane area too has its own unique style.
  • Local art forms: Making Ganesh idols, Warli painting

As you can see, that’s quite a list of things you can do within 100 km of our home. If you ever were to visit Mumbai or Thane, feel free to ask us where to go to roam, watch, learn and have fun.

Conclusion

When you are overwhelmed at the prospect of where to travel next, how to get there and how long to take a trip for, silence your confustion and make it easy for yourself. Just take a trip spanning a week or two in your home zone and discover your home like never before.

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