Arpan Mandal is a solo-backpacker from India. Apart from India, he has traveledthrough 15 countries in the last 5 years and when he is not travelling, he is either writing about travel on his blog Good Old Boots or planning his next trip. He is currently based in Mumbai, India.
- When did you first start travelling and which is your favourite travel memory?
I started backpacking in 2011 and my first solo trip was to Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand.
Last year, I travelled through Egypt, a place that had always fascinated me. I really loved sailing on the Nile for three days. During the trip, we docked at Edfu and Kom Ombo for a few hours and explored its famous temples and markets. At night, we would climb up to the deck and relax under the bright stars as our ship sailed on. The sunrises and sunsets on the Nile are to die for.
It was a great trip!
- What is your favourite travel movie/song/book? Any traveller – dead or alive – who inspired you to travel at the first place?
My favourite travel movies are Into The Wild, The Beach, Cairo Time, Motorcycle Diaries and The Art of Travel. Actually more than movies, I love to watch TV shows like Globe trekker, Road Less Travelled, No Reservations etc.
I love reading Bill Bryson’s books, they are all great,Neither Here Or There and Down Under being my favourites. Bill has a wry sense of humor that is unparalleled.
I also loved Dark Lands by Tony Wheeler and of course, The Beach by Alex Garland.
Travel Bloggers are a huge source of inspiration as well. I love reading Legal Nomads and Greg to Differ.
My favorite song keeps changing, but currently it is “Miles Away” by Years Around The Sun. It has been my favourite for a while now actually.
As a kid, I used to love watching Ian Wright, Justine Shapiro, Megan McCormick of Lonely Planet (Globe Trekker) and the Travelers crew as they traveled around the world. Of late, I find the TV shows of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman really exciting and inspiring.
- What are your 5 must-have’s (apart from the basics such as passport, credit card, phone) when travelling?
Actually, I have just three. A camera, to capture the places that I visit. A good book, to keep me inspired. And music, for those long bus and train rides.
- How do you fund your travels?
I use the salary of my full time job in Mumbai to fund my travels.
- What do you focus on while travelling to a new place – people, culture, attractions, food, adventure, or nature?
I like to mix it up.. a bit of everything.
When I started backpacking I was really into the popular tourist landmarks. I would be running from one landmark to the next, all day. It was tiring, but I loved it.
However now, I am inclined more towards experiencing the local way of life. I love to visit places that are frequented by the residents. I put in extra efforts to talk to them, understand them and share a few laughs.I also try to learn a few words and expressions in the local language.
Over the years I have learnt that if we keep our eyes and ears open, a long walk through the local markets and residential neighborhoods can be just as fascinating as visiting the biggest landmarks and attractions.
- What is your advice to travellers who are just beginning their journey?
I would advise them to keep an open mind and experience the place to the fullest, because after all, that is the whole point of travelling.
It is okay to make mistakes. Its okay to feel confused and lost at times. It is okay to drink the local rice wine and wake up the next day with a head splitting hangover. It is okay to get on the wrong bus and end up in the middle of nowhere. It may get tough and you may crash and burn, but you will come back with some great experiences and amazing stories.
I would like to warn them however, that once you are bitten by the travel bug, you are bitten for life. There is no going back. There is no cure. It is the greatest addiction the world has got to offer.
- What is your number 1 money-saving tip to other travelers?
The best money saving tip is to let locals show the way. Travel the way they are travelling. Eat what they are eating.
Prices are generally higher in the touristy areas, so try to avoid them.
It is also surprising how many people fall victim to scams and lose huge amounts of money. I once met a guy in Thailand who lost 750 Euros to a tuk-tuk driver on his first day in the country. A little research about scams can save you hundreds of dollars.
- What is the longest you have travelled for? What advice would you give to travellers thinking of long-term travel but are hesitant to go ahead?
I have a job that lets me move to a different part of India every two-three years. In the past few years I have lived in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Kolkata, Delhi, and Mumbai. In a way, I have been slowly travelling across our country for the last six years. I have also travelled through most of South East Asia, South Korea, China, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong etc.
I would be lying if I said that I loved every city I have lived in, but it is all part of the experience I guess.
As far as advice for long term travel goes, unless you have a decent amount of savings, I think it is important to ensure that you have a source of income before you decide to pack your bags and travel indefinitely. Last thing you want is to get stuck somewhere without money in your bank account.
Plan ahead and you will be fine.
- What is that one destination in your list that you are dying to go to and why?
I would love to experience Africa someday. I think it is a continent that not many people travel to or know about. Whenever I read about Africa, it is either about malnutrition, poverty, crimes or coups. I am sure there is much, much more to Africa than what they show in the media.
I would love to climb Kilimanjaro, see the Table Mountain and experience the untamed wildlife of Masai Mara someday.
- What are you upcoming travel plans?
I hope to travel to Thailand and Laos soon. Travelling to Luang Prabang by slow boat has been on my to-do list for a while now.
I also hear that Georgia and Philippines have recently simplified their visa processes.
And as a resident of Mumbai, the beaches of Goa is never too far away.
Updated: July 23, 2015