The Truth About Solo Travel (London 2018)

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When I told my friend from church that I was traveling alone to London, her first reaction was, “Eat, Pray, Love!” To which I immediately responded, “No, not at all. I just want to explore.” The truth of the matter is that traveling alone is romanticized and although I think everyone should try it once in their life, there are lots of things to consider before, after and during a solo trip abroad. (If you’re interested in a vlog of my solo trip, watch this video from my YouTube channel.)

Here are some of my tips from traveling alone to England this past summer.

  • Plan, Plan, Plan

Then after all that planning, accept that there are some things you just can’t plan for. If you’re traveling alone, preparation is your friend. I took time to just watch endless videos of how to take the tube. Coming from NYC, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be, but I still got confused at times. If you get a little lost, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I planned by making sure I could use my phone abroad, packing a portable charger and travel charger. The little things can help a lot if you get stuck somewhere random at night and need to call an uber. I luckily did not have much trouble navigating around London.

  • Stay in a hostel

Even if you are the most introverted person, I think you’ll eventually want to talk to someone. That was one of the weirdest things to me about traveling alone, as an extrovert with heavy introvert tendencies, I thought I’d be fine. I constantly do things alone and enjoy my own company, but when traveling abroad I eventually became really lonely. There were times in which strangers would randomly start conversations with me and I felt so lucky to just have anyone to talk to. At the hostels I had people to talk to every night. I was able to recap my day and there were even people who offered to explore London with me or get a drink at the bar.

  • Bring a kindle or an art pad.

There are times in which I dined alone and was able to open up a book. Everyone should go to a fancy restaurant with a book to soak in the amazing comfort that good food and a nice read brings. Also, if you’re into art, this might be a good chance for you to practice your doodles and maybe even incorporate them into your journals.

  • Be safe

Here’s the reality of solo travel, it isn’t as safe as having someone with you. Don’t stay out too late on your own. (After 10pm?) I looked crazy to my friends but I had a whistle tied to my keys so that if anyone tried to attack me, I could make noise and hopefully protect myself a little. I didn’t need to use the whistle but it never hurts to be prepared.

  • Go in with the right mindset

I honestly got a little bummed while solo traveling. When recounting the experience to my counselor, she noted that sometimes the mindset we have changes our experience. Go in with the expectation of learning about yourself, try to explore more of who you are. There are so many benefits to solo travel. You can be selfish with you time and what you want to do and see. Enjoy that freedom and when you come back, take time to reflect on how you have grown from the experience of traveling alone.

By traveling alone I learned that I was capable of more than I thought I was. I had never been to Europe and was intimidated by the idea of visiting and going own. When I went back home, I felt accomplished and my sense of confidence in my own ability grew just little bit more.

Have you ever solo traveled before? If so, what tips do you have?

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Is Ethical Shopping Just Too Expensive?

When I first started shopping ethically, I felt ashamed of any piece of fast fashion that I owned that wasn’t thrifted. Now that I have tried to dress ethically for a few months now, I realize that there are times when I’m okay with not buying something new ethically or thrifted. With my currently lifestyle, it isn’t always practical for me. But I can, at the very least, try my best to buy ethically whenever it’s possible. It’s actually more wasteful to just get rid of my old clothes than to actually try and reuse them in new and fun ways. The outfit below is mostly ethical and what’s kinda funny is that the ethical pieces were actually the huge bargains compared to the non-ethical pieces.

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Top: Everlane (Ethical) $25 with a $10 off code, $15 with free shipping

Belt: Jcrew $20.70 (Similar, not Ethical)

Pants: Target (Thrifted, Ethical) $8.99

Coat: Burberry (Second-hand, Ethical) $208.51, Burberry Coats purchased new retail for around $1700 for fully cotton options. When I looked online, used Burberry coats normally cost around $400, mine was a steal! (Similar, Ethical)

Shoes: Marshalls (Similar, Expensive but Ethical)

 

Thank you for the awesome photos, Mallari Productions!

How To Style a Lengha

If you’re an Indian woman, chances are that you have a lengha sitting in your closet. It feels like such a shame to me that such a beautiful garment could be worn maybe once or twice and then completely forgotten. Which is why I decided to show you some ways to style a lengha.

Special thank you to my friends at Mallari Productions for such amazing photos.

First Look: Traditional Outfit 

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Second Look: Lengha Botton and tank top 

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Last Look: Lengha Top and Leather Skirt 

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Comment down below, which of the looks is your favorite? If you don’t already, make sure to follow my Instagram account to stay updated on my latest photos of outfits.

The Second hand Burberry Trench

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I never imagined I’d own a Burberry trench coat one day. $1,700 for the cotton version seemed like way to steep of a price tag and I would not pay $700 for the Polyester version.

And then I decided to try thrift store shopping in an attempt to slowly build up a more ethical closet. One day it suddenly hit me- a used burberry trench coat would be much cheaper than a new one. I decided to scour The Real Real and  passed by a lot of beautiful Burberry trench coats because I wasn’t financially willing to pay just yet. Let’s be honest, even a used Burberry trench coat is super expensive. I had even decided I didn’t need Burberry (which I still don’t) and purchased a used Zara trench on Tradesy for $40. Really expensive for a second hand Zara trench if you ask me but still less than the $200-700 used Burberry can sell for. The seller cancelled the order, I got my refund and decided it was a sign.

One day I pulled the trigger and I cannot tell you how happy I am that I did. You can watch an unboxing on my channel and see me like a little kid on Christmas. At $200 for the coat I honestly think it is worth every single penny. It looked brand new one when I received it, going to show how amazingly some people care for their items. I’m hoping this will be a piece in my closet for years to come.

Are there any designer items you’d love to have in your closet one day? Are you also a fashion lover like me? Do you think there’s anything wrong with owning crazy expensive pieces? Let me know in the comments down below.

Why Your Cheap Shirt is not actually that Cheap

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We’ve all been there, heck I still do this from time to time because how can we resist it? We get a clothing item on a crazy sale and we can’t help but feel like it’s an accomplishment and before you know it you have a closet full of clothes you don’t even really want and somehow never have anything to wear.

I’m reminded of $5 tops from H&M and my beautiful wool blend jacket from the Banana Republic Factory that I got for around $20 with a sale and an educator discount. (Okay that last one was an accomplishment)

The problem with praising cheap clothing is that it can change the way we view our items. As someone who has been trying to take a step away from fast fashion I’m challenged to actually spend more money on my clothing for products that are made with care, higher quality materials and support the people who maker them better.

Now, I still enjoy the occasional crazy steal. Like my BCBG jumpsuit that I wear endlessly but got thrifted for $7! I’ve already worn it maybe 4 times since I got it around a month ago making the cost per wear already around $1-2. If I keep wearing it (as I’m sure I will-as long as it doesn’t rip), I can get the cost per wear down to less than a dollar.

(Below, the infamous jumpsuit)

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I think about this all the time I need something like a cold weather jacket. Do I pay more for a higher quality jacket that is warmer or get a cheaper one that will just barely do the job. If I choose the cheap but on sale light winter jacket that maybe cost $20 but will last me a year and maybe 15 wears, it costs me $1.30 per wear for a product that didn’t work as well as I needed it to. But instead if I spend a little more and buy from a company like Patagonia with a lifetime warranty (and is ethical!) I might spend $100 for a jacket on sale but it could last me maybe 5 years before I decide I’m tired of it, or even longer. If I wore it 15 times each year and wore it for 5 years that would be 75 wears and would end up costing $1.33, almost the same as the cost of cheap jacket but now I’m supporting an ethical company and getting a high quality product and not contributing to ecological waste.

The truth of the matter is that cheap clothing isn’t as cheap as we’d like to think it is and I’m learning that sales aren’t that great if the product you end up with is subpar.

What are your thoughts? Would you still buy that cheaper item in the moment? Is my logic flawed in some way? Let me know in the comments down below.

Dining alone at The Ritz London

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While going out to eat with friends we would toy with the idea of dining alone. Would we dare? As if eating alone were some kind of accomplishment. But in a society in which many people are uncomfortable with themselves, in some ways I guess it is some sort of feat.

Some friends thought it seemed exciting, others said that it was something they would never want to do. Traveling alone to London has managed to teach me more about myself than I imagined, which is a topic I’ll explore more in upcoming blog posts. But today I wanted to write about dining alone at the Ritz, London.

At times I am exceptionally frugal, as evidenced by my decision to buy salads at grocery stores or cheap eats from Borough market for a lot of my trip. But I also love the occasional taste of luxury and at 57 pounds for an afternoon tea at The Ritz, London. It was definitely luxurious but worth every darn penny.

First of all, it is an experience. You start off with sandwiches and light desserts like a macaroon and lemon tart. You have your choice of tea and can add milk and little squares of sugar. Later you are given scones and jam and at the very end you have the choice of cake.

I often feel like spending time alone traveling is glamorized and as an extrovert/introvert I have to admit that I missed having a friend’s company. There were moments of awkwardness when realizing that there was no random conversation to fill the silence, just you and yourself. But there was also a feeling of freedom in taking as long or as little as I wanted to eat and feeling almost invincible in knowing there was a freedom in being in your own company with no-one to really judge you other than yourself.

Regardless, if you ever have the chance to ever have afternoon tea or afternoon tea at the Ritz, I couldn’t recommend it more.

 

The Problem with Combined Malayalam/English services, explained in a Songbook

I get it. There isn’t enough Youth or only English speaking people attending church meetings to justify a separate service. I understand the logistics but it doesn’t change the fact that combined services are ultimately unfair to those who attend. It all comes down to the song book. I just attended my first combined service in a long time and of 765 songs, 723 were in Malayalam.

If you have never attended a combined Malayalam/English service, let me explain. Malayalam is my mother tongue, the language spoken in Kerala, India. I don’t speak or really understand this language. My parents, as well as many of my friend’s parents came to this country and naturally wanted to attend a church that would speak their native language. It makes sense.

Their children grew up and didn’t feel the same familiarity with Malayalam or even grow up with the same jokes and culture and this ultimately created tension. Malayalam/English services don’t really work because regardless of how equal the service tries to break down time between the two languages, we still spend at least half of the service listening to a language we don’t understand. Or, I spend at least half of combined services listening to a language I don’t understand. They don’t work because we look at the songbooks, see the space left for the “English” part of the meeting and inherently know that the service isn’t for us, even if it claims to be.

Another problem is the fact that now, our English speaking youth or just our English speaking audience, has options. It’s hard to convince someone to compromise and try to enjoy a service when we can go to so many different churches and hear a message that is catered for an English speaking audience. But the only reason why I, like many others, have chosen to stay is because I have a heart for the Indian church. I have a heart for those children who grow up and may miss out on God in between the parts they didn’t understand in a service that was only in part geared for them.

On my end I accept that I should grow in maturity. Towards the end of the service, I just didn’t want to listen to a message translated to English. The messages never seems to have the same impact. But I also hold unto a hope for a better future. I hope that we have enough youth committed to justify a separate service. I pray for opportunities for those youth to have a voice in pivotal conversations. Because I love ending service and seeing my mom and dad afterwards, but I still want to attend a service specifically geared for me and others like me.