How To Avoid Pickpockets in Paris

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I bet you thought I was done with blog posts about Paris. I thought I was too! But a friend who is leaving for Paris this month reached out to me for advice and I realized there was one last thing I needed to share with all of you- how to avoid pickpockets.

Let me tell you, I was petrified of pickpockets abroad. I had heard of two co-workers who has been pickpocketed and became almost paranoid that it would happen to me. Here are my recommendations for avoiding losing your very valuable belongings while traveling abroad. I’d also like to preface this by saying that after a few days in Paris, I felt extremely safe. However, I’d like to acknowledge that I do say this as someone who currently lives in NYC.

Photocopy Your Passport

It is always better to be safe than sorry. Photocopy your passport and leave one copy back at home and carry one with you in case you lose your passport or have to stolen.

Lock Up Your Passport

The idea of carrying my passport around Paris made me feel very uneasy. If you’re staying at a hotel with a safe, this is a great option. Otherwise, we just kept our passports locked inside our suitcases at our airbnb and our passports were completely safe.

If you’re worried about someone breaking into your airbnb and stealing your passports, a money belt is a great option. I bought one but didn’t end up using it. But you can keep it at your waist and leave your passport there so that is always with you when you’re out and about. That way it’s always on you but in a place that pickpockets can’t readily reach.

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For most of the trip I carried this crossbody and opted to hold it on my arm so that it was always in front of me.

Wear a Crossbody/Money Belt

Something unique that I noticed about Paris was the fact that everyone wore a crossbody bag or carried a backpack with a fanny pack. This was weird to me because I never saw anything like this in NYC. I think that wearing something to the front of you that you can see is the best way to make sure your belongings are safe. And if you’re carrying a lot a backpack is fine as long as you have a fanny pack to your front with your most important belongings.

Carry a Card-case

I once had my wallet stolen a few years ago at work and wish I had thought of this idea before losing my wallet. I can’t take credit for it by the way, it was advised to me on one of the many blogs I read before traveling to Paris.

Don’t put all your important cards in your wallet. Keep some cards at home. When I lost my wallet I had to cancel all my cards. When you’re abroad, maybe just bring your debit card and one credit card without a foreign transaction fee. Limit how much cash you take out or carry so that even if something is stolen, you’ll be okay.

Don’t be Dumb

I caught myself a few times during the trip panicked because I left my bag unzipped in front of me and worried if something got stolen. Watch your belongings. Always zip it. Don’t leave things unattended. Don’t be dumb and I’m sure you’ll avoid the pick pockets.

I hope you enjoy your time abroad and as long as you’re careful, there’s absolutely no reason to worry.

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?

Adventures in Capris

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My first day in India I got ready for sari shopping wearing a pair of capris and a short sleeve t-shirt.  I didn’t think anything of it.  My mom definitely did but seeing as how I considered my attire modest if anything I ignored her requests to change.  If I wore the same outfit in America, I doubt anyone would think twice about what I was wearing.  I expected the same from India, boy was I wrong.

I should have known better, fresh from taking Anthropology class last semester.  Unfortunately, I really didn’t.  The minute I stepped out of my cousin’s car into the streets of India, I was met by dirty looks.  Stepping into the clothing shop I felt like a piece of meat… that was green and forming mold.  I’m pretty sure that my capri and short sleeve t-shirt combination was the equivalent of booty shirts and wearing a bandeau in America.

I couldn’t believe it, my mother was right.

Coming to India I couldn’t believe how different yet exactly the same everything was from America.  Sure they had unrealistic advertisements covering the walls of the city.  But their ads had women with fair skin, deep eyes and models who were even normal size from time to time.  I was shocked to see advertisements with women who weren’t particularly pretty to me.

I was shocked by how different life is for the average person in India.  I found myself sad for my parents who were forced to change their entire life upon coming to America.  They wanted to live in the land filled of milk and honey, paved with streets of gold.  But as I sit in India and think of what I have and what many people in India do not have-I realize the main difference is things.  The people here do not seem less happy because they don’t all own expensive clothes.  Different things make people happy.

I think about my church filled with India people.  A generation of immigrants who were born and raised in India with different values and standards.  Then I think of myself, someone born in America.  Someone who’s definition of love, beauty and an acceptable standard of living contrasted to everything my parents were taught.  I somehow developed a new level of understanding.

I was surprised to learn about the types of music that people enjoyed.  I always thought that something like music was simply universal.  I never understood how my mother didn’t appreciate the songs I enjoyed.  She was just primed under a different culture and mindset.

Ironically as I sit and type this listening to “Both of Us” by B.O.B I find myself laughing at the things that are important to people in America.  The things that are important to myself even.

I can’t believe I’ve only finished one day of my journey to India.

Airplanes and boarding passes and terminals, oh my!

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I’m writing this the second day of trip to India.  My cousin is getting married so my mother and I trekked across the world to get to India with enough time to hear them say, “I do”.  Or whatever the Indian equivalent of that would be.

 

Traveling a flight which totals around 15 hours can take a whole lot out of a person.  Keeping that in mind, I want to comment on some things that crossed my mind during the flight.

 

Airplane Food is awesome-sauce

 

Seriously!  Who ever said otherwise?  They give you a full course meal and I’m pretty sure I was fed around 4 times during my 15 hour flight.  Considering I would have normally slept through 8 of those hours I was surprised by how much food was being given to me.

 

That being said, the food was awesome.  You have options: vegetarian or meat.  Then when you actually get your food you have your entrée, desert, and normally two side dishes.  I’m pretty sure I’ve had worse food experiences at McDonalds.  Adding to this, I didn’t feel like I swallowed a newborn fetus after finishing my food.  I felt well fed and moved on.

 

That time we lost our boarding pass

 

Somehow this time coming to India I kept dropping my boarding pass here and there.  My mom was checking to make sure we had our passes and dropped them by accident leaving them in the aisle as she freaked out wondering where they were.  These passes were later returned to us by the airhostess telling us to make sure we were more careful next time.

 

It may seem silly but thinking we lost our boarding pass felt like such a traumatic experience at the time.  I admit that there are options when losing something like that but when you need to transfer in an hour, most of the time you want to move as quickly as possible.  Losing your passes and relying on an e-ticket can feel a little scary.

 

Finding yourself in a new world after a short lifetime

 

Finally after the grueling, demanding, delicious and even expensive journey-we found ourselves in India.  And at that moment seeing my aunt after years, my journey and everything else endured seems worthwhile.

 

Then the world, or India became our oyster.

 

The reason I waited so long to write this post.

This is a little bit of an explanation post, to explain why lately I’ve been so MIA and why for the first time in a while I think this blog is a little bit dead.  I had the amazing oppurtunity to go on a mission trip to Guyana from August 16-23rd and ever since then I’ve been too afraid to make a blog post.  I find it so funny because up until this point I had written all my other posts in hopes of reviving my blog so I would have people excited to learn about my trip.

But now that I have actually gone to Guyana I’m so afraid of actually writing a post because I want to describe my experience and give it justice.  I even wrote out almost a full post about Guyana only to accidentally close the tab.  That post didn’t really matter much though, I was just forcing myself to write.  The thing is right now I think I’m reading to write this post.  Or I really hope that I am ready to write this post.  One can only hope right?

Okay.  First, why Guyana?

I was thinking about this question for a long time recently.  Guyana is not my home country, India is my mother land.  But lately I’ve been learning a lot about Guyana and more so about Guyanese culture and I was amazed by it.  I found it so odd that I could go here and feel like the people living in Guyana were just like me yet completely different at the exact same time.  I could go into what I’ve learned as of now about Guyanese culture but I’ll wait for another day to write about that.

So I was learning about Guyana and then my mom comes to me and tells me she’s going on a trip to Guyana.  I asked her if I could go expecting her to say no, and she did.  But shortly after she said that ticket prices dropped and that she could now take me with her.  I went thinking I would be the only 19 year old going in a group of 30+ pastors.  But what ended up happening was a group of 4 of us “younger” folk signed up and we had the perfect amount of people to run a VBS and lead worship in Guyana.

From the get go we were told we were in Guyana for missions work and not for vacation.  That was still a really weird principle for me because Guyana felt like India to me and all the times I’ve been to India in the past, I’ve been on vacation.  We were definitely not slumming it though.  We had the opportunity to eat Guyanese or Guyanese “chinese” food every single meal of our stay and I loved it.

It’s funny because when all four of us young adults were asked what part of Guyana we disliked the most it was always the mosquitos.  The mosquitos and bugs just attacking you out of nowhere while you’re attempting to sing on stage.

That’s another thing about Guyana, before going there I had this high resistance to singing in public.  I didn’t want to sing anymore.  But when I went there it wasn’t about me anymore, they needed singers and I could sing.  End of story.  It reminds me of this post I meant to write before leaving for Guyana but was yet again too afraid to write.

God doesn’t call us because we are qualified, he qualifies the called.  God wasn’t asking me to have the voice of an angel or amazing presentation skills.  He asked me to be willing to go and speak for him when the opportunity arose and he asked me to not be afraid to sing his praises.

And this kind of leads me to the close of this post,  life post Guyana.  I realize that there are so many things I have yet to tell all of you about Guyana but I feel like whenever I tell someone something about my mission trip there, I’m losing a piece of it for myself.  That sounds really selfish but don’t worry I will share it all one day.  But if I want to get at least one post up, I need to know I’m still keeping pieces of the story for myself.

So, what now?  What happens to life after leaving Guyana?

Life after leaving Guyana was actually not hard to transition into, yet really hard at the same time.  I found myself not even really sure of what to do with myself entirely.  On the way to the airport back home to America everyone was saying how they would miss Guyana so much but I was too afraid to miss people.  I told the people around me to stop because they wouldn’t really miss them.  They might miss those around them for a little snippet of time, but that’s all.

This was yet another thing that I was wrestling with and its something I’ve only recently come to terms with.  I live in the city and meet new people everyday that I will never see again.  And this put a toll on me emotionally because I grew up in a small elementary school and a relatively small high school.  It hurt too much to miss all these people around me.  I told myself to stop missing people to feel better, but how could I really?  I was losing my empathy and love for the lost by marginalizing those around me.

As of right now I’m still struggling and dealing with what my life really is post Guyana.  What is my purpose anymore?  And do I leave all the problems I saw in Guyana and default that I’m just a kid too young to help.  I don’t think I can do that.

This is all for now.

You’ll never be anyone but yourself, and that’s amazing.

I felt the sudden need to write about this and considering that its 1 in the morning and I doubt I’ll be able to fall asleep anytime soon, why not write?

I’m reading a book about an Indian girl who grows up in a middle class mostly white suburban neighborhood and struggles to blend in.  In example, the life of Nina as well as the protagonist in the novel Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier.  I don’t want to really ruin anything for those of you who want to read it, but I will tell you that the protagonist is not happy with herself.

She’s so desperate to be anything but herself that she blends in more and more.  I couldn’t help but think, “How sad is that?”  Instead of embracing what makes us unique as human beings we long just to blend in.

It reminded me of something I struggled to realize when first entering college but now feel so happy to know.  I’ll never be anyone else except who I am, and that is amazing.  It’s an amazing feeling to accept yourself for who you and understand that not everyone will find you endearing.  And that its okay not to like doing things that other people enjoy doing.

I remember thinking beauty was something black and white.  Either you are born with a pretty face or you’re not.  But that’s not true, not even in the slightest.  A pretty face means you are pretty but being beautiful means being beautiful inside and out.  Finding that in a person is hard to do.

Psalms 139:13-14 reads

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”

You are created the way that you are created for a reason, never doubt that, even for a second.  Because more than developing piss poor self esteem and self worth, you are demeaning God’s work.  God created you to be you for a reason.

So I find myself tempted to alter myself and to fit a mold that will blend in with everything else.  But God created me to be different.  I will never stop loving to take pictures to capture random moments, or even fight for women’s equality in seemingly stupid ways.  It’s who I am.

And I never want to be anyone but myself, because I am amazing.

The funny thing when God comes last

I found myself thinking about this on the last night of my christian retreat, I realized that I had not once thought about God.  At my christian retreat.  Ironic, or pathetic?  You choose.

And I feel like this has become an epidemic that is plaguing our nation, or more so our churches.  Meetings, conferences,retreats and God somehow comes last.  God is a burden or an after thought.  God doesn’t even come second, he comes last.

It’s sad and its heartbreaking because when God’s not in the equation, everything else just crumbles and falls apart.  I’ve heard of conferences where the “norm” was skipping out on the main meetings to hang out with friends.  Where people go for the sole reason of bonding with their friends.

I believe that there is nothing wrong with wanting to spend time with people you love.  Even taking time out to do so is fine.  But when a conference is centered around God, and somehow he’s put last?  Something is wrong.

The sad part was I believed I didn’t have a choice, but I did.  In life we always have a choice.  And I realized that when I did pray, you could just feel the power of God move so greatly.

Psalm 107:28-30 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven

 

THIS is the God we serve.  I found myself so ashamed when I realized that I was putting him last.  I was more worried about how I looked, what clothes I was wearing and what social activity was happening next.  Worse than anything was when I let drama take hold and forgot to even turn to God.
But the amazing thing about God is that even if we fail over and over again, he still forgives.
So if you’re like me and put God last, its never too late, and you always have a choice.  Bring God back to your “christian” outings, bring God back to your life.  And then see how much you have been missing in your life.

Day 26: Your Dream Wedding

I think most guys have heard that girls plan their wedding day from as far back as they have enough cognitive reasoning to think.  I’m not one of those girls.  So many times I’ve been tempted to let my mind imagine and delve into all the wonderful possibilities.  But I stop myself because I know that a wedding is just one day.  And that the marriage that comes from it is far more important.

However, there are some things I need in order to have my dream wedding, hopefully my demands aren’t crazy.

1.  God fearing man

I find it so funny how some girls will go on for hours about the location, colors and ambiance of their wedding and forget to marry someone good!  I remember telling one of my friends that I just wanted to marry someone completely in love with God.  She looked at me kinda weird and said that I should be careful of those guys, they may be a little crazy. But the way I see it, God is the center of my life.  He is my moral compass and my everything.  So why not marry someone who loves God as I do?

2.  Simplicity

I’ve always loved the colors red and white because it looks so classy and simple.  I wish I could have a small wedding but I have way to many relatives to ever wish to do that.  But I can keep things simple.

3.  Lace wedding dress

I don’t know what is about lace.  It just looks so refined and so classy.  I would of course need a sari too, but maybe a lace dress for the actual wedding itself would be nice.  And white looks really nice against my burnt chocolate complexion.

4.  People I love

I want to be around people who actually care about me and my well being.  People who smile and pictures and are actually really happy.  People I’m happy to spend my day with.  I promised my aunt I’d get married in India if she couldn’t come to America.  I want her there.

5. Prayers

I want to start off my married life draped in blessings!  Is that a little selfish?

 

Nina

Day 19: Something you miss

I miss my cousins in India so badly.  I miss my family in India.  I just miss India.  Like I mentioned in my last “30 Day Challenge” post, India is my favorite place to be.

I miss the way being in India makes me feel.  It’s always hot and I struggle not to sweat.  I’m not quite sure why I do that, sweating is natural but I try to find the coldest room in my house and just lie down. Sometimes when I’m in India I try to avoid India.  Everything tastes different in India.

The ice cream has this weird consistency.  I remember going to Carvel in Bangalore and eating ice cream that actually tasted like ice cream and feeling so excited.  My cousins were bewildered by the taste.  The “American” food is spicy and the Indian food is always fresher.

What I find so funny is that the morning the picture above was taken I was bitterly crying.  I was a sophomore in high school who was visiting India for only 2 weeks during my spring break.  AP Exams were coming fast so I was going through all of India and still doing homework from time to time.  My papers for studying had fallen from the truck of my car into a ditch and were almost ruined.  I was bitterly crying because my homework meant so much to me.  It was so stupid now that I look back at it.

We were staying with my great-uncle.  He was one of those people who seemed really hard and unapproachable but loving and like a teddy bear all at the same time.  He saw how upset I was and ironed out all my papers so that they were dry and almost as good as new.

That was the last memory I have of him, and can have of him.  Because he died before I could visit him again.  I think he’s what I’ll miss most.  If my mom gave him “american” money he always thought it was a big deal and kept it on display.  He loved us, he really did.  And I still don’t feel like he’s really gone.  Because dying doesn’t really mean someone isn’t there for you anymore.  They live on and on as long as you care enough to remember them.

I miss India because as angry as I felt at times, my aunt could always find a way to make me look at a situation in a completely different light.  I remember watching a podcast and hearing how a man was asked if he regretted studying physics in college now that he was doing business.  He said no because math has a way of teaching him to look at a problem and look at it from a completely new way and find a way to solve it.

That’s what my aunt did for me.  She would look at me and suddenly I felt so stupid for becoming angry at something small, she killed me with her kindness!  I was only 16 when I visited India but I remember telling my aunt that when I got married, if she couldn’t come to America I would get married there.  And I remember seeing her almost cry from joy.  She was happy that I still remembered her, how could I not?

I’ll always miss my family in India when I’m not with them, and my family and friends in America when I’m not them.  It reminds me of my grandma who always tells me that when she’s taking care of my cousins in India she misses me and my brother so much.  And when she’s with us, she misses my cousins so much.  All she really wants is for all of us to be with her together.