People travel for various reasons but mostly to acquaint themselves with new places and cultures or simply to escape the routine of work life but Arpan Sharma, co-founding director of PR at Nepalaya, claims to travel because he is a keen learner.
He says, being a huge history buff, whenever he reads or watches movies and documentaries about different places and monuments, it instantly fascinates him. “My hunger for knowledge is what pushes me to go to new places and learn through experience which is much more personal,” says Sharma. As someone who’s traveled to over 40 countries, including backpacking across Europe alone and traveling to Nepal from Monaco by road because “planes are no fun”, Sharma’s love for traveling, exploring, and learning is pretty evident. Here he sits down with The Week’s Rea S Mishra to reminisce about his trips and contemplate on the lessons they have taught him.
Of all the countries you have been to, which place did you enjoy traveling to the most?
Iceland is that one place that has stayed in my mind throughout the years. The landscape there is one of a kind, and it’s fascinating. You can see the mountains and sea from the same point, but the mountains there are very different from the mountains we are used to seeing here in Nepal. When I was there, Iceland was going through a financial crash and everything was really expensive. Even though people were barely scraping through and surviving solely on fish and cattle farming, the hospitality was amazing.
Also, it’s extremely cold in Iceland all year round, with some of the most volcanic sites in the world, and yet the people there still manage to overlook the negative points and focus on the good things. I didn’t have a single bad experience in Iceland even considering how cold it was and how I survived on cheap noodles for most part of the trip, as other foods there was a luxury considering their prices.
Traveling alone or traveling in a group, which one do you prefer?
Traveling alone and traveling in a group are two entirely different experiences and it can determine the course of your trip. I find when I travel alone I usually learn much more than I would have had I been traveling in a group. And that’s because I get to move around according to what I want to do and where I want to go. That’s not always possible when you are traveling in a group. When I went to Thailand with my best friend and his family, I wanted to go visit different monuments and landmarks but my friend and his family wanted to go to amusement parks. I had to compromise considering the fact that we were traveling together and it didn’t make sense to split up. So if I had to choose, I’d definitely go for solo travel but group travel can be fun too. A lot depends on the people you are traveling with.
What do you find are the highlight of most of your trips?
I try to stay in hostels when I travel alone. Hostels are better than hotels not only because they are cheaper but because you get to meet and interact with people from all over the world. I have ended up traveling with random people I’ve met during my hostel stays. Sometimes these people end up becoming your friends for life. And another good thing is that you get to learn a lot about their countries and cultures from them. Meeting new people, interacting with them, and learning a thing or two about cultures and places you knew nothing about are definitely some highlights of the trips I take.
Which is your next travel destination?
There are many places I want to go to and it’s really hard to choose but I’m in the mood to travel to smaller Eastern European countries. I feel there are so many interesting things to learn in such small countries. Did you know that there is a very small country between Switzerland and Austria called Liechtenstein that has no airport and the people there go to Switzerland when need to fly? I wonder how the economies run in such small countries and, not only that, despite being so small, some of their economies have excelled. Monaco is one of those countries. It’s really small and, like Liechtenstein, it has no airport, making it one of the only five countries in the world with no airport. But it’s a very rich country with the stereotype that everyone in Monaco is associated with wealth, casinos, and fast cars. I wonder how they are both tax-free and one of the safest countries in the world at the same time, and how their exceptional development into a dynamic, experienced, and diversified economic entity actually came about in the first place. These are the things I want to find out by myself, for myself. So, most likely, I will start planning in a few months and go visit these different small places in Eastern Europe.
Do you have any tips that you swear by to make traveling relatively easy and hassle free?
Planning everything meticulously is the most important thing you can do before booking your ticket. I always make a huge folder detailing my plans for the trip, along with necessary details regarding travel and legal issues. If you have a well thought out plan before you leave, not only do you save money but you save a lot of time too. If you go to Paris and then decide on the different places you want to go to, you will most likely not get a ticket to the Louvre, or the Eiffel tower on the very day you want it and if you do you might have to wait in a really long queue. On the other hand, if you plan things beforehand you can save time and money too. You can find different tips online to do that. While traveling, time is money. If you spend even just a day at the hotel to plan things, a hundred euros or so is wasted on the hotel. And that’s just one example. It’s also important to keep in mind that planning is important while getting your tickets and visas too. Certain visas can get you into certain countries even if it’s for a restricted time period, and certain plane tickets at certain times of the day and year will be much cheaper. So, the most important thing is to plan and to do your research really well.