A Logo We All Travellers Fall For

Originality in the 21st Century. That’s bit of an oxymoron. Notes, shots, stitches and strokes, they have all come under the scanner and analysed as nothing more than recycled ideas. Sadly, the most inspiring brand story of 21st century fell into the same category.

It is rather painful when a strong vision as original as Air BnB’s gets labelled as a Logo that didn’t do its homework. In 2014, Airbnb revealed it now identity and came under fire from designers for the similarity between its new logo and existing branding for other companies. Some social media users were naughty enough to draw comparisons with human genitalia.

But then the question is, if we love a product, do these controversies really matter? To me they DON’T. No matter how their logo looks like, Air BnB never fails to amaze me. I have tried it to book rooms in Pondicherry and Shillong and was all smiles after doing so. So when it came to booking my stay at Seattle, there was no looking beyond http://www.airbnb.com.

There’s something magical about typing alphabets and special characters in this particular order. You feel positive. You feel cheerful. Most of all, you feel like a traveller. Air BnB has opened doors to some of the finest home stays for me till now and I was sure it was going be a repeat experience.

I wanted to rent a place 15 days. Budget was Rs.2,500 per day. Had no clue about areas though. So I took help of Jessica (who was hosting me and my friend Devdutta for first 15 days). She gave me a list of places which are great to stay. (Remember – ask a local. It helps.)

Now that I had names and a site that promised me a home stay at any of those names, the quest began. Now there are some pointers that you got to remember while booking on Air Bnb.

  1. Weigh your option: It’s a pain. It’s not easy. It’s time consuming. It’s definitely not the first thing you wanted to do today. But you got to do what you got to do. The more options you look at the more likely you are to find the best option.
  2. Research the city: Don’t wait to land in the city. Start before hand to avoid landing in the soup. Make friends with Google Map.  Track the city center from the address of your stay so you can see how far it will take to get places.
  3. Don’t overpay: Splurging is nice. But please keep a tab on the use of your magical plastic card. Look at each place individually and compare prices even if you’re not interested in staying there. Allocate a budget and stick to it.
  4. Read the reviews: No really. Read them. Even is they are like 137 in all. Because reviews help you to validate the credibility. One bad review could save you from a nightmare. And one good can make your whole trip a memorable experience.
  5. Focus on rails and roads: When on a specific budget, travelling is a task. So when looking into an Airbnb, research what the public transportation system looks like in that area. Try to find a location that appears close to a bus stop, metro stop or whatever mode of public transit they use in that city. This way it will be easy to get to and from places during your visit. Yes, there is Uber. But then why waste money in local travel. Save them. You can buy a couple of extra beers with it.
  6. Contact the owner: Don’t feel awkward to do so. Talk to him / her. They are nice people. They are there to help you. Ask them as many questions as you have. But please be a little intelligent. No one likes to answer dumb question. And please be decent. This is a platform built on trust. So no hanky panky…please.
  7. Don’t wait till the last moment: The owner of the place is the best local contact you can ever have. Make use of this opportunity. How to get from the airport, train or bus station to your lodgings. Figure it out. Again…make friends with Google Maps. Look the routes. Look up what’s around the the place you are staying. Find what’t not there.

I did all this. And booked a cozy place that looked like the best fit.

Since I booked for two weeks, I got a 10% discount as well. After a quick exchange of mails with my host, I was sure that I made the right choice. And yes. It indeed was. Roseanne (my host) told me that the bus stop is 10 mins away (yes, it was). She told that amazing places to dine out are just round the corner (oh yes, they were). She informed me that its a place easy to reach from any point of Seattle (well, it was). She wished me a great stay (her wish did come true).

So, Air BnB logo might have ruffled some feathers, but it the brand never fails to provide a nest that will make your destination an ultimate vacation.

And NO. I am NOT getting paid by Air BnB to say all this.

 

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Mastering The Death Glare

Shigeru Miyamoto never ever in any of his Manga-inspired dreams must have imagined that his creation Luigi will set the Internet ablaze.

Luigi’s first made a grand pixelated entry in the 1983 arcade game Mario Bros as a palette swap of Mario. Today he is an internet sensation. With his Death Glare. It’s an internet meme based on Luigi’s angry expression in Mario Kart 8.  The meme was inspired by a short video clip from the game in which Luigi glares at an opponent he is passing while the Chamillionaire song Ridin’ plays.

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And I need to master this Death Glare to survive during my looooong flight to Seattle. Like almost a 32 hr flight or something. Don’t know. All I know is I will be taking off on 17th from Mumbai and reaching Seattle on 18th. What made me do such an idiotic thing? Cheap Ticket. Simple.

Now here’s the deal. The University of Washington has decided to screen my documentary and they have invited me and my team mates for the same. One of my team mates can’t make it. And other can afford a little expensive ticket which doesn’t take this long. So we decided to part way and purchase tickets that were available at a rate directly proportional to the depth of our pocket. That’s how I ended up buying an insanely long flight.

Now long flight means boredom. No matter how many Scorseses or Tarintinos you have downloaded in your iPhone. No matter how many Stephen Kings or Murakamis you have packed in your bag. The sword of boredom will after you for it’s thirst for anyone blood who is having a jolly good time during long flights. And I need the Death Glare to intimidate this sword. The longest I have ever flown is Delhi – Amsterdam – Buenos Aires. But then, it was a different day, different time. It was a sponsored trip that came with all the bells and whistles. So I was travelling ‘Business Class’. Two words that took care of all the boredom in the world. But this time, it’s Economy baby. A place where Boredom is included in the ticket. Booking which was a different story all together.

I had never used Skyscanner. So thought of giving it a try. And after all the possible permutation and combinations of day, date, time and alignment of the Moon with the 8th moon of Jupiter, got a price that looked like a steal. But when I clicked on the link that took me to the travel portal that offered me that deal, the figures inflated just like my waist line. When I checked those sites on http://www.scamadvisor.com, it flagged red. (Now this is one awesome sight to check if the portal is credible or not. I would have never known that this site ever existed if my wife would have not been there at home that day.) I thought I was doomed. But no. When God closes one door, it opens another tab and lets you access http://www.via.com. A hassle-free travel portal that lets you book your tickets in no time. So click…click…click… and tidiiing. I got my ticket in my inbox at a price that didn’t burn a hole in any of my pockets.

I already have a valid US visa. So no stress on that front. Tickets are done. Now what’s left is figuring how to kill all the hours in air and during transit.

So everyday, I keep practicing that Death Glare. Thrice a day to be precise. All I do is look in the mirror and keep intimidating boredom with this stare. But my only worry is what will happen if i get bored of this Death Glare. I guess that’s why a wise man from the Eastern Province of Hunan has once said, “Don’t plan too much for any adventure.”

The same man also said, “I know nothing about General Tso’s Chicken“, but that’s ok.

Remembering Sam Baldwin

Yes. I had seen Sam before. But as Josh Baskin – a young boy who made a wish “to be big” and is then aged to adulthood overnight. With a twinkle in his eyes and a naughty smirk on his face, Josh helped Penny Marshall to make headlines. BIG (1998) became the first film directed by a woman to gross in excess of $100 million at the U.S. box office. (Penny Marshall had directed BIG)

The next time I met Josh, he was all grown up. He was now Chicago based architect who had lost his wife Maggie to cancer. He and his eight-year-old son Jonah had just moved to Seattle to start a new life. Now he was Sam. Sam Baldwin.

FADE IN:  

CLOSE ON SAM BALDWIN

A card: Chicago

His neck is pinched into a crisp dress shirt and tie.  His expression is vacant, faraway. A breeze blows but he doesn’t react to it.  In the distance the architecture of the Chicago skyline.

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(Picture Courtesy: https://www.cineplex.com/Movie/sleepless-in-seattle/Photos)

That’s how he greeted me. With a vacant…faraway expression. The very first indication that this film is going to be about ‘distance’. Distance was going to be one of the main antagonists.

That’s how I know Sam Baldwin. Thanks to Sleepless in Seattle. Now roll your eyes if you must, but this Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan-romantic-comedy-drama-film introduced me to the country to Lake Union’s floating homes.

And here I am. Almost ready with the goods that I am suppose to deliver in this magical city. All raring to go.

P.S. These goods are in Red, Green and Blue. And have 50 Shades of Grey embedded in them too.

TRAVEL by Edna St. Vincent Millay

The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn’t a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.

UUUU….EEEE…..OO..O (TIME TO MONKEY AROUND)

2016 is the YEAR OF MONKEY. So this blog is dedicated to all of you whose Chinese Zodiac sign is Monkey.

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Meaning this blog is for those born in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, or then 2028. So Monkeys, please read every bit of the below typed information carefully. For this small blog can really save you from a some of the travel-troubles in the New Year.

Now before you start feeling all exotic and kung-fui about your Chinese Zodiac sign, listen to this. Monkey Years are UNLUCKY for Monkeys. As per the PhD thesis of Mr. Ping Pong (the son of the Legendary Pong Ping), the year of one’s birth sign is believed to be the unluckiest in the 12-year cycle. So before you step out of your tree house and start jumping around…give it a thought. Reason? In 2016 you have to be careful about your health, love lives, career, and investments. In short, you have to check, double check, and triple check all the factors that some way or the other affect your travel plans. Here are some helpful tips.

HEALTH: Travel only when you are ill. That way there are no chances of you falling sick on your vacation.

LOVE LIVES: This is a tough one. Lemme know when you find an answer.

CAREER: Face the fact – you are on a vacation because your current job sucks. So choose hotels / restaurant with a stable Wi-Fi connection. That way, you can access job sites, keep a tab on vacancies and apply while digging into your Chicken Schnitzel.

INVESTMENTS: If you have any, please drop me a mail. I need to take advice from you.

Also, they (who are they?) say that people born in the year of Monkey are witty, intelligent, and have a magnetic personality. But then you are an exception. (That’s what you’ve always been saying and believing.)

Yes, your personality traits, like mischievousness, curiosity, and cleverness are appreciated. But only in the confines of your home and office canteen. The people around you have to tolerate you (they have no other choice you see). That doesn’t mean people round the world will do the same. You might be a master of practical jokes. But there are places where you might get stoned for your shenanigans. Like in an aircraft, don’t try any of your wise cracks on any of the cabin crew member. Remember, you are at a phenomenal height (even when you are not flying) and might break a lot more than your ego if thrown out of the aircraft. Because, monkeys can’t always exhibit their talent properly. So here is a to-do list that can help you live through your vacation with less embarrassment.

Wear Red: Red is one of the luckiest colors in Chinese culture. Therefore, everything you pack in your bag has to be RED. Red belt, red socks, red shoes, red clothes, red bloody everything. Red underwears are highly recommended. However these underwears should be either bought by your spouse or by your neighbor’s spouse.

Wear Jade Accessories: Besides wearing red, jade accessories can also help to ward off bad luck. Men should wear jade pendants, earrings, rings, and bracelets once the flight takes off. Women should carry along with them men wearing jade pendants, earrings, rings, and bracelets.

Face the Right Direction: Monkeys should face northeast for good luck. So no matter which hotel you are staying in or which restaurant you are eating at, tell the management to shift everything so that you face the right direction. Tell them to shift your bed and your turn breakfast table. Tell them to hire a Feng Shui expert if need be. Insist on facing northeast even while sitting on the toilet seat. Be firm.

In short, be demanding and you shall get what you want. Because Monkeys of the World, this is your year. Live it to the fullest. Travel far. With no worries. There are a lot of monkeys around you. Some dumb wits, some bright nuts. Look at them and ape the ace. Let 2016 be the best Monkey Year you ever had.

Keep swinging from branch to branch. Keep jumping from tree to tree. Keep traveling. Keep exploring.

This Bull…Is Mine

20150307_135002 The Chinese muh-bola bhai of Socrates appeared in my dream and whispered in my ears, “A white sheet of paper is like an intimidating big bull. It looks deep in your eyes and makes you break into a cold sweat. It makes you shudder and go weak in your knees. It flares its nostrils and warns you to keep it the way it is. WHITE. Which exactly is NOT your intention. You want to seduce it. Tame it. Earn its RESPECT.”

That’s what I am out to do. I am GOING TO GO PLACES to hold this bull by its horns and ride it like it’s my Birthday.

This white bull is mine. Hope you join me in this quest.

20150307_134956P.S. Till I post my second blog, go have a fruit.