It’s ‘New York, New York’ for travel blogger Varsha Jayaraj

Solo travel blogger Varsha Jayaraj says the Big Apple is dear to her for various reasons
Varsha Jayaraj with the New York city in the horizon
Varsha Jayaraj with the New York city in the horizon

For travel blogger Varsha Jayaraj, New York is a place she holds close to heart. A fan of pop culture, she says, “I grew up watching a lot of Hollywood movies and sitcoms that were mostly filmed in New York.”

When in a dream she saw herself boarding a flight to New York, she decided to turn it into reality by booking a ticket to the Big Apple.

Varsha and the Statue of Liberty
Varsha and the Statue of Liberty

And soon she was walking down the streets she had till then only seen on the big screen. “It was my first trip without family or friends. I had never travelled or stayed alone till then. It was also my first experience of snow. New York will always be a destination that is dear to me,” she says, adding that what really fascinated her about New York was its cosmopolitan culture. “It is truly a symbol of globalisation. I still remember the first time I saw Wall Street. My jaws dropped instantaneously and I was completely transfixed by the tall, beige-coloured skyscrapers standing in glory. When I first saw the Times Square, I was taken aback by the colourful billboards and the vibrant aura of the place. New York City is so loud, glamorous and full of hope. It is the land of dreams for many and I could clearly see why,” says Varsha, who vlogged about her experience in the city via WhatsApp, “which many people seemed to enjoy.”

The New York City skyline as seen from the top of the Rock Observatory
The New York City skyline as seen from the top of the Rock ObservatoryVarsha Jayaraj

According to Varsha, she discovered her inner wanderlust during the New York trip. Wanting to share her travel experiences, she decided to start a blog — Rock and Solo, which means “rock your travels even if it’s solo”.

Varsha, who finds travelling solo a liberating experience, says, “I can go where I want to, eat what I want , and follow my plan according to my likes and dislikes. What makes solo travel unique is the fact that it has taught me to enjoy my own company and learn a lot more about myself through introspection. It has made me a stronger person from within and has given me more clarity about my true nature. If you look deeper into it, solo travel is not only about the journey outward, but also about travelling inward.”

Times Square, New York
Times Square, New York

As the blog began picking up traction, Varsha quit her corporate job and decided to club her dream of travelling and that of being an entrepreneur. “I began focusing on the blog; it is my baby,” says Varsha, who has travelled to Bahrain, Dubai and across South East Asia.

At The Oculus, World Trade Centre, New York
At The Oculus, World Trade Centre, New York

The blog, which features history, culture and photography from across the world also has a category dedicated to vegan food. “It’s basically a guide to where one can get vegan food while travelling to these destinations. I have featured everything from Bodoland khek made from finely pound rice, black sesame seeds, coconut and sugar to Larb tofu, a dish made from stir-fried tofu and herbs cooked in a variety of sauces,” says Varsha.

The 26-year-old, who visited the Bodoland Territorial region in Assam in her last travel, says she found dokhona, the traditional attire of the Bodo women fascinating. “It is weaved by the women themselves and they come in a range of colours with different designs on them,” says Varsha, adding that the women form an integral part of the Bodo community and contribute majorly to their income and livelihood. “They weave their own clothes and sell them, they fish in nearby rivers, they cook for their family members and guests, and even run their own businesses at festivals such as the Dwijing River Festival. I have never seen such hard-working women in my life who contribute to the community in so many different ways and yet have a wide smile on their faces.”

As travel is currently restricted due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, Varsha now writes on tips and tricks while travelling in her blog. “Like the essentials one should carry while travelling, the kind of documentation required and so on.”

The writer who has Antarctica, Africa and Russia on her bucket list hopes to resume her travels once the vaccine for the Coronavirus is available. She currently has 1,385 followers on Instagram, 2,940 on Facebook and 5,619 on YouTube.

Varsha’s top tips for safely traveling solo

  1. Do a thorough research before going to any place

  2. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid venturing out to lonely places

  3. Avoid revealing complete details of your whereabouts and plans of your trip to strangers

  4. Always carry cash and a fully charged mobile phone with Internet

  5. Trust your gut feeling

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