travel essentials

Travelling can be a lot of things- inspiring, rejuvenating, relaxing, an escape, an experience, an adventure etc. It can be a lot of good things. But of course it comes with its own set of baggage and hassles. Crowded airport terminals, long flights, noisy flight neighbours, changes in temperature on flight and in terminal, dealing with natives from a country who seemingly don’t communicate in English or choose not to etc. So as with everything else travel has its pros and cons. What you can do to ensure that the tilt is heavily on the positives as your take away from your holiday or vacation is plan ahead for these hassles and problems and try to minimize them as much as possible. Obviously you can’t eliminate them entirely but mitigation can do wonders. Here is a list of things which can help in various phases of travel or well at least makes my list anyway.

Travel Wallet / Card Holders

A travel wallet can be one of the most essential, time saving and hassle free items on your list. Avoid digging through your bag to search for the frequent flyer card, passport, boarding ticket and any other xyz item. Pick up a special cardholder to hold all the essential cards or documents you will need at the airport (frequent flier card, credit card, ID). Yes you might come off as a little bit of an organization nut or a control freak but you’ll be a lot less likely to misplace an important card in the rush to make your flight.


Not because they are funky. Not because everyone else has them. Not because they are the status quo. Not for anything else but the pure fact that smart phones have evolved into being an essential part of our overly technologically oriented lives. Love them or hate them you will feel more and more that they are way too useful to simply ignore. Especially if you belong to the working members of the society. And just as one would expect these little devils can be life savers for travelling. Music gaming or reading to kill the time on a long flight or a long transit at an airport. Alarms and reminders to store all important events, flight/tour/show times etc. Many apps that can help you on your travel journey with essential things – covered separately ahead.

Translation Apps

You can research and download whichever translation app you prefer but this is a miracle worker and a life saver. That’s right it is both those. Imagine going to a place like Beijing, China. If you didn’t have an idea of exactly how bad the communication barrier is like I did’t then trust me you would want to avoid the culture shock. People simply do not speak any English. It is very difficult and rare to find someone who would speak in somewhat English let alone fluently. In such a conundrum translation apps are essential. In the old days you could probably see from TV shows and movies etc people carrying around a language to language dictionary in their hands and frantically searching for the required word or phrase. Well this is essentially that only without the searching and franticness. All you have to do is type or speak into the app and viola translation will be done. Google Translate is in my humble opinion the best one out there. Covers a vast array of languages and has an easy to use interface. The translation can be played via audio as well making the entire experience more convenient.

Map Apps

I believe in exploring cities on foot. Whenever and wherever possible I would love to just walk around, take the local tube or taxi and just feel the city on my own. Embrace all that it has to offer from market places to malls to restaurants to activity places. I remember doing that through the various places and markets in London and also in Singapore. Really good experience. What you need to make this all the more better is a map. Download a map app for your phone which is updated and clearly has all the main places marked on it. Your location is clearly visible on it and will make it easier for you to chalk out directions on where you want to go. Again Google would top this list for maps as well. Some places have city specific map apps which also come with transport updates and guides on how to get to where (listing what transport you can take with timings and updates on whether a road might be closed and diversions etc).

Four Square

This app would be really helpful in cities or countries where people are high on technology and the social media. You want to go exploring on your own but don’t know which places are good and what to have at a particular restaurant? Well four square is the collective answer to that. It is a social media platform which guides you to the places around you giving complete ratings along with user reviews. The reviews can be really helpful. They cover almost everything that can be seen on the map from dining places to cinemas to book stores to malls to stations etc. Reviews and helpful tips can be found posted by other users which can definitely be helpful at any time. And you can return the favour by leaving reviews and tips of your own for other lost souls such as yourself.

Ear Plugs

No – they aren’t just for the ear pain you feel when landing and taking off in the aircraft. And they aren’t just for swimming or your beach visits because you can’t stand water in your ears. They are also amazing to get you through those troubled times when there may be a case of cranky toddlers, infants and small children who are wailing or crying or basically going hyper. Help yourself stay sane with these, just plug them in and block out the unnecessary noise.


You might not be into photography. You might have a smart phone with a real nice camera in it. But believe me especially given the ease of use and competitive prices you simply must not travel without a DSLR. Photography is one of the best ways of grabbing the memories and experiences you have on travel outside of your own mind. Over clicking can be a problem but that is something you can control. But having a DSLR means you can capture that perfect sunset on the beach in Langkawi or the big 5 on safari at the Kruger National Park in Johannesburg with brilliance. The picture quality will be fantastic and you can use them to make copies and frame them later on as well to cap off your memorable times from your trips. All you need really is a basic lens or two and you are all set. The DSLR will help you do the rest. A picture is worth a thousand words after all.

Multi-Plug Adapter

Ever reached your destination only to find out that the hotel you are staying at doesn’t have a matching adapter or electrical socket for your phone charger, laptop, shaver or pretty much any other device that you carry with you for your travels? The answer to that long question is probably yes. It happened with me in Sri Lanka. Beautiful hotel in Negombo the day I landed. Turned out the entire country was on a 3 pin socket system and my phone charger, laptop charger and camera charger all had different plugs. Would have been less hassle free if I had known in advance and had just packed a multi-plug adapter from home!


Careers: Counseling and Alternates Required

I wrote about this about a month back ( and well over the past couple of days I have had various conversations with friends and felt like writing about this again. Career Counseling and the need for exploring / developing more alternative to ‘traditionally acceptable careers in Pakistan’. Both of these are extremely important areas which need to be focused on especially for a developing country like Pakistan. And especially when the job market isn’t exactly thriving.

We have been brought up by a society accustomed to acknowledging careers like Medicine, Law, Management (business, finance, marketing etc), engineering and Chartered Accountancy. And then there are some secondary careers which are Agency (Creative, Media and PR), Journalism (Editor, Reporter, News Anchor). But really apart from the above mentioned can you think of any other career or line of work which would be socially acceptable or completely comfortably acceptable to your family? I would doubt that. And even within the above mentioned there is always skepticism when it comes to the nature of the industry that one is working in or the function. For example when I left banking to join an activation agency a couple of my relatives were really very concerned. Most probably because for them the idea of ‘activation’ was very alien. My point is that resistance is there in terms of being socially acceptable. 

I sincerely think that if more careers are presented as an opportunity for people then it will help with unemployment. That of course is also quite largely connected with the kind of investment being made in the country and the creation of jobs but still.

It is good and positive to see that there are some people out there who are making it on their own with entrepreneurial work. The restaurant business has been around for some time along with catering. But more and more people are now getting into photography, make up, fashion, home baking etc. But it isn’t enough. There are so many other things that can be done and so many areas which can be improved and given more weightage and credence as a career. Chefs, journalism, creative people (agency, film makers etc), musicians, artists, sports, Psychologists, counseling, software, social work, development work, teaching, NGO work etc etc.

Another problem in this entire scenario is that people will often choose a career path that might not be perfect for them or match their personality/traits. And trust me it feels absolutely frustrating being stuck in a job with zero motivation or satisfaction. This is where it is important to have career counseling at school level. Before the student actually starts applying to Universities for his/her professional studies. Career Counseling will help kids realize their strengths, interests and inclination. It will guide on how to go about in exploring their options and how to decide. What kind of research they need to do. And what kind of information is important for them to have when coming to a very important decision in their life.

I was having a discussion with my cousin the other day and he was saying it is disheartening to see people working in jobs which aren’t their ‘dream jobs’ and are simply in it for the rat race just like everyone else to ensure Social Status, Financial Security and Livelihood. I think the above things are of grave importance when looking at this aspect of work life.