"Don't do it," several different cab drivers advised us, on different occasions. Or, "Makes sense. Why stay so far away from family?" 

... In Canada, any conversation is an open invitation for everyone to join in!

Seriously though, it seems like everyone has an opinion on whether to live in India. Several of our friends have decided to move abroad over the last few years. Some get official transfers, and others decide to go over and try their chances. At the same time, people who have spent years in foreign countries have also decided to move back to India in the recent past. 

For us, the question wasn't, 'Should we move back to India?' 

It was, 'Should A start his own company?' 

The answer to the latter question is a resounding yes from my side, and a slightly shakier amen from A. Moving back to India is the inevitable side effect. (We seem to believe in each other's dreams more than our own, so it all works out).

I'm not saying we didn't talk it through, going over the pros and cons ad nauseum. But at the end of the day, it really boiled down to one thing - it was where he could get started with the company. His network is here. It's cheaper here. The business problem he wants to solve is more relevant here. And so here we are. The daily cons we experience - no sidewalks, no zebra crossings, and of course literal con men - don't make life easy, but are easy to ignore given we have a very good reason for being here.

That said, here's my tuppence's worth on whether you should move back to India, or stay here - nope. Not unless you have one of those solid reasons that cancel out everything else. Otherwise, even the richest person in this country still can't buy clean air, to name but one thing. 

I'm not one of those foren-returned snobs who turns up their nose at everything. Give me a break, I'm from here. None of this stuff is hard to get used to. But at the same time, it's just stupid to accept it all, when there's an alternative. I can't be one of those people who say India is the best, we invented the zero, etc. Of course I love being home and having friends and family close by (not to mention great food). But I think it's more patriotic to accept that for all its strengths, this country has some serious flaws. If you don't fret and fume about the flaws, how can you fix them? 'It's always been like this,' is just not good enough. I could spend my entire life trying to improve things in India - I've fund-raised and volunteered; I even pick up trash that's not my own - but I'm rather cynical about the outcome. I'd like to imagine this country can be fixed by the time my grandchildren grow up, but I wouldn't hold my breath. 

There are many people whose entire lives have been built here, and who are happy. But I firmly believe that they can be much happier elsewhere. Maybe there are exceptions to this rule. The strictly orthodox older demographic who've never lived anywhere else may just not be capable of change when it comes to dietary habits, for instance. My opion is addressed to my own generation, not theirs.

If you only live once, surely you'd want to live without having to fight to get the most basic necessities? I don't mean clothing and shelter, I mean efficient healthcare and decent breathing spaces. And that's why I wouldn't recommend living here if you didn't have a very good reason to.

Travelling While Pregnant: Do's & Don'ts

This is my favorite pregnancy pic. It says it all! This baby's definitely a traveler. We went to London, Scotland, New York, Vancouver, Banff, Lake Louise, the Athabasca Glacier, Jasper, and back to Toronto again... all just in the first trimester :) 

As for me, I realized that even the most seasoned traveler will find it's a whole different ball game when they're carrying more than just their luggage. Here are some things I learned, often in retrospect, over about five months of travelling with a baby on board.

- Your body doesn't belong to you any more. The same person who woke up at 5am in Rome couldn't be dragged awake at 9am when pregnant. For you, pregnancy may come with nausea, or fatigue, or any of a variety of unforgiving side effects. Factor the changes into all your decisions - what time you leave, how much you drive or walk, what time you start sight-seeing... and, of course, if it's even worth the effort of going. There's no shame in changing your plans. Speaking of which...

- Get travel insurance. The rate of miscarriage in the first trimester is cruelly high, and it's always better to be safe than sorry. I never had to use trip insurance, but you'll feel better knowing you have it. You can cancel a trip if you need to, or get medical help easily while travelling, without worrying about the bill.

- Pack smart. Like it or not, you ideally shouldn't be lifting weights. Find luggage that you can wheel everywhere. Put it under the seat in front of you, rather than in the overhead compartment, if you don't have someone to help you with it.

- Web check-ins are no longer optional. Do your best to get an aisle seat, or you'll be forcing someone else to get up multiple times while you use the restroom. You'll also have to get up to stretch your legs. Quite apart from all those scary stories about DVT, the fact is, your body just doesn't fit snugly into awkward plane seat angles in the same way as before. 

- Water, water everywhere. You're meant to drink at least 8 glasses of liquid a day while pregnant, very few of which actually stay in your body. Rest-room hunting can put a serious dampener on sightseeing. Look around and spot the nearest loo at all times. Carry change so you can use paid restrooms. Try to use the ones in restaurants when you stop for meals. On that same note...

- Plan your meals. A granola bar no longer counts as breakfast (note to my mom: I never passed this off as breakfast pre-pregnancy! Really!) and dinner can't be conviently skipped after loading up on junk. Not only are three full meals to be eaten, but it's also a good idea to have some snacks on hand.

- Cut yourself some slack. You just can't walk eight km a day like you used to. You want to sleep early. You want to sleep in. Your energy comes and goes. So figure out a list of things you absolutely don't want to miss, and make your peace with potentially sitting out the rest. Incidentally - also prime your company for this eventuality, or you'll be stuck with a grumpy companion who didn't plan to travel everywhere solo. (Major kudos to A for going canoeing alone. Especially when he can't even swim.)

- Plan around important test dates. A doctor can tell you exactly when, and if, you need to test for various things, depending on your history. From a fetal dating scan to stress-tests for gestational diabetes, these tests are often time sensitive. Make sure you have access to a clinic you trust when you need to take these. 

Most importantly - check with your doctor to see if you can travel, for how long, and by what means of transport. Each pregnancy is different, and I'm not the leading expert on anyone's except (possibly) my own.

Home Away From Home: An Ode to AirBnB

It makes my day when people say they used my notes on their European travels. A frequent follow-up question is: Where did you stay? Being my age or thereabouts, these folks have mostly outgrown hostels. For a night or two, sure, a hostel's okay. But for longer term stays, I swear by

AirBnB is an online platform where you can book a room or an entire house in different cities. You can choose how much space you want, what amenities the house should have, which part of the city it should be in... anything you want, really. The trust-based review system is pretty awesome. You enter your payment information, but aren't actually charged until you get to the place, and don't complain to AirBnB. Ideally, you'd pick a place that has many positive reviews so that you don't find yourself in that position at all. 

As a digital marketer, I'm in awe of their system. They've figured out a brilliant alternative to accommodation. Personally, it's often made my trips even better. It saves me the most important commodities I can possess while travelling - time, and money.

Location, location, location: Staying in the city center, or near the places you want to visit, can save you a lot of money, and, even more importantly, can save you valuable time. I've noticed (affordable) hotels are rarely near the places I want to visit as a tourist. AirBnB's, on the other hand, are all over the city, and you can often find one in an ideal location for a fraction of a price you'd pay at a hotel.

Home away from home: When you're away for a while, it helps to have the stuff you're used to at home. A functional kitchen to grab a lazy bowl of cereal... because you shouldn't have to head out early when you're on vacation. A washing machine. Wifi! You'll find hotels in many countries charge extra - and exorbitantly - for perks like these. At an AirBnB, apply the right filters, and you can have anything you want. It also helps to have someone welcome you in an unfamiliar city, and answer all your questions.

Group vacays: I've used AirBnB as a solo traveller before and had absolutely no complaints. But the site really shines when you're travelling in a group. While you'd have to pay for two hotel rooms, or cramp together in a hostel dorm otherwise; with AirBnB you can have the run of a house to yourself. Even if you're just travelling with one other person, it's always more fun to have a house to yourself rather than be confined to one room.

From a shotgun house on St. George Street during Mardi Gras (for less than $50!) to a XVII century apartment near the Seine in Paris (for $55 a night), AirBnB has enriched my trips, and helped me create memories I couldn't have otherwise experienced. 

This isn't a sponsored review, just some thanks sent their way. If you do decide to use AirBnB, let me know - I'm happy to share the tips that have helped us find the best places.

Where we've been

We've been working on a new-age fairytale.

Baby Rao is due this Valentine's!

... And that's as good an excuse for not posting in a while as any (eg: we were busy moving our finances, shifting our stuff from one continent to the other, finding a new house, starting up a business, and so on. In comparison, growing a baby does seem ridiculously easy).

Seriously though, I have been writing, just not on this blog. I'll take a look at my drafts and start posting bi-weekly again. Hurray for the return of a wireless internet connection!