Over one million visits to the contest website in the first two weeks, hundreds of travel bloggers from more than 80 different countries applying for a chance to win a 2 weeks trip in Kerala and more controversy than any other contests of its kind to date: we can’t deny Kerala Blog Express started some social media buzz the last couple of months.
Thing is that we all state our hate for voting contests aloud. Having to beg for votes to your readers, friends and family is not something I was looking forward to either but, even given those circumstances, I signed up to take part in this contest last December. Two weeks touring around the Indian state on a bus with 25 other international travel bloggers sounded pretty neat and I decided to give it a try.
If last year I won the AllMexicoTrip contest after writing my dream maya trip, this year my participation just took to set up the profile, copy paste a short byline and a lot of social media promotion in a three weeks period. Somehow, I quickly jumped to the first position and maintained myself leading the contest for a while, before all the madness kicked off. All of a sudden, brand new profiles were getting hundreds of votes overnight and no one . Without understanding how brand new profiles were getting hundreds of votes overnight or why loads were criticising the Tourism Board procedure so madly, and in an effort to take the most of our New Year’s Eve trip to Scotland and January trip to Finland, I gave up asking for votes and forgot about the contest; dedicating my time to more productive daily tasks. Truth is, contest admins took some good decisions like kicking out some cheaters but I couldn’t care less at that point since I could see how winning was becoming an impossible task.
Slowly but sure, my name left the pole and the contest came to an end on January, 15th. Without my name on the top 25 and holding a 31st position I was clearly out of the contest so I congratulated the fellow bloggers I knew beforehand for their success and moved on.
But sometimes things just don’t go as planned. And so this story does not end here.
Because a few days after the contest was over, I got a message:
Congratulations. You have been shortlisted to be one of the bloggers onboard.
Wait, what did that mean? Had I been chosen to jump in the Kerala Blog Express bus and spend two amazing weeks in India?
Who knows what it did mean, many other travel bloggers I know got it at the same time too. And everybody was wondering the same. People who hadn’t made it to the Top 25 like me were now applying for their Indian visas and starting to search for flights. How exciting is that? And because the jury took into consideration something else but votes, I was actually back in the game too! They would finally choose the 25 winners based on some targeted audiences (it seems like one of them it’s YOU!), quality and interest apart from pure votes. Well, I don’t know that much about how they understand quality or which demographic stats they could be after but I DO know for some days, and before losing all interest like I have already told you, I was really looking forward to win that thing! So my interest was 1000% or even more.
Some hours later, I applied for my Indian visa and got ready to book my flight tickets 50% on my own dime. Anyway, at this point I just wanted to share how happy I am of finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Because that was just what I needed to finally head to Asia.
And right now, everything points out in the direction of some Kerala adventures around the corner!
Anyway, since I have never been to Asia – but Turkey – and there are tons of things to get done beforehand, I just thought I could share them with you here. What will work for my own records, could apply for yours too if you are planning to head to Kerala or India anytime soon.
1. CAREFULLY PLAN YOUR TRAVEL ITINERARY
In my case, Kerala Tourism Board got this sorted out but you can do it asking yourself some basic W-questions. Who, why, where and when are you going?
Here’s my Kerala Blog Express itinerary ✓
(March 8th: Arrival to Mumbai, India, by plane from western Europe.
March 9th: Plane Mumbai – Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala)
March 10th: Thiruvananthapuram – Kovalam
March 11th: Varkala – Kovalam / Varkala
March 12th: Alleppey – House boat overnight stay
March 13th: Full day at Kumarakom
March 14th: Kumarakom – Thekkady
March 15th: Full day at Thekkady
March 16th: Thekkady – Munnar
March 17th: Munnar – Athirappilly – Cheruthuruthy
March 18th: Cheruthuruthy – Full day at Kalamandalam – Cheruthuruthy
March 19th: Cheruthuruthy – Punnathur Ana Kotta – Wayanad
March 20th: Full day at Wayanad
March 21th: Full day at Wayanad
March 22th: Wayanad – Bekal
March 23th: Full day at Bekal
March 24th: Bekal – Cochin by train. Overnight stay at Cochin
March 25th: Full day at Cochin. Overnight stay at Cochin
March 26th: End of Kerala Blog Express and departure.
Nevertheless my time in India and Asia won’t be over that soon. Stay updated for my upcoming travel plans.
2. START TO MAKE IT POSSIBLE. PRACTICALITIES.
- First of all, estimate your budget in order to make your trip a reality ✓
At this point I need to download an international texting and free calling app to save some money on the road.
- Right after that, sort out your Indian visa ✓
- Book your flight tickets
- Figure out the schedules and how to book other means of transportation you will be using
- Plan the accommodation according to your budget
3. MIND YOUR SAFETY AND HEALTH
- Do some research about where you are heading to ✓
- Get your immunization shots on time! In my to-do list for tomorrow. I’ll be getting just the basics and will take a little first-aid kit with me too. (Once I figure out this tomorrow, I’ll let you know more about this important step)
- Put your personal first-aid kit together
- Pick a good travel insurance to keep you covered! There’s no rush in this one, insurance companies want our money so I’ll shop around a bit before buying it.
4. PACK SMART
If you consider yourself a flashpacker like we do, you’ll probably be taking more electronics than clothes with you. Anyway, this and further steps will be discussed in the following posts. At this point, I need to get a plug-in adapter, a backpack cable lock, DEET insect repellent like Relec, Malarone anti malaria tablets (as recommended by the gorgeous Una Idea Un Viaje’s Eva who is also coming!), a Nikon D5100 spare battery and some other useful things that will, for sure, come in handy at some point.
Wait. Somehow I’ve just written almost 1200 words so I guess it’s time to stop now. I’ll be back to share the next steps and infos with you ASAP!
Are you planning a trip to India and have questions? Would you like to share your India tips? Please leave a comment below. Thanks!