How My Culinary Skills Have Helped Me With Stay in Europe | Nipun K. Parikh

We all end up staying in luxurious hotels, fancy airbnb stays, decent Homestays and maybe crash at relative or friend’s place, but how about staying with a local at his/her place in cities and hamlets. Meet Nipun K Parikh, who has been travelling countries, cooking Indian meals and staying with just the locals.

Tell us something about yourself and your background:

I’m a Mechanical Engineer by academics. After my graduation, I got into the business of industrial electronics, but now I’m fully occupied with my family business.  I’m an avid couchsurfer since 2009, an occasional blogger, a chai addict and got into running now.  Have been traveling solo since I was 23 years old, but it’s only from 2011 that I’ve really explored it.  I love meeting people from different cultures which is what I look forward to when I’m traveling.  Since last few years I’ve got into running & completed my first half marathon in 2016.

How many countries and Indian states have you travelled?

I’ve been to almost 12 states either for business or leisure purpose in India and traveled solo to 12 countries in Asia (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia) & Europe (Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Croatia, France, Austria, Turkey, Czech Republic)

Any interesting travel moment or incidence

This one was the most sudden & totally unexpected thing that happened to me on the first day of my 2nd trip to Europe.  My host decided to take me to a nude beach and it wasn’t an option for me to not go.

My solo trips to Europe have happened because of CouchSurfing.  I’ve never stayed in a hotel or Airbnb or hostel except during my stay in Turkey, and because I met my friends there.  To stay with a host through CouchSurfing, you have to send a request explaining to the person why you would want to stay with them and how you could contribute to their experience of hosting.  So my requests for hosting always used to have an offer to – ‘Cook at least once an Indian dinner’  This has always helped me to get accepted quite easily.  During my travels, I’ve cooked for my hosts in Vienna, Warsaw, Poznan, Barcelona and Prague.

This brings me to a beautiful Sunday at my host’s place in Prague.  It was my 6th and last night in Prague and my host had planned this evening from the 1st day I arrived at her place.  She had invited around 10 – 12 of her friends for an Indian dinner on Sunday evening.  Finally, we were like 9 people gathered that evening: An American, A Colombian, A guy from Ghana and A Mexican couple, three Czech girls and my host and me.  My host and I had bought all the ingredients from the supermarket.  Oh, and I carry my spices, tea leaves and tea masala with me always on my Europe trip.  I made paneer at home and instead of roti’s bought some tortillas.  Two veggies and rice with dal fry were on the menu.  And now comes the best part.  So the table was ready and I announced that every one shall eat with their hands and not with fork or spoon.  There was none kept on the table.  Now, this was a big shock for half of my host’s friends.  It was a scene to watch.

The guys were literally pleading, but that’s the rule I always have it.  So I tried to teach them how to break the tortilla’s with one hand and how to eat it with the vegetables, but with rice and dal it was super fun.  An evening, having Indian food and teaching guys how to eat with hands is so much fun while you are on your solo trip.  It’s the best way for me to socialize.

I’ve had this amazing time over dinner cooking Indian food and making my hosts eat with their hands.  The memories of those times are still fresh even after years in the minds of my CouchSurfing hosts.  It’s mentioned when I receive their emails sometimes.  And I still look forward to having such evenings while I’m travelling.

Your recommendation on the most popular places to visit

Indonesia – Bali, Turkey – Cappadocia, Pammukale, Croatia – Zadar,

Sri Lanka – Weligama (for surfing)

Tell us about your fears and anxieties when traversing solo. How you keep them at bay?

Getting stopped at immigration and falling sick while traveling are my biggest fears.  I also get anxious when I have to reach my host’s place only to find that the place is locked and I’m stranded outside with no contact with my host.

What’s your favourite travel quote?

If you want to travel, don’t wait for anyone else to accompany you, or else you’ll never be able to travel.

What’s the strangest thing you tried on your travelling days?

Driving in Croatia without a license

Any travel tips for the readers?

Do some basic research about the place you are traveling to but don’t plan too much.  The best way to explore a city is by walking.  If you like to socialize, stay in hostels rather than hotels.

Where are you off to next?

Either Ukraine or Germany or Phillipines