Norman Rockwell’s "Leaving Home Ties"

Leaving home was not easy for me. My father who wanted me to study in America died before I left for the USA else this painting would have been the setting of my farewell from India. Within the first few weeks of my arrival I came across Norman Rockwell and his paintings which fell in love with instantly. Each painting is a poem and a slice of American life. “Leaving Home Ties” particularly stuck a cord with me. I must remember to frame this and place it in my office.

How a bit of courage can change the way you experience the world?

 The Year 2013 changed the way I travel – I added a pinch of courage and it made all the difference.

It started with signing up with REI when my friend Mitesh Gupta sent me an e-mail with a single link.

The experience opened my eyes to what discovering the world on your own power – be it on foot, cycle or boat can do.

Good food was another addition. On our cycling trip we would wait for the organic lunch made from local produce. Food in South Italy was as heavenly as the place itself. The Gods have clearly been partial with those on the Mediterranean. Once you eat their Mozzarella cheese and their tomatoes, every other Italian restaurant you visit would only become the second best. 

In Budapest, I would have the Hungarian Goulash for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In summer Europe springs to life and along with it, song and dance. Attending rock concerts in London and music festivals in Sopron was a delight to the senses and a great way to spend the night. So here is the recipe: adventure + food + music + friends.

A holiday out with friends is something else. I went out with the boys and it probably grew younger on the trip.

Sabina, my wife is a wonderful travel companion and I always look forward to another holiday with her. Why settle for just one honeymoon in a marriage? 

  • Segway in Prague. The Segway is a fun and efficient to explore a city.

  • Cycling from Prague to Budapest. 350 kms. 4 countries: Czech, Slovakia, Austria & Hungary.

  • Boating around the Capri.  There is something luxurious about a private yacht.

  • Swimming in the Sea. You almost cannot drown thanks to the buoyancy.

  • Trekking on the Capri Island. Small trek but works as a warm-up for the bigger ones.

  • Trekking Mt. Vesuvius. Always slightly fearful that it could erupt anytime.
  • Trekking the Path of the Gods, Amalfi Coast. The path’s name is well-deserved. Don’t underestimate it for its beauty, age or challenge.

  • River Rafting in Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho. For a back-to-our-human-roots experience, experience the unspoiled American wilderness.

  • Camping in the Wilderness for a week changes your diet, the way you eat and the way you look.

  • Reaching the Wilderness and leaving it to the expertise of Idaho’s mountain pilots took me  some courage.

Looking forward to more and more of the wonderful planet we live in. Check out my bucket list X!100 Places based on National Geographic’s 100 Journeys of a Lifetime. 

Why the EB5 Visa Makes a Lot of Sense to Indians?

In Senator Patrick Leahy’s Office in 2013

My interest in the EB5 grew when I was reading about the hopelessness of quality education for the youth of India. 

Chetan Bhagat wrote that a 100 lac students write the X11 class exams every year. Let’s say that 10% of them need quality education. That’s 10 lac quality seats. 

Let me categorically state it here: There are no 10 lac quality seats in India. 

If there are a few, then your child need to score no less than 95%. If your child got 90%, there are no seats. There is no place for overachievers. There is no private participation in education because there is no incentive to – Indian education institutions are not supposed to make a profit!

Education is a high priority item for every middle class Indian. The tragedy is that the money does not buy quality education. Hence, Indians are now seeking education abroad. 

In that context the EB5 Visa makes a lot of sense. 

It allows the family to get a green card, the kids to enter the US as Green Card Holders, get cheaper tuition and study loans. Not only that, they are allowed to apply for US jobs without a sponsor. 

A green card that normally takes 15 years if a family member is willing to sponsor you or 6-8 years from the F1-H-1B path, comes to you in 6-8 months! 

This is the best value for money. There is no comparable investment. 

The EB5 is not only for parents with students but it is for anyone looking to live & settle overseas. It is very helpful for those seeking to be in business. The USA is a great place for entrepreneurs. 

There is no other marketplace like the US. It is helpful for those professionals who want to seek employment and who find it difficult to get an H1B which is based on a lottery system. 

It is great for those seeking to retire in the US. Older citizens over 55 years may choose the US as a place to retire. 

It is good for US Green Card holders & citizens who want their parents to join them & don’t want to wait for regular processing time. 

The EB5 is not only fast, it does not have the strict requirements of other channels. There is no requirement for age, English or experience. You may not qualify for a visitor visa, or a work visa or a student visa – but you just might qualify for a green card if you have $500,000 to spare. 

The EB5 Visa buys you a green card for the whole family -your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years. Whatever the recent news of 9/11 or recession be, there is no place on earth like America and it still remains the last hope for many in the world who want to lead a better life.

America stands for much more than its money. It is rich in so many ways – for the true freedom it stands for – this translates in all spheres of life from doing what you want to do, being who you want to be and saying want you want to say. 

Quite often people ask us, “Which one is better?” The USA or Australia? Or USA or Singapore. Our answer is: There is no comparison. The USA has 50 states – most of which individually are bigger and richer than the countries we want to compare. Some cities in the USA are bigger than the countries. California is the 7th largest economy in the world. So when you zoom into the USA, you will find states, cities, neighbourhoods, university campuses and companies that no other country can replicate in our lifetime. 

America is undoubtedly good for the family, for work and business and for the future. The successful EB5 program has been extended to 2015. 

But if you don’t apply on time, you may lose out on the once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. 

The urgency could be that your kids are passing out of school or turning 21. 

It is wise to apply before the queues for the EB5 gets longer and the amount required is only USD$500,000. 

And what’s more – US real estate is still available at a bargain. 

Apply now for the EB5, and five years later, when your money comes back – with returns – you will realize that you certainly made the wisest decision in your life.

How and Why to Travel?

To me, travel is the embodiment of what a good life is all about. It is how life is meant to be.
To travel means not discovering new places and meeting new people but it is actually the discovery of oneself – to realize who we are as individuals and also Indians.

Travel to me is about individuality. Where you choose to go, how you choose to go, what you seek to experience is an expression of exactly who you are.

Why would you choose to go on a costly holiday tests your value system and what you think about life? 

Does enriching oneself with a quality experience count in a world that values you based on your net worth of assets and liabilities? 

In which portion of our resume do we say we had an enriching life changing experience? Should it matter that no one notices it or accounts for it. You should travel for your sake and that is the starting point of many a great journey.

Travel must be done in great style. Actually there is no other way to do it. What a terrible sight it is to see ugly matter-of-fact suitcases with all kinds of reinforcements in airports. 

And to add to the sore sight, to bear the addresses of the passengers as if they were bandages. Make a grand entrance to the airport – remember you are the walking talking ambassador of your country. 

In a holiday that might last one to two weeks, what you do will remain for a lifetime. Here is your opportunity to have the time of your life. Indulge. Splurge. Wander. Get lost. 

Here is your opportunity to pamper yourself a little more than the ordinary day. Don’t hold back. Go for it. It’s your day.

Your grooming, your clothes, your shoes matter now. You should look like a travelling celeb. Enjoy a cappuccino and blueberry muffin walking into the local coffee shop every morning. 

Chat up the concierge on the way back to the room. Get some tips. Get ready for the day. 

Visit museums and palaces and absorb what is the zenith of civilizations encapsulated for your easy consumption. Some royalty is likely to rub off. 

Get a decent set of walking shoes. My Bally has been with me through so many places. Old shoes stand for leisure, freedom, and independence, personality, companionship, loyalty, experience, discovery, adventure, romance which is what travel offers.

Gather the courage to travel by yourself. Enjoy the freedom of being by yourself, with your companion and family. It would sad to be have your itinerary fixed by someone, have someone wake you up at 6 in the morning and be herded around. 

Enjoy the balcony of your hotel room. Spend time in there. Don’t rush to the next event. Savour the scenery while you sip your tea and browse through the magazines. 

Enjoy the leisurely stroll on the street. Don’t hurry. Let the businessmen and salesman hurry past you. They are on duty  – not you. 

Don’t miss a chance to enjoy tranquility – the solitude that you cannot enjoy back home at work or at home. This is your opportunity to get close to yourself and reach many resolutions within your inner self. 

The world is story book. To enjoy the great works of art in museums, make sure you are acquainted with the Biblical and Greek mythological stories. The more you know them, the more you enjoy the museums and other architectural landmarks. World History and 

Geography is a jigsaw puzzle. If you want to get a perspective, learn one favorite part of your history well. If you remember 1653 was around time Taj was completed you compare and see how the rest of world was then.

Exploit your anonymity to the fullest. You left your world far away. Abandon your long-held superstitions, prejudices, sentiments and fears at least on this holiday. Let go. You will feel the lightness of your being.

Search for beauty and every time you say “Wow” or “Wah” – remember you encountered a divine presence. 

Be generous in every way you can on this trip. Tip that taxi driver, tip that concierge, that waiter. Buy that hand painting from the street. Begin a collection of them. You are bringing home the energies and blessing of the world. 

The world is full of invitations. A golf course awaits, a berth in a train, a laid back life on a cruise ship, a curve full of suspense awaits you at every bend you choose to jog or cycle, a great view awaits you and a whole new world is waiting for you. 

Xavier Augustin, CEO, X! Travel Club and Y-Axis