The idea of slow travel is to “live in” and experience a place rather than just “visit” it.
Poet W.H. Davies’ lament “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare” is more true today than it has ever been before. As technology advances, purportedly to make life easier, we find ourselves paradoxically busier than ever, frantically multi-tasking to keep up on all fronts. The result is a frenzied lifestyle that leaves little or no room for mindful living. Slow travel, a part of the slow movement that first began in 1986 in Europe, seeks to correct the unsustainable frenzy evident everywhere today, with an aim to help people engage more fully with the places they visit.
Slow travellers live in a place long enough to experience it more closely, usually for at least a week. The whole point of slow travel is to allow yourself some breathing space, so the time you spend at a place depends on how much time you can actually spare, which could be even just a day or two. The focus though, is on “living” rather than “staying” at the place. Travellers generally “live” in places other than a well-equipped hotel room. Instead, there are holiday rentals that allow you to cook, wash and shop around, rentals like cottages, houses and villas.
The Traveling Gecko (TTG), a travel company with thematic holiday experiences as its USP, is trying to introduce the concept of slow travel to travellers. Says co-founder Rajith Nair, “‘Slow travel’ is an interesting idea. We see a lot of Indians travelling on their own or in small groups, trying to visit less explored destinations or going to the ‘usual suspects’ like Munnar, but with an emphasis of experiencing these places in a more authentic way. Given our hectic lifestyles, where we are always rushing from one point to another, travel is a great opportunity to slow down.”
The idea is to discover the destination in a more holistic fashion, through its history, people, cuisine, travel, culture and festivals. Rajith continues, “This could include living in home stays with an opportunity to live and dine with the locals, experience community living through quirky experiences like visiting local vegetable or fish markets, shop for the afternoon meal with the hosts and then possibly cook it too, and visit the local tea shop for some tea, hot snacks and a generous dose of local gossip!” Attending local events, watching a movie, playing a sport with the locals all add to the experience.
Says Dianne Sharma Winter, whose consultancy offers travel advice and packages especially for women wanting to explore India, “Slow travel means to slow down and smell that roadside rose! People lead such stressful lives that spillover into holidays. I tell my clients that if they’re planning a three-day holiday, they should plan for four!” Dianne’s offers boutique and slow travel options in conjunction with her travel partner at Breakaway. “We offer journeys that are off-the-map. We look at unusual ideas for weekends or slightly longer breaks that include exploring art and textiles, a lot of eating and total relaxation. I often include a compulsory spa stop.” She adds that though most of her clients are women, she also caters to couples where it’s the woman who has done the research and approached her.
HighOnTravel, another travel company that promotes slow holidays in India, hopes to correlate every vacation with an experience. Says CEO Chirag Bhandari, “From restored, palaces to charming, old-world bungalows, from rustic tree-houses to luxurious Maharaja-style camps in the middle of the desert, all our stays have a sense of history. The hosts have interesting stories to narrate. There are local delicacies on the menu and activities like a guided walk around the village, a ride on a classic vintage car or even a one-of-a-kind experience of having a romantic dinner inside a step-well in Rajasthan.”