Push pause: In praise of slow travel


From horse riding in Iceland to foraging in the Himalayas, holidays are becoming more meaningful and mindful. Seven tastemakers inspire us to try it

Overtourism is a fact of our times. But even as thousands descend on cities like Santorini, Kyoto and Amsterdam, others are staying away — preferring places and signature experiences that help them slow down, savour and give time a break. Who among us didn’t follow, with some envy, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor’s languid Cape Town break — full of horseback riding, picnics on the beach and scuba expeditions? Or designer Masaba Gupta’s stay at Soneva Fushi in Maldives last month, when the mood on her Instagram feed was languid. Slow travel is on the rise and, according to Amit Kalsi, Founder-CEO of New Delhi-based Experiential Travel Journeys, “experiences like river cruises and visiting jungle retreats are getting popular”. Sesh Seshadri, Director & General Manager, Lonely Planet India, echoes this. “Our global travel trend predictions for 2019 include getting off the tourist path, following your DNA, electric road trips, and dark skies,” he says. While Europe and Australia are still favourites, slow travellers are increasingly finding options closer to home — like a walking itinerary in the Himalayas that includes silent walks led by mindfulness gurus and a hike with a monk (approximately ₹8,86,560 for 16 days by Ampersand Travel). Seven industry experts and influencers let us in on their favourite experiences of 2018.

Push pause: In praise of slow travel

Gauri Devidayal, Mumbai

Co-founder, Food Matters

No two days in Devidayal’s typical week are similar. As one of the mainstays behind award-winning restaurants The Table (that she co-owns with husband Jay Yousuf), Magazine Street Kitchen and Miss T, her time is taken up firefighting, crunching numbers and innovating. So every chance she gets, she goes scuba diving. “It is the best way to switch off because you can’t take your phone under the water with you,” says the 38-year-old. She discovered her passion on a visit to the Andamans last year — spotty mobile reception became a boon, allowing her to disconnect completely and “truly hear the sounds around her”. On Beach No 5, she found an underwater world that “forced her to stay present and in the moment”. Since then, most of her holidays have been planned around dive sites. As she gets ready for the family’s annual ski-trip to Gulmarg (with low mobile coverage), I wonder if bad network also influences her travel plans. “I think that’s just a by-product; I do it to be in the outdoors,” she laughs.

Push pause: In praise of slow travel

Amruda Nair, Mumbai

Director, Araiya Hotels & Resorts

Heading a young venture — the hotel heiress’ global hospitality company is just a year old — is time-consuming. But Nair, 36, tries to mix work and play, culling out time for water sports and long walks (often covering 25-30 km a day). In Malta, a place she keeps returning to for work, she has begun to extend her stay so she can take the time to “immerse herself”. “I’ve split my exploratory walks over many visits and have managed to go along every coastline on the island,” she says. A stretch she loves is from Marsaskala to Marsaxlokk, which takes her past St Peters Pool, a natural swimming area reachable only on foot. Walking, she tells me, is also a great way to discover regional hideaways and engage with the locals. Though she thinks Switzerland is the best country to walk in, she is looking forward to hiking up Machu Picchu and walking up to Tiger’s Peak in Bhutan.

Push pause: In praise of slow travel

Vidya Gajapathi Raju Singh, Chennai

Princess of Vijayanagaram

Last year, the Neelakurinji bloomed across South India — something that happens once every 12 years — and Singh, 65, made sure she travelled to where the brilliant blue flowers were. “Kodaikanal has been a favourite holiday destination since my childhood days; it always brings back nostalgic memories of carefree summers. But this trip was planned with the express purpose of ‘seeing the kurunji’,” she says. The wedding planner — who is also an avid swimmer and cyclist (holidays in Europe have seen her pedalling all day, with lunch breaks under olive trees) — spent a week hiking in the hills. She trekked to Dolphin’s Nose and Cloudlands Peak “to disconnect from the world and be one with nature”. She is contemplating a trip to Peru and Bolivia in April and shares that a climb to Kilimanjaro is on her bucket list. But first, she is planning a trekking excursion with Carnatic signer TM Krishna— from the plains to the top of Kodaikanal — but without the Neelakurinji for company this time.

Push pause: In praise of slow travel

Siddharth Kasliwal, Jaipur

Partner, Gem Palace

As the Gem Palace scion, Siddharth often travels the world looking for jewels (a recent find, according to The New York Times, was a 10-carat mine diamond at a Las Vegas antiques show). So it isn’t surprising that Diamond Beach — where ice from the glaciers around Breiðamerkursandur break up on the rocky black shore — was a must-visit on his recent trip to Iceland, with his brother Samarth. The 34-year-old “drove everywhere, staying in villages that had populations of just 200 people”. Slowing down also gave the avid horseman an opportunity to indulge one of his other passions. At Íslenski Hesturinn, he toured the countryside on horseback, experiencing first-hand the tölt, an ambling gait inherent to the horses raised on the island, something he says “that only Icelandic horses do”. Though he has been to 70 countries so far, Siddharth shares that he now wants to connect more deeply with the places he visits. “My biggest dream is to leave my phone behind, get lost and travel around Latin America.”

Push pause: In praise of slow travel

Prateek Sadhu, Mumbai

Executive chef, Masque

He heads one of the most experimental kitchens in the country, but Sadhu says, “I’ve always been a mountain person and living in the city, I often find excuses to get away.” This usually takes the chef — who has worked at Noma and French Laundry — to Kashmir and Uttarakhand, where he forages in the wild, and brings back seabuckthorn and hisalu berries to incorporate into his menu. “I’m a firm believer that you need to get out to find peace. Also, it really helps me think.” Hailing from Kashmir, the 32-year-old calls it home, but also the source of inspiration for the food he serves at Masque and at pop-ups all over the world. He loves the fact that you can look out at “the entire Himalayan range, with no network, no cell phone, and all you can hear is the wind”. Does he ever take a trip to just de-clutter his mind? Kashmir pops up again — he visited last month to think about his winter menu (which is being launched at Masque this week). “It helps me to streamline things,” says the workaholic, adding that it also lets him focus on the most important task: what to serve his diners.

Push pause: In praise of slow travel

Bandana Tewari, Mumbai-Bali

Lifestyle journalist, sustainable activist

Tewari is someone who has truly embraced slow travel. The journalist, who used to be based in Mumbai, now spends part of the year in Bali, where her daughter attends The Green School. “Preceding slow travel is the slow mindset,” she says, emphasising that the two go hand-in-hand. “Whether you’re travelling to a remote island, going for a yoga class, or to a healer in Bali, the idea is that it’s a slow discovery of life’s experiences.” Slow travel, for the 45-year-old, is an ideology “that you have to embrace as something that is part of your day-to-day life. It’s not necessarily about going to a destination, it’s about everything you experience in your life, but just doing it more mindfully”. As someone who has been writing about fashion and its sociological underpinnings for over 10 years, she says, “I don’t buy much. I understand the significance of what is made by hand. I want to know the faces of the faceless artisans.” As a result, Tewari has incorporated ‘slow’ into her everyday routine — from consuming less to being mindful of her daily habits.

Push pause: In praise of slow travel

Rishad Saam Mehta, Mumbai

Travel writer

Mehta, 47, is no stranger to long journeys and, for him, “there’s no better way to travel than a road trip”. His newest, and third, book, The Long Drive Home, details his 54-day overland trip from Munich to Mumbai in an Audi Q7. However, he picks two three-week trips he took — one to Peru and the other to Turkey, which included “a drive through the night from Antalya to Istanbul” — as some of his best slow travel experiences. “I don’t have this fear of ‘Oh my God, we’re never going to come to this country again, so let’s pack in as much as we can in the limited time we have’,” he says. So he uses each trip to explore the land and connect with locals — like when he was in Gaziantep, near Turkey’s Syrian border, where he visited the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, befriended locals and joined them for several meals of shorba and liver kebab, in the shadow of a local masjid. It is these experiences, not found on the Internet, that inspire him to travel. Is it any surprise then that he has another trip to Turkey planned in 2019?

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 2:34:11 PM |

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