You’re lounging at a beach like you belong there. You’ve trekked for hours, just for a selfie on the "top of the world". You’re smiling blissfully to the sounds of music at that festival in Rajasthan. You’d forego Ladakh for the North East, Bangkok for Krabi, Italy for Greece. You’re saving up for Machu Picchu.
The way we travel
Curiously enough, we like to travel in groups. Vishal Suri, CEO of Tour Operating, Kuoni India, says, “Indians want to travel with friends or another family. Unlike the Western tourists, Indian tourists will not go read a book on the beach, they want to be engaged and connected.”
That being said, the number of solo Indian women travellers is going up, according to a TripAdvisor survey. The women surveyed said it gave them the freedom to do whatever they wanted. They didn’t need to depend on family or friends, who do not have the time or resources to travel with them.
Interestingly, Indians are the most hungry for Wi-Fi. Even more so than Europeans, which is ironic considering our state of Wi-Fi – non-existent in most public spaces.
Travel is now about the experience and discovery rather than just sightseeing. “There is a shift from multi-destination to single destination travel,” says Suri. People want to explore one country thoroughly rather than club several on a single trip.
Lure of the obscure
There is a fine distinction between travellers and tourists. (Though, by definition, if you are travelling for the sake of travelling, you are a tourist.) But all real (and most definitely, all wannabe) travellers will scrunch up their nose and refuse to speak to you if you refer to them ‘tourists’.
Tourists are the guys who pose for photographs, are unable to digest local food. They pore over maps and travel guides and look very confused. Travellers, on the other hand, try to blend in. They’re cool and adventurous.
“A few years ago, I found a church floating in the middle of a village called Shettihalli – just four hours away from Bangalore,” says Lakshmi Sharath. The 19th century Rosary Church gets half submerged in water every monsoon.
It’s not the kind of place a tourist would enjoy – but a traveller would. And that is the difference. Travellers love the obscure. This is our favourite trend of all – and one that the Brunch team likes to contribute to.
It has been reported that the Indian traveller is being “wooed” by several off-beat destinations across the world, because of the “sheer volume of the country’s population”. Quite successfully too. According to online travel portal Expedia India, 30 per cent of Indian travellers opted for offbeat destinations during the summer in 2013.
You don’t need us to tell you that travel is good. That it makes you healthier and happier – holiday arguments notwithstanding. But apparently, even the simple – on second thought, not so simple – act of planning a holiday generates happiness. And true travellers, well, that’s all they do.
For seven years, Neelima Vallangi worked as a software engineer in Bangalore. And for seven long years, she was miserable at her well-paying job. In 2008, she began travelling – and blogging about it. Two years later, she began freelancing, and a year later, figured out how to survive just by freelancing.
Last year, she quit her job. This January, she gave up her apartment. “I’m a location-based traveller,” she says, like it is the most normal thing. In the last three months, she’s travelled to Ladakh, Karnataka, Almora and Arunachal Pradesh.
“When I had my apartment, I always had to come back to Bangalore after every trip – to pay the rent, the bills, all that nonsense,” she says. “I don’t need a house, all my work [writing, photographing, blogging] is online.” She travels from one destination to another, and lives without a permanent base.
You may not want to quit your job though. We’re travelling often enough now. But here’s something you must consider: India is still the fourth most vacation-deprived nation in the world. People let their holidays lapse.
Where to go...
* Two Tamil Nadu towns that “no longer exist”:
Gangaikondacholapuram near Thanjavur: This 1000-year-old town was supposed to be Rajendra Chola I’s capital. He built this temple – but left it incomplete and no one knows why.
Dhanushkodi, the southern tip of the Rameshwaram: This “ghost town” was destroyed in a cyclone in the 1960s. All you see are skeletal ruins, Sri Lanka in the distance and you can see what is considered to be the remains of the Ram Setu.
Recommended by: Lakshmi Sharath (lakshmisharath.com)
It’s a very touristy place but go for local treks in Almora district instead. It has got the best view of the Himalayas.
Recommended by: Neelima Vallangi (travelwithneelima.com)
* Anywhere in Arunachal Pradesh. It is still unspoiled, and has the thickest forests I have ever seen. You can drink water straight from the rivers. And it has thousands of varieties of orchids.
Recommended by: Anuradha Goyal (Inditales.com)
From HT Brunch, March 22
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