Remember the days when taking a vacation meant the entire family trundling off to a single destination, a choice they arrived at after a month of planning (ie squabbling and yelling); the vacation after which you would need another vacation. And, after all this, there would be the inevitable grumbling at the futility of all that money spent, let alone the laborious process, only to be repeated all over again, next year.
Going by the youngsters of the region, those days are long over — a winter holiday no longer means morose wanderings in Shimla with the grownups in that ubiquitous monkey cap, or chilling with your sari-clad mother, who is muttering the name of every god in her arsenal at the sight of those ‘shameless sunbathing hussies’.
Not travelling just because your family or friends aren’t free to accompany you is a thing of the past, with more and more youngsters opting to travel solo and meet new companions along the way.
Even rising costs in airfare and overall travel, thanks to the recent chill, are not an issue anymore. According to Shamsheer, 22, a Chandigarh-based web developer, to whom the mountains seem to call out and pretty often at that, “The mountains always seemed to call out to me, more in the winters than in the usual summer months. Snow-clad, they seem even more majestic, if such a thing is possible. Nowadays, you can even get a comfortable Volvo bus to the major hill stations of Himachal Pradesh, such as Mcleodganj and Shimla, and contrary to popular belief, these towns are more alive than ever at this point of the year. Best part?
You don’t have to break your piggy-banks for this, because perfectly-nice hotels are made available at decent prices around this time of the year. Also, since I travel a lot, I’ve made friends there who make sure I’m not overcharged.” As a footnote, he adds, “A roaring fireplace, snuggled up in a blanket with hot cocoa to watch snow fall outside your window — life can’t get better than that!”
But, it isn’t just budget travelling that’s caught the local traveller’s fancy. While backpacking maybe more in vogue than ever, thanks to word-of-mouth making offbeat locations more accessible, luxury holidays are fast catching up too. Hike in airfares or not, it isn’t stopping the youth from taking a hike. Sahil, 25, a Chandigarh-based financial analyst believes that if he’s already killing himself to earn a decent living, then the vacation should be worth the expense; after all, five-star vacations aren’t the exclusive domain of grownups anymore! “While the lure of a backpack will always remain strong, I don’t have the time anymore for a long trip; it’s all about ‘weekendwhile trips’ now. My favourite spot is Neemrana Fort (Rajasthan). There are only a few things in life that can beat the charm of relaxing in an erstwhile royal fort,” says he.
For the past one year, Contiki Holidays, a youth travel operator, has been working closely with its travel partners, Travel Air Representations and Ezeego1 in India, catering to young travellers in the country. “We have seen a great response from young Indian travellers. They are very receptive to us, as we provide them with an alternative way of travelling style and experience and we saw a significant growth in terms of people signing up on our tours,” said Kevin Khor, head of sales and marketing, Asia, Contiki Holidays.
He further stated that Contiki has been trying to constantly understand the trends and needs of young travellers, “Hence, our value-add services have also changed from time to time, where we no longer are offering them just a holiday tour, but their very own travel story that lives with them forever.”
Itineraries of today’s winter traveller don’t just mean driving up to Kasauli. It includes everything from living in the lap of luxury at heritage forts to climbing up a mountain with nothing but a backpack; from laidback beaches in the south to wildlife reserves across the country; tiger spotting in Corbett, literary minds at the Jaipur Literature Fest, Jacuzzi at 8,000 ft at Wildflower Hall or just lazing on a beach. For adventurers, options are endless.