Don’t just visit: Explore new destinations, take longer ­vacations

  • Sneha Mahale, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 11, 2015 13:00 IST
Tours that pack in multiple spots in a few days are passé. Experts say many Indians are now taking longer ­vacations with the aim to experience destinations, and not just visit them. (iStock)

Last month, a study conducted by global ­consulting firm Northstar, in 26 countries, revealed that India ranks fourth among the world’s most vacation-deprived nations. Apparently, around 73% of the respondents polled felt they deserve more breaks than what they got. But the reverse also seems to be true. Travel experts say a growing tribe of vacationers are taking off on holidays that extend for weeks or even months.

Madhurima Banerjee, 28, swears by this kind of a break. She and her husband recently took a three-month holiday from their ­respective offices, and went to France. “We spent our time in Paris, and drove to places nearby. Our friends were shocked by how limited our itinerary was, but we didn’t want to just see places, we wanted an authentic French ­experience,” says the IT consultant.

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The beginning
Slow travel is on the rise in India. The concept has its origins in the slow food movement, which began in Italy in the ’80s as protest against the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome. Since then, it has developed into a whole new way of life called the Slow Movement. The emphasis, ­however, remains on making ­connections — be it with local food, culture or people. When it comes to slow ­travel, the idea is to not squeeze as many sights and cities as possible into an itinerary, but to explore each place ­thoroughly and experience local culture. “Over the last three years, we’ve seen a 100% growth in the number of people opting for ­vacations that last longer than 20 days. These travellers book flight and hotel combos, and plan their on-ground itineraries themselves,” says Amit Taneja of Cleartrip.

Intense experience
Such travellers are also focused about their approach to a holiday. They want to learn more about their destination, so they spend at least days or weeks at the same location, and live in homestays where they get firsthand ­knowledge about the culture and traditions from the host family. They also like to savour local ­delicacies, take part in activities, and gain an insight into the ­lifestyle of that area. “Slow travel allows you to experience the place more intensely. The idea is to have an immersive experience. It is not about seeing five countries in 10 days,” says Karan Anand of Cox & Kings.

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While Europe, Egypt, UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US are the preferred international ­destinations for long breaks, Indians have also begun travelling within the country for 20-25 days.

“The see-as-much-as-you-can ­whirlwind packages are giving way to more meaningful ­exploration. Slow travel holds more allure, as it provides an ideal opportunity to soak in the culture, engage with people, sample the local food and wine, and isn’t this what travel is about?” says Jatinder Paul Singh of Thomas Cook India.

How to go slow
Accommodation: Opt for vacation rentals or homestays. They cost less, are spacious, and offer a more homely feel than hotels. Most rentals in Europe need to be booked from Saturday to Saturday, and are snapped up fast in peak and shoulder seasons. So, choose and book one as soon as ­possible.

Food: Such trips are best enjoyed with local experiences. So, head to the farmers’ ­market on Sunday, and seek out local ingredients. Taste the regional cuisine at spots ­frequented by the locals, or visit markets to pick the best veggies or the freshest catch of the day.

Transportation: For the harried traveller, flights are a time- saver and a convenient option. But if you intend to stay in the same spot for a while, opt for public transport like buses and trains. Better yet, cycle or walk around to soak in the vibe of the destination. “We have observed that the growing ­popularity of slow travel ­coincides with the rise in the number of people opting for self-drive holidays, which offer the convenience of being in charge of one’s pace and exploring a getaway at ­leisure,” says Rakshit Desai of Flight Shop.

A laid-back, slow travel plan helps you explore new places better. (iStock)

Vacations in India
Slow travel works best for those who want to enjoy a laid-back life while ­discovering a new place. “The ultimate aim is to break away from everyday life. The ­benefit is the abundance of time one has on hand. You can start by exploring your immediate surroundings, and gradually broaden your ­horizons by getting to know more about the place that you are visiting,” says Aloke Bajpai from Ixigo. India offers a lot of scope for such ­voyages of discovery, and train travel is a great way to explore the country’s secrets. “Staying at a coffee ­plantation in Coorg, taking the time out to learn local arts like pottery or Kalaripayattu, participating in rejuvenating yoga ­programmes are facets of slow travel that instill a deeper appreciation of our culture and ethos,” says Rajeev D Kale from Thomas Cook India.

Check out websites like It explores the merits of slow travel in Europe. It helps travellers understand the Slow Movement, with information on travel, ­cities, food and more. This affiliation of small group tour operators offers ­personalised trips in Italy, France and other European countries. Members of this community share their experiences by writing about their travels. It offers immersive tours that allow visitors to take in the local culture.

Follow @htlifeandstyle for more.

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