More people will seek a deeper under standing of local culture when they travel; also, travel will get more whimsical.
Travel is booming. More of us are packing our bags often and going to more places than ever before. While the quest to find the last piece of paradise on earth has always been a strong motivation to travel (and will continue to be so), there are other factors fuelling this rising desire to go places. Quite obviously, people have more disposable income, on an average. What’s more, they don’t mind spending more money on all things that give them immediate gratification – and travel is near the top of this list. Curiously, the rise of social media has also had a big hand in making travel so aspirational. By being an all-consuming, inyour- face presence in our lives, it constantly flashes footage of our friends and peers living it up. In doing so, it drives up envy and engineers a peculiar game of one-upmanship, with many people trying to out-travel their acquaintances. At the same time though, social media has also sparked a genuine interest in travel and opened the eyes of people to the diverse sublime experiences that can be gained only by venturing forth.
As we start a new year, here is a look at some of the trends that are likely to gather steam this year. Here’s to much happy tripping!!!
1. Volunteering while Travelling
So far, travelling has been mainly about what a particular place has to offer us: in terms of sights, sounds, experiences, food, etc. Rarely has it been about what we can offer the place in return. A small tribe of people, however, have started asking this question to themselves. While they are keen to enjoy the attractions of a place, they are equally keen to give something back. Which is why they volunteer to perform some useful work even when they travel.
Many tourists volunteer at a farm in Auroville, near Pondicherry. Akanksha Bumb, blessed with a nomadic spirit, did something similar when she went to Gujarat. “On a trip to Gujarat, my husband and I taught remedial English in one of the schools in Devpur, 40 kms from Bhuj. Helping the children learn a language well was so fulfilling. It also brought us closer to the local community and helped us understand them in a way we would not have been able to do otherwise.” says she.
2. Backpacking Hostels
On a recent trip to Fort Kochi, I eschewed hotels. I avoided homestays too. Instead, I decided to shack up at a backpackers’ hostel. I wanted to interact with total strangers and learn something about their thoughts and worldviews. Critically, I wanted an ambience that was totally non-judgemental and fun. I was amazed to see the number of people from various countries who had made the same choice as I had. Needless to say, I had a great time.
More backpacking hostels are set to come up across India this year, and the existing ones will be more in demand.
3. All-women Travel
India is still new to the phenomenon of women travelling without their family or friends. This year, we will see this nascent trend gather strength and momentum. More women will break through real and imagined barriers, and travel with other women who are strangers. Travelling as a group of women offers them a certain sense of security and comfort, and stokes intense conversations among them. Often, these trips turn out to be cathartic and revelatory to the travellers.
4. Going it Alone
While people from the Western world have been travelling solo for many years now, we Indians have been a diffident lot, by and large. We have found strength and comfort in numbers, preferring, therefore, to travel with friends or family. But in recent times, an increasing number of us have been itching to break free from this format by going it alone. Travelling with somebody else often places constraints on us. Travelling solo allows us to break free from those constrains and do what we really want to do. Also, it makes us much less self-conscious and allows us to explore our inner selves much better.
Want to go trekking in the Sahayadris with someone you have met just yesterday? Share a chillum with a stranger? Dance with the local crowd at a church feast in Goa? Do just as you please, without wondering what someone else will make of it.
This year, more of us will experience the liberating nature of solo travel.
5. Immersive Experiences
While this term has been doing the rounds for some time, it will truly come into its own this year. More of us will veer away from ticking places off a checklist and instead, embrace a slower and more experiential form of travelling. Deepali Nandwani, known travel writer, believes travelling this way can be deeply satisfying. ‘For instance, on a trip to Landour, I went on a walnut-picking trail and trekked in Jaberkhet, which is a private forest nurtured back to health. Another time, I went to see ancient fossils from the time Rajasthan had a sea and not a desert. These explorations gave me a unique perspective on the history and culture of the place, something a conventional tour can never give me.’
Personally, the best immersive experience I have had is when I stayed with a Syrian Christian family near Chengannur in Kerala. From watching toddy being tapped early in the morning to visiting unnamed churches in the bylanes to learning how to make stew, I almost became a local for those few days.
6. The Disappearance of the Off-season
As it is, the so-called ‘peak travel season’ has shrunk in recent years. People are shrugging off conventional thinking about travelling seasons, and venturing out throughout the year. They are willing to embrace the unique experiences that come along with each season. This year, it is likely to shrink further and perhaps, even disappear.
So, which of these trends do you identify most with? And how are you going to travel this year?
Written by: Ganesh Vancheeswaran