The local passage

Issue 04, 2020

The local passage

Vinayak Surya Swami |author

Issue 04, 2020

Travelling alone or in a caravanette and opting for remote and less populated destinations, choosing to stay in camps and homestays are some of the new norms of the indian tourism industry during these trying times. interestingly, these ways are also helping local population in far-flung areas become financially stable

As the world hits the refresh button and resumes normal life, the travel industry too is doing the same. The idea of travel today has gone through several revamps, redefinitions and reconstructions to suit the need of the hour. In India, the current focus is on short and long road trips and stays in local homestays and independent properties. Offbeat has become the new popular haunt, experiential, the new mode of cultural learning and adventure, the new comfort.With a gradual easing of restrictions, people are looking for opportunities to travel while conforming to safety guidelines. Secluded homestays and boutique, stand alone properties are the preferred option as they limit interactions to a minimum. A large number of working professionals are adapting to the idea of a ‘workation’, a holistic approach of achieving conducive state of employee productivity and wellbeing.

Unlike other tourism commerce, workations can mobilise a valuable knowledge source i.e. skilled working professionals, and brings them in vicinity of rural communities. This interaction could very well be manifested as a widespread community learning and development program, by encouraging professionals to undertake pro-bono volunteering opportunities corresponding to their skill set. It requires coming together of local authorities, organizations, government and service providers among others to create an ecosystem that aids professionals in delivering knowledge of vocational disciplines to rural youth and adults. In the coming months we will see a more responsible travel society.

Swedish actress Melinda Kinnaman being served breakfast at a homestay in Ladakh. Photographed before the COVID-19 pandemic, homestays are a good option to travel to avoid human contact

New age travellers are opting to take longer means (by road) to reach secluded and off-beat places, stay in small standalone properties and respect the environment. People are getting more conscious towards their contribution(s) for the betterment of the local environment, people and economy. And the best way to do so is to stay in rural areas and contribute towards the betterment of local communities. With the call for ‘Vocal for Local’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made an appeal for significant additions to India’s domestic industry. This initiative is aimed at supporting local businesses and especially sectors directly related to travel and tourism. Ours is a country which offers delights at every corner, the cultural diversity is unparalleled and India’s many natural wonders are a sight to behold. It is now time to postpone long-distance travel and head to lesser known locations to experience local culture.

The northern odyssey

The Himalayas have always guarded India’s bountiful northern frontiers, but even in their foothills lie some brilliant vacation destinations. Just under two hours away from the bustling hill station of Shimla lies the quaint town of Narkanda. Known for the sprawling acres of orchards that produce some of the most delicious apples in the country, Narkanda is the perfect destination for some quiet time or a focussed workation. A lesser known fact is that the quiet Himachali town transforms into one of the top skiing destinations with its cascading slopes every winter. Another hidden gem in the Himalayas, away from the much- visited destinations of Nainital and Almora (200 km), is the small town of Munsyari. Situated amongst the upper reaches of the Kumaon Himalayas, the west-central range in Northern India, Munsyari is home to several small mountain communities that coexist peacefully. Although accessible only via road, the sprawling Panchachuli massifs, numerous hot springs and pleasant weather make for a perfect extended stay.

Western spectacles

The country’s western frontiers are an embodiment of rustic brilliance and old world charm. Khimsar, a sleepy village in Rajasthan’s lesser known Nagaur district, is one of the state’s undiscovered gem. The fort, that is now a luxury hotel, offers a glimpse into the laid-back pastoral lifestyle while still remaining within a short distance of major cities like Jodhpur (100km away). Khimsar is the perfect quick-getaway one may need to unwind and reset.

A camp illuminated with lanterns amongst the sprawling expanse of the Thar desert in Khimsar, Rajasthan. Camping offers the option of staying isolated while on a vacation

Southern spectacle

India’s southern reaches offer a stark contrast to the country’s mountainous north in every way possible. Udupi, in the coastal region of Karnataka is a unique southern town with other- worldly temples, pristine beaches and lush green landscapes. Udipi also offers a chance to dive into a cuisine which is appreciated across the world and is one of best options for a short trip from the education-hub of Manipal. Thekkedy, in Kerala’s Idukki district is another example of a destination lost in time. Just 190 km from Kochi, the state’s economic centre, Thekkedy is home to the Perriyar Tiger Reserve, one of most popular National Park in the country. The lake, sprawling expanse of coffee plantations and a relaxed pace of life, make for the perfect excuse some short experiential travelling.

The captivating east

Dawki, a small hamlet nestled close to the Umgot river in Meghalaya’s West Janti Hills district is every traveller’s delight. The village, situated on the India-Bangladesh border, is known for the crystal clear waters of the Umgot river along with the lush environs that surround it. Dawki is just 81 km from Shillong the bustling capital for the state of Meghalaya, and is a delight for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. These offbeat destinations are not just an alternative to well-known tourism hotspots but also provide an interesting insight into India’s vibrant and diverse rural culture. Companies are training small groups of youngsters to meet the increasing demand in domestic tourism, an effort aimed towards educating guests in local specialities, traditions and environs through nature trails, jungle walks birding expeditions etc that also serve as the best stress busters in these times. The small-scale businesses spread across the Indian countryside, also stand to benefit immensely due to the much-awaited increase in domestic travel after PM Modi’s call to rally support for domestic products and services as a means for quick and effective economic revival.

Staff members of a hotel sanitise a room in Pune, Maharashtra. As the country opens up for tourism post COVID-19, hotels are taking extra precautions to disinfect and santise their properties

Vinayak Surya Swami

Vinayak Surya Swami is a Delhi-based journalist. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering and has worked as an apprentice Shipbuilder with the Indian Navy. A part-time writer since his teenage years, he switched to journalism to pursue his prurience for writing and travel.
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