Slow down you crazy child....

03 Dec, 2014

It's been a crazy month  and not all if it has been work. Spending long hours on the computer and phone, exercising, catching up with work at home or even partying is beginning to lose its shine.  It's times like this that Billy Joel 's number from the seventies plays in my head and I know it is time to escape and  revive myself. A break that better be of a quality to recharge me and last for a few months atleast. 

When seeking a resting place, each one of us has a destination preference - beach, mountains, forests or just a modern ultra-luxurious retreat where location is only secondary. My ‘T’ spot is nature ! T being the tranquility quotient I measure a destination by. Believe me getting there is no journey, at break point I just need to get up there asap. The journey or lack of it begins then.

Slow travel is a natural progression from what began as a crusade against McDonalds opening in Rome in the eighties. In an attempt to preserve traditional ways of cooking and growing food, slow food burgeoned into a movement encompassing other spheres as well, slow travel being one of them. Not to be misconstrued as doing nothing, slow travel endorses  immersive and experiential travel taking time at every destination to explore and connect with nature, people, culture, cuisine etc.

The last time I spent a seven day vacation was in the quiet and beautiful hills of Mashobra. Except for the day of arrival and departure timed to avoid traffic and tuned to day light, my week spent in Violet Hill, a small three bedroom cottage perched high for superb views was the ultimate idyll and perfectly defined a ‘slow’ holiday.

Waking up only when my body signaled enough rest and to sit outside on the beautiful ridge looking out to the clouds shifting gently through the mountains. Enveloped by bird song, it is still not that late in the day either and the camp mascot Czar nudges close and makes me laugh - a large mountain breed akin to a mastiff is a comforting companion through the week’s stay . Then there is nothing but silence over endless cups of ‘chai’. Breakfast is laid out under the morning sky and the rest of the day is spent walking every trail around and beyond the cottage, beautiful forests of pine and deodar, not encountering another human as your just pick a trail,  walk to a view or a shaded valley, lie down to gaze up at the sky through the top of the trees and just let the silence wash over you. Back at the cottage a cheerful local masseuse gives you hearty massage even as you slip in and out of sleep. Every day is a repeat of the same with an agenda that is dictated by whim, picnic lunches, campfire dinners, watching sunsets a drink in hand, moving closer to the fire a song playing somewhere….. and to sleep over a deep sign of contentment. Ah ! small luxuries…

Another holiday my mind plays back again and again is a few days spent on the eastern coast in a Dutch bungalow overlooking an estuary. Having arrived there in the night, I will never forget the beautiful view I woke up to. This is so long ago my timelines are blurred but all I remember is  small rivulets weaving through narrow channels and spreading out to the ocean as the sky burst with color around the sun on the eastern horizon. The sheer ingenuity of the young cook there, the taste of crumb fried fish and hot chocolate at bed time he made from ‘5 star chocolate’ still lingers. In the end this four day vacation turned out to be a trip of discovery, cycling through small fishing villages, walking the warm sands at sunset and waking up to head straight into the sea.

Working in the world of travel where going to a new destination or site-spec of a new hotel is a part of a much envied job profile, a holiday that is more than unpack-touch-pack and go is something I do often and hence hate it so much that I refuse to call it a vacation.

Growing up in India in the seventies and eighties could well be a study in the concept of slow travel. Summer vacations meant visiting grandparents, uncles and aunts in small towns and pastoral villages in Tamil Nadu. Bathing in tube wells, running barefoot in the farms, climbing trees, helping grandma with rolling out poppadams, learning a skill or two, endless story sessions, going to the temple every evening, feasting on mangoes, swinging from trees, sleeping in the afternoon and other countless small pleasures. Years later I can still recall every vacation in great detail. Such is the quality of slow travel.  

My kind of slow travel is exquisite foreplay where I have touched the contours of time and space and each laugh and stretch, trail and tree, bird and song is deeply etched in memory and when I am back to where I have to, the few days spent illumines my next few months and like enduring love is the buoyant wind under my wings and splits my face in a smile each time I think about it.

Where's the fire, what's the hurry about? 
You'd better cool it off before you burn it out…..

Take it slow !