Our lives forever keep us on the move; our minds meanwhile are working round the clock. With work, home, family, and responsibilities increasing every day, taking time to just be is becoming harder for everyone. But taking a break to rest and rejuvenate is as essential as working and fulfilling commitments. That is where holidays that help you unwind and take a break fit in. Small vacations that revolve around learning a new skill – cooking, pottery, yoga, art – are becoming popular with those who find hard to take out time for hobbies. Holidays that revolve around nature, culture, cuisine and wellness work wonderfully for those who already have specific interests.
Nothing compares to the thrill of nature. While we may often return empty handed from Safaris that promise tigers, lions, and elephants, a nature walk or a jungle trail never disappoints. Spotting a rare bird, passing by a herd of migrating sheep, stopping to catch your breath, and listening to local folklore makes these walks especially therapeutic. “Jungle trails take you to real nature,” says Debashish Kar, an HR professional who enjoys his regular stints at the jungle, especially around wildlife. “That they take you outside your luxurious jungle cottages into the real wild make them even more novel.”
With hardly any nature left in our cities and villages, this, according to Kar is, one of the best ways to rejuvenate. Specially curated trails also bring in an element of adventure. “We have recreated chase of a dreaded man-eater that Jim Corbett had hunted in the nearby village,” informs Faisal Nafees, GM lebua resorts. Home to the legendary hunter, Jim Corbett, the forest, is a treasure trove of stories from his adventures, and a walk retracing the footprints of a fierce man-eater here brings equal amount of thrill and peace.
Not all forest trails have to be adventurous though, nor do you need to travel to far off jungles for a rejuvenating experience. Some could also be done in and around the cities. “Healing Forest is a concept that lets you connect with nature in most amazing ways,” informs Swati Seth, an entrepreneur who lives and works in Naggar. The concept, says Swati, heals and centers you. It also helps you disconnect from the daily stressors and focus more on the moment. Even a mundane activity, according to Swati, becomes special in the forests – eating, reading, or just observing the sights and sounds can help immensely.
Places that offer Nature Trails and Jungle Walks: lebua, Corbett. Healing Forests, Delhi (Trails Outside of Delhi).
One watches in wonder as the middle-aged man chops the guava. Fast and precise, he makes equal pieces of the fruit and dunks them into a steel container. He then adds a dash mustard sauce, some lemon juice, some salt and shakes the container vigorously. What comes out is a delightful chaat. Served in a paper cone with two toothpicks, the chaat looks enticing and inviting, and before you know you are lost in its tangy sourness
Cooking, according to studies, is the perfect way to unwind, relax, and refresh. Culinary workshops are fast gaining popularity, as are holidays that let you learn a new cuisine or try your hand at time tested ones. That cooking needs one to be mindful and switch off from everything else makes it a perfect activity to unwind; that it needs you to use all your senses helps in aligning the mind, body, and soul. Holidays woven around culinary experiences tend to heighten the senses and induce a sense of satisfaction.
While baking with its precision and technique is an all time favourite, regional cuisines that promise newness of flavours are also great options. From Goa to Uttarakhand, from Mumbai to Delhi, every city and region gives you an opportunity to get to learn its signature cuisine up close and personal.
At Masala Art, Taj Palace, Delhi, for example, you go to the world’s largest spice market for fresh ingredients and come back to cook with the same produce. The experience culminates with a personalized meal. In Goa, you can sign up for Culinary Classica, a Goan master class with a Goan chef at ITC Grand Goa, and spend the evening learning and sampling authentic Goan Cuisine. If you cannot take time for a long holiday to cook, you can always sign up for special cooking pop ups in your own city. Soda Bottle Openrwala, a famous Parsi Irani café organizes regular master classes with their chefs in Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Bangalore.
For those who do not like getting their hands dirty however, there are holidays woven around culinary experiences too. Food walks, royal meals, literary dinners, and jungle lunches – meals woven around themes are the best way to unwind, relax, and have a great time.
Places that offer interesting culinary experiences: ITC Tempero, Goa. Taj Palace, New Delhi. Shantiniketan Bolpur.
Vipasana, Dhyana, Meditation, and Yoga. While these may seem unlikely holiday ideas, they do make for great rejuvenating breaks. A retreat in the Himalayas, meditation workshop at a beach; Vipasana in your own city, or yoga in an asharm all are great ways to get a constructive yet refreshing break. “A yoga retreat is a great way to slow down and find the right rhythm to heal your body, mind and soul.” Says Shirin Mehrotra, a writer, who specifically remembers the moment when she was dancing at crying at one such retreat and yet feeling great.
“Whether you are a seasoned yogi or just a beginner, I think it is interesting to try a trip that is not your usual kind of holiday,” says Reem Khokar, a writer, referring to the 7-day yoga retreat she attended. Something that challenges you and exposes you to a different environment, feels Khokhar, is always a good mix of fun with learning new things. The yoga festival at Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh is one such place that lets you have an immersive experience. At the ashram, far removed from the daily routine, spending time with new people doing new activities can be energizing and uplifting.
A holiday may mean comfort and relaxation, but a meditation retreat focuses on self-transformation also. Divyam Srivastava, a corporate professional, who often travels for meditative breaks in the foothills of Velliangiri Mountains, feels that presence of powerful energies in the environment, the company of minded people, and being away from the daily rigmarole, makes meditation retreats enriching and enlightening.
Places that offer Yoga and Meditation based holidays: Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram, Neyyar Dam, Kerala. Parmatha Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh. Tushita Meditation Centre, Dharamshala.
A version of this story first appeared in Vistara’s magazine.