As the year winds down and I slip into tallying how my year has been, I ask myself, “What’s been the best tonic for the soul?” The answer is easy. Travelling to different parts of the globe. I have one more trip to an immodestly beautiful slice of India that has managed to stay elusive till date – Meghalaya. Excited to join the Delhi based music band, The Cosmic Truth, on a journey with Maruti Suzuki Alto and Outlook Traveller, I can’t think of a better way to end the year.
During the trip, I get chatting to singer and producer, Saachi Chandarana and other members of the band, and even though we’re a decade apart in age, we agree that a self-driving trip is the perfect antidote for city souls like us. We spend four days on the road together and I get an insight into the minds of India’s young travellers.
From off-season mountain escapes to short haul getaways, these travellers are thirsting for more. While camping, music festivals and solo travel feature in our conversation, self-driving trips seem to bag the highest spot. A lot has changed over the last decade and a half. Postcards and film cameras have been replaced by smartphones and travel blogs. Cravings for lavish escapes inspired by Bollywood-esque charm have diminished. More and more people, especially the youth, are choosing experiences over places, offbeat over popular, adventure over comfort and spontaneous over well-planned. Getting behind the wheel in a car that is easy to drive and economical on the road is ideal to get around.
Spontaneity underlines the travelling style of the youth today. For them, travel is not merely a vacation to escape the monotony of a 9-to-5 routine but a route to find themselves. Total control on their own travel planning and veering off the treaded trails is the hallmark of their travel palate. The uber popular destinations are comfortably dropped over choosing those where lesser feet have reached.
Saachi echoes this sentiment, “My mom is a Queen when it comes to travel. I am more open to sticky situations and experimentation as I want to see more in less. I prefer budget travel over luxury, and unknown to the known.”
And, Saachi is not a lone voice. The mood of the Indian travel industry is changing like Irish weather. The past decade saw a monumental rise of ‘Experience Economy’, which has brought new travel trends to the foreground.
Thanks to an easy access to information, the tribe of intrepid travellers has grown multifold. On the prowl for offbeat destinations that are far removed from the tourist trail, the young travellers are willing to experiment. Relatively off-the-radar destinations like North East, untouched parts of Goa, adventures like paragliding in Bir Billing and exploring Spiti Valley among many others offer more bragging rights than others.
Staying at native homestays, eating in local restaurants, traveling local style to immerse oneself in the cultural fabric of a destination is not an aberration anymore. The budget-conscious young travellers specifically look for authentic and economical experiences to make their travel unique and memorable while not squeezing their savings.
Travel is no more meant for individual consumption. Whether good or bad, every experience is shared online. If it’s not online, it never happened. And, therefore the young travellers are broadcasting their travel updates frequently, if not live from the scene. The entire journey starting from destination research to the actual trip experience to after visit feedback is curated, documented and shared online. The choice of a destination is ruled by its ‘Insta-worthy’ appeal. The more offbeat your choice is, more likes, comments, and shares you can earn.
Young Indian Travellers are smart travellers who believe money saved is money earned. And, DIY travel is their favourite tool. They are always searching for low-cost airfares and cheap accommodations like homestays and hostels. Instead of paying someone to plan their trip, they do it themselves by reading tons of experiential travel blogs available on their fingertips.
Most of the trends are hemmed together with a common motivation – freedom. Youth today don’t want to give the steering of their life into someone else’s hands. They want to be in the driver seat whether it is life or travel. Naturally, self-driving fits into the scheme seamlessly.
“When you go on self-drive road trips, you are in control. You can decide what you want to experience, with whom and for how long. You are not rushed from one place to another. Self-drive road trips let you explore not just the place but yourself too,” Sahil Sharma contributes to our conversation. Being on the ‘Wheels of Wander’ trip to Meghalaya with the rest of the band, the 22-year-old musician can’t think of a better destination or company for a year-end getaway.
Immersive travel experiences, raw and real essence of a place and the freedom to explore at your own pace is an addictive way to travel. With better roads and highway connectivity, reliable set of wheels and information in your palm, the self-drive holidays are here to stay.