Off the Grid

R Pallavi | Print Edition: April 14, 2013

Withdrawn from the clamour and chaos of urban life, the virgin prefecture of faraway lands stokes your wanderlust. A crisp crackle of dry leaves here and a soft glow of fireflies there, many a Wordsworthian moment are waiting to be stumbled upon in a world less profane. Travel, they say, is always about discovery and better travel about discovery of the self.

At the turn of the millenia, the average stressed out American hit the brakes. The typical packed touristy itinerary was ditched for solitude on a vineyard trail or an isolated mountain cabana. Vikram Madhok, MD, Abercrombie and Fitch, points out that the trend is attracting Indian executives, particularly bankers, who are more than happy to opt for customised de-stress tours. Slow travel characterised by places that allow you to be, without the baggage of frenzied sightseeing. Vikram Malhi, Country Head, Expedia India, says there has been an 18 to 20 per cent rise in the number of experiential and slow travellers in 2012. To this, Deep Kalra, Founder, MakeMyTrip adds that "A new age of travellers now invest in travel as a therapeutic experience".

So, stop gazing at your laptop screen in the hope of a mystic diversion from monotony. New frontiers of slow and definitive travel lie open before you and there is no time like now.


The constant cloudy haze is sharpened by hills in the background, the valley resounds in periodic euphoria with the turn of artistically chiselled bells, and gigglegaggle of boy monks; it isn't difficult to imagine Bhutan. The experience though tells a different story, and it's better. The Bhutanese landscape let's you get lost in search of yourself, a trait distinctive to Buddhists. A threeday solo trek of Bumthang, Bhutan's most sacred valley let's you unravel hidden historic anecdotes, by deciphering inscriptions on monastery walls and making long-drawn conversations with red-robed abbots as you go. You could spend hours by yourself, just filming the colourful flags that flutter alongside the mountain passes. Dochula, between Thimpu to Punakha, is a cluster of stupas with an elevation of 3,100m in the centre of the valley, and offers a 360 degree panorama of the Himalayas. It's all so still, and still so dramatic! Time to visit May to October; Getting There Druk Air (Kolkata to Paro).
Newfoundland, Canada
Newfoundland, Canada

When Henry Thoreau was building his theories on solitary contemplation and inspiring generations of writers in his wake, Newfoundland served as his inspiration. The uninvaded Canadian borders have fed the American thirst for wild for years. The languor of levering across groggy mountains and over sparse greenlands in a slow train is now attracting stressed city slickers looking to unwind. In Newfoundland, one can spend hours watching two things: whales, and icebergs. Spot various species of whales like the minke, sperm, pilot, blue, orca, and the world's largest population of humpbacks, all from the side of your kayak. Just as you paddle past caves and waterfalls, you'll reach the Newfoundland-Labrador coastline abundant with glacial giants, with hues ranging from snow white to deepest aquamarine. Time to Visit June to September; Getting There Air Canada (Montreal and Toronto).
Tarkine, Tasmania
Tarkine, Tasmania

Gracefully distanced from all continents, Tasmania's sparkling azures are bereft of coal dust and radioactive waste. In fact, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation propounds that the remote Cape Grim enjoys air that hasn't touched land in weeks and water that can be bottled and sold worldwide, as is. Indulge your senses by walking right into the Tarkine wilderness for nocturnal spotlighting through marshlands and rainforests. The overland track is a six day walk where hikers are on their own. Complete the experience with a quiet low-tide walk around the fossil bluff that has an ancient glacial deposit, Wynyard Tillite, next to it. Time to Visit December to February; Getting There Qantas Airways (operated by Jet airways) to Davenport.
Game Reserves, Botswana
Game Reserves, Botswana

Arapt stillness dominates the scene. An anarchic fear of animal instinct grasps the air; you are nothing more than a curious onlooker in infinite stretches of untamed, unfenced wilderness where survival is both, a virtue and a vice. With a population of just over two million and a desert patch that covers 70 per cent of its landscape, Botswana's subtropical nature reserve is largely undisturbed by mankind. Spend a week in a tent guarded by firelight in the thick of wild. During the day, do a dugout canoe safari on the floodplain lagoons of the Okavango Delta, the world's largest inland lake. The unbounded woodlands and water channels are also apt for slow kayaking. At dusk, follow the blue wildebeests and gazelles on horseback or prowl around on an elephant. For up-close views of species like the bat-eared fox, wild cats and rare antelopes of springbok and oryx, try the game drive. Time to Visit May to September; Getting There European Airlines (Mumbai to Francistown).
Papingo, Greece
Papingo, Greece

The one distinctive trait of an old stone fortress: it reveals a little less than your curiosity craves. Constructed and connected entirely in stone, the Zagorian villages of Greece are likewise in impact. Much fodder for your travel quest eh? Peppered across the Pindus mountains in Epirus in the country's northwest, the ashen clusters have wild strawberries on arch bridges and glistening limestone towers in tune with Grecian grace. Untouched by modern construction, the muddy pathways turn into trekking tracks as you manoeuvre up the hills. Mt Timfi is abound in alpine charm and is home to the peaks Astraka(2436m) and Gamilia(2497m). Here, small snowfields and glacial lakes await you. Mt Smokilas has the widest variety of central European mountain flowers like dramatic pink violets, snowbells and butterworts. The steep cliffs and unsteady terrain make these week-long treks fantastic. Time to Visit May and June; Getting There Qatar Airways (Delhi to Athens).

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