When the awesome @vidoutboundaries, whom Team Kosha have been a fan of for quite some time got in touch with us for her girls trip to a Manali – Lahaul ~ we did a little happy dance! We did an exclusive interview with her and asked her about what it is like to travel in Covid times! Read on to get to know Vidya and get first-hand tips if you are planning to experience Lahual- A winter wonderland!
Q. Tell us in a few lines about yourself and your ethos for Travel. What does slow Travel mean to you?
I am Vidya from Bangalore, juggling between an exciting life of a Traveller, HR professional and an artist. I have travelled to over 35 countries across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, and I love to chronicle and share my experiences. I started my travel blog 3 years ago, and it’s all about destinations, food, and local art – the three things I am very passionate about. I love to create features, write stories and blogs on places to visit, destination guides, all with a personal touch- using my posts and features as a tool to inspire those with a full-time job to travel and explore.
Slow Travel is the right kind of Travel for the coming future. My style is a mix, spending time in a place long enough to connect with the destination, local people, cultures, food, and local art but short enough not to trigger an “itchy feet” syndrome. It works out better as I try to function between a full-time job and Travel, taking unpaid time off from work for this cause.
Q. Why did you opt to travel to Manali/Lahaul during these times, what precautions did you take, and tips for people looking to travel to the mountains?
As a little girl, I always dreamt of witnessing a white Christmas first hand, coming from Bangalore, that was a distant dream until I made it happen in 2019 in Cappadocia and got hooked! I experienced my first white Christmas in India in the Himalayan town of Lahaul last December, a district which until 2020 was not accessible during winters due to extreme & unpredictable weather, landslides, and heavy snowfall. Thanks to the newly opened Atal tunnel, Lahaul now has all-weather accessibility with the nearest town of Manali. With a length of 9.02 km, it is the longest tunnel above 10,000 feet in the world and reduces the travel time from Manali to Leh by 46 km (4-5 hours).
We chose Lahaul for the element of adventure. The Lahaul-Spiti district, known as the cold deserts of Himachal, gets very heavy snowfall from November to March (-2 to -40). I got to explore Lahaul, visiting Sissu, Keylong, Jispa, and Darcha over a week on this four girls, epic road trip.
We ensured we got our COVID RT PCR tests done and carried the negative report to ensure our safety and safety of the remote people of Himachal and carried a mini medical kit as we may not have medical help available immediately in secluded places. We may have to rely on our Travel medical kit to handle minor illnesses and injuries.
Q. Tell us a little about your girl squad and your recommended itinerary for those planning a trip with friends. Any special memory?
Trip with your girls is always super special. I love the diversity girls trip brings in a group. I enjoy spending time with new people, to understand others better, a diverse group gives you a wholesome experience otherwise it’s just unidimensional where you will mostly do what you have scripted. With your girl squad, you know what the likes and dislikes are and plan to accommodate everyone’s interests.
It’s a mix of both an unknown adventure with an adrenalin rush and a form of detox for your mind and soul #Unfiltered. You are making memories by experiencing culture and adventure together.
If you are planning a trip with your girl squad, pick places that challenge your inner fears. Be it paragliding in Bir or hiking in snowy mountains, Cooking class in Vietnam or soaking in a Japanese onsen, dancing with the Tribes in Nagaland, or Pub hopping in Cambodia. Go with the flow.
Hiking to Shashur Monastery, Keylong, at -15 degrees with deep snow was quite challenging. A sunset hike turned into a night trek as the car broke down, and we started earlier than the base point. We girls kept each other motivated and made it to the Monastery at the peak. The view was rewarding, and we were welcomed with a huge smile and hot tea from the Monks at the Monastery. An experience we will cherish forever.
Q. Any special places/cafes/homestays you would like to highlight?
One of my favorite things to do in Manali is Café hopping. Cafes in Manali I would highly recommend are Amigos German Bakery for their Cinnamon roll, Renaissance Manali for their pizzas, Dylan’s Toasted & Roasted Coffee House for hand-pressed coffee and delicious cookies, and The Johnson’s Café and Hotel for breakfast.
We stayed at a homestay in Lahaul. Most of the Lahaul hotels are at high altitude, having no water, and closed during winters. The only other option is homestays. SilchanInn was a great experience. Very comfortable and safe. They provided us with clean washrooms, a soft bed, Hot food, and good wifi, which is a luxury in itself. The hostel in alt-Life, Manali was fantastic too.
Q. The pandemic has impacted everyone in some way. Is there a lesson you learnt or a realization you had that you would like to share with us?
2020 was not the year anyone planned for. But personally and professionally, it turned out to be a really good year for me. A very positive one. Few things I would not have imagined I would accomplish came true, which I am incredibly grateful for:
✨Vidoutboundaries art studio was set up and running.
✨Spent quality time with the entire family during the lockdowns, especially with dad playing our favourite native games
✨Set up kitchen garden and grew my own veggies
✨Traveled to less explored parts of India like Lahaul, Kumbakonam, Darasuram, Gwalior, Kurseong and many more
✨Upgrade HR (work) My 9 to 5 job as a consulting HR professional was not impacted much. In fact, we performed the best since inception.
Yes, it was not a great year for travel and health for many, but we all needed a reality check by nature. The time I spent at home during lockdown gave me a chance to realize how important it is for us to value and be thankful for what we have.
Hope 2022 brings good health and happiness to all. It’s time we all take that #OneStepAtATime for a greener earth. Time to Start Now!
Q. If comfortable to share, can you give us an insight on the reality of travelling by air back and forth from your home location/pre-travel testing / isolation etc. ?
Instead of flying take road trips in the privacy of your car. If you must fly then I would like to share a few tips to make your flying experience safer and comfortable are:
– Ensure you get a COVID RT PCR Test done each time you travel and carry your negative report with you.
– Carry your own face shield or retain the one you get 1st time while flying during this pandemic. Do not discard it after you get down from the flight. Instead, sanitize it immediately and store it. Carry it next time you fly and Reuse it. The airlines do not have an issue with that. There is only so much you can do, but start today.
Q. Anything else you would like to add?
This is a new Era. Do not go by the reviews online from pre-COVID times. Life has changed, a lot of places have closed or offer only limited service, be it cafes, restaurants or hotels. Do your checks before booking or visiting any.
Travel may have changed, and hopefully, in the end, it will be for the better with all of us being more conscious and travel sustainably.
Travel to experience the place. Travel for yourself, Not because everyone is travelling.
Planning on heading to the mountains? Read Vidya’s super useful Tripoto Blog on 12 Travel Essentials for a Winter Trip to Snowy Mountains in India : Life savers!
All images courtesy: Vidya Shree
Make the most of your travels instead of worrying about the weather with Kosha designs. Must-haves are Merino Wool accessories like Touch Enabled Gloves, a 2in1 Reversible Beanie & Liner Socks to keep your extremities warm. Wear easy to layer, sleek, temperature regulating Merino×Bamboo Thermal Tee & Leggings below a stylish fleece-lined parka for perfect pictures and warmth. Keep a wool stole handy and carry our lightweight feature-rich Ski Pants if you want to explore snow!
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