Ever since the pandemic brought a standstill to the hustle of life, there was one lesson that everyone learnt to live by, which was to slow down. What better way to have this emphasised than slow tourism! With the fast-paced lives that have come to be known as the only way of keeping up with the world, here’s an option that lets you slow down, breathe, explore and live in the moment. We caught up with Moksha Gandhi, Founder of Vahn, a caravan rental company that offers these vehicles for both short and long term travel journeys.
What is meant by slow travel?
With travel becoming ubiquitous, anyone and everyone being able to access it, people have been voyaging to Instagram worthy locations. A beautiful feed, pictures that go viral and scenic sights that seem to make the ideal locations are the destinations that seem to be popular. But there is a section of people who would want the old charm of travel to still exist, who would love wandering through the bylanes of the countryside or settling with a beach view without the glam or the blitz but with a calm that makes up for it.
Slow travel is the antidote to the ache of exploring a place in all its beauty and of capturing its essence by simply living in the moment. Vahn makes this possible. An up-and-coming caravan rental company originating out of the city of Ahmedabad, the team is designing a range of caravans to rent for travels around the country. “Whilst being as near to home as possible, our vans are equipped with everything you may need on a roadventure. There’s a kitchenette to prepare the freshest meals, a shower to wash off the grime trailing from your hike, and king-size beds to put you to sleep under the night sky’s lullaby,” explains Moksha Gandhi.
Where did Vahn find its space among slow travel?
Vahn comes from a family of travellers. “The road has always been our second home, with plans evolving in seconds and us hitting the road in a matter of minutes,” says Moksha. “Above this, the pandemic taught us that time wasn’t infinite, and that we should be using it more consciously. For us, that meant celebrating the group that was our family and doing so safely yet nomadically.”
They went ahead and built a caravan for themselves and toured in it extensively around their home-ground Rajasthan through lockdown 2020. Moksha and her team had the most unique experiences that were independent of stays in hotels or bound by predetermined destinations. “We travelled as far and wide as we liked, even accommodating those last-minute detours to ‘grammable spots.” The realisation that they wanted more people to travel that way dawned on them and thus Vahn came to be.
“All of 2021, I designed and developed Vahn: a caravan rental company that seeks to bring this liberating travel experience to everyone in India. My background as a furniture designer has helped us design caravans that are as thoughtful and functional as they are beautiful.”
Will slow travel pick up speed in the time to come?
With everyone choosing instant travel and spots that satisfy the Instagram quotient, will slow travel be able to carve its niche in this tourism industry? Moksha affirms this. “The pandemic taught us all that time should be used more consciously. Just as consumers begin to un-pause their lives, we are all predicting the biggest “travel rebound of the century” (in words of Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky). There is also a shift towards experience-centric, slow tourism as customers are newly liberated with flexible/freelancing/WFH models.”
Does Vahn have plans to expand?
The team’s vision is to build a community of travellers who cherish slow and experience-centric tourism. As Vahn was birthed during the pandemic, the concept also thrives on the newly liberated WFH lives. As travellers seek unique experiences now more than ever before, they are also crafting a handful of charming travel routes and layovers in India for their customers. “We especially want to foster a community of creatives: writers, musicians, artists, photographers who could endlessly ‘create’ in our self-contained caravans. Be it being a venue to a music video, a production prop, or even a tool of inspiration for penning their next song, painting, or novella.”
How economical is it to adopt this means of travel?
While the world is inclining towards a sustainable model, it is only fair that travel too takes this leap. This way of travel is more sustainable as it involves you staying in one place for a longer time compared to whizzing from one spot to another and thus minimises the resources that you would otherwise use. It also reduces the environmental impact that your journey would cause. People are loving it for the kind of lasting impression it leaves you with as you forge deeper connections, relations and start seeing the meaning in travel.
The affordability of this way of travel is another aspect that makes it a favourite option. However, Moksha emphasises that slow tourism may not be for everyone. “Firstly it requires time- something which most of us are hard-pressed for with our 9-5 work schedules. It entails being fully present and attuned to one’s surroundings, observing and enjoying the smallest moments. This seemingly simple activity demands a lot of patience. Secondly, slow tourism does not always guarantee the comfort or convenience our urban selves are used to. One needs to be willing to interact with the world as it is-no curation, no filters. Unfortunately, this might put a lot of urban-dwellers in a state of discomfort.”
“Nonetheless,” she says “ I would urge everyone to slow down and smell the roses and try it at least twice. If people consider full-time van-living, it is an extremely economical way to live given you save on land, construction, and other fixed costs. It is also an ecologically conscious way of living as one depends on limited reserves of energy that are utilised more carefully. If we consider short term van-living, it is more economical to travel with groups than travel solo.”