“I tend to resist relaxation when I’m on vacation. For me holidays are more an opportunity for adventure. I get restless lounging at the beach. I want to explore, see new places, be surprised, climb those steps, taste what I’ve never tasted. But there are certain risks that come with that approach to travel: stress, fatigue, missing the pleasure of details in the rush to see it all.
My fiance and I were on a whirlwind tour of Rajasthan, running from temple to fort in Delhi, then rising early to see the Taj Mahal in the morning light. We left Agra in the early afternoon, hoping to reach Jaipur by evening. We planned to make Savista Retreat our base from which to make day trips into the Pink City.
Maybe this is the point in our story to confess that we never did make it into Jaipur. But we have no regrets about that.
Four hours in the car turned into seven as we inched our painfully slow way through astonishing heavy traffic. The old, narrow roads are no match for the burgeoning population of new car owners and tourists, merchants and migrant workers. By the time we finally pulled past Savista’s gates we never wanted to see the interior of a car ever again… or at least for a few days.
I was chagrined at arriving so late, and cranky from spending so much time inside the car. But we were given a very soothing, warm welcome. This was not a place to complain bitterly about the traffic. After a brief tête-à-tête with the owners introducing us to the retreat, a solitary table was set up for us next to the pool for a late-night dinner under the stars. I was humbled by the sweet welcome.
We woke the next morning to birdsong and stepped out to a kind of quiet we hadn’t experienced since we’d landed in Mumbai a few days ago. In fact, the kind of quiet we hadn’t felt for months, as city dwellers. We wandered through the garden, past flower-filled cisterns, to our al fresco breakfast. There we began our day with fruit, idlis, muesli with fresh buffalo milk and more. Our eagerness to visit Jaipur began to fade.
Why jump right back into the traffic and run to another hectic city when this spot was so very lovely? In our headlong rush into adventure we’d neglected the restorative gifts of travel. It was time to slow down. Jaipur could wait for another day–maybe another trip, even. We felt our spirits unfurling in the open air and unstructured day. So we decided to abandon our plans and stay.
That doesn’t mean we spent the next few days simply lounging by the pool. We went on a few runs around the property, played tennis, swam in the pool, took walks, took a camel cart ride to a neighboring village, toured a block printing factory. It was magical and revealing. And it all unfolded with the kind of ease we’d forgotten to invite in the first place.
Travel bestows a restorative elixir to those who find a balance between adventure and repose.
Ever since then we’ve taken that lesson to all our adventures. We park ourselves somewhere, and we say to each other, let’s not rush all over to see everything. Let’s ease into this place and allow it to reveal itself to us in its own time.”
Adriana Velez is a writer based in New York City
Adriana and Ashwin made their trip to Rajasthan and Savista almost three years ago. Their sheer fatigue and need for quiet arising out of the excruciatingly long and exhausting car journey from Agra that she describes early in her essay, came across even as we welcomed them, and we were more than happy to settle them in after a hot meal and leave them to recover.
Over the next three days they remained private people, alternately sleeping, immersing themselves in physical activity, and enjoying their quiet mealtimes together. They were clearly low profile folk who knew what their bodies and minds needed. It was a little later in their stay that they seemed relaxed and rested enough for some conversation, and for exploring possibilities for making forays into the surrounding countryside. The experience of hosting guests who choose to simply stay within Savista and its rural environs – sometimes for as long as a week or ten days – and not go into Jaipur city even once, was not an unfamiliar one to us.
After their scheduled period of stay, Adriana and Ashwin left with the exchange of cordial goodbyes, and we did not hear from them again. Almost three years later, this summer, Adriana wrote us a warm letter telling us of what a nice time they had had here and how they still remembered the place fondly, and asking if she could have the recipe of a dish that she had liked here. She wanted to write about it for the Conde Nast travel and food magazine Bon Appetit. Would we mind?
Would we mind!!! We were bowled over. The friendliness and warmth of the letter, and that she and Ashwin still carried with them the memories of their stay, washed over us like an embracing wave. It was a wonderful – and privileged – feeling to have Adriana open her memory box and share its contents with us – ”Savista casts a powerful and long-lasting spell!!” is what she told us in her own eloquent way – and to know that she cared enough to want to write about the place almost three years after her visit, both for the readers of this blog and for the wider readership of Bon Appetit (links below). And it was good to receive reaffirmation that Savista was fulfilling its mission as a tranquil destination for all those looking to relax, refresh and recharge their batteries, and reconnect with the earth and nature’s simple bounties.