“I do not know how to relax. I’ve never been good at it — always working multiple jobs as a kid, taking too many classes at school, planning adventures before the current one is through, tackling aggressive home renovation projects, and just generally overextending myself. There’s just so much I want to see and do that there’s no time to relax. It’s one of the reasons I love traveling. I love to plan big, huge, epic trips that have tons of adrenaline activities where I have to sign a waiver because my life is at risk, or challenge myself to climb some mountain or to travel to the furthest distance of some country or edge of some continent. I need to see it all! Now! Before it’s too late! Before I get too old, or before some destination isn’t there any longer (see: Notre Dame, the World Trade Center, any city along the overflowing coastlines of our oceans). In rare moments, usually at the end of a long and exhausting trip, I manage to embrace a feeling of contentment at my accomplishments, which shocks my body into a feeling of relaxation. It is always a fleeting feeling, one that is gone as soon as I realize it’s there.
One moment that continues to inspire my travels is a stay my husband and I made in a mountain retreat in Ecuador nearly 15 years ago. We were at the end of a very long and difficult two weeks of travel, first through the Galapagos, and then through mainland Ecuador, when we ended up in a cabin high in the Andes Mountains. The cabin was just what we needed to reset, enjoy homemade food, breathe in the mountain air, stop moving and just sit. To this day, we talk about our stay there fondly, which is a reminder of what it feels like to feel fulfilled from authentic experiences rather than bland corporate hotels. We’ve been fortunate to experience similar joys in other places over the years — at a stay in Cappadoccia in Turkey, at a retreat on the South African coast, at a vineyard in Spain, an estancia in Argentina — but those experiences are few and far between, and are by far the exception, which is what makes them exceptional.
A few years after the Ecuador trip, in late 2008, I started planning my first trip to India. I was supposed to go with a girlfriend who was open to my itinerary recommendations. Somehow — I no longer recall how — I discovered Savista and proposed that we go out of our way to stay at the property during our visit to Jaipur, drawn by the hope of an authentic experience and chance to relax in the Indian countryside. Unfortunately, we were never able to make the trip due to a family emergency, and India waited until another day.
Fast forward ten years later — 2019 — when I found myself on a break from the hectic pace of a stressful job, long hours commuting, and managing through the aches and pains that age, years of stress and pressure, and living through life’s challenges bring to your emotional and physical state. With the understanding and support of my husband, I took off for two months of solo travel through Asia and Australia, lugging around a backpack and a jam-packed itinerary to see and do as much as possible. I planned my travels around as many festivals as possible – the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival in China, Chinese New Year in Singapore, the Spring Festivals in Bhutan, and Holi in Delhi. I hiked mountains, scrambled down the sides of waterfalls, took a hot air balloon over the pagodas of Bagan, hand-fed retired logging elephants and biked through the jungle of Indonesia. I was busy, busy, busy and — other than a few margaritas on a quiet beach in Australia — relaxing was not on the agenda.
My last stop in this two month journey was Savista. Though it had been ten years, I had never forgotten the desire to visit, and even planned my time in India around a stay here. While my travels through India were limited to the tourist meccas of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, I was having a tough time getting to know India through all of the honks and beeps and precautions that I took as a single, white, solo western female traveler. I’m certain that in a lifetime of travel it would be impossible to truly know such a vast and diverse country. My stay at Savista not only gave me a peek behind the chaos that is the India that most visitors see, but it was also a reminder to pause, to breathe, to embrace silence and feel the connection with where you are in the world at a given moment in time. Savista also gave me chance the embrace the connection with other people who I have been fortunate to meet along the way, no matter where we all are on our journeys. My stay was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time — and provided that elusive sense of contentment and relaxation that is nearly always so far out of reach.
I am still not good at relaxing, and probably will never be, but I may be just a little bit better at it then I was before my visit. In addition to those blissful few days I experienced at Savista, one particularly meaningful moment has helped me just a little bit on my endless, restless journey. The thought that “sometimes doing nothing is doing something” has stayed with me long after my stay, and is a concept that I continue to try to process and apply to my daily life. This is what I learned at Savista.”
Many of us avid travellers can identify with Jessie. The disappearing rainforests, vanishing animal and plant species, eroding coastlines, sinking islands…not to speak of ongoing wars that have destroyed ancient historical sites and rendered whole regions of the old world politically unstable and impossible to visit anymore…are just some of the macro obstacles to genuine and carefree travel and exploration that confront the travellers of today. At the micro level, for those who choose to be ecologically conscious and ethical travellers, travel choices acquire a complexity that forecloses forever the option of being mere tourists. And, how many times in the course of our lives do we have to simply sigh and let go of our travel dreams because LIFE imposes its own pressures that shackle us to our desks and homes and ailing bodies.
The world has always had professional travellers and explorers through the ages. But that is not an option that appeals to or is feasible for most of us. What we want, instead, is a life-travel balance. Or, to put it differently, one that combines the sweet thrill of exploration with the sublime feeling of inner calm that, together, result in a sense of fulfilment. Yet, how many of us are able to achieve both simultaneously, within the same time frame?
Jessie’s reflections on the elusive search for the “bindu” (Sanskrit for, broadly, ‘concentrated essence’) of stillness and inner fulfilment within the very course of travel and exploration, is one that many of our readers would share. She writes about how she glimpsed a little of it on a few of her travels in other parts of the world and, more recently, during her stay at Savista. It is this tranquility and stillness that we at Savista strive to offer to our guests, and nothing makes us happier than when our guests reach into the heart of what Savista is and connect with it.
One of the the first things that Jessie said to us when she arrived was that she had chosen Savista ten years ago! How was that?! we asked. Savista barely started its life as a boutique hotel ten years ago! She couldn’t quite remember how or where she had seen a reference to the place, but she had decided even then that it was going to be her place of choice in India. The trip never happened, as she writes, but she had salted away the name and location. When planning her trip to India ten years later, it seemed easy as pie to decide where she would spend her week in this country.
Welcoming Jessie gave us an amazing feeling of spiritual bonding. There seemed no need to help her feel at home; she already felt a part of Savista. In the days that followed, we swapped stories and had numerous animated conversations. We found her travel stories awesome and the places that she had been to virtually unattainable at this stage in our own lives. The week went by quickly and we never got around to looking at her thousands of photos – particularly of the Galapagos and the Chinese Ice Festival – that we wanted to see.
We wish her many more travels and many more wonderful memories and mementoes of places and moments of stillness.