A well qualified lawyer and a solo traveller, Bhavita, popularly known as Travelista in Saree works in the High Court of Delhi. She is passionate about travelling and started off her solo sojourns in 2014. Her vision is to inspire more women to travel alone, independent and explore the world and its concealed bewilderments. Today we get a chance to feature her in our first ever travel blog so that more and more women find the courage to delve into the world and themselves.
Here’s what Bhavita has to say about her travel experience in Kashmir.
What inspired you to travel the world ?
I am a qualified lawyer and have been practicing in the High Court of Delhi. Though I was always passionate about traveling, it is only since 2014 that I started travelling solo. Exploring new places and encountering the locals on the go has been one of my most enriching learning experiences. It was during one of my solo travels in 2016 that I realized that a solo woman has to encounter a lot of unwarranted queries. Also, at the same time, I was reading a lot of International travelers' groups about how unsafe it is for women travellers to be on her own in India. That is how I thought of creating a platform to provide hassle free travel for women so as to encourage more female travelers to see India. My vision is to get more and more women travelling on their own, and not to be dependent on their family for exploring different places. If there are more women on the roads, the country will by itself become safe for its international travelers too.
Your name is intriguing "Travelista In Saree". What is the story behind it?
I always loved wearing sarees, be it at work or during various festivals or events. However, "Travelista_in_Saree" was a pleasant coincidence. It was in March 2017 that I wore a saree for a Tiger safari. This was the first time that I had packed a saree in my travel bags just on a whim. As luck would have had it, we did not see a single tiger on our first day of safari however, on our second day, the day on which I had worn a saree, we saw a fiery tigress for good 20 mins as she was relaxing in mud water just 50 -60 meters away from our jeep. After the sighting everyone complimented me for braving to wear a saree on a safari and also mentioned that it was lucky as we saw the tigress. It got me thinking about the fact that even though I loved wearing a saree, why didn't I ever wear it while travelling. And thus came up the concept of Travelista in Saree. It helps in not only conveying my message that ours is a safe nation for women travellers but also to convey that saree is an absolutely comfortable garment that can be worn anywhere and everywhere including while travelling through places. In past year, I have been to places like Pench, Khajuraho, Orchha, Coorg, Kabini, Pushkar, Kashmir and Chamba and I have done everything from being on a safari, to train, flight, hiked up for a waterfall and been on a speed boat and atop Gulmarg Phase 2 all in my various sarees that I love even more now.
What made you travel to Kashmir?
Kashmir has always been on top of my bucket list. The magical valleys as I had only seen in photographs and movies were calling me for a while now and I am glad that I finally made my first trip and can't wait to visit it again soon. Its naturally beautiful landscape, historical places, breathtaking scenery and hospitable people is unparalleled and surely calls for many more trips.
When did you travel and why did you choose that time?
I traveled to Kashmir in November. I wanted to experience the Autumn. People from abroad usually talk about the beauty of autumn and Fall colors. We don't have the concept of travelling especially to enjoy fall colors. I wasn't wrong in choosing this period to travel to Kashmir. Although most of the Kashmiris asked me to return in spring to enjoy the views, I loved the browns and yellows of The Chinar. Along with autumn, I also got to experience the advent of winters as it had already snowed in Sonamarg, Gulmarg and parts around Pahalgam. So I got to experience two seasons at one time which was a rare experience I probably could not have seen anywhere else.
How had you imagined Kashmir from what you had heard of it?
Yes, I surely had heard a lot from a lot of sources like friends, the internet or tourist interviews, but what I saw was beyond words. The splendid views struck me every time I went out of my room. It was like you wanted to come back.
Did expectations meet reality?
Not only did the reality meet my expectations, but exceeded them. I had just heard about how beautiful Kashmir was. But I never knew that its people were more beautiful. The photographs of the valley can never depict how beautiful the scenic places actually are. It is just the lucky people who visit Kashmir get to know it. Indeed if there is paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.
What were your first thoughts when you stepped out into its air?
Freshness! The cool and crisp air renewed one’s senses and brought them back to life. I had traveled from one of the most polluted places to Kashmir, thus I felt the freshness first hand. I could feel the difference between the rest of the places I have visited and Paradise.
Which places did you visit? Which ones do you hold close to your heart and why?
I visited almost all the world famous places like Srinagar, Pahalgam and Gulmarg. But there was a small place which captured my heart and held a special position in it. That place was the Aru Valley. The place was breathtaking and its people were really friendly and courteous. Next time I visit Kashmir, I will make sure to spend some more time in the Aru valley.
Share one memory of Kashmir which you will always cherish.
I remember once we had the traditional Kashmiri pink tea at a local man’s house in Aru valley. I expressed my desire to wear the Kashmiri Phiran which I had seen in photographs only until now. His wife was so generous that she instantly agreed and lent me one of her most beautiful phirans and forced me to wear it immediately. This is one incident that really touched my emotions and became unforgettable.
Which Kashmiri things have intrigued you?
Many have. But there was one thing which was the most memorable due to its extraordinary nature. That was hospitality. Amidst all the chaos, people were so hospitable to the tourists. We were only women travelling and not even once did we feel unsafe, not even while hiking back after sunset in Pahalgam. People took care of us like we were their own. We felt secure.
How did you find Kashmiri People?
Kashmiri people were one of the most welcoming people I had ever met. Everyone we spoke to was considerate and kind to us. People made us feel safe and secure. There were some who urged us to live with them at their places. Never had I seen such love from an unknown place.
Your final words on Kashmir...
I have already said so much but still feel like I have said nothing about how amazing my experience was. From the day I have returned, I have recommended everyone to visit heaven at least once in their lives. I think the travel experience of any traveller is incomplete without visiting Kashmir. Its captivating places and pure magnetism will imprisons your heart into its memories forever.