After two years of the pandemic, we have started to view pleasurable pursuits quite differently. While most of us grew up valuing caution when it came to conspicuous consumption, the unprecedented situation has made many start to spend more spontaneously, to live to the maximum today as none of us really know what tomorrow brings.
Even the threat of new virus variants and governments imposing strict measures to curb our enthusiasm didn't dampen the spirits of revellers over Christmas and New Year. Videos of celebratory crowds across the country have gone, well, viral. This revenge revelry is indicative of how the people's paradigm has drastically shifted from paranoid to pragmatic to optimistic. But I believe that after bingeing at the buffet of experiences for a while, we will evolve towards a more qualitative approach to enjoyment.
Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the spheres of dining out and travelling. Here are my predictions for how lifestyles will be shaped in 2022.
Mindful indulgence: Since every activity comes with some amount of risk assessment now, we will be more careful about our choices, making sure to make each one count. Care will be taken to pick the perfect one, but expenses won’t be spared to maximise the magic in every moment, be it a meal or a journey.
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Meaningful engagement: With social media giving us heavy doses of ‘fun’, real-life friendships are less about ‘timepass’ today than they ever were. We are increasingly looking for more depth in the few people we choose to actually meet and engage with. And what we do together with our loved ones will also be important as we will not take such relationships and the time spent with them for granted.
Therefore, researching and thinking through what we will be doing and where, will be part of the overall planning process to ensure that we don't waste precious time with our precious people doing something sub-par, be it dining out or a weekend vacay.
Slow and immersive experiences: Savouring every ingredient of a dish made thoughtfully or every aspect of a destination chosen carefully will be the mood of 2022. As restaurant kitchens and home chefs get more particular about the provenance of the produce they use, diners will also have a heightened awareness and appreciation for the time and techniques taken to execute culinary excellence. Be it a cup of coffee or the honey in the salad on the menu of a new restaurant, knowing more about where it is from, its ethics and its aromatics, will all add to its perceived value in our minds.
And when it comes to travel, it will be more about deeper explorations of places, with a focus on understanding, learning, and evolving through novel and exciting experiences. This entails longer stays, emphasis on the hyperlocal for cuisine and design, and signing up for classes like cooking local cuisine or volunteering to teach at a school, etc.
Focus on the freewheeling and flexible: Fixed itineraries are so predictable, they are rather passé. Road trips or journeys where only a few points are planned and everything else is left to one’s fancy are becoming increasingly popular. I suppose with all the restrictions around the pandemic, we just want to escape the idea of lockdown in any form!
When it comes to restaurants too, a touch of whimsy in the menu and decor is going a long way. Diners are responding well to cuisine agnostic menus and Alice in Wonderland interiors across the country. Freewheeling fun is always fun and, even more so, when it’s good for the ’gram!
Emphasis on the exotic and unexplored: In the initial phases of unlock, we tend to lock on to the easiest possible, accessible and familiar destinations and dishes around us to binge on the experience that we missed so terribly.
For Mumbaikars, visiting Lonavala and Alibaug were the travel equivalent of gorging on vada pav, misal, bhel, and biryani! But once the initial itch has been scratched, we want something more exclusive, more exotic. This is why more remote locations from Arunachal Pradesh to Georgia are being talked about the way people are discussing rarer fares such as Naga Akhuni or Ethiopian Injera more commonly than before. Our palate for the adventurous is expanding and Indian travellers are challenging their travel agents to think beyond the obvious holiday tropes as well.
Several boutique agencies, luxury travel consultancies, specialised home chef initiatives and micro-themed meal creators have sprung up to cater to these new demands and I foresee that 2022 will be the year for bespoke experiences crafted by these.
(The columnist is Associate Editor, TravelDine, and a bespoke Mumbai tour specialist. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @priyapathiyan and @thehungryhappyhippy on Facebook. She blogs on thehungryhappyhippy.com)
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