A year ago, a trip to Ladakh materialised and it was a pathbreaking one for more than one reason. Not only did I manage to strike it off my bucket list but I had the good fortune of journeying with a bunch of women who shared my lust for travel. Over the six nights that we explored the roof of the world, we bonded in ways only women–and complete strangers at that–can bond.
After the trip was over, we knew we had found something that we all wanted to recreate. What could be more fun than a holiday with friends who share your travel interests and is also family-free! Before you think I’m knocking family holidays, don’t. Family holidays give us all the kind of break that we yearn for–a chance to rejuvenate our body, mind and spirit in the company of our loved ones. A time to re-energise our relationships.
A Family-free holiday is a different beast. For a few days you reconnect with yourself through your friends. It’s a time for re-energising the soul.
The idea of a Do-It-Yourself Holiday began to take shape. No tour operators, no agents. Google would be our only guide and of course any advice from travel-experienced souls would be more than welcome.
The search for a destination began in earnest. And the discussion lasted months! Whatsapp messages flew across Wi-Fi connections.
The original group of twenty who had gone to Ladakh simply couldn’t arrive at a consensus on one destination. No matter which destination we chose, it seemed like someone or the other had already been there. Just when it seemed like the DIY Holiday idea was destined to die even before it was born, four of us came to a decision. If all of us couldn’t travel together at least some of us could!
We all wanted to do Europe and Spain was one exciting, uncharted, virgin holiday destination for Deby, Preji, Sonali and me.
The planning for our fun-friendly, budget-friendly, adventure-friendly holiday was about to begin! A mid-summer break was what we were all looking at but Europe in July is peak season and the budget could go a bit awry.
Keeping in mind our work and family commitments, as well as our purse strings, we settled for a holiday during spring time in Spain when the tourist season was still not quite at its peak. Selecting the cities to visit for a 10-day trip in early May took a bit of going back and forth. We wanted to experience a road trip and a rail journey as well while in Spain. So the best itinerary that worked for us was:
New Delhi-Madrid & Barcelona-New Delhi (via Doha)
Madrid-Sevilla (by Rail Europe)
Sevilla-Granada (by Bus)
Granada-Barcelona (by Renfe train)
Debs and Sonali chose to travel to New Delhi to take the onward flight to Madrid while the return to India trip for them would be Barcelona-Doha-Kolkata. Preji had chosen to do both the outbound and inbound air trip from her hometown in Kochi. As for me, I would be saving a few hours of travel as I would be setting off from Delhi.
The visa application process was going to be the big hurdle. Or so we figured. We checked out the website (VFS) for visa applications and went through all the documentation. We would cross-check with each other to see if there was any confusion regarding filling up of the application form. And whenever we were stuck, one of us would call up the VFS call centre to have our doubts cleared. Having a ‘checklist’ of documents to submit ensured that our application process went through without a hitch. No agents/touts or intermediaries were needed, thus saving us a bunch of cash in terms of fees to an agent.
It was a pretty smooth operation… except for a bit of a flutter when Preji’s visa took a wee bit longer to arrive than it did for the rest of us. But once that was bagged, we were pretty much all set to work out our detailed itineraries.
To be continued….