Six reasons why Off Season is the new Season!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Well, having a smooth trip where everything goes according to the plan can be nice and all that but the human psyche sure does enjoy a misadventure or two! I mean, what are you gonna tell back home? I had the most amazing perfect trip ever and that's it? For me, (mis)adventures define travel. I take the road less taken, do the crazy, if I come out with flying colors I do have a great story to tell and if I fail, I still have a great story to tell!

While there are many ways to get yourself into trouble like giving into masochism and entering the forests in the absolute wrong time just for the pleasure of it, which I am sure most of my trekker friends in Western Ghats understand. I wasn't a traveler earlier. I was a trekker which meant I had little to do with the over crowded over sold tourist destinations and the noisy tourists. I was happy wandering in the valleys and mountains with little or no human presence apart from us trekkers. Then I started to travel and reality hit me hard. Even though India holds an abundance of natural scenery, the all pervasive tourist crowd and bad planning only makes it hard for me to enjoy the scenic beauty. In a bid to avoid this, I started traveling slightly ahead of season of just after season. It worked, well to an extent it did. Although, lately I have been traveling off season to places and I have to tell you, it is an awesome experience! I'll tell you why.

1. You get to see what few have seen before.

I went to Chhattisgarh in summer when everyone said it was a bad idea. I went to Sikkim in monsoons when everyone said it was a bad idea again. But both the visits have been extremely fruitful. I got to shoot the fishermen on Indravati River with the falls in the backdrop which I still consider to be my best shot. During the peak season, the waterfalls are in full flow and flooded totally. In Sikkim, I saw much more than that. The monsoon beauty of the place and its wonders were indescribable. There were wild flowers and green grass all around Gurudongmar for one. I haven't seen any such photos of the place so far and I think I might be one of those few travelers to have seen that. Last year in Goa, we discovered the so-called monsoon pilots of Colem who will take you on a ride of your lifetime to Dudhsagar falls.

This would interest you more if you are looking for experiences rather than ticking boxes on your to-see places list. I know Sikkim is famous for grand views of Kanchendzonga, Goa for its beaches and Chhattisgarh isn't on the tourist circuit at all. But who set in stone so and so are the only things to do and places to see and the best time to go? I personally don't understand the concept of Off Season. Well to me if the locals are able to survive, so can you. You'll see something different than the usual. If you market that, off season will also become the best season. Just put up with few discomforts and you are good to go. Explore!

2. Accommodation comes for dirt cheap prices.

This possibly can be the best thing about traveling in Off Season. The accommodation comes so cheap, a backpacker can live in luxury during this time. All the hotels and resorts slash their prices to almost peanuts compared to the peak season charges and if you are good at bargaining , you have an added advantage.Off season is the best time to try out hotels normally I wouldn't prefer or can afford. We stayed in luxury in Goa and accommodation in the usually sky high charging places of Sikkim was dirt cheap, so was in Chhattisgarh and Ladakh too.

3. Business out of their minds, the locals are much more laid back!

This is definitely an advantage to the travelers who are looking to connect with the community and learn about the locals in the places they visit. When I was in Sikkim, during peak monsoons, with no tourist traffic, all the vehicles were used as public transport for locals. Without the crazy demand for vehicles to go for the sightseeing tours, the drivers were taking a break. One such driver, whom I had hired to take me to few waterfalls was Sonam. He had no rush to go back, and he patiently waited while I took out my tripod and shot long exposures. I asked him many questions of his village life and he asked me so many of our city life. In the end, we concurred the grass is always greener on the side. With all this interaction I came to know of one thing, that the boys give dowry to get a bride here in Sikkim.

5. Have a few adventures here and there!

Well, let's face it, it is called off-season for a reason! The heat is too much, or the cold or the rain. With excess, there is almost always going to be some problem. And then, considering the traveler that you are, you will somehow manage to get across the problem. Then it surfaces, the pride that you have managed to survive another (mis)adventure. Like, when I went to Mannavanur Lake in offseason, it was raining like hell, we had no shelter or tents, only a tarpaulin sheet to save our lives. But the sheet wouldn't hold against the lashing rain, so one of the villagers suggested we take shelter in the school for the night and get lost early next morning. We were drenched to the core, had the lake all to ourselves, had lovely conversations with an old couple who were serving hot dosas in the night! Well, you know things like this don't happen when there are a horde of tourists all around. It is rare that you get these kind of experiences when you pay for it, because you can't really be sure if people are being nice to you because it is their business to be nice or are they genuinely being nice.

6. Well people, there are no people around!

This has to be the biggest advantage for me! I know not many feel this compulsive need to be alone in places, but I, for one, hate the crowd. I know it makes me sound like a unsocial being, but it is the truth. I can't stand the ubiquitous crowd, the screaming children, the screeching vehicles, the loud conversations and many more such things that come with a crowd at a serene place. The reason travel is so special to me is because it makes me feel special. Being in places where few have been to, seeing things few have seen. When a million others are seeing what you are seeing, it isn't special anymore. But when I travel offseason, I get to have the entire place to myself. There are no people getting in way of my camera either (very selfish, I know!). It is just absolutely wonderful to see nature with no distractions, just plain nature.

Not just these, but another reason why traveling in offseason is good for the traveler who intends to gather experiences rather than few postcard pictures is the fact that you get to see the problems faced by the locals and the ways they get around it. Like for instance, how do the people of Pin Valley manage to stay disconnected to the world for six months when it snows or how the people of Sikkim manage the incessant rains on the mountains and the really really bad roads. When we understand their problems, we do have a better respect for them.

What do you think? Is it worth it, traveling in off season? Share your views and off season travel stories!

P.S - Point 4 is missing! I didn't realize it until a reader pointed it out. You didn't realize it too, did you? ;) Well, why don't one of you give me another reason, we'll add it! :))

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  1. I so agree...for me the greater attraction of off season travel is the fact that its much cheaper, not much tourists around and everything is rather laid back..personally I think there is no such season for see/experience anything and everything whenever you travel..

  2. Completely agree with you!! In fact in some places a "weekday" itself is an off season!!!!

  3. ## Lakshmi - I know! What is season and off season anyway?! My logic has been simple, if locals can survive, so can we! :)

    ## Aravind - Exactly, like few weeks back I was in north kanara and so many people on the weekends! Would've been helpful if I had gone on a weekday. I had to wait for hours to get one decent shots of Sathodi Falls without humans in it. :)

  4. I so agree, especially with that last point! the crowd during the peak season is enough to spoil any trip, and you see any place in a completely different light when the regular tourist crowd isnt around!

  5. well,i am in complete agreement.Though i dont publish this fact loudly because im afraid people will get inspired by such thoughts and the so called off season will become crowded too! :P :D

    Kidding :)

  6. ## Anu - The crowd! aaahh! :))

    ## Neha - he he, I agree but you know, this post for those travelers who are tired of tourists. Tourists wouldn't change anyway! :D

  7. Completely agree.. this is exactly how my Goa trip was :)

  8. Pretty much hit the nail on the head with the rhetorical "But who set in stone so and so are the only things to do and places to see and the best time to go?" And soon as one realizes this, does he begin to (truly) enjoy his wanderings! :)

  9. I been to leh in the month of jan and all the above mentioned points r true and weel experienced iF local People can survive so can v infact there were no tourist and i felt the place belong to me and no one to disturb u while taking shots u get to experiebce local ppl livestyile as they r not in hurry

  10. I would do anything to avoid the crowd. Checked your fisherman shot, it is a great composition. And there would be no great shots if you did not have the time and space.
    Hey by the way, when is the off season for Ladhakh? PLanning next year.

  11. Traveling in the off season has always been the only option for me. The crowds make me nervous, and I hate standing in line. What I also dislike (and I've seen this kind of behaviour often) is when tourists complain about the place and the culture and keep comparing it to their own. It's enough to ruin a good day's travel for me.

  12. ## Aarti - Even I had a off season trip to Goa, it was beyond words! :)

    ## A Bumpkin Speaks - exactly my point! :)

    ## shailesh - I can understand what you are saying. I realized this is Sikkim last year, how chilled out the locals were in off season when compared to the tourist season.

    ## Mayank -Thanks! Anytime other than June - October is off season in Ladakh. :)

    ## Cuba Wanderer - One should travel with an open mind,if not, the become tourists and not travelers. ;)

  13. Suggest me for Nov best place to visit in India (OFF SEASON)


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