[Editor’s Note] Untravel Weekends is a feature series on resorts, homestays and guesthouses that are built and run on the foundations of responsible travel by means of nature conservation, using alternative energy, reducing waste, recycling, rain water harvesting, organic farming, sourcing and feeding into the local economy or promoting indigenous cultures.
Do Just Nothing!
That’s what the folks at Linger Getaways promise and happily deliver to the city breds looking for a quiet escape into the hills of Coorg and Chikmaglur or the beaches of Gokarna in Karnataka.
Linger was born with this passion in mind. It intends to make vacations more about losing yourself than about getting your money’s worth in a hectic itinerary. To be surprised by the nature’s bounty yet to be explored, to slow down, enjoy the journey and just do nothing. But why do just nothing? Perhaps, because Sameer Shisodia, who founded Linger, has been very conscious of travellers (formerly who comprised mostly of their friends), in any way, redesigning the natural structures and culture of the places he set up at.
Beyond serenity and a scenic view, Linger consciously believes in reducing traveller footprint that has reduced many a exotic and unseen places to tourist bubbles. While people are allowed to be at Linger, they can explore the local culture and trails of the region in it’s natural state and warmly blend into it.
Here Sameer tells us about their experience in giving more to travellers by doing less.
What is your background and what motivated you for starting this venture? What is your story of setting up the resort?
For starters, it breaks our hearts when someone calls these resorts. We honestly haven’t figured out a good tag yet, so are sticking to “Guesthouses”
After I quit the last start-up I had co-founded, my wife and I had started building a cottage on the small estate we’d bought in Coorg, and a few friends who went over liked the experience of staying at a gentle paced, locally designed guesthouse which afforded them to see the place without any tourism filters on. The idea behind Linger was born and through a series of good fortune and a network of friends, we’ve added three more locations since. Vijay came on board as we got serious about the second property at Balur Estate that came our way purely through good fortune and goodwill.
What are the 5 aspects of responsible travel you have worked on and what it took to implement them in the guesthouse?
The primary one would be to be true to the place – local knowhow in creating it, local food, customs and people. We hire our staff locally. Secondly, we believe vacations should not create stress. We encourage folks to see the place ‘the slow way’, plan less and “do nothing”. We do not let guests pay us at the property – it’s like home while there – and do not keep a tab of what they’ve ordered from the kitchen. Thirdly, travel should be about discovering, learning not consuming. We make places comfortable without changing their character.
We also like to stay low density. We must not stress the land, water, resources around the place we are in. And hence, no plastic bottles are allowed at Linger. We also want the people working with us to benefit, be proud of their place, its food, its history and communicate the same with our travellers.
What has been the impact of your venture – on the local people, environment, the place itself, sensitizing travellers and anything else they’d like to stress on?
The response to the “do nothing” notion has been phenomenal. People have also readily pushed their mental notions of what a weekend vacation is and walked/read more, or overcome the fear of the dark, or insects, tasted new food and not been worried about “seeing everything”. Many have appreciated our unique way of bottling water, learned the local language a bit, even interacted with our neighbours and understood plantation activities a bit more. We do see a lot more travellers than just plain tourists now, and that’s heartening!
Most of the staff is starting to appreciate their own place a lot more and is sensitive to a greater degree about not just using plastic but also a host of other issues.
Can you share some interesting experiences/anecdotes from travellers who’ve visited?
A regular at our properties had visited a very nice place in North Kerala recently. They were up early and asked a friendly staff member for a cup of tea, and were told the kitchen would open only at 7:30am. They called me up post breakfast just to let us know how much they’d gotten used to Linger – they’d have been asked for tea as they got up!
Another friend (most of our guests become friends!) had gone over with their extended family, and a senior gentleman made it a point to tell us how the place reminded him of his childhood days, and that he was very comfortable having dinner in his veshthi. That was a major learning for us and we build the place around such attributes – to soothe and befriend and not to wow and intimidate in any respect – be it our guests, or our staff.