– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at Rediff.com)
Cold places are often not the top choice for a holiday in winter.
Most folks are more tempted to go to a sunny beach or the lush greenery of the hills.
Does taking a holiday in the snowy mountains or to a spot facing a chilly winter sound interesting? Or does it daunt you?
Anandita Jain, a medical professional agrees, “Very cold winters can have a depressing effect on people. Lack of colour in the nature around us, the absence of energising heat and less sunlight can give you the blues. But travelling to a cold place can be great fun if one is mentally prepared. Especially if you have company. A little preparation is all it takes to enjoy a cold destination.”
The winter has already set in and many of us may be packing our bags to leave for colder locales. Do you know what kind of weather to expect? Or how your body will react to a change of climate? Preparation is essential for a pleasant holiday.
“Read up about the place you are going to,” advises Jain. “If possible, talk to people who have been there before or to travel agents who know the place well. When you are familiar with the place, its culture and food, you will look forward to your trip. You become excited about the little things that make the place special. Then, the cold weather is not a deterrent.”
For people with fragile health, a health check is advisable before the trip. Discuss the itinerary with your doctor, especially if it involves strenuous activities such as trekking or a visit to a high altitude area. Pack a first aid kit and medicines the doctor may advise you to keep handy. Paracetamol and medicines for a cold and cough would be useful.
If you are travelling with children, carrying honey and brandy is a good idea. Honey soothes a sore throat, while brandy can infuse warmth.
If you plan to try and climb a mountains, prepare your body for it well in advance. A few weeks before you travel, begin a regular exercise routine to strengthen yourself. Elderly people should try to go for long walks, if they are unable to attempt more strenuous exercises. If you go to a gym, ask your personal trainer to suggest exercises that will enhance your stamina.
Buy shoes that are suitable for the terrain you plan to visit. The shoes need to cover your feet completely and absorb the strain of the surface. You might need a pair that gives you a good grip if you plan to climb the hills. High boots are required for areas that are prone to heavy snowfall.
Are you headed to an extremely cold place? Buy thermal innerwear – readily available these days – for better protection.
Tips from the experienced
Dr Meenakshi Shivram, who has travelled extensively around the world, has some useful tips for the uninitiated:
~ Buy suitable clothes that cover you and keep you warm. Many stores stock woollens these days, so it should not be difficult to find them. Instead of shawls, buy jackets or overcoats since they are less cumbersome. They are handy for walking, climbing or even riding horses.
~ Wear good shoes and at least two pairs of socks. Wear cotton socks first – these feel are comfortable next to your skin – and woollen socks over them. Since your feet are nearest to the surface, they can get cold and numb easily. It is important to keep them warm so you can have a firm grip while walking or trekking.
~ Wear layers of clothes to protect yourself. Just one thick sweater is not enough. The body is not used to the high altitudes and low temperatures. Do not expect it to adapt without keeping it warm and comfortable.
~ Always plug your ears against cold winds. A lot of trendy options are available if you don’t prefer the good old monkey cap. Any store that stocks woollens would also have headgear options.
~ Drink lots of water. We often forget to do so when the weather is cold. Physical activity dehydrates you. The air is dry and your skin needs hydration as well. So always carry water with you.
~ To energise yourself, carry a lot of dry fruits, chocolates and other sweets like chikki, especially during treks. These mini snacks quickly energise you because they digest quickly and are absorbed.
~ Most important: prepare your mind for the trip. The temperatures will be low and you will not be accustomed to it. But these places are extremely beautiful and serene; a trip there can be spiritually exhilarating if you are mentally set to enjoy it. Simply surrender to Nature and soak in the beauty around. And you will be rejuvenated.