We’ve been following Insia Lacewalla on her travels through India as she explores the beauty of our country’s diverse cultural landscape. Her journeys traverse through a history of unexplored lands, cultures that are fading away, heirloom recipes and forgotten stories. These stories inspired her to launch India with Insia, a curated Indian travel platform for the discerning millennial. She talks to JODI about her vivid travel experiences around the country and shares the hidden gems that make it truly unique.
Insia wears the Cayenne Handloom dress.
How did the website 'India with Insia' come about?
You won't believe it if I tell you but I had a dream in which I clearly saw the name INDIA WITH INSIA! I guess I was fried with international travel being indefinitely postponed so I dreamt it, woke up and launched it during the pandemic. I started exploring places in India and documenting it on my website. I used Instagram to share what I was writing about and soon I was enjoying it so much that I decided to pursue it with all my heart.
What made you leave your corporate job and fall in love with travel writing?
I’ve worked with some exciting companies in my life but I’ve always reached my threshold where I felt like I was stagnating or just got bored. Travel writing is all about new experiences and it never gets monotonous, which is why I love it so much. Also, if I had a choice I would spend my life with two suitcases exploring the cultural landscape of India and sharing that with the world.
Insia in the Pegasus Mini Wrap dress.
What’s on your travel bucket list next?
I have been very keen on exploring Tamil Nadu and its regional cuisine.
Any places you would love to revisit, where would it be and why?
1.The Kumaon region of Uttarakhand for its mountains, food, and hospitality.
2.Amritsar for the Golden Temple (can’t get enough of that!) and certainly for the food.
3.Cranganore in Kerala for its serenity.
Your most memorable travel experience?
My recent two-week trip driving down the Malabar Coast. The landscape, the food, and the farm life have me mesmerised. I went on a two-week road trip from Goa to Kerala, driving down the Malabar Coast and stayed at some beautiful places, be it villas, boutique hotels, B&Bs, or farm stays. I would highly recommend a trip to Red Hills Nature Resort in Emerald near Ooty, Cranganore Riverside Chateau, and History cafe and Earthitects in Wayanad. The food throughout the journey was exceptional, especially breakfast at Hotel Karthik in Mangalore which serves traditional dishes such as Tuppa Dosa, Pundi Gassi, and Kadle Bhaji.
Do you have any favourite spot that you would love to visit again from your recent trip to the Malabar coast?
Blue Flag Beach in Padubidri
What’s your best travel tip?
Always carry a pair of flip-flops and a sweatshirt. You never know when the weather will take a turn.
What are your favourite regional cuisines?
I love Maharashtrian food and Bohra food. A simple Maharashtrian meal of aamti, rice, and thecha or my mum’s dal chawal palidu - a very popular Bohra dish (It's rice and yellow lentils cooked together and served with gram flour and kokum curry)
Your top 3 recommendations for a boutique stay in India?
1.The Johri, Jaipur. Not just because I worked on it ;)
2.Ahilya By The Sea, Goa
3.The Kumaon, Almora
Your top 3 recommendations for food and dining in Goa?
Insia in the Ariel Kaftan.
What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve eaten?
Snails in Hanoi, Vietnam. They are simply steamed and served with a sweet and spicy dip.
What is your take on organic and sustainable living in the hospitality industry?
Being mindful of what we buy, how we use it, how much we use it, and how we dispose of it. There’s a fraction of the hospitality industry that is focussing on eco-tourism or repurposing elements used at hotels. It’s no longer just about using RO-purified water instead of plastic mineral water bottles or giving guests the option to have their bed and bath linen changed only on demand. We need to take a step forward. Amanbagh in Ranthambore recycles its outdated canvas tents to make napkins and linen. Alila Fort, Bishangarh grows most of its produce and serves seasonal meals. As our resources continue to deplete, sustainable living is the need of the hour.
When travelling, how important is it to dress comfortably?
I always dress for comfort. Shift dresses, cotton pants, and linen shirts are my jam. If you don’t travel comfortably, you’re going to reach your destination very grumpy.
What are your favourite- mountains or beaches? That's the most controversial question we've ever asked.
I live in Goa but deep down in my heart, I want to live by a lake on a mountain. Ha ha!
What is the best way to experience the true essence of India?
I’ve travelled around India extensively and honestly the best way to see it is by road. You end up stopping at small places to eat, land up chatting with locals, or with the boutique hotel or B&B owners and it really humbles you. We live in a cultural treasure bed and when you travel with an open mind, people will not only open their doors to you but also their hearts and that’s been my biggest learning - open your mind to new experiences.
A movie or book that is based on your favourite travel experience?
I love what Jon Favreau did in the Chef where he takes a road trip in his food truck and especially the scene where he takes his son to have beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. That's certainly on the bucket list.
What changes do you want to see in the way people travel?
The littering on highways is painful to watch. Only if people could collect their garbage and dispose of it in bins whenever they stop.
Muse- Insia Lacewalla
Photographer- Aastha Manchanda