Exploring the Peruvian highlands on the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train is any fashionista’s dream come true. Named after the American explorer who re-discovered the Inca site of Machu Picchu in the Andes, the train celebrates the epic journey with period furniture, wood-panelled interiors and brass finishes evoking the classic 1920’s parlour cars. Wearing enviable clothing while you’re on the train is on spec with the ambience, but getting into a new pair of stylish Tods loafers to trek Machu Picchu is ludicrous. “Deepa, my partner, had advised me to wear comfortable shoes for the hike, but I chose fashion over comfort,“ remembers Jay Lakhani, 38, creative director and co-founder, Deepa Gurnani, an international hand-embroidered luxury accessory design house. “It was a decision I regretted as soon as I started climbing. Since that trip, I’ve graduated to proper gear for the outdoors."
Given that the design house has operations in New York, Mumbai, London and Paris, Lakhani has a demanding calendar that keeps him on the move for most part of the month. Stealing a few breaks that coincide with business travel offers snatches of time to reboot, but he tries to take a legitimate holiday for four to 15 days every four to six months to discovering new places and cultures. Since all the cities that he calls home are fast-paced, he leans towards smaller unknown towns for holidays, and is especially partial to nature and outdoors. “There’s nothing like being in the touching distance of nature. It allows one to feel grounded and connected to oneself and the environment," believes Lakhani.
Kicking off travel in 2019 in Mexico, where he wandered about to search for inspiration for his next collection, Lakhani found his passion for finding balance between different kinds of activities when travelling. Museums, local markets and researching his muse, Frida Kahlo were part of this trip, but he wound down work in Tulum, a beach town on the Caribbean coastline. “Tulum is the former stronghold of the Mayan civilization so there is plenty of history to take in. Then there’s the Gran Cenote, one of the many snorkeling spots where underwater formations in the caverns and caves are truly fantastic. Tulum’s beaches are brochure worthy," he says.
Outdoor and nature addiction for Lakhani is not limited to any one kind of activity. He is also passionate about yoga and manages to find teachers wherever he travels. “The last yoga retreat at Koh Samui in July 2018 helped me refine some techniques. I’m working out dates for another one in Bali, this year," he says.
Despite exploring a number of destinations around the world, the trip to Machu Picchu remains unforgettable in Lakhani’s mind. "The tireless efforts of the Inca civilization are something to marvel at. Imagine building extraordinary structures between the vertiginous valleys of the Andes. I was fascinated by the sheer effort it would have taken the Incas, considering there were no trains or buses, or even the use of any wheels then," he says. “The real treat comes after the last stretch to the Machu Picchu peak, that offers such an inconceivable surprise with swells of clouds and a new angle to look down at the ruins. The view is breathtaking."
South America demands one to reserve a good two weeks for a trip. “I had to plan this holiday carefully, making sure that my calendar was absolutely task-free, since poor connectivity would hamper work back in the office. I am a calendar-obsessed person and an ardent champion of delegating work appropriately. This helps me plan both work and personal time with accuracy,“ says Lakhani.
Apart from Bali, this year has been earmarked for a South African safari and one of the happiest places on earth, Bhutan. “Variety within nature and outdoors is something I look forward to. I know that a wildlife filled safari holiday will be extraordinary, but Bhutan has been intriguing to me for its simplicity and focus on happiness. After all, that’s the point of travel anyway," says Lakhani.
Addicted to Outdoors is a series in which business leaders inspire us through their favourite adrenalin packed holidays.