Whether she’s embarking on solo trips or embracing the staycation trend, our cover star and talent powerhouse, Sobhita Dhulipala, revels in the joy of taking inward journeys and shows you how to live victoriously.
Text & produced by Priyanka Chakrabarti
Photographed by Rahul Jhangiani
Assisted by Azfar Khan
Styled by Akshay Tyagi
Assisted by Dhwani Jain & Alisha Fernandes
Hair & makeup by Florian Hurel
Assisted by Soniya Modi
Location: Grand Hyatt Mumbai Hotel & Residences
This issue of Travel + Leisure India & South Asia celebrates the spirit of slow travel. And one of the most popular trends in that realm—in the wake of the pandemic—has been staycations. Gone are the days of busy itineraries and place-hopping. Today, travellers are happy to take their trips one immersive experience at a time.
When we were looking for our cover star, we wanted to collaborate with someone who understands what it means to take it slow, to stay in, and bask in the glory of a destination—or as Grey Goose puts it, live victoriously. Actor Sobhita Dhulipala fit the bill perfectly.
She had a sheltered life growing up in Visakhapatnam but moved to Mumbai when she was just 16 to pursue higher studies and a career. Dhulipala’s life has been in transit ever since. Recalling her introduction to the Maximum City, she says, “My first day in Mumbai was overwhelming. I was a bit lost. At that point, I didn’t speak Hindi. I remember disembarking at Dadar station and being shocked to see a wave of people. I kept thinking, ‘It’s been an hour and I haven’t reached my place yet. How big is this city!’ All of it felt astounding, yet a sense of inspiration engulfed me.” For Dhulipala, Mumbai is not just a city but a love affair—best enjoyed briefly, at intervals, but intensely.
While growing up, Dhulipala relished the feeling of staying in—spending time with her loved ones and exploring her neighbourhood. “Until I moved to Mumbai, my life was very simple. I was associated with NCC (National Cadet Corps); I often went to the camps but that was it. My father was a sailor, my mother was a teacher—they are both retired now. When we were kids, my parents travelled frequently. Hence, when my father was in the country, he preferred not to travel. The culture of going out was not too prevalent in my household. Since I moved to Mumbai, I had a strong hunger for travel—backpacking, to be precise. Today, I’m very passionate about exploring new places, experiencing different cultures, and observing people. Travelling broadened my horizons and helped me evolve in the way I understand people and emotions. I like going to a place and being one with it and its people,” she says.
While travelling the world may have taken a back seat, for now, thanks to the pandemic, many of us believe in the potential of staycations to quench our wanderlust. And Dhulipala believes it’s natural for human beings to have an urge to be in transit. “We have a strong, deep-rooted desire to put ourselves in new places, among new people, languages, cultures. However, due to global travel restrictions, moving freely has become inconvenient.” Thus, she says, there’s a growing need to step out and experience new things in the vicinity. “I feel there’s a lot more humility in the way we see travel now.”
Just like Grey Goose Music CDs, which embody the spirit of living the good life and want patrons to revel in special occasions and live victoriously in the moment, our cover star believes in pausing, introspecting, and soaking up the essence of a destination. For Dhulipala, an ideal staycation should be draped in rusticity. Picture spending time in a forest cabin, with some books on the bedside, paints and a canvas for company, and local delicacies to devour. Or two days of tranquillity at a secluded beach, away from the hustle-bustle of city life. “I would love to go to Lakshadweep or the Andaman Islands or Coorg, where I can zone out completely,” the actor muses.
Dhulipala’s idea of the perfect staycation stems from a yearning to feel insignificant in the face of nature. She likes to feel small and trifling when standing in front of a mighty mountain; it’s almost inspiring and comforting for her. It reminds her that in the larger scheme of things, we are all just tiny blips. “Being surrounded by elements that remind me of my place in this world is a soulful affair. Hence, I would always choose immersive experiences while planning a staycation. I would look for a place that is far off from cities, has a sense of local flavour, has history around it, and is next to a waterbody—the idea is to feel completely rejuvenated,” she elucidates.
Just like solo travelling, the trend of solo staycations is seeing a spike around the world, especially among millennials who don’t shy away from indulging in a weekend of quietude to escape the chaos of daily life, with their favourite cocktails in tow. Grey Goose organically fits into the plan. Our cover girl reveals, “Yes, there have been a couple of times when I’ve travelled with friends or peers, but largely, all the travelling that I’ve done in my life has been solo, and it has been very gratifying because, then, my interaction and exchange of dialogues is strictly with the destination.”
Artists often draw inspiration from places, people, and cultures, and in the process, tend to get attached to destinations. However, when Dhulipala is on the go, she knows how to keep herself detached while also nurturing her creative mind. “I’ve always been someone who didn’t feel a strong sense of attachment to anything—people or places. I can live out of a backpack. Also, my parents have taught me the importance of self-sufficiency—not just financially, but also emotionally and socially. To not feel lonely when you’re alone is a beautiful sentiment. And I feel complete when I’m with myself,” she shares.
This year has taught us to appreciate the smaller things in life. For instance, spending time with the ones who really matter, looking for hidden gems in our own backyards, and unwinding with friends—even if virtually. So, what does Grey Goose #Livevictoriously mean to Dhulipala? “For me, living victoriously means to be in touch with our true selves and nature.” Dhulipala says she never stops exploring her own city. “When in Mumbai, I’m always looking for undiscovered places. There are always some areas in a city that will surprise you, no matter how well you know it. Places keep evolving,” she says. For the first three years of college, Dhulipala used to carry a local train pass; she would often board a train, travel to random stations, disembark, walk around, get back on the train, and go home. “I saw the pieces of Mumbai that nobody bothered to look at. It was not the touristy Mumbai that everyone talks about,” she recalls.
For Dhulipala, the pursuit to discover the undiscovered and taking the inward journey are conscious choices, and this year, she plans to nourish this attitude further and collect more fulfilling travel experiences.
STAYCATION: In a houseboat
A PLACE YOU KEEP RETURNING TO Italy
FAVOURITE CUISINES: South Indian and Italian
MOST MEMORABLE UNPLANNED TRIP: Andaman Islands
PLACES THAT FUEL CREATIVITY: Ladakh, Rajasthan, and Sri Lanka
NEXT TRIP: Indonesia 2021
BUCKET LIST: The Great Migration in Kenya