Fiona Caulfield is an avid traveller with a keen eye for what
makes a destination truly special. Born in Australia and now a
resident of India, she's the woman behind the gorgeous Love Travel
Guides series, which take an intimate, personal approach to
travel. These clothbound, incredibly detailed guidebooks provide a
truly local perspective on a range of destinations, with
recommendations that stray far from the tired tourist path. It's
fair to say that they're essential reading for visitors planning a
trip to India.
We sat down with Fiona to learn more about her guides and her
travels: from her favourite tips and recommendations for travellers
to India to what it means to be a luxury vagabond.
Fiona Caulfield is the founder
of the gorgeous Love Travel Guides series © Clare Arni
For starters, what's a luxury vagabond? And why are you
A luxury vagabond effortlessly mixes the high and the low. They
thrive on staying in grand palaces and yet are happy to take an
early morning rickshaw to the best chaiwallah in town. They might
shop for fine jewels in an atelier that traces its origins to
Mughal times and then return to their simple homestay for a
delicious home-cooked meal. Luxury vagabonds search for, and
luxuriate, in the authentic. They loathe five star bubbles and
fleapits with equal vigour. The most valuable asset to a luxury
vagabond is their time, not their money.
I think that answer probably explains why I am one!
Tell us about the concept of 'conscious
The Love Travel brand is committed to conscious travel. We aim
to be conscious of the destination we are visiting and believe in
contributing in a meaningful way. We promote socially and/or
environmentally sustainable organisations in the guides and we also
contribute ten per cent of the profits to assist these
organisations. Recently we have supported a craft organization in
Bangalore that has a livelihood program for underprivileged women,
teaching block-printing skills, which also supports the craft.
Love Travel Guides provide an
intimate look at Indian destinations
You're a lover of 'slow' publishing and 'slow' travel -
how does this come out in the Love Travel Guides?
I think of the work we do as curating a destination. The first
edition of a guide will be years in development and even a new
edition could take a year or more to research. The entries are
'love stories' personally sourced from in-the-know locals including
chefs and chaiwallahs, artists and architects, photographers and
princesses. These people reveal their favourite experiences over
time as relationships are developed and trust achieved. We then
personally visit every potential entry, checking that it really is
the best experience in its category. Whether it's leopard spotting,
assessing a fortune teller or finding the best suite in the haveli,
all of the recommendations meet our exacting standard. Do they help
you fall in love with the destination or not?
We don't deal in the currency of new; we are committed to the
authentic and believe we have a discerning eye for the singular
experiences that set a destination apart. We don't think you fall
in love with Jodhpur for example in a mall or in a modern
nightclub. We think you do fall in love with the medieval city of
Jodhpur on an exclusive Champagne tour of the majestic Mehrangarh
Fort at sunset, or while visiting the tiny glass bangle shop that
has supplied every Maharani of Jodhpur. We present the enduring
establishments of a destination and really get behind the veneer of
So as well as slow research we also slowly handcraft the books.
They are printed on paper hand-made in Sanganer, just outside of
Jaipur, and the fabric covers are made from handloom khadi cotton,
the fabric of India's independence, which is hand-woven in Andhra
The guides are clothbound and
made from locally sourced materials
What do you see as the next big travel trends within
India? Which destinations have emerged? And where do you think will
be next on everyone's wish list?
In my other career, I still work as an applied futurist, so this
is when my careers converge! I believe the travel trends in India
are aligned with global trends - discerning travellers will
increasingly demand authenticity, exclusivity, customized
experiences and privacy. Gone are the tightly packaged holidays and
other tourist pap. For India, this means journeys to places that
are considered to be the "real" India, not tourist India. I would
expect Madhya Pradesh to get busier, in fact the whole of the
Deccan Plateau. Also, a personal favourite is Calcutta and the
east, I also think the far south of India, the Palani Hills and
other hidden secrets outside of Madurai will become interesting as
part of a southern itinerary. I would also expect experiential
travel to boom, leopard safaris at Jawai in Rajasthan, Tibetan healing retreats in
the Himalayan foothills, wellness cooking intensives in Kerala and
mastering your headstand in Mysore, ashram chic style!
What's the one place in India everyone should
Ganga Ma. The mighty Ganges River, the soul of India. In fact,
almost any river in India: the Cauvery in the South, the Narmada in
central India, and the Chapora River in Goa.
I also think that the Jaipur
Literature Festival is quite amazing, a literary Kumbh Mela.
The exclusive and intimate World
Sufi Spirit Festival in Nagaur makes one's spirit soar.
The World Sufi Spirit Festival
is a sight to behold © World Sufi Spirit Festival
What's the one book you feel best encapsulates
Tough question, like asking to choose my favourite child…
1. The Ramayana, the more accessible of the
Indian epics and the source of all the stories that Indian
grandparents share with their grandchildren on their knee. I read
it after having lived in India five years and wish I had read on
arrival. I recommend the Ashok Banker set published by Penguin,
don't be daunted by the size, it is a real page turner!
2. India: What Can it Teach Us? A course of
lectures delivered before the University Of Cambridge in 1882 by
the acclaimed Sanskrit Scholar, F. Max Müller. An excellent
reversal of the colonial instinct to teach India, here is the
passionately argued case of learning from India. A valuable lesson
for all of us visiting the country.
3. Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, White
Tiger, A Fine Balance, Suitable Boy, The
Hungry Tide ….. and this list could go forever.
The Ramayana is a classic Indian
epic © Atthapol Saita/iStock/Thinkstock
A wise woman once said about
Travelling to India is not an external journey, but an internal
one. India demands that you go on a journey within.