By Aakanksha Batra Nov. 13, 2019
I picked Portugal for my bachelorette – it sounded way fancier than the very plebeian Thailand. Invariably, the day would dissipate from being a quest of discovering a new city, to an endless tirade of “The local market is trending online, so we will have better photo-ops!”, to “Why can’t we just laze by the pool – my pedicure hasn’t received enough justice yet!”
It all started going downhill from a “surprise” proposal. I was officially off the market, and that essentially meant only one thing – an impending bachelorette. Impending because, besides the chaos of wedding planning, another entirely different, yet as difficult, coordination would need to begin, that of a girls’ trip – picking the “who” lest I offend any favourites, the where given our extremely scattered geographies, and the when, since we all had diverse schedules. In hindsight, that was the easiest part. We zeroed in on Portugal instantly: (a) it was in Europe, so it sounded way fancier than being on a girls’ trip, as usual, in the very plebeian Thailand, (b) yet, it was “poor enough” for us to splurge in, and (c) when we jokingly came up with a vacay hashtag #Portu-GALS, which was just so original, no other country fit the bill anymore.
In a week we had all bookings in control – a mean machine of a consultant, floated spreadsheets and put together a ranking system to pick the accommodation. This was going to be one insanely fantastic trip.
Except when it came to the “actual prep”. Now, any self-respecting group of girls will always have its own set of politics steeped in high-school history. In our case several “buried hatchets” resurfaced to manifest as surreptitious fitness behaviour between the ten, yes TEN, of us confirmed.
But I couldn’t win Miss Good Looks without shopping for an entirely new wardrobe. For how can we repeat outfits that have been sported in some posts from the last few vacations?
Thanks to my extreme social media stalking skills, I was aware that the Bandra crew had secretly started their sunrise runs at Jogger’s, the Singaporean was on the path of becoming an urban yogini, and that the New Yorker had enrolled for Manhattan’s top ten nutritionist’s diet plan. Two of the other girls were genetically blessed, and a third a crossfit fanatic, but for the rest, even a point one per cent chance of a bikini photo upload meant we needed to get the hell in shape! That just left my favourite lawyer, who was too busy to even take a stretch longer than five seconds, our chef friend, who couldn’t care less about how she looked, and myself. We had three good months to go, and this meant some hardcore lifestyle changes for each of us to win this unsaid competition, with a cloying pretense of collaboration.
As my pre-wedding fitness plan, I had signed up for Zumba, but I now needed to look hotter way quicker, so I started taking a downright unpleasant ACV shot first thing every morning, cucumber water through the day, and greens on a bed of complex carbs followed by some cinnamon tea for dinner. The only “cheat” I permitted myself was a weekly mega organic, completely homemade chia pudding sweetened using rosemary honey, hand-collected from my aunt’s farm in the Himalayas, garnished with cacao nibs I had recently bought from a single-origin farm in Bali. With carefully captured uploads of my new “Regime & Routine of the Rich”, my Instagram handle was garnering a significant following. I was confident that if I kept this up, my photos would get the most likes than the rest on the trip. As the bride, I had a winning strategy already. After all, no one was allowed to look better than me, even if it translated into 10-odd weeks of starving and being forever snappy.
But I couldn’t win Miss Good Looks without shopping for an entirely new wardrobe. For how can we repeat outfits that have been sported in some posts from the last few vacations? Zara and Mango were soooo 2012; I decided to take advantage of my mom’s BFF’s niece in Paris, who not only went boutique-hopping in Marseille for artisanal brands, but also agreed to ship everything to our BnB in Lisbon. This was my true jackpot. Now all I had to do was pretend I received a “care package” from my favourite aunt.
After surviving a scare – my dad threatened to downgrade me to Economy for paying little attention to the wedding – I landed in Lisbon. Fifteen minutes of air-kisses and mad hugs later, we were midway into our first argument – where to grab a quick meal. That was enough to indicate that ten different lists of “where you MUST eat” was going to be the undercurrent of most arguments for the rest of the trip.
Can you even imagine ten girls on a vacation, living in one big apartment, that has two bathrooms, trying to get anything done in time? Especially figuring the day’s schedule, but more importantly, working on the daily crew vibe given the number of outfits, multiple day changes, and back-ups we’d carried? By the time we would all be ready, it would almost always be lunch. Thank god for the late sunset hours during the European summer, that gave us the false sense of still having an entire day at our disposal. If only libraries, museums, and restaurants, followed our circadian rhythm as opposed to the local time. Invariably, the day would dissipate from being a quest of discovering the soul of a new city together, to an endless tirade of “I want to fine dine at that top TripAdvisor restaurant”, “But the local Sunday market is what is trending online right now, so we will have better photo-ops!”, “Oh, we HAVE to go to the Alfama District so we can also take all those tile photos we saw on my colleague’s insta…”, “Why can’t we just laze by the pool – my pedicure has not received enough justice yet!”
Amid all the pouts and posing, an unexpected issue unfolded, by the second day. All of us were basically putting the same photo, which the rest of our common 5,697 friends had to endure. When the three of us received a similar complaint, what started was an unsaid war of sorts on who would have the most unique story upload.
So now we were taking EVEN longer clicking photos, so much so, that during the magical lighting of golden hour, on the bridge in Porto, we missed the event we trekked all the way for – the actual sunset! But hey, at least we had ten different shots for ten new profile pictures.
Instagram dictated what we ate, did, or saw. We were experiencing less and uploading more… but isn’t that the way to vacation in 2019?
On the final day, we were on a yacht over River Douro – all the girls in white, while I came dressed in pink. We had a professional photographer on hire. All was smooth sailing, with our gourmet picnic, cute bachelorette props, beautiful sunshine, and just “pure” friendship in the air. We could bite each other’s heads off by now, but what held us together was our collective pursuit to make the world jealous. And then it happened. I was going to pop the final champagne of this vacay. The photographer was on the ready, as were all the glasses and the girls. I was already shaking the magnum, and was going to uncork, when “oh, oh, take my iPhone and get us a boomerang, please!” chef thrust her phone in the professional’s hand. In doing so she pushed me ever so slightly, my hand slipped, the bottle popped, and the cork hit our shutterbug IN THE EYE! Point blank! And then he just slipped. Into. The. River. Camera, et al! #Truestory. The biggest tragedy, we didn’t get a single picture.
Without getting into further details of what ensued, all I can say is, that even though our credit cards stood maxed out, at least the paperwork was taken care of.
In a quiet moment on my solo flight back into New Delhi, I found myself thinking: Were we trying to prove our friendship through boomerangs of colourful margaritas against our coordinated outfits? Did we miss out on the actual bonding? Several thousand euros later, did any of us feel richer in experience?
That’s when my phone pinged. (Thank god, for business-class WiFi). That “perfect happy” shot on bridge had got its 500th like. #VacayGoals
A dedicated dog mom to a husky and a beagle, Aakanksha is a mall-crawler currently living the tea bagan life. Hide all your "artisanal" "single origin" dark chocolates around, for she will literally sell her soul for a bar.