Women’s Day special: women travelling solo

Soul Purpose was launched in 2013
Image courtesy: Mimi Chakrabarti

Single, married, young and old, professionals or homemakers, retired women or empty-nesters – Indian women are increasingly choosing to discover the big bad world on their own. Women-only travel is no longer considered an avant-garde thing. Today, women from all walks of life choose to hike and trek, raft, sail, scuba dive, bird-watch and ski in all-female groups. It is not uncommon to see groups of women from all age groups, an assortment of novices and experienced rafters shoot rapids during the day and spend evenings singing, storytelling around campfires.

According to a recent survey, there has been a marked rise in bookings by women’s groups and single women in India. As a Women’s Day special, here’s our guide to five of the best travel clubs for women who love to travel, make friends and enjoy new adventures, no strings attached!

Diva Odysseys

This Goa-based outfit was launched on International Women’s Day in 2013 by Neena Jhanjee. It is a boutique tour operator that specialises in tailor-made international luxury and special interest tours. The trips are usually theme-based; for instance – a gastronomical trip to the Amalfi coast in Italy will involve trying out wine and food, cooking classes, and vineyard tours.

Other fantastic experiences include scuba dive with manta rays, learning to bellydance in Egypt, meeting the Komodo dragon, seeing how the world-famous mozzarella cheese is made, swimming in the highest infinity pool in the world, and watching the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world from a hot air balloon whilst sipping on a glass of bubbly.

More on: http://www.divaodysseys.com

Soul Purpose

Soul Purpose was launched in 2013 by two women – Mimi Chakrabarti, a freelance photographer and yoga teacher, and Vidya Deshpande, a former journalist – also mothers to demanding teenage children. Mimi and Vidya do everything – planning, booking, and organising. They call their trips “Journeys of self-discovery,” which they believe can only happen in an emotionally safe, women’s-only group.

Soul Purpose trips stay close to the local vibes with local food, home-stays, and mingling with the elderly people of the house. They even visit village schools and interact with children. Soul Purpose also runs themed meet-ups focussing on cycling, photography and birding. Membership, activities and events are free of charge. You can write to soulpurposetravel@gmail.com to become a member of a group.

Their last trip was to Nagaland for the Hornbill Festival. “At Kaziranga, we had six sightings of rhinos and we saw two elephants in the wild. We went to the night bazar in Kohima, ate local food (except for the dog!),” says Mimi. Upcoming outings include trips to Andaman Island and a trek to Everest Base Camp. “Both will be challenging in their own way. We’ll be scuba diving and snorkelling in the Andamans. And for Everest Base camp, Vidya and I are already training for a comfortable climb,” she adds.

More on: http://www.soulpurposetravel.in/

The Wander Girls

The Wander Girls (TWG) launched operations in August 2013. Before that, founder Hetal Doshi had stints in banking, entrepreneurship, writing, and working in the not-for-profit space. “Travel liberated me from the shackles placed upon me owing to my gender. I come from a patriarchal family where every opportunity to spread my wings was met with resistance,” says Hetal. She began TWG to offer a platform for women to experience the joy, learning, and, liberation, that travel offers both individually and in the company of other women.

TWG has a tour-in-charge who takes care of every aspect of the trip. “We also arrange for a local guide at most destinations for providing destination specific information. And offer reward points – for every trip taken – that can then be used for subsequent trips,” explains Hetal. For women who wish to travel solo, they provide customised options, and create individualised itineraries. “A particularly interesting custom trip that we planned was for a couple that wanted their honeymoon trip to be spread across all seven continents,” says Hetal. A recent weekend getaway to Alibaug had activities like meditation, exploratory walks, games in the pool, cooking classes, organic food, and a nightly session of storytelling by the fireside.

More on: http://thewandergirls.com


Girls on the Go, a Mumbai-based travel club was started in 2008
Image courtesy: Girls on the Go

Girls on the Go

This Mumbai-based travel club was started in 2008 by former corporate lawyer Piya Bose. She has been travelling solo since she was 16. It was while on a trip to Nepal-Tibet, standing on the highest plateau in front of Mt Everest that she felt compelled to give up corporate life and do something “more meaningful”. She started a travel forum for women that would encourage them to step out and experience the world. “This, I believed would not only transform their perceptions positively, but also empower them greatly. Just the act of having to handle one’s own documents, foreign currency and baggage gives women a greater sense of empowerment,” explains Piya. GOTG offers activity trips like scuba diving in Mumbai, as well as event-based tours targeting the Dubai Shopping Festival, Ladakh’s Hemis festival, and Spain’s La Tomatina. “We show women all aspects of a city including nightlife, pubs etc., many of which would be off limits on a family trip.” When she started GOTG, Piya wasn’t sure about the adventure quotient of Indian women but, she soon found that her more-than-eager clients pushed her to organise innovative and challenging trips, from paragliding to underwater sea walks, from visiting Arctic in winter to seeing the Northern Lights and expedition cruising in Antarctica.

The group’s most memorable trips include chasing Northern Lights and king crab fishing in the Norwegian Arctic, staying with the Konyak tribe in Nagaland, watching reverse magnetism on a compass and meeting a NASA professor who had come to collect meteorite samples at a deserted temple in Lonar meteorite crater.

More on: http://www.girlsonthegoclub.com/

Women on Wanderlust

Women on Wanderlust (WOW) was a pioneer in the sphere of women-only travel and continues to be one of the most popular in the sector. Founded by Sumitra Senapaty in 2005, WOW has taken women all over the world from Argentina to Egypt. Their travel itineraries includes activity-based getaways like trekking in the Valley of Flowers, rafting in Rishikesh, and gourmet experiences in France, kayaking in South China, snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea and in Darwins footsteps to Galapagos in South America. In the pipeline are excursions to Uzbekistan, South America, Borneo and Galapagos. They do over 75 trips each year – Sumitra personally chooses the destinations, and designs the product.

More on: http://www.wowsumitra.com/

The article was first published in March, 2015 and has been updated since.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Anuradha Sengupta is a freelance writer and founder-editor of Jalebi Ink, an award-winning media collective for children and youth. A compulsive city-walker, she loves exploring urban cultures and is a columnist for NY-based Karta, a collaborative urban mapping project. Her most memorable adventure was in Afghanistan as digital media advisor, setting up citizens' media centres.

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