Women on Wanderlust: Wow, what a concept!
Anita Bora - The Women Behind Women on Wonderlust
I have often come across several women complaining that their spouses don't like travel so they're stuck when they want to go somewhere or do something. Even single women who want to travel face problems such as an alien and unsafe environment or the uncertainty of traveling on their own.
So when I saw a small write-up in The Hindu supplement on holidays for women, I was immediately a little curious. I am a frequent traveller (as frequently as I can manage to take off anyway!) and one challenge I face is finding a travel partner. So the whole concept sounded really interesting to me. I didn't waste any time and got in touch with Sumitra Senapaty who is the woman behind WOW - Women on Wanderlust.
Sumitra lives in New Delhi, and shuttles a lot between Delhi & Bangalore, where she has family. She is married with a son and daughters (teenagers) and a naughty pet called Beagle. She has travelled to several countries on assignment including: Maldives, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Hong Kong, South Korea, Israel, Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Nepal, Canada/Alaska, France, UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Austria & Prague, Turkey & Egypt. Some of her favourite places in India are Ladakh, Devbagh & Corbett.
Some of the publications she contributes to are Verve, Life & Style (Outlook), Jetwings Inflight magazine, Asia Spa, Taste & Travel.
I thought this would make sense to a lot of women in Bangalore, who live and work in the city and enjoys travelling once in a while, but is sometimes deterred by taking off alone.
Here is the interview with Sumitra. And if you're a male reader you can do your bit too, by forwarding this to your spouses, girlfriends, sisters and even mothers maybe?! Go on, read it!
1. How & why did WOW start?
As a writer I travel to various parts of India and the world for my assignments. During these trips, I notice that there are women traveling on their own and clearly enjoying it. But this kind of a thing does not happen in India, forget travel, how often do you come across a solo woman sitting in a café or watching a movie by herself? Almost never... I thought of starting WOW for solo women travel, but in a group situation, wherein safety and security are top priorities.
It started in my own extended family - a couple of years back I was asked to set up and coordinate a family and friends trip to Kerala - and we were all female. We did Cochin, Munnar and the backwaters and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves... I realized that apart from tourism, what we were enjoying was 'girl time'. No matter what age, women do have the ability to bond with each other. Further encouraged with the idea, I formally started WOW during the summer of 2005 and put together not one, but three groups to Ladakh.
2. What kind of response has WOW received?
The response is tremendous - women feel that this is a platform for them to interact with other women from different parts of India - they come in as strangers and depart as friends. They feel empowered - in the sense they know that WOW is something they can depend on - for great travel ideas, value for money travel packages and a feeling of confidence and well being, which traveling with WOW brings about.
3. What is the demography of the women? Do married women join in?
Apart from urban women living in cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore, women from places like Surat, Ahmedabad, Allahabad, Indore, Lucknow, Trichinapalli and Mangalore have contacted me for WOW. They are in the age group of 20 to 55 and are in various professions, such as - law, investment banking, teaching, corporate executives, techies, government employees, HR, BPOs, doctors, dentists, trainers, self employed and homemakers and retired citizens. And the women who come are a mix - single, married, divorced and widowed...
4. What are the frequent questions that the women ask?
Who are the women traveling in the trip? Where do they belong to, what are their professions etc. How will I get along with the others - not knowing them, women wonder if it's possible to enjoy a holiday with total strangers... They also ask a lot of questions regarding the destination, details of tourist attractions, what is the weather like, what type of clothes to take, how much foreign currency is required etc.
5. Where have the WOW groups gone to so far?
Ladakh, Egypt and Sri Lanka and fast approaching is the WOW trek to the Himalayas.
6. Can you share the WOW Travel Calendar?
August - Independence, monsoon trek
October - Sikkim, Kalimpong & Darjeeling
November - Egypt & Nile Cruise
December - New Zealand - a driving tour.
January - Mauritius
April - Himalayas - Camping
May - European cruise
June - Ladakh
July - Kailash Manasarovar
The domestic tours can range anywhere between 10,000 to 35-40,000 (rupees).
Foreign destinations can cost between 50,000 & a lakh.
7. The advantages of traveling with WOW?
Companionship, safety, reliable travel arrangements, value for money, a sense of togetherness and confidence in the fact that yes I can do a holiday on my own. Women are confident that traveling with WOW, there is safety in numbers. I don't wait for a critical mass as such, I plan an itinerary, circulate & promote it and by now I have a fair idea of what works and what doesn't.
8. And the pitfalls?
WOW is only for women - husbands and partners are not allowed. (The only exception to this will be the WOW cruise in 2007, which will include Friends of WOW as well).
9. Do women come with divergent expectations?
Women join up for WOW tours expecting a whole lot of fun, frolic and above all great 'girl time.' But they do feel the need for individual moments during the trip. WOW itineraries are developed in such a way, that there is time for individual leisure as well.
10. Some memorable incidents in your travel that you can attribute to the special character of WOW...
The youngest member of WOW in Ladakh - a six year old girl making a snowman - she had persuaded her mother to join the WOW trip, in order that she can see 'snow' for the first
time in her life!!
11. Some not-so-comfortable experiences...
Stuck in a blizzard in the back of the wilds in Ladakh, en route to Pang Gong Tso.
12. Other than for good time and companionship in travel, is there any other aspect of wow that makes it attractive?
WOW is a platform for like-minded urban women.
13. Any deeper friendship that has grown beyond travel?
Yes, WOW does keep in touch through email and we try to meet up at least twice a year.
14. Do members tend to repeat traveling with WOW?
Yes they do, some of the girls who came for Ladakh, did Egypt with WOW. Now some of them are going for the August trek as well.
15. Any ice breakers to get women easy with one another quickly?
Somehow icebreakers are not needed! Women talk easily - the moment they see each other!
So gals, women, what are you waiting for? If you want to travel somewhere, don't let the lack of a companion or company stop you!
You can visit www.wowsumitra.com or contact email@example.com or call 09891655054 for more.
Founder, The WOW Club
New Delhi . Bangalore
Mobile: 91 9891.655.054
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