The Wander Girls is a travel group that plans safe, all women trips to domestic and international destinations.
Women constantly feel the need to break out of the shackles of a patriarchal Indian society. The gradual yet fruitful shift is making its presence felt in every sector. One such sphere where women are trying to change the societal norms is travel. Be it the increasing participation in trekking excursions, the concept of solo female travel that continues to be the ‘it’ thing or the all-women travel clubs – the trend has broken new grounds – hence, providing every woman with a leeway to be her authentic self.
The Wander Girls (TWG) is one such truly exciting way for the woman traveller to explore and unearth numerous aspects of travelling, build fruitful relationships with like-minded women and discover herself in the process. The trips planned at The Wander Girls are a careful and thoughtful reflection of experiences that come with living in and adapting to different countries along with a graceful blend of art, culture, history and sightseeing with a tinge of adventure. All in all, it adds up to an extremely soulful experience and what the team calls it, ‘TWG Difference’. TWG plans trips to domestic and international destinations such as Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Greece and Turkey.
The TWG clientele have many good things to say. Veena Krishnamurthy who took the Goa trip with TWG in June said that the trip was well-planned and the itinerary was well thought out, with a combination of leisure and sightseeing. Another traveller Esha Kumar says, “TWG made sure that each one of us felt comfortable and that everybody’s wishes were accommodated.
Below is an exclusive interview with Hetal Doshi, founder of TWG, who talks about what fueled the establishment of TWG, the ups and downs she has faced and the travel and tourism industry.
1. What led to the establishment of TWG?
I love traveling; I was the unofficial leader in planning holidays and trips with family and friends. Eventually, I started traveling solo to spend more time exploring each destination completely; I realised there aren’t many Indian women who travel without family, be it solo or in a group. I thought I could do something relevant in this space by creating exciting experiences and enabling women to experience the joys of travel, both independently and in the company of other women.
2. When did you discover your passion for travel?
I’ve always been a curious individual. As a young adult, this innate curiosity led me to the US to pursue my education, which in turn afforded me various opportunities to travel independently. I discovered that I love making my way to a destination for the first time and slowly finding its rhythm and understanding what makes it tick. The sights, the smells, the daily push and pull of life. The local food and traditions. The night life and the cultural landscape. Getting to know the local people and sometimes even forging deep friendships. Just reminiscing about it quickens my heartbeat.
3. Tell us about the trips provided at TWG.
Our fixed departure trips are highly experiential. Our trips are a combination of sightseeing, leisure time, and adding unusual experiences at various destinations that are rarely found on standard tour packages.
4. Why the name ‘The Wander Girls’?
It describes us, and our client base. The name came about since we were traveling a lot before the launch of the venture, and whenever we’d be out on a trip, friends and family members would often comment, “Ah you girls are still wandering!” So we were unofficially nicknamed ‘The Wander Girls’ and it’s a legacy we’re happily carrying forward.
5. What, according to you are the perks of being a part of an all-women travel group?
As our women clientele tell us, it’s fun, safe, easy-going, non-competitive and stress free. When women travel with other women, they can focus on themselves for a change. There is no one else they have to nurture or take care. When women travel with other women, they overcome their fears, let go off their inhibitions, and allow themselves to be truly free. Women travel together to rejuvenate their mind, body and spirit. The camaraderie of like-minded women creates a space where laughter, communication, sharing secrets and talking about problems is comfortable. Whether one wants to go shopping, visit a spa or attend cultural performances, there will be other women who will be enthusiastic to join in.
6. Effectively organising and planning every trip to meet the clients’ expectations is not so simple. How do you go about it?
Putting together an itinerary that is unique and relevant requires an in-depth research, planning and execution. We often travel to the destination, put together a dossier with everything a destination has to offer in terms of sightseeing, food, stay options and activities that would excite us and our clientele. Our itineraries to that extent bear the fingerprint of our experiences and tastes that usually resonate with our clientele. In the case of custom trips, we devote 20 to 40 man hours to create highly specialised itineraries that are a complete reflection of the client’s taste and preference.
7. TWG caters to a heterogeneous mix of women. How do you cater to the satisfaction and requirements of each of them?
We set out expectations at the start by sharing detailed itineraries on our website with our registered members. We also spend time assuaging the fears of new travellers, and patiently explain procedures in detail even though most answers can be found on the FAQ section of our site. I guess, the human interaction here makes all the difference. And even then, there are times when it’s difficult to satisfy all our clients but that’s where we learn and grow and constantly keep innovating to serve our customers better.
8. What are the challenges you face while running TWG? How did you overcome them?
We specialise in women-only trips. The challenges are ensuring that the hotels are centrally located at each destination; the ground transport providers put forth their most experienced drivers, and providing relevant experiences at each destination. In short, all measures that ensure the well-being, safety and comfort of our participants and fulfilling their unique requirements. We often conduct ground research at various destinations to provide curated experiences to our clients.
9. Have you undertaken any new initiatives in the field of travel?
We’ve currently initiated ‘D-I-Y’ women-only trips, where we organised group fixed departure trips without a tour manager leading a trip.
10. What is your take on the increasing commercialisation in travel and tourism?
Commercialisation is not a bad thing. Without cash flow, it is difficult to keep tourist attractions attractive. Case in point is in how magnificent the Palace/Fort hotels run by hotel chains are in comparison to those Palaces and Forts that don’t have support. It supports local economies. The issue is excessive commercialisation, and how we balance resource utilisation versus exploitation.
11. What is dark tourism and its impact on the travel space?
Travelling to places that are historically associated with death, tragedy and suffering is not a new phenomenon. Now since we have a term that’s associated with it, there is a greater awareness of what it entails. While ‘dark tourism’ by itself is not as negative as it sounds, the consideration would be the purpose with which the tourist is visiting the destination. If it sensitizes an individual and creates more understanding, and impacts one positively, it can be a great experience. However, if an individual is simply keen to take pictures and selfies at such destinations, it can bring forth painful memories for many. For a company that’s involved in ‘dark tourism’, it would be of utmost importance to carry out such tours with due respect and care.
12. What is the ultimate aim of The Wander Girls?
Our aim is to empower the woman traveller. Everything we do is a means to make that happen – from the fixed departure trips, to the inbound women travellers to the custom trip planning. While increasing revenues by this process would be essential to our company’s growth, personally, my goal is to see women fulfil all their aspirations including that of travelling alone. It brings me great joy when I see many of our clients slowly transitioning from our group fixed departure trips to our custom trip planning services, wherein they want to venture out on solo trips.
13. Any tips for your fellow women travellers or to the readers in general?
I think good health is a precursor for getting the most out of your trips. So for anyone who wants to make the most of their travel, an active routine life with wholesome meals would be a good place to start. I recommend traveling light, as it allows you to independently carry and manage your luggage at any destination.
So, if you always wanted to travel solo or you and a group of your friends are looking to take trip, TWG could be just the thing for you.
Mili Doshi is a handpicked product of The Bayside Project where we empower the young and the young at heart with the power of storytelling. To become a part of our extended family of unique contributors, call up Prem Madnani at +91 9892913788 or email him on [email protected]