Women must giggle, gossip and party without being judged or criticised, says Jyothi Nair, who makes it possible for them to do just that with Beautiful Journey.
A lady-like, demure bunch of girls…The residents of Navadarshanam, a centre for alternative living in Bangalore, had this picture in their minds when they heard that a women’s only travel group was going to visit them. But they were in for a surprise when 12 travellers from Beautiful Journey, tumbled out of the bus. The ladies, sporting glares and sport shoes, chattered without a break and bombarded them with questions. They skipped around trees like little girls, clicked pictures and roamed around all day, exploring every nook and corner of the place. Soon the farm, known for its sedate ambience, was echoing with laughter and songs. The residents told them that they were the liveliest bunch of visitors they ever had.
An adda for lady travel bugs, Beautiful Journey is based in Bangalore, but has a strong online presence. Women, from across the country, can join their tours through their website and Facebook page, which has over 22,000 members. Says CEO, Jyothi Nair, “Women need to think of so many safety issues before they shrug on their backpacks. We want them to forget all of that and have fun.”
Jyothi, who worked in an IT company in Bangalore quit her 15-year-long profession to start this venture. An avid hiker, she has left no hills in and around Bangalore unclimbed. She is also a certified flier of single engine aircrafts. “Travelling and adventure are my twin-passions. But I realised there was no fun doing it alone. You need someone to share those beautiful sunsets with.”
When Jyothi founded the group in April 2012, it was open to both men and women. “However, at an all ladies’ lunch held in September, I realised that many ladies felt more comfortable in an exclusive women’s group,” she says. And that’s when the men were politely told to quit the group and Beautiful Journey became an all-women team.
Jyothi was initially nervous about their first trip to Navadarshanam in January. “All of them were strangers to each other. I had even prepared a long introductory speech to break the ice. But by the time the bus had picked everyone up, the group was belting out songs and discussing their first crushes. It was as if they knew each other for ages.”
A huge network of friends forms the backbone of Beautiful Journey. “I have a core team of 28 girls, located in different parts of India. They help me out with accommodation and local support. For instance, if we plan a trip to the North-East, my friend in Sikkim would volunteer to guide us,” says Jyothi.
Safety is one of the important concerns. “If it is a one-day trip, I plan it in such a way that they reach in the morning, explore the place during the day and return home by night. Before planning a trip, I also do a recce of the place to arrange safe accommodation.” Says Krshka, one of their customers, “Their journeys are safe and well-planned. And, the fact that it was a women’s only tour made me really comfortable.”
We come across so many women, who have not even stepped outside their homes, says Jyothi. “There are also so many married women in our group, who want to spend some time outside their families. Their husbands are supportive of them and ask them to go for the tour (may be the husbands want a break too!). That is why we wanted to set up a platform of women travellers, where women can come together and unwind.”
She recalls one of their short domestic trips to Belur-Halebid, when they laughed so much that in order to stop laughing they said anyone who laughed next would be fined. “It was like we were back in college. We even had a pyjama party. We stayed up till one in the morning. From politics to actors, we talked about everything under the sun.”
Most of their members are drawn to the fact that the group is an all-women team. Also, the company of strangers, at times, is far better than seeing familiar faces, says Jyothi. “It is easy to crack jokes and carry out conversations with strangers as they do not judge us. And the best part is we can talk about so many things we would not have even mentioned, if the men were around.”