Travel

The world is not enough

Twelve years ago, Sumitra Senapaty kicked off a unique platform called WOW, (Women on Wanderlust), in Bengaluru. The platform would enable women, who love to travel, to roam around the world with other women. The all-women travel club became a trendsetter. As WOW completed its 12th anniversary, it celebrated the occasion with a get-together of the community of travellers - women who have travelled with WOW, those who want to travel with WOW and those who just love the idea of journeys. Sumitra, the woman behind it all, tells us, how she has been able to create a space for something as niche as this. Excerpts from an interview.

What led you to start WOW? What was the scene like for women travellers?

I pioneered the concept of all women travel way back in 2005. I felt that there was a growing need for Indian women to be independent and have me time. Women travellers distrusted travel agencies so clearly there was a vacuum. I am so happy that I seized the opportunity to start an all women travel community. I haven’t looked back since.

What challenges did you face in the initial years? Do those continue?

The main challenge was that it was a new concept and they take time to get popular. Women had to be convinced a great deal before they went on to convince their families. These doubts do not continue today, women have indeed come a long way!

What was the response of the travel industry?

Disdain and I guess scornful to a certain extent, because women were not considered to be the target group for too many things! Besides we made a conscious decision to stay away from the travel industry and the world of travel agents. We had positioned ourselves as a travel platform, a club and a community for women, we have achieved that today.

Were the initial women travellers professionals or women who never travelled but got an opportunity to do so?

Even 12 years ago, it was a mixed group of women who wandered with WOW - professionals, entrepreneurs, homemakers, between the ages of 30 to 65 years. Some were travel novices, while others had travelled with their families and some on work.

What did WOW lead to? Other women travelling groups or an increased desire in women to travel?

WOW created the me time movement for women! Literally. We encouraged them to live their dreams and how! They have never looked back since. We have even managed to put together a group of 16 women who will journey to Antarctica, in January 2018. By offering a safe and secure travel platform for women, WOW helped thousands of women be bold and make their wish lists come true!

Currently how many trips do you undertake in a year?

WOW does over 125 travel groups to over 70 destinations in India and overseas.

Any other plans for WOW?

Yes certainly, we are planning a number of secret journeys to unusual and offbeat places - away from the touristy queues. Perhaps a B & B exclusively for women. Our thinking cap is constantly on! We want to even increase the number of trips and destinations, so that even more like minded women can join in.

Sumitra Senapaty on 12 incredible journeys undertaken by WOW

* Leh Ladakh (2005) - Sumitra says the memories of one of their first trips to Ladakh is still etched in her mind. “Many people didn’t even know how to reach there. They would ask if one needs a passport to go there.” The group still organises excursions to Ladakh.

* Egypt - WOW’s first international trip. “Everyone must go there once in their life. Just so much of culture and heritage.”

* Tanzania - “Best Safari destination in the world. You don’t have to go looking for animals.”

* Japan - “Most unusual culture. We attended the Takayama Festival, one of the most beautiful festivals where everything is brightly lit.”

* France -St Malo and St Michel are two unusual places on the emerald coast which boast some of the highest tides in Europe.

* The Azores are nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Columbus is believed to have stopped there before he discovered America.

* Croatia - “It has a fascinating history. Alfred Hitchcock said, it has the most beautiful sunset in the world. The coast of Zadar has the Sea Organ, a long instrument conceived in 2005 by architect Nikola Bašić, that plays beautiful music using the movements of the sea.”

* Morocco - Gateway to Africa and a country of diversity

* Treks to Sikkim’s Varshe sanctuary - “We saw some very unusual flora and fauna. It also turned out to be extremely adventurous as the group had to live in ITBP Commandant’s bunker due to some unforeseen circumstances.”

* Bolivia - “It has some unimaginable salt flats and amazing Lake Titicaca. We lived in a salt crystal hotel.”

* Argentina - “Buenos Aires has most beautiful art in the world.”

* Ecuador - “It has the beautiful Galapagos islands. So close to nature and great for snorkelling. We managed to see a giant 103 year-old giant land turtle.”

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 4:36:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/the-world-os-not-enough/article19445074.ece

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