“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.”
- Robert Frost.
There are parts of the world where life is slower, the air is cleaner and the leaf-strewn earth you’re crunching down upon cradles your feet in ways that city pavements never could. In the madness and constant whirlwind of urban life, it is important to break away from the work-hard(ish)-play-hard routine and push the boundaries of your comfort zone now and then, to realise that there is more to the world.
As Homegrown scouted the scene for travel companies that were breaking new ground, we couldn’t help but notice that all of the companies we shortlisted were unanimously engaged in a quest to separate the traveller from the tourist, with a keen eye for less-ventured locations and deeper travel experiences. Most of them being avid travellers themselves, these entrepreneurs are also clearly in it for the journey, not the destination. Veiling our envy at their nomadic profession, here’s what we unearthed from their experiences:
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A travel company that infuses efficiency and optimization with the aspects of travel and camping, The Big Red Tent is a venture that focuses on the wonders of living outdoors with just the right amenities—they set up professional ‘drive-in’ campgrounds in India. Whether it’s camping under the night sky or trekking across vast mountain ranges, The Big Red Tent assures every camper the best way to experience the outdoors. With its campsites across Kolad, Vasind and Karnala, each site is devoid of any kind of mobile and internet connectivity, forcing you to fully immerse in the world around you.
“In the mornings, you can do some yoga and meditate with the rising sun and sound of the river,” says Amar Gandhi of The Big Red Tent. The rafting and kayaking activities range from a price of INR 150 to INR 1400, depending on the area of the campsite. So give them a call, stroll around on the campground trails, take a cool refreshing dip in the river, sing along to your favourite tunes around the campfire and retire under the stars in your tent.
When was the last time you did something for the first time? The adrenalin and the rush of delving into an adventure for the very first time is an experience that is irreplaceable and irreplicable, and Wilder Vibe proposes a travel service that does exactly that. These travel enthusiasts believe in taking adventure, energy and achievement to a whole new level. Possibly “your first step towards checking off those items on your bucket list”, Wilder Vice offers professional adventure trips for the nomad in all of us.
All you need is to pack the basic essentials and put your faith in this venture; claiming to create some of the most informed and customised journeys across multiple adventure sports. With activities ranging from Scuba Diving, Trekking, Motorcycling, Rafting, Skiing and Gliding, this company believes in a philosophy which states that they are “here for the culture of adventure, not the business of it and that every adventure should be a benchmark for the next.”
What started off as a passion project in 2015, is now a venture that with members holding numerous certifications and accreditation, and with the simple aim of bringing together holistic organisational efficiency into adventure sports.
Accessibility is what they’re all about! UMOJA, meaning inclusivity in Swahili, is a unique travel company that aims to make travel services accessible to individuals who are differently abled. This is a team that dedicates themselves to gathering and reliable information regarding accommodation, where one easily find hotels that satisfy any individual’s specific preferences. UMOJA additionally offers expert assistance in finding and booking hotels, with wheelchairs accessible infrastructure and facilities, accessible transportation, and activities at “level playing field”.
Each packages can also be customised according to the disability and preferences of the person.
Read more about it here.
IV. Get Set Camp
Nature has a lot to offer and Get Set Camp is a group of enthusiasts who aim share the same passion they have for the outdoors with everyone. This venture hopes to promote adventure trips and getaways at a reasonable price. The company began with the idea of making the experience of camping as economic as possible, where they strongly believe that “anyone and everyone can camp”.
With campsites across locations such as Bhandardara, Lonavala, Revdanda Beach and Pawna, this team of nature lovers and passionate campers offer affordable packages that include BBQ’s, camping and trekking equipment, and even washroom facilities.
With travel comes experience, and with experience comes knowledge. Vacation With An Artist is a company that that believes in directly gaining these experiences by going through this journey with creative professionals from within their respective cities. One gets the opportunity to spend a certain set of days with an artist in their studio (called “Studio Time”) and learn something they are passionate about. Each studio session is sent out as request through VWAA to the artist and a framework of outlines for the session is provided. Once the request is accepted and finalised, you would then be on your way to experiencing an entirely new perspective of the world.
A few examples of artists the website features are Jigisha, who is a textile designer making felt rugs and throws for over 10 years, and Vijay who is the creator of India’s first bamboo bicycle, and is practising furniture designer and carpenter. His bamboo bikes have been put to test for a 900-km, eight day ride at a challenging mountain bike event proving it’s design and endurance.
The VWAA, however, only acts as a conduit between you and the artist; where you’d be responsible for your own flight and accommodation arrangements unless specified.
VI. Mumbai Rangers
Taking you all across the country, the Mumbai Rangers are a group of travel enthusiasts who have an affinity for bike riding. Apart from also offering services is in other adventure sports, this company has its hard placed in the thrill and adrenaline that comes with biking. From Ladakh to Kanyakumari, they curate bike trips all over India, while taking short pit-stops at national monuments, historic towns and even sandy beaches.
And once they’re done scavenging the great open lands for adventure, they move on to reaching for the skies. They also organise trekking activities, where the motto chanted is “Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”.
Check out their annual FireFlies Night trek to Rajmachi.
With centres in Purushwadi, Dehna and Valvanda, Grassroutes is an organisation that wishes to give the best experience one can possibly get out of India. With a rich culture and vast history, India is a country that has an innate sense of magic in its land. And this a company that began in the objective of allowing people to witness that magic in a safe and welcoming environment.
Travelling across numerous villages, the Grassroutes experience is a traditional and authentic one, where the locations are carefully picked and decided based upon their culture, uniqueness and their people. You’d get to live in a rural setting with members of that region and community, while gaining insight into their lives and ways. In addition to the “village” experience, people are also offered workshops on activities such as photography and yoga, and learn more about the communities around them by interacting with local NGOs.
And if that’s not all, the Grassroutes is also an initiative with a social mission in mind. With the primary aim of increasing livelihood opportunities in rural India, the organisation has seen a 25% increase in average annual household income, 6,000 to 8,000 days of employment created annually per village, reduced migration to cities due to creation of livelihood opportunities, conversations on the environment and a much needed revival of local arts and crafts.
Rukmini and Vijay Chandrashekar have put together a pet-friendly holiday platform, CollarFolk, for folks who want to travel with their four-legged friends. The amount of thought and effort these two have put into CollarFolks’ pet-friendly experiences makes it clear they are serious dog lovers. They have catered to a wide community of pet people, giving platform users the ability to opt for trekking, watersports, home-stay holidays and in-city experiences.
If you and your pup like getting splashed, CollarFolk organises speed boat cruises at Mandwa Beach and sailing in Mumbai harbour. And if you prefer to just glide over water, CollarFolk hooks up houseboats along Kerala’s backwaters, and canoeing across Uttarakhand’s Sattal Lake. Hiking enthusiasts can take their dogs along trails in Uttarakhand’s Chopta and Mussoorie, Duke’s Nose in Lonavala, and the hilltops of Kodaikanal. And for in-city experiences they not only provide a variety of accommodation choices, but supply options for pet-friendly taxis and tips for dog friendly cafes. Also, if you just want to get away for a few days with your furry friend, you can try out CollarFolk’s curated home-stays, pet-friendly resorts, and eco-lodge getaways.
Read more about CollarFolk and their services here.
IX. Ultimate Frontier Outlands
‘Ultimate Frontier Outlands’ (UFO), a responsible-adventure travel company based out of Dehradun takes people to the most isolated and unexplored places and border territories in the Himalayas. They strongly believe in the mantra of ‘ #findingthefeather’ that for centuries has been considered a sign for travel across different cultures and regions – the spirit of which is an integral part of their journeys. They organise customized treks to places shrouded in mysteries and spiritual adventures while introducing you to the new cultures and respecting local traditions. Apart from treks they also organize outdoor photography tours with renowned photographers, customized journeys anywhere in the world, immersive rural travel experiences, clean-up drives and yoga retreats.
Some of their popular treks include the Kashmir Great Lake Treks, The Goech La Sikkim Trek, twin peaks Stok Kangri and Golep Kangri etc. UFO has also begun its operations in Nepal through the Everest Base Camp Trek. However, this travel company does not just limit themselves to the Himalayas but want to take tourists to frontiers across the world. They have already begun their operations in Tanzania through Wildlife Safaris and treks up Mt. Kilimanjaro. They also organise hikes in Jordan.
Read more about Ultimate Frontier Outlands here.
Sadly, travelling is impossible without planning, and planning can be a major struggle. Trawling through TripAdvisor looking for the perfect hotel, making sure you stay under budget, and even just choosing a place to go can be extremely difficult! But with Unpland, an up and coming travel agency, you can do exactly that - go on a trip without planning anything at all, including where you’re going to go. Unpland will plan your trip for you and keep it all a secret until you’re about to leave.
When a customer visits their website, they select the kind of trip that they want to take from their options. After this, they choose their budget and dates and Unpland gives them a form to fill up - the form asks for things like their travel history, what kind of activities they enjoy, preferred weather and so on. After 12 hours, they follow up with a call to confirm all the information and get a better idea of what the customers like. Once this is over, the customer only needs to wait while Unpland plans the best possible trip for them. A week before the trip Unpland sends them information about the weather at their surprise destination and the kind of things they should pack. The day before the customers leave, they receive a package with the name of their destination and travel information.
The surprise trips they’ve planned so far include places like Kathmandu, Ooty, Coorg, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, and more. Unpland tried to choose places that are not too much of a hassle to travel to but have something great to offer.
Read more about Unpland here.
XI. Offbeat Tracks
An experential travel compamy, Offbeat Tracks is special for the unique projects it carries out to encourage sustainable tourism and give a boost to the local economy of remote tourist destinations – in tandem with the Sustainable Developmental Goals set out by the UN. They work with rural communities to encourage homestay based experiential travel with a focus on rural micro entrepreneurship and skill development, working with the motto of “Think global and act local.”
Travellers taking a trip with Offbeat Tracks not just get to experience the rural Himalayan lifestyle in all it’s authenticity, but also get to learn the methods of organic farming, interact with children from the local village school and participate in infrastructure building projects at high altitudes.
Just last year, offbeat Tracks carried out Rural Solar Electrification Project in Ladakh in Village Takmachik in the Sham region of Ladakh, wherein they spent five days in the village crafting solar units keeping the village’s geographical location in mind. Calling themselves, “your experential travel planner,” they provide customized travel experiences as well as pre-planned group trips to Ladakh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam and other Himalayan regions of India and Bhutan.
Read more about Offbeat Tracks here.
XII. Little Local
One of the greatest things about travel is the cultural exchange it enables amongst different communities. For the travellers - it is the introduction to an entirely new place with unique traditions and belief systems. For the locals, it is the exposure to the traveller’s journey and their respective native place. Travel can be useful in more ways than one thinks. Playing upon this thought, Little Local, a responsible travel startup that works with remote communities and organisations to co-create travel programs that supplement local livelihood, organises unique immersive workshops that are mutually beneficial to travellers and the community.
Little Local partners with little and local organisations at places off the regular tourist map. These organisations help them identify community needs and projects that require external intervention. Once a traveller expresses interest in a project, they do a short interaction via phone/ skype to make sure travellers know all the relevant details, and are fit to be part of the programme.
Some of their recent workshops have been, ‘She Moves Mountains’ wherein two groups of women, from the cities and from the mountains- both equally enterprising and driven came together to engage and learn from each other. Their unique workshop in Ladakh included documenting the last Aryans of Ladakh’s villages and putting Ladakh’s invisible village Zbalung back on the map.
Travellers travelling with Little Local need to possess unique skills that the volunteer programme demands. They are usually on the lookout for creative minds such as artists, designers, film-makers, photographers, architects and writers who can add value to the workshops they organise.
Read more about Little Local here.
Feature image courtesy of CollarFolk
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