The writing is founder of Transforming Travels, a travel agency
I'm always asked why I left my corporate life and started my own traveling company. I graduated as an engineer and worked at a corporate company for two years. However, I wasn't that fond of corporate life and I didn't want to be stuck in a wheel where my work doesn't create any positive difference around me. I desperately used to daydream about visiting many cities and soaking up their culture from time to time. Belonging to a conservative family, I hadn't travelled much but I always had the urge to explore new places. While going through options on how I can pursue this passion of mine, I found out about the Semester At Sea programme. Semester At Sea (SAS) is a multiple-country study abroad programme that takes place on a ship that is equipped with all the facilities of an educational institute. Students take classes when ship sails from one country to another and they explore the new places when the ship is docked on a port. I was able to join their Summer 2014 programme as a student, where we sailed from England to Portugal, Spain, Scotland, Island, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and back to England. Sounds dreamy, right? Although, it took me several months to arrange funds and visas for the above programme, but that’s a story I will reserve for some other time. Transforming Travels is a sum of all the travel experiences I had but there are two best takeaways I had from my Semester at Sea Voyage.
Realizing what India actually is!
Before I left for my voyage, everyone around me knew that I will have many opportunities to make connections and settle outside India and they were suggesting to do it. Even though I never had a plan to settle outside India, I also didn’t have a “wow” feeling attached with India. Although every evening when I used to be the centre of attention during dinner or in library where people used to ask me so many questions about India, I realized how diverse my country is and the level of craze people have to explore the hidden gems here! Americans, who were a majority in SAS voyage, wanted to know about various Indian festivals, cuisines, and cultures and what not! This made me wonder how diverse India is. I found out how every state has a wide range of own cultures, languages, history, food, and festivals and is so rich in all geographical features as well. India has mountains, beaches, deserts, and forests, every destination a traveller could ever wish for! India has about 29 states and even though it is a complicated country for western people, they are always captivated by this country because of the depth and variety of cultures here.
Getting bored with the same major cities
While I was traveling through major European cities, I realized that those cities weren’t exposing me to the rich cultural differences and I was feeling my craze to travel to various places getting dulled. All I was exposed to was Cathedrals, parks, bridges, museums, a few nice buildings, Subway, McDonald's, and Starbucks! While traveling in metro cities, it was tough to experience and understand authentic cultures. At the end of the day, mere sightseeing doesn't help us in getting the essence of the place, right? All the same experiences made me feel that I was losing the enthusiasm I wanted for traveling and exploring places. During my day trip from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher, I explored the picturesque Irish countryside and many authentic places I could never see in the city of Dublin. Instead of tall buildings everywhere I saw cute little cottages and had the best authentic lunch of homemade bread and a bowl of soup. There wasn't a rush crowd or noisy group, rather, I got to walk around peaceful scenery and have interesting talks with people. That's when I discovered how the beauty of offbeat places isn't exposed as the globalised cities are. They give you far better travel experiences as compared to the metro cities.
Traveling freely and experiencing most of the places
During the SAS programme, students were offered an equally valued seat with the professors in public spaces of the ship and we were free to attend classes in any comfortable wear like pyjamas. While I had many job interviews lined up after my SAS programme, the idea of living freely and exploring in my own way got caught in my heart and I didn't want to get back to a scheduled lifestyle. I didn't want just to go sightseeing, rather I wanted to have first-hand experience of vibrant cultures and show the world how diverse my country is. The idea of taking people to undiscovered and culturally rich places got my attention and I wanted to implement this idea by starting my own traveling company.
The idea to start my own traveling company was through SAS, but the courage to network with many entrepreneurs and to get the necessary support was mostly from Jagriti Yatra. Jagriti Yatra invites hundreds of youth from the country and takes them on a 15-day (approx. 8000kms) trip to meet role models and is a conference consisting of leaders, change makers, innovators, and problem-solvers. A couple of months after my homecoming from SAS, I went for Jagriti Yatra. It was in Dec 2014. When I went with Jagriti Yatra, I realized that I was a part of a huge network of around 8000 to 9000 yatris where each and every one had a unique idea of their own venture. This level of support gave me the courage to start my own company. The ripe idea of taking people and making them discover the unheard destinations of India converted into a fully designed company after my Jagriti Yatra. This notion of exploring the unheard gems and traveling freely gave birth to Transforming Travels!
SAS made me realize how important authentic cultural experience is and completely transformed me and my thoughts as a traveller. The experiences I had during the voyage made me want to start a travel company that would offer the guests the authenticity everyone looks for in their destinations. I wanted to show them that these destinations are more than just sightseeing. It also includes meeting the locals, eating homely food, celebrating their festivals, and many other heartfelt travel practices that would prove to be unforgettable souvenirs they take home with them. I wanted people to explore the off-beat destinations of India which would offer them a true traveling experience. These tours would also become a source of much-needed livelihood for the hosts families in these destinations. Along with visiting the famous landmarks people so much adore, I also wanted to contribute in any aspect to the beautiful local culture and environment of our country. I've had some of the best transformational journeys and experiences which gave birth to the idea of starting my own travel company. With all these ideologies and thoughts and some of my greatest travel experiences, I started organising group tours in 2015 and officially started Transforming Travels in October 2017. We've had many tours with people who wanted to break away from the daily monotony and wished to experience new off-beat destinations in India!