Being a predominantly solo traveller, when invited to be part of an ‘all women adventure’ group, I didn’t know what to expect. I was sceptical to say the least but I pushed my assumptions aside, and prepared myself for new adventures and experiences. I arrived at the Chalkot camp in Chopta to a bright sunny day in March, but I have a feeling that the cheer was also thanks to a bunch of eight smiling faces who had arrived before me. We were in the pine and rhododenron covered ‘Switzerland of India’, getting ready for a hike to Deoriatal and Chandrashila peaks close by. I met our guide, Pinki, and the group of women who were going to be my buddies-in-arms for the next few days.
The demand for women-only holidays have been rapidly growing over the last few years in India. For those who don’t feel like treading alone, it’s a great way of catering to that travel itch with a bunch of like-minded women. Travel companies all over the world have caught on to the trend and are offering epecially curated itineraries, designed to encourage more women to sign up. It was time to experience it first hand. Our first trek was to Deoriatal, a shimmering glass-like lake on top of a hill.Deoriatal is only a 2km hike – a perfect warm-up to the slightly more complex Tungnath-Chandrashila trek that was scheduled for the next day. Through the two days, there were moments of fatigue, lack of motivation, exhiliration, fun, aching bones and sheer triumph of having connected with the outdoors, that too, in the company of new found friends. It’s been a week since I got back. Relating the experience to a friend who has just signed up for a group travel, I inadvertantly listed the biggest takeaways from my own trip.
The biggest asset on our trip was that each one of us had eight cheerleaders rooting for us all the time. Apart from being a lesson in teamwork, empathy and camaraderie, motivation trumped the benefits that I saw. The motivation from others, when one of us was feeling slumped with fatigue, was a booster. Personally for me, it fed into self motivation, helping me pushmy own boundaries.
Campsite fun with the girls
Seven of the eight women in our group were first-time trekkers and everyone worked together to ensure there were no apprehensions or inhibitions about asking for help or questions about the outdoors. We all were like a mini support group where there were no silly concerns and the only focus was on tuning everyone to a right mindset. Pulling yourself through the 5km trek to Chandrashila takes a certain amount of grit. But more so, it takes determination. If not for the motivation offered by others, many would have wanted to give up mid-way.
Dealing with‘girly’ stuff
I have always been travelling solo or in mixed groups with my friends. Having never travelled with all girls, whom I had never met before, I thought talking about “girly” stuff might not come easy. Few of the other ladies didn’t know some of the group members too, but everyone gelled so well. Even a simple thing like finding a loo in the wildneress can be challenging at times. But knowing that you’re in the company of women, makes things far easier. Also, what’s not to love about brilliant conversations by the bonfire every night, which was one of the highlights for us after a hard day of scaling the hills.
Separate woman guide
The group was being led by our inspiringwoman guide, Pinki. She was friendly, encouraging and always willing to help. She had a knack of making everyone at ease instantly. At top of Tungnath, when I was suffering from altitude sickness and my head was swirling around, she gave me a good head massage and ensured that I stayed hyderated. Now this kind of personalized treatment is something I never experienced anywhere before. I didn’t really understand how having a women guide will help our group on the onset, but as the vacation continued, I can vouch that this is a necessity.
Feeling of safety
Mixed group travel can bring about unwanted and sometimes, unwarranted undercurrents, or situations where someone might not feel entirely comfortable. For many women, a feeling of safety is the most integral element before booking a trip. Being in the able hands of a woman guide alleviated any such issues.
All Women Travel
Carefully crafted itinerary
It’s imperative to plan a trip looking at the physical complexity involved and the fitness levels of the people taking it. Since all of us were women and in the same age group with slightly varying degrees of trekking skills, the hike was enjoyable for everyone. When faced with high mountains, nippy air and mountain sickness, a group can fall apart in outdoor scenarios or be a hazard for the organisers. Having a cohesive group meant that we were able to fall in the same bracket of fitness, and the itinerary was tailormade for us.
Taking selfies is not awkward
We women love taking selfies. Period. In a mixed group, you will be mocked and judged by members of the opposite sex. However, in an all women group this will never be the case – in fact, you will have others trying to photo bomb and get in the picture with you. I have never had so much fun lifting a camera and see a bunch drawn like magnet together, so quickly.
Selfies are imperative
Over the few days that we spent, there was no limit to the amount of chatting and laughing – a clear sign of abiding friendships being formed. The treks, food, evening teas, bonfire nights and time in the tents were interspersed with giggles and conversations. This was certainly a week of making longlasting friends. Phones were whipped out instantly, Facebook friend requests spent and I am sure a lot of us will be connected for a long time to come. With a growing number of urban, educated Indian women expressing the desire to travel, all they need to do is turn to an all-women’s group trip. A hardened solo traveller for years, I was convinced I would this try again.