Which woman doesn’t dream about a relaxing vacation or just a break away from routine? With women working and earning more, their purchasing power has increased tremendously. Travel statistics indicate that 80% of women are calling the shots about their travel plans regardless of whom they travel with or who pays for the trip. Indian women have started travelling in groups to a myriad of destinations from Australia to Antarctica.
But it’s not always easy for a woman to take off on a holiday with a bunch of women. Tradition dictates that women are to be cared for by their fathers, brothers or husbands. Previously, even the women who travelled in groups would usually be widows or older women on pilgrimage tours to places such as Kashi or Rameshwaram with a male guide or chaperone. But the women of today choose to break away from tradition and have started to travel with like-minded women on their own. Travelling with a group of women is a way for them to find comfort in each other’s company while exploring the world and enjoying a binge of freedom and fun.
Travel agents, tour operators, and women’s groups have capitalized on this demand and started creating customized group trips for women. From nature trips in Ladakh to spa sojourns in Coorg and biking trips in the Himalayas to watching the Northern Lights in Iceland – there is something for everyone.
Women travel together for various reasons – it’s fun, safe, easy-going and stress-free. With Indian women having incomes of their own and a penchant for new experiences, travel is seen as an expression of their own personality. It enables them to go on trips with other like-minded women without having to think too much about the logistical aspects.
Here’s why women prefer to travel in groups:
A women-only travel group evokes a feeling of safety
Safety is an important concern for all Indian women. They may seek adventure, but taking care of themselves is an important aspect too – especially after being endlessly told ‘Don’t stray away from your group’, ‘Stay in a decent hotel even if it means more money’ and ‘Carry your passport wherever you go’ from parents, spouses or mother-in-laws. Travelling in a group is safer, as it reduces the risk of getting lost or becoming a victim of pickpockets, thieves and others who try to take advantage of a woman travelling alone.
In India, Ladakh is a relatively safe destination for women groups, with just the right balance of adventure and security. Here, you can enjoy the freedom to explore unchartered waters without having to worry too much about safety.
Costs can be shared
Travelling with a bunch of women is not only fun, but cuts down the cost of the overall trip as well. It is extremely cost effective, as there are a number of people sharing the costs of accommodation, transportation, food, and experiences. It also allows you to take advantage of the group rates and discounts that most attractions, motels, resorts, and airline companies offer. Sometimes, resorts even set aside a couple of rooms for large women groups.
For instance, if you are travelling with a group of more than 5 women on a trip to Ladakh you can easily hire an SUV and enjoy the marvels of nature together. Hiring a car cuts down the cost of transportation and allows you to explore the place at your own pace rather than waiting for buses and trains to get everywhere.
All you need to travel with women is a similar interest in exploring the world. It doesn’t matter what age you are or which stage of life you’re at; a 18-year old designer, 26 year-old-lawyer, 30-year-old homemaker, 40-year-old IT director, 50-year-old chartered accountant, and a 65-year-old widow can still get together and have lot of fun. Group travel is all about bonding with women who come from various walks of life – young, middle-aged, single, divorced, someone who just broke up with her boyfriend, just got fired or is recovering from a major illness.
Even combinations of mother-daughter and aunt-niece work like a charm. For instance, my mum and I went on a trip to Nagapattinam to help the Tsunami victims. Apart from getting the opportunity to help people, it was a great opportunity for us to spend some time together as well. Travelling by trains late at night, hopping onto crowded buses, sleeping in dorms, eating whatever we could find – it was no short of an adventure trip.
Now, I’m looking forward to going with my mum on a trekking trip to Ladakh or an adventure trip to Himachal.
One of the biggest advantages of women travel groups who share the same interests is that everyone gets a sense of fulfilment. Sometimes husbands are extremely busy with their stressful jobs and have no time to travel with wives, or both the husband and wife have very different schedules and are not able to find time to travel together. Not many Indian women are confident to venture out on their own, preferring instead to travel with women they can make friends with. Single ladies, overworked women, mothers exhausted from the routine of parenting, or housewives tired of managing family affairs, find women-only travel experiences exhilarating. Some women feel very restricted when they go on group tours with family or even package trips for large groups.
Additionally, on these trips, women can just be themselves – right from wearing clothes to choosing what to eat or activities to do. It’s easier to share your interests or talk about topics without the fear of being judged.
It’s evident that women get a sense of accomplishment when they climb peaks or cross a lake or go on a bike trip. For women who get a sense of fulfilment from nature and adventure, Ladakh is the perfect place. Riding on a Royal Enfield through magnificent mountain passes, crossing streams and meeting people along the way appeals to the contemporary Indian woman. They get to share their adventures and experiences with one another, making the holiday more memorable.
It’s not always possible to plan trips with the family especially with each member having different schedules and varied interests, including women who are busy caring for the family but need a break as well!
Even on family trips, Indian women often end up playing their day-to-day roles of mum, wife, or daughter-in-law. Again, they end up with accommodating all the needs of the family, from organizing food to changing nappies to ensuring that the children have something to do. Again she ends up having no time or energy to engage in activities she would love to do.
Contemporary women are now looking at travel as a way of self-expression – learning a new skill, doing something adventurous, making new friends, understanding the way of life of the local people, trying new cuisines, trekking on the alpine mountain ranges or simply having a good time in the company of travellers with similar interests. Adventure trips in India to remote locations are a big hit with women as it gives them an opportunity to rediscover themselves.
When a group of women travel together they get to totally focus on themselves without worrying about the interests of the family. They can easily overcome their fears, let go off all their inhibitions and be free to do whatever they like at their own pace. A survey conducted by Thomas Cook India revealed that nearly 70% of women prefer travelling with fellow female friends than with family. It is an escape from the duties and responsibilities they have to tend to at home or work.
The best part about group travel is that it creates a space for women to make new friends and bond through laughter, gossip, sharing secrets and talking about problems that are common to women. It gives women the platform to not just travel but to socialise and share new experiences. Shopping, eating out, watching cultural performances, talking to locals, trekking – everything becomes more enjoyable and meaningful when they are shared.
Surveys indicate that women increasingly want to explore offbeat destinations where they can do something totally different and something out of their comfort zone. This includes adrenaline adventures as well as simple new experiences such as learning a new skill like salsa dancing or cooking a new dish.
For women who like adventure in the great outdoors, Ladakh is a great destination. Breath-taking scenery, ancient monasteries, beautiful gompas, clear water lakes and high altitude roads await you. And here you can go trekking, biking, camping, and climbing; regardless of which experience you choose, it’s sure to be a stimulating experience.
So, while it may seem not so easy for a woman to travel , the modern Indian woman is proving otherwise. And who’s helping her do so – a group of other Indian women! All you have to do is choose a destination that you’ve always been curious to visit, and the gear up for an amazing journey filled with new experiences, lots of laughter, unforgettable memories and new friends.
Lakshmi is a freelance travel writer who loves to explore new places and try out new things. Her dream is to travel around the world with just a backpack and an SLR. She is also passionate about dance, photography, and cooking. She is a proud mother of Dhruv, a 6-year-old karate champion, and dance enthusiast.