#GoodNews: Kerala’s Woman Only Tour Group Redefine Indian Travel
Sixty-year-old Leela from Kerala always wanted to travel and see the world. When she landed on a Facebook page that was coordinating a trek to a hilltop in the state, what attracted her most was the fact that it was an all-women’s trip.
But the senior citizen was worried if her age would come in the way of finally realising her dream of exploring new places. However, age was indeed just a number, as Leela would soon realise.
Months later, Leela is now a regular on many of the trips organised by ‘Appooppanthaadi’ (meaning ‘milkweed’ in Malayalam), an all-women’s travel group.
“Age is just a number. If the older women who want to join us have this attitude, then there is no mountain they cannot climb!” says 31-year-old Sajna Ali, the founder of Appooppanthaadi.
'Appooppanthaadi' was founded in April 2016 and has since then coordinated as many as 63 tours across the country.
“Light, free and wandering off to new places – this is exactly what an appooppanthaadi does. That’s why we gave that name to our group,” Sajna explains.
From Personal Journey to Collective
A software engineer by profession, it is Sajna’s personal adventures and travels that paved way for the formation of 'Appooppanthaadi.'
Working at Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram, travelling had always been Sajna’s priority.
A native of Kozhikode, Sajna admits that traveling is there in her blood.
My father, who was a lorry driver, used to take me along with him on one-day trips. I used to also go on tours with my friends. But it was not until I started working that I began travelling solo.Sajna
Travelling solo was not something she had planned at all. Four years ago, Sajna set out to Odisha on her own, after a group tour she had been planning with her friends fell apart when the others backed out.
“I realised then that travelling solo could be the most liberating experience; it is addictive. Over the years, I travelled to many places alone and would share about my travels on my Facebook page. Soon, other women began to ask me casually if I would take them along. That’s how my personal journey expanded into a collective journey,” Sajna smiles.
Why Should Men Have All The Fun?
Sajna points out that while men have enough and more opportunities to travel, that is seldom the case with women.
After she began organising trips for women through 'Appooppanthaadi', Sajna realised that there were numerous women who have always wanted to travel, but were never able to, owing to a lot of reasons.
Women who want to join us tell me that they love to travel. They don’t tell me that they do travel, but that they aspire to do so. They even ask me what they should do to be a part of this group and I have only one answer for them – travel, travel and travel moreSajna
All the trips organised by 'Appooppanthaadi' are to places that Sajna has previously been to. Trips are pre-planned, with a detailed itinerary put up on the group’s page weeks in advance so that the participating women can plan accordingly.
The group has women from all walks of life – from students to working women, homemakers, senior citizens, retired women and also a cancer survivor. For the women, the travels offer them an unparalleled experience and self-motivation, Sajna points out.
As an all-women’s group, it is never an easy journey for the women, Sajna confesses.
“I, for instance, went on my initial travels without informing my family, since I knew they wouldn’t approve. Today, if I have the freedom to travel on my own, it is something I have fought for and earned. Similarly, all the women who are joining us are fighting their own battles with their families,” she says.
While safety was something many people expressed concern about, now the numerous journeys they have made together are testimonies in themselves.
“People ask me how safe is it to travel without men in the group. I can only tell them about the many journeys we have undertaken!” she says.
The group has a number of exciting journeys planned for the next few days – Nilambur, Gandikota in Andhra Pradesh, Tawang and Nagaland.
As for Sajna’s personal journey, she continues to go on solo trips. She quit her job five months ago to work full-time with 'Appooppanthaadi.' She also volunteers with a few NGOs in Thiruvananthapuram.
(This piece was originally published in The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)